Oh, so much has happened since I last posted six days ago. On Tuesday, after nearly a week of hotel living – restless hotel living, I might add: living out of suitcases and not feeling terribly settled one way or the other* – we received word that our apartments were ready and the university would be there at around 11 to pick us up. Cue panicked repacking – at least this time, it was panicked “toss everything into suitcases, weight be damned”! Josh took the kids down to breakfast and came up with a little to-go box for me, which was “greatly accepted” (Matthew’s latest favorite phrase).
Our apartment is gigantic. We lived in a small three bedroom, two bathroom apartment in Tallahassee, and were bursting from the seams. This is a three bedroom, four bathroom (one is a separate squat toilet bathroom/shower) huge apartment. The kitchen is way less than we are accustomed to in the States, but it’ll do just fine. We just discovered that there’s a convection oven in the microwave, so all is right with the world. We have fire and water – really, what else do we need?
The view from our balcony.
We live in northern Dhaka, in the Bashundhara section of the city. This is a few kilometers north of where we were housed in the diplomatic enclave of Gulshan. The pace is less hectic – compared to Gulshan, anyway – still pretty hectic compared to Tallahassee! We’ve been spending this week getting to know the area and getting stuff for our apartment – like cutting boards, knives, water filtration systems – stuff like that.
This is probably the hardest thing we’ve ever done – now that we’re in our home, anyway. Last week in the hotel it felt like we were on vacation – and in some ways we were! But now, the work of building a home began. On Wednesday evening, after a long and hard day of going to the market and trying to navigate first our way there and back in a foreign language, trying to negotiate with market owners (knowing full well that even at the “foreigner, more expensive” rate, you’re still getting a pretty good deal vs. what you could find in the US at a Walmart), eating out because you don’t know where the best supermarkets are in town – it just all wears down and you start second guessing everything. On our walk home with towels and hangers in hand (all we could manage to do in the market before we all decided enough was enough and headed back up to Bashundhara), we pass by the Jamuna Future Park mall – the largest mall of its kind in South Asia. We pass by the university Josh works for, and then turn into the plot where our brand new building is – nine floors of amazing, brand new residences for faculty at the university**. We also pass by stray dogs who are so tired and weak that they just lie in the mud and dirt and sleep, every rib bone visible. We also pass by abject poverty, amidst all the posh residences, with huts made of aluminum siding. It is so much to take in.
Also, there are cows and goats, just hanging out. This is right outside our building.
In Tallahassee, we sometimes would get awkward looks and glances and stares and racist conversations – we are a mixed-race family, and that type of thing is just not common in Northern Florida. Here in Dhaka, we REALLY stand out. Josh is 6’0″ tall and I’m 5’5″ – we are easily among the tallest people in any crowd we’re in. We turn heads constantly. Some people literally stop what they are doing and watch us, curious. Today, a security guard at the school right next to Josh’s actually took his cell phone out and took pictures of Josh wearing Will (that’s another thing – we don’t have a stroller, when we go out, Josh wears Will in a mei tai – I don’t think we’ve seen any parent wearing their kid at all here, much less a dad snuggling a baby!), sitting next to Lindsey in a rickshaw taking us to a market. So much staring and gawking and staring (did I mention staring?). It’s hard to know what to make of it – I mean, no one is treating us poorly because of this (except for trying to make us pay more for rickshaw rides), but it is unnerving. I suppose we will get used to this in time.
The other thing is how others simply adore Lindsey. Lots of pats on the head, innocent pinches to her cheek and ruffles to her hair. All this I know is meant in good faith and appreciation, but it is unnerving as her American-born parent, thinking of all the ways to instill in her as a young girl ways that one must respect her body —–
It is all just so very overwhelming. So much to think and to reconsider. We’ve been here less than two weeks and already I’ve felt so schooled.
Things are getting much better, though, especially now that we found a market in our neighborhood. It is amazing how much better I felt just being able to cook a meal at home! I made spaghetti in our tiny kitchen:
Slowly, it’s becoming more like home. We should have the kids’ schooling settled next week (thank goodness, these children have had too much together time this summer). I need to get work done with my prospectus, and well, all that yarn I brought with me has to get knit up, right?
In the meanwhile, we’ve been exploring our neighborhood. Like I mentioned earlier, we live near a gigantic mall, most of which is empty. Each store seems to have more employees than customers. One thing that has amused both me and Josh since we arrived is the blatant copying – Doreos for Oreos, for instance (I think the Doreos taste better). Here’s one restaurant at the mall:
Despite its similarity in logo with Subway, I saw no signs of sandwiches.
At our local grocery store, the chips:
Some familiar names, some not, some in Arabic, some in Bangla.
Tonight for dinner, I made hamburgers (forgot to look for cheese). I found these rolls in the market. This is something I think we’ll miss – we just came from spending 2ish weeks mainlining San Francisco sourdough, to come here and have mediocre bread. It’s what we give up for paratha and naan.
OK, that’s probably quite enough. To prepare for this upcoming week, now!
(last picture alert)
*yes, yes, #firstworldproblem
**I’m living on campus again?!