I was finally picked up to head to Dhaka at around 4pm (was meant to be 3pm but Bangladeshi's dont seem to have the best concept of time keeping). We didnt arrive in Dhaka untill about 11pm. The drive was bearable for the first 2 hours, but once it was dark it was just terrifying! Never ever have I been so scared for my life in traffic. Maria said to me once we had stopped to have something to eat that I then may sleep. HAHA what a joke! I was waaaay to tense to even contemplate sleeping, let alone taking my eyes of the road.
We were driving the main "highway" north from Dhaka but the roads are so different from in NZ. There is no such thing as a highways, and there main roads are a bit like a poorly up kept country road in NZ, with about 100x the traffic. About half the time is spent driving on the other side of the road as we pass a truck, rickshaw, bike, rickshaw van, cow, dog etc every three seconds. Trucks are only allowed into Dhaka city at night time so the traffic is very heavy.
Anyway, we did arrive safely in Dhaka as Stephen the driver is great! Once we got to Dhaka it still took us over 1 hour to get to Gulshan (One of the richest suburbs in Dhaka which is actually near the outskirts of the city), which is where I stayed.
Village scene along the 'Highway'
Public buses overloaded with people ontop of bus
The next morning I walked to the supermarket (only one block away) but was way to scared and confused to venture anywhere else by myself. Carla and I went to the 'Australian club' for lunch. New Zealand has no 'club' so I guess we would belong to the Aus club. Calling it a club is quite deceptive. They mean club like as in a country club. However most clubs are just a complex with some grass, restaurant, pool and always a tennis court. Still it is a nice oasis in the middle of the Dhaka streets. After lunch we went to a beauty spa. One second I was walking along a dirty, loud, smelly, over populated street and next I was upstairs in a normal looking salon getting a pedicure and having coffee. Such a contrast for the rich. I had fun in here looking at all the different fashions richer women wear. They still wear the Salwar Kameez but you can see they are fashionable by wearing straight legged salwar (pants) and beautiful Kameez (Top) which are much shorter and tighter than the traditional Kameez.
On the Friday night we went to a party. Who would of thought that there were parties in Dhaka, and this one was on a roof top! I didnt even wear my Salwar Kameez, it was quite an occasion First of all we went to the British club for dinner where we could order a few beers and then to the apartment where the party was at. The others at the party were either working for embassys or NGOs, I had a really great and fascinating night meeting so many people above the skyline of Dhaka where below there are thousands of people sleeping on the streets. Such a contrast, but I guess if you are a westerner who lives and works here you do need ways to escape.
The next morning we caught an 'autoshaw' (a rickshaw which has a moter, so much fun!) to a coffee shop. Once up the stairs and in the coffee shop we could have been at a coffee shop in Ponsonby and you wouldn't have known any difference. Me and Carla then went to the American club as her flatmates church was running a fundraiser that afternoon. I had hena done, played some games and had our face's painted. That night we went out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant which was great! Yum Sushi!
Autoshaw in Dhaka street
Having hena done at fundraiser
View in the American club
The next day I went with two other Aussi girls (one is a occupational therapist and the other is a music therapist - they are both working for one year in Savar hospital (about 1 hr out of Dhaka) and are here on a AusAid programme (Volunteer program set up by Aus government which most people I have met have come to Bangladesh on)) to a shop called Arong. It is a popular clothing/gift shop for the wealthy and tourists. There are several Arong's in Bangladesh and this one was 5 floors! again it is such a contrast to the dirt and population right outside its doors.
That night me and Carla went to the Aus club to read our books and have dinner. I had a BURGER and also bought some cheese which was heaven before having to go back to eating rice, fish and curry vegetables 3 times a day.
On Tuesday Maria arranged for us to drive to the home village of their Prime minister (shak hassina) (her father is Bangladesh's 'National Father' as he lead them through their liberation from Pakistan in 1971. 4 years later him and most of his family were assassinated) and to the birth place of Begum Rokeya who is famous for advocating for women's education (Before her women were not allowed to read books let alone leave their houses!)
The next day Maria took me and Francis to see their 'Eco Village' Project. It is the first eco village run by world vision in Bangla and is doing well so will hopefully be rolled out throughout Bangla. They learn skills such as seed storage, composting, how to sow the seeds and how to utilize their land to grow more than one type of crop. I was stunned that local villages did not already have this knowledge passed down to them from previous generations!!
We were looking at one garden when we got invited over to a school which was across the road. There were hundreds of children all crowding around. It was also their lunch time and the children were given hospice (a balanced meal of rice mixed with pulse, vegetables and spice) They explained to us that providing the children with lunch is a self initiated program (community implemented and run) where those more well-off in the village provide a little bit of money so that children can have lunch provided for them each day which also acts as an incentive for the children to stay in school! Was very cool to see all this and the men who started it were soooo proud to be explaining it and showing off their work.
We were invited to have some hospice and tea with them at the school. We were then invited for tea at another school and then also tea and sweets at the local government center. hahah the whole time people were snapping photos of just about anything I would do. They were all very friendly though and asked lots of questions about NZ
Shak Hassinas house
Traveling along the village roads
Statue of Begum Rokeya
Helping hand out the hospice at village school
Photo with school children. I was actually surrounded by at least 100 children