Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Commuting to Work

Work is located in the Grameen Bank Main Office- Mirpur 2 (or 'dui' ২ দুই) on the same street as my hotel. Grameen is the tallest building around and here from my hotel you can see a view of it in the distance.

My first day I was picked up from the hotel in a van for the 5 minute ride to Grameen Bank's Main Office. Kabir, my main contact/coordinator/person? walked me home that evening, citing that in the future I could rickshaw the ride from Grameen Bank to the Grand Prince Hotel (8-10 taka or 12-14 cents). With less trepidation the next morning I struck out on my own, laptop in one hand and work purse on my shoulder. The 12-15 minute walk goes past street vendors, polluted side ditches, schools, piles of trash, bricks, beggars, two-patches of English speaking boys, broken sidewalk and a petrol station. While a rickshaw would be quicker (and less sweaty), I would loose out on exercise and have to deal with small change. So I mostly walk.

On my way home once I saw the most brilliant patch of sunset sky- it looked like a mother of pearl stuck in the clouds. Another time on the way to work, I fell in step behind this man carrying carefully folded and balanced papers on his head. Funny- the street wasn't that empty when I walked- perhaps people disappeared when I took the picture or incidentally were in the right spot to *not* be in the picture. People do stare and I expected that. But I basically pass through unbothered.

After being in Qatar and other parts of the Middle East/Africa- I discovered that my American Mid-West tendency to make eye contact, be smiley and extra friendly can get me in 'trouble'. Namely, I was seen as a huge flirt. 'She catches me eye and smiles- oh, she likes me.' So.... I've gotten a lot better at not making eye contact while still looking around. I'm still polite and smiley to those I encounter or engage in communication, but I've toned it down a bit.

My second work day I went shopping with a Mukta, a coworker, for shalwar kameez. We traveled via rickshaw away from work and my hotel, towards the shops across from the cricket stadium. We had bad luck- either the outfits weren't in my size, were the wrong color, wrong sleeve length, of poor quality, or had a stain on them. She sent me on my way back to the hotel via rickshaw (the video was too dark to get a good view). Both rickshaw rides I felt that I would slip out, and braced myself the whole way, as the rickshaw bumped over speedhumps, road debris and nearly bumped into other vehicles. Great as rickshaws are for the average person in Dhaka and great that they give jobs to thousands of people, they also make the traffic situation so much worse in Dhaka. Rickshaws go against traffic, swerve, stop, and respond slower. I generally feel better in an CNG or taxi- but only *slightly* more so.

(Note: Speaking of commuting- I drafted this post after work but waiting to conference call with Ashir, Project Director in Japan at 6:30pm. We wrapped up at 8pm- already quite dark- and the PD insisted my colleague in Dhaka (Kabir) take a taxi or CNG with me to my hotel before backtracking towards his place. He said it wasn't a good idea for a single person, especially female, to take even a vehicle alone at night.)

No comments:

Post a Comment