Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Walk About

We are fortunate at post to have motor pool (embassy run "taxi" service of govt vehicles to shuttle authorized personnel). Being such a large post with unreliable, if not near nonexistent, public transportation, motor pool is a necessity, especially on the cusp months without a vehicle. They are so dependable here, in fact, that many people choose to pay the per mile prices of them vs purchasing or bringing a car to post.

Today, while in the backseat with motor pool, in a plain white SUV with diplomatic plates, we drove past the open market. It amused me that my regular fruit vendors recognized and pointed and waved at me from across the street in a vehicle they've never seen me in. I guess I still don't blend well in SE Asia with pale skin and light hair and eyes. It made me smile knowing my smiles and photographs to people sticks with them. That they remember me. Maybe they just remember that I don't haggle for my mangos and pineapples and that I pay foreigner prices instead of local ones. I'll just delude myself and continue to think it's my smile :) In the two years here, I've gotten more enjoyment from the genuine exchange of smiles here than anything else.

The remaining weeks are slow and fast at the same time. Home is slow, with little to keep us busy. When Ceiba is at school and Avocet napping, the time flies, but other times it drags on. I've been trying to walk uptown regularly to buy trinkets or stock up on a lifetime of pearls. Sometimes I just enjoy digesting my surrounding, hoping to store the memories permanently in my mind.

Two years, for us, is our golden time. It's the amount of time it takes us to really feel at home somewhere, to know our way around and feel completely comfortable. Now walking home, I know instinctively which way to turn at the Gulshan Circle, a hectic area of town with many turns. My feet know the best way to walk to avoid the betel nut spit, the open sewers and the best time to run across crazy Dhaka traffic. In my peripherals, I can see old women, the regular children and disabled persons making their way toward me in hopes of boksheesh (money) and am able to divert my path. I never avoid eye contact and always offer a smile, but do not hand out money. Drawing more attention to myself is not a good idea. My heart never completely numbs to the unending misfortune around me, but my brain is wired to stay clear. I have never felt unsafe here, never, but I also know my shoes cost more than some people earn in a month here. To leave Bangladesh and not have compassion... not possible or you can't be still breathing.
I walk along the narrow street between the market areas, bangles and fabric on my left while bananas, apples and grapes dangle from thread on my right. The sweet smells of fruit and nose wrinkling trash intermingle beneath my nostrils. "Madam" is yelled from a dozen vendors as I stroll, some faces familiar, some new. Piles of bread and biscuits fill the shop at the corner, before I cross the street, but I still prefer DuMiok Korean Bakery in Banani on Rd 11. I bid the market farewell and hop across traffic, perch on the medium between the barbed wire and hop again across another lane. The electronic and bootleg movie stores fill my field of view. Bells rings and again "Madam" is chirped as I pass the row of rickshaws beside the staircase to Spaghetti Jazz, each hoping for my fare to ride home. I smile and wave them on, occasionally showing my fingers walking to tell them I'll walk myself home.  Many of the wallahs on the next corner know my face... and that I always walk, just smile or nod as I go by.

The "tink tink" of the brick ladies echoes in my left ear. There are nearly no rocks in Bangladesh. Bricks are brought into town from the outlying factories and then hammered into tiny pieces to use in cement and road foundations. The same group of ladies cracks them near our home every day, their piles growing taller until someone comes to purchase. I peek at the wasps in their giant paper nest beside our fence to be sure they aren't on the attack and then knock at the gate. The tiny window pops open to see me and the door retracts, a smiling guard greeting me home. And each time I remind myself how much I enjoy the walks, my surroundings and the repeated surreal feeling of living here. And often I think how good the a/c will feel and how nice the clean smell of home will be. Today, I think of how few trips are left to journey uptown, so tell myself to write it down.


  1. What a great capture! I haven't been commenting much, but am loving your last days as you share them with us!

  2. Such a wonderful description of your day in Dhaka. And as always, I love the pictures you take and share!