Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bangla Bonanza

I have really been getting around lately.  Lest you think all of this travel to be glamorous, I point you to Exhibit A:  Bangladesh. 

I've been to India (a buncha times), so I was fairly prepared for Bangladesh.  Well, as prepared as anyone can be to drop in on a still-developing country.  (Roads?  These are proving a challenge.)  Having been terribly sick on previous work trips (starts with a C-H, rhymes with "vagina") and knowing people who have been hospitalized for stomach troubles while in Dhaka, I decided I was not going to take any chances with the local cuisine.  Lame, I know.  (But really, do you even know of a Bangladeshi restaurant in your city?  In your country?)  Multiple people described Bangladeshi food to me as similar to Indian, but... "oilier."  Hmm.  It's like it helps itself right out of your system!

When at a lunchtime crossroads of pizza (full of gluten!) and chicken curry (full of risky microbes!), I opted for the pizza.  I was totally that prissy girl who eats "western" food instead of the local delicacies, when in fact I am a pretty adventurous eater.  (I should have a t-shirt made that states, "Do you have any fish eyeballs, because this gal's hungry?!")  But I didn't have any major stomach issues, so whatever.  I basically survived on a diet of nut bars and food from the Nordic Club.

Oh right, the Nordic Club.  Dhaka is dry.  As far as I understand, you can't order anything alcoholic from a restaurant.  The hotels will serve booze, but what to do if you are an expat who likes to get her drink on?  Join a club!  There is the Nordic Club, the American Club, the British Club, etc.  For the cost of a membership, which is pretty reasonable, you have the privilege to exchange your cash-money for coupons that you can then turn in for alcoholic beverages.  Yeah, the system is roundabout and antiquated (it also involves a ledger), but there is booze at the end so if it ain't broke...  These clubs also have imported ice cubes (the kind that won't give you the squirts), swimming pools and pool tables, Western food, tennis courts, and a built-in social scene.

Our journey started with a layover in Istanbul that grew from 4 to 10 hours.  We managed to station ourselves at the HSBC lounge for free drinks (didn't need that, was still hungover from the night before) and food.  We spent the layover haranguing various mustachioed Turkish Airlines employees who kept giving us the slip, endlessly replaced by another mustachioed colleague... until we got tired and holed up in the lounge.  The heavens celebrated our boarding with a lightning storm for the ages, but now that Turkish Airlines was finally loading the plane, they didn't seem to notice.  I, however, was trying to keep it together in front of my new colleagues when I really just wanted to cry.  You know who should have been struck by lightening, however?  Every one of the Turkish Airline flight attendants who were awful to the Bangladeshi travelers.  Honestly.  Y'all was totally racist on that plane.  Not cool.

We landed in Dhaka to this, the land of left luggage.

This one looked like someone was ready to take it home, but alas.  It too had been left.  The package on the bottom sort of looks like a butterball turkey.  Strange wrapping jobs, these.

Yet another shot of the airport.  This looks like some weird church basement, but it's really the lost luggage area at the Dhaka airport.  I was especially fascinated by the stroller graveyard at top center, but you can't see it so well here.

This lapped fruit is pomelo, served with cayenne salt.  It was deelish.

This is the lovely view from my coworker's apartment, where I enjoyed the pomelo.

This was the view from my borrowed desk at our office there.  Not quite as lovely.

Bottled water from the hotel.  As you can see, it's "Free from Arsenic."  Wow, that's something I've been taking for granted all this time.  Poor Bangladesh has had a real problem with arsenic in the water;  it's nothing less than a slow and painful mass poisoning.  I was jokin' it up when I took this picture, but now I feel a little bit yikes about it.

I was lucky enough to be in Dhaka at the same time as my lovely friend Taylor, who brought me this mag from her flight.  Note the warning label.

This might be one of my favorite photos ever.  I took this on the way back from visiting a supplier.  There were dozens of other pigs just like this guy, all rooting through the trash on the riverbank.

Here's a dark shot of me and the aforementioned Taylor.  I was lucky enough to take my first trip to Bangla with a dear friend and an ol' Bangla pro like T.  It's not the worst place in the world to go if it means you get to see one of your favorite ladies.

And this is Taylor's friend G, the mosquito hunter extraordinaire.  I was treated to some delicious sushi (I know, in Dhaka... but it really was super duper!) and there was nary a mosquito to speak of!  Mosquitos don't step to this guy!

Taka rocka.  Is this the same guy or what?!