Tag Archives: Dhaka

…My Dhaka Facebook, part 2

(Don’t you hate it when the internet eats your draft! It doesn’t happen to me often, but the post I wrote this weekend has mysteriously disappeared…)

After posting on my favorite Dhaka-related “likes” on Facebook, I remembered one category of essential Facebook-ness for the expat crowd: expat groups.

So, don’t forget to check these groups out, if you’re not already a member:

Deshperate in Dhaka is a meeting place for all expats in Dhaka. It’s got announcements about upcoming cultural, social and shopping events, as well as ads for used and new items and household staff. You can find the yoga studio or the spanish puppet show in Baridhara, from conversations on this page.

Dhaka Daily, like Deshperate, has information about events and second-hand items. It’s nearly all Americans and Canadians, however, and focuses on the things most important to that crowd. I’ve seen people set up meet-ups for game nights, craft groups or BBQs on Dhaka Daily.

Dhaka’s Moonshine Baby Group is where expat (mostly) parents come together to talk about Baby and young child things in Dhaka. If you’re wondering about a particular pre-school, looking for a playgroup, a doctor, or child-friendly hairstylist, this is the venue to ask those questions. There are also frequent ads for ayahs and used baby gear. We’ve purchased several things that were advertised here, because there are few places in Dhaka where you can find baby items at a reasonable price.

 

…Eggs

What’s gross?

Cracking open a rotten egg while you’re preparing pumpkin pie.

What’s grosser?

Cracking open a second rotten egg and almost forgetting to check it in a clear drinking glass before dropping it in the pie mixture.

Thankfully, these are actually the first two rotten eggs we’ve ever had here in Dhaka. We get a lot of fecal matter, stray feathers and the like, but not black yolks or congealed albumen. Strangely, these eggs from the commissary, which supposedly gets extra nice eggs, and charges us a bit extra for the freshness and quality.

And, no pics, sorry. I was so grossed out that they instantly went out of the house. Maybe next time. 😉

…my Dhaka Facebook

We’re nearing the final stretch of our time in Dhaka, and I realized that there are quite a few proto-posts festering in my mental queue. I hope I can get some of them out here before we go, but as you know, I’m not a very dedicated blogger. 🙂

——

What follows is a list of the “likes” I’ve make on Dhaka-related Facebook pages.

When we first arrived here, one of our first questions to the kind sponsor who picked us up at the airport was, “Where do people go out to eat?” His response was brief. In his view, there were 2-3 places to go. Once we’d tried the food at those places, we were complete disheartened, and rarely ventured out to eat ever again. Thankfully, Dhaka is not the dreary food town it was even 2 years ago, and there are many more options. One indication of this is my first Facebook recommendation: Dhaka Foodies. The young urban class of Dhaka is all about mobile internet, and on this site, they review the restaurants, cafes and bakeries of the whole city. Luckily, the diplomatic enclave is one of the restaurant hotspots, so you’re sure to find something nearby on their page. It’s not as searchable as a Dhaka-Yelp would be, but it’s VERY active.

Your Bangla Tour helped me set up a tour of Old Dhaka and included a visit to an authentic local household as part of the trip. If I hadn’t needed to get back to Neko, he’d have extended our supposedly 6 hour tour into the late night, just to make sure we got a chance to visit the Ramadan night market. He focuses mostly on village tours, and tours for people interested in social justice and development initiatives with minority tribespeople. He’s a great guy!

The German Butcher now has a Facebook page, for all your updates on their product line. This is one of the few places you can buy a large roast, or pork sausage. If you want them to make the sausage more interesting, they take custom orders for ingredients (like apple-pork, or red bell pepper/capsicum). They carry bagels from The Secret Ingredient now, so you’ve got one stop shopping for things not available elsewhere.

The “Australian Butcher,” aka the White Hen Gourmet is in Banani, but worth the trip for meat, I hear. That’s relatively near the Korean store, but I don’t think they have a Facebook page.

However, as long as you’re in Banani, stop by Cream and Fudge, Happy Octopus, and Jatra. The first will satisfy your Coldstone Ice Cream cravings, the second is a ritzy kids shop that sells Pebble items among the rest of its inventory, the last is the handicrafts store that kinda reminds me of Pier One, back when Pier One was cheap and eclectic.

If you’re interested in handicrafts, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Aarong. This page is awesome for 1 reason–reading the comments of all the people who are horribly offended by the supposedly risque fashions and the high prices. The drama is incredible.

I get a lot of personal things, Christmas decor and wee care package items at Folk International, which I’ve mentioned before here often. Their Christmas selection is always astounding, at least in a predominantly Muslim country. Get there in October for the best options. You could also try the DhakaCraft Bazaar, but they’re not frequent posters on their Facebook page.

Puran Dhaka Walks will keep you apprised of their weekly Old Dhaka walk schedule. They offer Friday walking tours of the historic buildings in Dhaka, and are extremely knowledgeable about the area, unlike some other tours I’ve taken, and won’t mention here.

As far as restaurants go, I’ve got several in my FB likes, though listing them may say more about my pathetic eating habits than anything else. Liking them has led me to some great deals, and was my only way of knowing how to do delivery orders.

Pizza Hut
Nando‘s
Soi 71 
North End Coffee

Last, a list of resource pages, for events, shops, restaurants and happenings:

Been There: Bangladesh (the #1 tourbook for the country)
Diggin Dhaka (the #1 expat map of Dhaka)
Bangladesh Unplugged
BD Menu

There are heaps of other places which have joined Facebook in the last 2 years, e.g. Movenpick, but these are the ones I already had “liked.”

 

…Agoraphobia

Ok, so I’m not suffering from panic attacks at the thought of going outside, but I have certainly been “in” more than “out” since we’ve gotten back from Maternity leave, and those “out” moments have generally been at the American club, or the embassy itself. I’ve been to the Pizza Hut and the Nandos a few times as well. I don’t think I’ve actually been inside a store or restaurant other than those since we got back. I’ve been to the houses of 5 people other than ourselves. So, I certainly am acting like I’m agoraphobic. I am trying to decide if it’s a phobia or an apathy, a social withdrawal, or a lack of friends and invitations.

Regardless of what it is, it’s left me feeling pretty pathetic. And then, of course, silly for feeling sorry for my lonely self, when I could just go out and do something about it, right? Grr…. conundrums!

Perhaps its something else, I’ll call it oiko-pagtha (greek-ish for house and trap), the feeling of being trapped in/by the house.

When we first came to Dhaka, I was adventurous, walking hither and yon through the streets, out for hours in the heat on a search for acrylic paints, sim cards, sewing thread, cilantro, etc. It was somewhat gross, between my own sweatiness, the stink of the open sewer, and the stress of close proximity to millions of people with completely different attitudes toward personal space, but doable. Over time, however, I’ve become much more reclusive, isolated and insulated. I rarely step out of the air conditioning. I travel by car. I go to only a few places. I have become the insoluble expat that I never wanted to become. I am embarrassed of myself.

In the post research process, I wanted to live in a place where I could really immerse myself in the culture, and we rated posts with compounds and fishbowl communities low. When we were planning to come, I read all about the possible sites and adventures possible here (limited, yes, compared to some countries, but there are some). Where did that person go? Is it Dhaka or is it me? If I  am really trapped in my home, it is a prison of my own making, of course. But, is it too late to find a way out?

With less than 4 months to go, many other FS-types have a bucket list of things to do before they go “wheels up.” Am I even interested in a Dhaka bucket list (and what would be on it that I haven’t already done?)? Had the frustration with the traffic and the general inaccessibility of everything in this town finally done me in?

So, perhaps, both apathy and apagtha. A trap of my own making that I am am not yet motivated to break free of.

…Dry Goods

So, I wrote up a rant about cleaning supplies as part of my “hindsight” series, but it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. So, I didn’t post it last week, in favor of fulminating on the theme a bit. It’s still not ready, so this week, I bring you hindsight on… “Dry Goods”

What are dry goods? Back in the day, the term referred to fabric, garments, personal care tools, millinery, buttons, furnishings and fittings, etc. But, I’ll also include some of the craft, kitchen and bath items that aren’t consumable, because I’m a linguistic rebel like that. This will be a veritable ACME catalog of things.

Clothing

For women’s clothes, I thought I’d need more than I do, mostly because we have someone who comes in every day to do our laundry. I don’t actually want her to do laundry every day because it’s wasteful, but she doesn’t it anyway, and irons everything, even the underwear sometimes. I do wish I’d brought more underwear though, as it’s all starting to get bedraggled. The extra pack of athletic socks is still unopened, and I have WAY too many t-shirts. I do get to wear my favorite clothes all the time though, since they’re always clean.

There’s also those great charity sales, at which you can pick up cheap cotton knit clothing and the occasional other item (my hauls include: blouses, jeans, cords, jackets, sweaters, maternity clothes, baby clothes, polos, and heaps of shirts made of cotton knit in various styles).

Tailoring is cheap too, BUT. If you don’t have the right fabric, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is. So, bring some fabric. There are two kinds of fabric readily available here: cotton fabric of a quilting/craft weight, and silk. The first costs about $2.50/yd and the second is between $7.00 and $9.00/yd. So, not really all that cheap. Well, the silk is cheap, comparatively, but it’s mostly solid colors, or WEIRD. There is suiting too, in the men’s shops, actually, but if you want something particularly soft or stretchy, you won’t find that here. (Some tailors are talented in finding other fabrics, but it’s a bit of an ordeal where you give them a down payment, they go to the market downtown to get samples, you examine the samples and choose one or send them back for more samples, and only really works if you’re not really fabric picky. I’m really bothered by scratchy fabric, so maybe this is just a problem with me?) In sum, Nearly everyone agrees that fancy fabrics or stretchy fabrics should be brought in, if you want to get something fancy or stretchy made.

You probably will also want some kind of prototype or pattern/image to show the tailor to base your item on as well. Western clothes are not part of the women’s habille here, so you have to give them a lot to work with.

I wanted to have a western dress made of sari fabric, but that seems too avant garde for everyone I propose it too, so it hasn’t happened. Plus, many saris are just way more expensive than I thought they’d be.

I don’t have much to say about men’s clothes, perhaps the Penguin does, but he’ll have to tell me what for a later post.

Accessories

Bring hairpins, safety pins, and rolling pins (j/k). There’s loads of gold and pearls here, but nothing that doesn’t flash or glitter. The shoes are all TEEEEEENY tiny, extremely uncomfortable and glitzy. That might be good for some people, but my poor feet can’t take it. However, the streets are kinda mucky and/or dusty and/or fecal, so you’ll be trashing many of your shoes at the end of the tour, which may affect which ones you want to bring. You’ll also be fighting mold in your shoes, so YMMV.

Craft

If you sew yourself, or do any other craft, bring everything you’d ever think you need. Except, of course, the aforementioned quilting weight cotton. You can find that. I haven’t found a shop for sewing notions other than an hour away at the market for fabrics. The student shops in Gulshan 2 Circle sell single sheets of colored paper, but no construction paper, card stock, drawing, painting, artistic  or scrapbooking paper. They do sell acrylic paint in the basic rainbow and gold and silver, brushes and wall paint. There are no notebooks/sketchbooks other than very slim elementary school notebooks. No yarn (other than a tiny bit at that same fabric market, but its soooo far). There are no tools other than basic crayons pencils, sharpeners, and scissors, and all of those are only at the grocery store, Lavender. There are some twee stationary things at the Korean market, but I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at finding much of anything. I guess if you wanted to learn basketry, there might be some reeds in the marsh you could pick and dry, but that’s a bit extreme. There’s also a “mall” in Banani I’ve never been in because it looks like the #1 place to die in a fire or earthquake, there may be something there.

 

And, since the last two aren’t technically “Dry Goods,” I’ll just list the crucial things I’m remembering right now:

Kitchen

I really meant bring a rolling pin. No one here makes pies or rolled cookies, so if you don’t have one, you’ll want one. Oven thermometer (unreliable gas pressure). Kitchen scale. Parchment paper or a Sil-Pat (though saran wrap and aluminum foil are available at the commissary). Clear pitchers for water and juice (which are mostly available frozen). Smaller tupperware. Kitchen appliances that are NOT/NOT digital, as the power goes out all the time. You really want things that have dials and knobs, so that they’ll come back on when the generator kicks in, especially your slow cooker.

You don’t need a lot of plastic things, as there are tons of plastic vendors here, for trash cans, laundry baskets (in the perfect for we-do-laundry-every-day sizes), wash tubs, opaque pitchers, large tupperware, dish drying racks.

Bathroom

Shower Curtains and hooks (SOOO many bathrooms in every house!). More water pitchers, for purified water to brush your teeth in, you can get them here, but they’re pretty large. Anti-slip bathmats. First Aid stockpile! Bathroom scale.

 

…Monsoon Weddings

People sometimes wonder why I don’t make a big effort to go out and enjoy the amenities of Dhaka more often. After all, there is a Western movie theater here, only 12 km  (7.5 miles) away, inside the 12th largest mall in the world!

Well, last night we went to a wedding, only 10 kms away, a distance that many people run (for fun?) on weekends. It took us 3.5 hours to get about half way there. Yes, we sat in the car in uncomfortable, expensive clothes (saris and suits, bulky local jewelry), listening to cars honking consistently for 3 hours before deciding to give up (because the wedding had already happened), and another 30 minutes to reach a place where we could even turn around and head back home. For this exciting adventure, we had to pay our ayah 10% of her monthly salary in overtime, buy the aforementioned saris and jewelry, and deal with a bunch of annoyances due to the craziness of shopping, public shutdowns and rain.

I have taken a large amount of tylenol, and I am still suffering from a headache. bleh.

…Hindsight: Produce

If I were to do it all again, what would I make sure to bring to Dhaka? Many of these would be great at any hardship post, but they definitely would have made life here nicer in some ways. I’ll do these posts in a series, so check back for more. I’m starting with this one, because I am still hungry after last week’s post on cookbooks!

A Farm/Garden

Image
You don’t have to create a Living Roof like this one at San Francisco’s National Academy of Sciences… container gardening is best.

Many people here have lovely roof decks perfect for making a rooftop garden. Unfortunately, there aren’t any great seeds available here. You’ll have to train your gardener, if you have one, on how to grow these plants, and some might not be able to handle the seasons, but many of them would do well. If I were coming here again, I’d get:

Food For Health Emergency Garden Seeds There’s enough in there to help you recover from an apocalypse, so there should be ample for a roof garden. Includes: Corn, Peas, Radish, Sweet OnionBeet, Tomato, Eggplant, Kohlrabi, SpinachCabbage, Swiss Chard, Romaine Lettuce, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Carrot, BroccoliJalapeno, PepperCucumberPole Bean*, ZucchiniCrookneck Summer Squash, Green Hubbard Squash, Spaghetti Squash. (Italics designate things available only seasonally for 1-2 months in Dhaka, and bold is not available at all. Many of these plants could be grown year round, if you’re willing to water them and improve their soil). *There is a long bean here, but it’s nothing like a green bean. It’s a lot tougher, for instance.

Assortment of Culinary Herbs Fresh Herbs are rare here, except for in early spring when Cilantro takes over the market. This assortment of seeds includes: Italian Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro, Sweet Basil, Dill Bouquet, Oregano, Sweet Marjoram, Chives, Summer Savory, Garlic Chives, Mustard and Culinary Sage

Lettuce is particularly hard to get here, especially if you want something other than the anemic green leaf lettuce that never gets bigger than 3″ or so. So, if you like salad, bring a lettuce assortment. A blogger friend has become the hero of the community for the lettuces she grew from a mesclun seed mix.

I personally have a tomato addiction, so I’d bring an assortment of heirloom tomato seeds too. The local tomato is a mealy Roma/plum tomato. It’s good for cooking in a sauce, but is usually rather repulsive raw. Those who are less of a tomato fiend may find it ok. I am terribly tomato picky though.

There are bugs (links to a study of the insects that affect farming in Bangladesh) and birds here, so you’ might want some kind of organic pesticide and netting. Netting and construction workers are available here, and one of our neighbors has a kind of greenhouse made of net to keep the birds out of their garden. There’s sun in abundance, however, so a glass or plastic greenhouse isn’t necessary, unless you really want stunning year round tomatoes.

This looks like the roof gardens I worked on in Berkeley, bucket planters and all.

The soil here is all delta silt clay, so you should bring some soil amendments to help those tender roots grow. The carrots available in the market are all stubby and wide because of the dense soil. The poor things can’t dig very deep in the silt-clay. Plants like runner beans or herbs would never make it without lightening up the soil. When the soil drys, it clumps and cracks, so you’ll want to bring a humus agent and/or some vermiculite to retain water and nutrients.

Some kind of low-chemical fertilizer would also be good, as the soil is not always very rich. The local produce is heavy with pesticide, fertilizer, and post-harvest chemicals, so it is a good idea to keep your own produce chemical free.

Both humus and fertilizer can be made by composting, and the Berkeleyite in me feels more than a bit guilty for not doing that here. I like a rolling composter for roof gardens. This one looks like the Death Star, for twice the fun! This one looks like a barrel of fun (groan!). The key to a rooftop composter is that it shouldn’t have to be completely composted and emptied before you add new material. Most of them have some kind of catchment system to allow access to the finished compost without having to pick out chunks of uncomposted stuff. Compost heaps aren’t very practical because of space and smell issues. A good composter should be odor free, even in Dhaka heat. Also, since your time here isn’t all that long, comparatively, you might want some compost kickstarter to get things going.

On many roofs, you can install a drip irrigation system. Our roof has a spigot in a convenient spot to help you with that. Alternatively, you can have your gardener water the plants every day with a hose. However, this would require training the gardener thoroughly, as these plants are not grown here, at all, and most gardeners aren’t really green thumbs, regardless of their job title. Ours killed a bromeliad, for example, a plant that’s pretty hard to kill.

Raising chickens is not unusual here, at least among the local population. I’m not sure if your landlord or GSO would approve of a chicken coop, but if you want to give it a try, get some chicken supplies before you come too. This coop is pricey, but stylish… a veritable chicken chalet!

Last, if you’re a novice to gardening, you might want some instruction before you begin. I haven’t read any of these, but they’re all about gardening after a disaster. They all seem to be helpful for a novice working in strange conditions and without access to a helpful local gardening center.

Gardening When It Counts, by Steve Solomon (4.1 stars and 104 reviews on Amazon)

The Resilient Gardener, by Carol Deppe (4.6 stars and 41 reviews)

Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 acre, by Brett L Markham (4.3 stars and 83 reviews)

Raising Chickens for Dummies, by Willis and Ludlow (4.9 stars and 120 reviews)

…Diplomatic Enclave

Thanks to Google's "Quest Map" from April Fool's 2012

Occasionally in Dhaka there will be a public strike (hartal) which affects most industries and political sectors, or some other kind of mass political event, which leads to the Americans being “confined to the diplomatic enclave.” The borders of the enclave are defined by the government of Bangladesh, and so… sad as we are that Cream and Fudge (one of the few ice cream options nearby) is outside the area (as is North End, the coffee and cinnamon roll heaven), we cannot venture there on such days.

However, thanks to the engineers at Google, we can now pursue other adventures in our 8-bit enclave… saving princesses, recovering the Tri-force, locating the black cauldron, etc.

If you need a MAP to guide you in your quest, put this one in your LEATHER BAG.

 

…Naptime

There are a lot of naptimes in Neko’s (our pre-natal name for the baby, and what I’ll call her here) day, but not very many long naptimes. Of course, every time I say, “She’ll be up any minute now,” she’ll actually sleep for a whole hour. That happens mostly when Mr. A is around, of course, so he doesn’t get to see her day time 10-20 minute naps.

So, here is is nap 3 and it’s only 1 o’clock. Here’s hoping we can actually finish this entry!

My computer broke, and I’m now on the lookout for a local person with a Mac to use as a master computer for me to back up all my more recent photos. I haven’t been very dedicated to backing things up since we’ve been in Dhaka, so… there are a lot of things I’ll miss if they’re lost. Luckily, the problems only with the “click” of the mouse/trackpad (the computer always thinks I’m left clicking, regardless of my actions, the mouse I’m using, etc., and the keyboard shortcuts aren’t enough to be able to save what i need on disks). So, that’s put a big crimp in my blogging too, plus, I don’t know how to use the software and such on Mr. A’s computer, so no photos here for a while.

Otherwise, I’m going back to work next week, and we’ve hired an ayah to help out here with Neko. Thankfully, work’s being pretty flexible, and giving me the opportunity to both work part-time and work from home, when projects allow. Of course, now they’ll have to lend me a laptop, since I don’t have a computer any more!

Neko herself is adjusting to Dhaka, she got a bunch of shots last week (and loved them, not so much), and has some more this week. She’s loving the bell toy hanging from the play gym that arrived in the layette last week, and she’ll bat at it for quite a while before demanding to be walked around to look at things around the house. She made her first laugh noise earlier this week, but hasn’t repeated the feat. She also loves when her daddy makes silly noises, so I bet we’ll hear another laugh soon.

Things around Dhaka have changed while we were gone, especially notable are: a new menu at the ARA (breakfast was good, and more people are hanging out there than there were in the fall), but the pool is closed for several months. They’re building a Nando’s in Gulshan 2, and a sign outside declares “the neighborhood will never be the same!” If it becomes something more like Gulshan 1, I think we’d all be pretty happy. There’s some tasty options down at Gulshan 1. A new building appeared behind ours, full of new residents, but there’s nothing finished on the outside walls, so it looks like it will melt away in the next rainy season. And… naptime’s over.

…Happy times in Dhaka

We had a lovely day today in Dhaka. The weather has finally become something like a nice summer day in California. The humidity broke, and the skies are clear (ish). It was a perfect day for a little bit of adventuring here, or as much adventuring as this pregnant lady can handle all at once. 🙂 On a normal weekend day, we’re usually known for taking an afternoon nap, but we spent most of the day out. Since it’s my last weekend in Dhaka for a while, I am happy we made the trip.

It started off with a mosquito bite, not a very auspicious beginning to the day, but I got through that trauma quickly. Brush it off, brush it off… 🙂 Then, dressed in my casual stretchy best, we headed off to a charity fundraiser fair at the Grace International School. It was a fair-sized fair, about 30 vendors, many of whom I’d never seen before. Because Grace is a Christian school, they have connections with some of the Christian charities and NGO-training/manufacturing centers here in Bangladesh. Who knew there was a Mennonite mission here? They apparently make handcrafted paper goods, including cards, photo albums, wrapping paper, etc. Their main store is in Mohammadpur district of Dhaka, so the only time I’d ever see their stuff would be at a craft fair. Mohammadpur is VERY outside our driving comfort zone… (We noticed yesterday that the furthest we’d ever driven from home was about 2 miles, and only to that extreme in one direction… Pizza Hut).

After the craft fair (which was very productive… we even found a cute Sari-blanket for the wee-adventurer-to-come), we decided to follow the recommendation of a friend and have lunch at Roll Express in Banani:
But, we couldn’t find it, so we headed for someplace we’d been before, Dhaba, the restaurant that serves authentic “street food” but in a hygienic environment. They have a great tandoori oven and are well known for their Dosas and Phuchka. Their dining room is pretty small and intimately lit, but I’ve never had anything I didn’t like. It’s mid way along Road 12, on the east side of the street.

Afterward, we remembered that we were pretty close to another treat we hadn’t experienced yet, Cream and Fudge Factory, the coldstone knockoff that has all the Americans raving. Cream and Fudge is on the second floor of a building at the NorthEast corner of the Road 11 and Road 12 intersection in Banani. I had the EveryBerry Cheesecake and Mr. A had an AppleCrumble. Both were lovely, and a single was just the right size for after lunch. A single-size serving was 250 tk, a double was 400 tk. They also have shakes, sundaes and coffees.

While there, we checked out some of the other stores in the building.
Happy Octopus sells cute children’s things: casual and Very Fancy clothes, toys, items from Pebble (a local hand-knit NGO/company that sells to Europe and Japan and has a women-focused training and employment mission).

Haru Ichiban on the 3rd floor (i.e. 4 from the ground), sells stylish western men’s clothing from Esprit, Calvin Klein, Zara, and many other brands. They have both formal (i.e. tuxedo formal), business and casual fashions, shoes and accessories. Their FB site implies that they also have women’s things, but we didn’t really explore their items. Aesthetically, it was a very western-feeling shop to look at as well.

On the ground floor was Quesadilla,  a new Mexican-ish, American-ish restaurant, which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t yet tried. Their Mexican menu seemed pretty limited, but there were also some American classics to balance it out. Maybe we’ll try it when we get back from our baby-trip to America.

The building also housed a pharmacy and a dry cleaner. Something was being built on the 2nd floor, so there’s more excitement to come.