Although living in Dhaka can be tough at times, there are some great things about it, for me. I fully realise some points in the list below can’t be enjoyed by everyone in B’desh whether as a tourist or a resident, but there you have it. I’m well aware I’m incredibly lucky to be in this country and enjoy so much of it in ways many millions of people here can’t due to not being British/white/able to earn a half-decent salary (I work at a local school and earn a local salary, but I know it’s still more than the majority)/other factors I’m well aware of. I’m just trying to defend myself a bit here as I’ve had a few comments about this particular blog entry along the lines of how I sound elitist/prejudiced/patronising etc etc, which I don’t think is true at all. I have tried to be a part of everyday life here in Dhaka as much as I can and have met many wonderful people here, from Bangladesh and from other countries. Anyhow, here’s a glimpse of life in B’desh from my point of view.
25 great things about living in Dhaka (in no particular order):
1. Being able to get your own shoes made, to fit you, out of any colour leather you want, any buckle, shape, size, style, heel..all within a week and for £15 equivalent.
2. Having freshly-made waffles with fresh cream and jam, with a jug of iced tea, for 2 quid, at Sally-Ann’s, a Salvation Army place which sells lovely handmade stuff including household items, paper, candles, decorations.
3. The fab restaurants. Thai, Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Japanese, Korean, Italian, French…the list goes on, and all for less than £10 between 3 people usually. I’ve lived and travelled quite a bit and I’ve never had such good food so consistently in one place. I really like the Mango Cafe near where I live (lassis to die for) and also the Dhaba on Road 11 (I think?) in Banani…yummy mutton curry…aah don’t get me started..yum…
4. Fresh fruit like pineapples, grapes, coconuts (is that a fruit?!), mangoes..again, for less than 1p per whole pineapple for example, all year round
5. Getting any material you fancy and/or any clothing pattern you like and getting a dress, or a skirt, or a top etc made to measure for..not a lot.
6. Jatra, Aranya, Aarong, Karamanga, Kumudini..the array of fair-trade, individual, non-massed produces products you can buy at these kinds of places is amazing..wish the UK had these. And they’re in such bright colours – again, the UK has much to learn from B’desh when it comes to experimenting with bold, bright colours. Good to know People Tree (peopletree.co.uk) work so closely with B’desh sourcing beautiful clothing and accessories from there to sell in the UK!
7. Being whizzed around the streets in a rickshaw. It feels like you are going to be thrown off every second and the rickshaw-wallahs are always trying to scheme me for much more taka than I know locals get charged (as I have found out), but I like being whizzed around in one occasionally! Anyway I don’t mind paying a bit more than perhaps is usual; I have so much compared to them. However when I had a rickshaw ride that was under a mile long and he wanted 100 taka for it (when I know people usually pay 10-20), I refused to be a mug!
8. Buying a dinner set (cups, platters, 2 different sized plates, bowls, teapot etc) for 20 quid from the warehouses that produce china and porcelain for John Lewis, M&S etc..but before those shops put mark-up prices on!
9. Being called ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ almost every day by my students or random people..I don’t know why because I’ve never had such compliments while living in the UK! Maybe it’s because I wear shalwaar kameez(es) all the time, as they’re much cooler in this climate than Western clothes..I know people say they appreciate me wearing ‘their’ clothes as I’ve had comments about it but…I have no idea!
10. Movenpick ice cream parlour, a Swiss ice cream company that acts like a bar, open til late, most people don’t drink alcohol here (Muslim) so this is the equivalent of going down the pub on a Friday night!
11. Going out on the boat on the river at weekends. Peace and quiet, greenery, kids from villages waving from the shore, seeing kingfishers and dolphins.
12. Village life 30 mins outside the city. Saris drying on the line, chickens clucking around, kids playing, men fishing with massive Chinese nets..
13. Cheap DVDs and CDs!
14. Markets. Manic but great once you’re in and try to ignore being stared at! Last time I went to Newmarket I tried to search for a poster of Hrithik Roshan…he’s so fit!
15. Learning to be a ‘proper’ teacher, making my kids laugh (occasionally) and trying to raise funds for e.g. the cyclone victims through school bake sales! (Any excuse to bake…)
16. Watching Bollywood movies and learning the songs (I can now sing..a little…in Hindi 😉) I love ‘Dhoom 2’, ‘Bunty aur Babli’ and basically anything with the aforementioned Hrithik in…
17. Material. Silk everywhere, cotton, silk-cotton mix, handwoven stuff, love it.
18. Swimming in an open air pool, having a fresh pineapple juice and a club burger at the British High Commission down the road. Aaah. Yes, in that way, I’m very spoilt having access to a pool!
19. Singing in a band. It can get thorny at times with 9 people in the band currently, but it’s fun. We play gigs at various Embassies when wanted…
20. Going to the local salon around the corner and getting a massage/manicure/hot oil treatment/henna etc, again for only a few quid.
21. Call to prayer. OK it’s a bit annoying sometimes when you’re in a quiet bit in a movie when you hear ‘aaaaaAAAAAAAA’ from the mosque down the road, but it’s kind of nice and comforting.
22. The sound and smell of monsoon rain. Not practical to move about in, but enjoyable if you’re under a solid roof! Watch the road outside turn into a lake in minutes!
23. A brown baguette from the Westin hotel. Ridiculously expensive but I treat myself once in a while as I really miss crusty brown bread (even tho I didn’t have it in China, still I miss it!). Also it has very cold air conditioning, which is a relief after a hot day!
24. The friendliness of people here..they want to practise their English and it’s much better than in China (sorry China) so it’s much easier to hold a conversation with a random person! First question ‘Where you from?’ Second question ‘Are you married?’ (this from women and men…and then they gasp when I say no…)
25. The different and seemingly endless festivals they have here with clothing to match…Spring Day (yellow and orange everywhere); Mother Language Day (black and white everywhere); I now have every shalwaar kameez colour in the world to go with every festival/celebration that happens in Bangladesh!