Thursday, November 17, 2005

ALEX IS BACK!!!!

Just a quick entry to register the long-awaited return of Alex to Dhaka! She's right now unwinding upstairs in a shower - - a hot one - - something she hasn't been able to have in a month. Thanks to the High Commission, I got a special pass which allowed me past the normal security boundaries in Dhaka International Airport, and I was able to greet Alex pretty much right off the plane. It was so great to see her, I can't even describe it.

For the past three hours, we've just been talking and catching up. Alex seems refreshed, in high spirits, and very positive about the past few weeks of naturopathic/ayurvedic treatments, in spite of the rugged challenging conditions she endured. What a trooper! Really. So blessed to have her back with me.

I feel like the posting is only really starting now.....

p.s. - Joe, thanks so much for your comment and reassurance that someone is actually reading this stuff! Felt so good to hear back from your side! We are constantly thinking about all of you and keeping you in our prayers.

p.p.s. - Oh, and by the way, I was able to post a few more photos - more photos to our website - more pre-departure shots just prior to our vacation in India. The first album contains shots we took during the last couple of weekend trips to the cottage (late July/early August), and the next smaller one contains a few shots of our departure from Ottawa Airport. Pictures in Kerala, and some from Dhaka (mostly my village stay in Bhuapur) will go up in the coming days. http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jjtcida/my_photos

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

All roads lead to Bhuapur

Sorry for the delay in submitting this post. Did i just apologize? As if anyone's actually reading this! Anyway, I'll describe my weekend in Bhuapur. And wow, what a weekend. My first experience in a real rural village.

As I mentioned, with Alex away, and Ramadan ensuring the normally dull Dhaka was even more quiet, joining Bashir and Reza in their village to celebrate Eid was beginning to sound good, in spite of everything I had heard about the level of poverty and hardship in their village.

Bhuapur is a tiny village in the district of Tangail. There are various levels of government in Bangladesh which go beyond national, provincial, muncipal, as we are used to back in Canada. In the Bang, there are 6 divisions, which comprise 64 districts, which are further divided into just over 500 'Upazillas'. (I know! I love that name! Sounds like some crazy dinosaur from jurassic park - Grrrrrr!!! Upazillaaaaaa!!!!!) But it doesn't stop there. Smaller than Upazillas are Union Parishads. Each Upazilla holds about 8-10 Unions. Smaller than a Union is a village, which has some other Bangla name, which I forget. And as I was saying, Bhuapur is a tiny village.

I was somewhat concerned about driving our rented car into the village area, because I find it frightening just driving around Dhaka. I couldn't imagine what the road conditions would be like in the more rural areas. Plus, where we were going, there really aren't a lot of maps, so getting lost was a real risk. However, I was really hoping to offer a comfortable ride back to their homes for my new friends. But since it was a rental, I was becoming hesitant. If anything were to happen to the car, it would cost me. CAA coverage doesn't quite get out here. I would've felt more comfortable if Ibrahim, our driver, drove the car, since he pretty much knows all the village roads in the surrounding districts to Dhaka, and is somewhat of a mechanic. But as it was the end of Ramadan, I couldn't ask Ibrahim to work, since he too was anxious to return to his village to see his family.

So I was beginning to accept the fact that my trip into Bhuapur would be via public transpo. To say the least, public transpo is scary. If the capacity of a bus is normally 40, you'll usually find about 90 people on it. Literally, ON the bus. And I honestly don't believe any of them are equipped with brakes. You wouldn't think so watcing them. You'll see a shot of one I took from the highway en route to Bhuapur (once i'm able to get those photos up).

Thankfully, I came into some luck - - - when Ibrahim heard that Bashir's home was in Bhuapur, he became excited because his village is in the same district of Tangail and located very near Bhuapur. This was brilliant. So he would take us to Bhuapur, leave the car with us in the village, and then catch public transpo himself to get to his village - Jamalpur.

Ibrahim (Islamic name for Abraham) has quickly become a good friend. He's very sweet, thoughtful and generally good natured. He's 27. Not married. But getting lots of pressure from his parents to find a "good girl". He doesn't speak great English, but we get by. He's always smiling and loves hanging out with Alex and myself. And when Bashir and Reza are around, he joins in the fun. Of course, Bashir and Reza love him too.

To get ready for the trip, soon after work on Thursday (The High Commission shut down early that work week so that people could get home to their families to break the final fast (at sunset) "Iftar" and start the long weekend - - remember, our weekends are normally Friday & Saturday + that Sunday and Monday were national holidays too), I quickly rushed home, dropped off my stuff, changed out of my suit, hit the stores and bought a couple of nice saris to bring with me and give as gifts to each of Bashir and Reza's mothers. I also bought a shirt for Bashir's father. Reza's dad died in 1996, so its just his mother and siblings that he was going to see. Thankfully, Alex's and my sea shipment arrived in Dhaka the day before (FINALLY), so I also took with me a few cans of maple syrup (bought from Costco) to show my appreciation with some Canadian flavour. For Muslims, Eid is like their Christmas - all family members give each other gifts, and usually clothes.

There are in fact two Eids. This one, known more properly as Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan which falls on the 9th month of the Muslim calendar - 30 days of fasting (during sunlight) and focus on prayer, worship and charity. The specific date/timing is determined by the sighting of the moon. I believe Ramadan commemorates when the Quran (Islamic holy book - their Bible, if you will) was delivered from God to the prophet Muhammad. The second Eid, or Eid al-Adha, falls 70 days after Eid al-Fitr and commemorates the time from the Old Testament when Abraham accepted God's wish to sacrifice his son Isaac (but in the Quran, its Ismael). Anyway, its not as big a party. But because of the symbolism of sacrifice, a lot of cattle and livestock are slaughtered and its a huuuuge feast. Needless to say, looking forward to that!

But I digress. One of Bashir and Reza's other good friends, Anwar, also lives in a village near Bhuapur called Khutavpur. (I know. I know. By this point, I was beginning to think that every village was named "something-pur".) So Anwar came along with us too. Unfortuantely, Nafis, Bashir's other good friend who had come out with us the night before our departure for 'trip planning', had to return to his wife's home to spend Eid weekend in Chittagong (big city - sea port in south-east Bangladesh), so he wasn't able to come.

Roadtrip!

The road trip was awesome and really set the mood for the weekend. Bashir and Anwar shared with Ibrahim and me stories from their childhood, growing up in village life. Of course, Ibrahim threw in a few of his own. It was a lot of fun, and they all have such great and unique senses of humour. Especially Bashir. He's hilarious. He's so passionate about everything he does. Almost mellow-dramatic. Everything in life triggers a link to some play by Shakespeare, or a poem or love song by Tagore or Nazrul (both famous Bengali poets). He quotes them often. I really appreciate his love of the arts. Really. Truthfully, i feel like a bit of an uncultured idiot next to him. Difficult to share with him my equally passionate love for the NFL or how I long to see the Jets use a 3-4 defensive formation combo'd with a corner blitz. Not quite the same thing.

The rest of the trip included a couple of breaks at road side tea stalls, listening and singing to some Bengali music as well as some James Taylor (which I brought, of course), passing by some beautiful lush green patti fields and countless ponds/small rivers filled with giant Chinese fishing nets (although I suppose here they would more appropriately call them Bangladeshi fishing nets), and me mentally preparing for some exposure to rural poverty and the real Bangladesh.

Although Bhuapur is only about 130-140km away, it takes about 3-4 hrs to get there due to the rural roads. This was compounded by the uniquely heavy traffic to get out of Dhaka that weekend because of Eid since everyone was going back to their respective villages for the holidays - - - close to what the 401 looks like coming back into Toronto at the end of a long weekend. By early evening, we arrived and just in time for Iftar.

Bhuapur is pronounced "Boo - ya - poor", or as I was thinking upon arrival, "Boy, are you poor". One thing was clear to me upon arrival - this place was primitive. Not at all like in Dhaka. Bhuapur is the size of Wyndale Crescent back in Ottawa. Its pretty small. There is one narrow rural road which runs through the heart of the village and this where everything seems to happen - a dozen or so fabric stalls, a few tailors, countless street vendors, a few barber shops, a pharmacy, a couple of small schools, a food market and several tea stalls. Rushing through the village were several "vans" - not like Chrysler's, but a closer version to the millions of rickshaws one can find in Dhaka or any of the big cities in South Asia - - a guy on riding a giant tricycle which has a bench for a couple of passengers and a retractable plastic hood to protect them from rain/bright sun. The ones in Dhaka are actually quite pretty. Most of them are painted bright colours and are decorated with fancy patterns and designs. Vans are a simpler version. No paint, no bench, no hood. just the tricycle attache to a wooden platform. Unlike the rickshaws in the city which usually only carry 2, 3 max, you can often see vans carrying 5, sometimes 6 adults. Brutal. But i suppose its a living in the village. Anyway, it doesn't sound like a lot in the town, but really, it was full of life. Hard to explain, but it had a different energy than in Dhaka. Everyone in the village knew each other and each other's stories. Much more personable and friendly - - everyone's always hugging each other and holding hands. Even the men. In fact, especially the men. And no, the whole town is not gay. Just very affectionate and tactile. Part of village culture. It was really quite nice to see. Of course, women are generally not seen out at night roaming around in rural areas, unless they're accompanying their husbands or children. Very, veeeeeery traditional setting. Very different from the city.


After Ibrahim broke fast, the boys and I wished him Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid) and he got on a bus to continue his journey to his home in Jamalpur. After seeing him off, we had a small dilemma - what to do with the car. The tiny path which leads to Bashir's house was too narrow for my car, so Bashir's brother, Nashir, recommended we park it inside the police station grounds. Thankfully, he knew someone at the station, so this was permissible. According to Nashir, this was pretty much the only place it would be safe. Not that the village is filled with criminals, but as you've probably figured out, there are not a lot of vehicles that come through Bhuapur, and when there's that much poverty around, cars get a looooot of looks.

Whoa. I'm typing a novel here, and i haven't even mentioned yet anything about Bashir's home or his family. Sorry. Just so much to tell. Unfortunately, its late and its been a busy work week - - in fact, the whole city has been busy due to Dhaka hosting the 13th SAARC Summit (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) followed by the Government's conference with donors to discuss the recent release of their Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (paper. yeah, right. now that's a novel!). Consequently, I've been attending countless diplomatic dinners and other functions these past two weeks. So I gotta get to bed. But i'll describe the rest of the stay another day.

If you made it this far, wow! thanks! Must say, it feels good to journal all of these experiences, even if its just for us.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Eid Mubarak

Hey everyone - just a quick entry since its quite late over here. I just got back from a late supper with Bashir, who along with Reza, have invited me to their village, Bhapur (sp?) to celebrate Eid El-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Reza has already returned to Bhapur a few days back and is expecting both Bashir and myself tomorrow. Accordingly, Bashir and I met this evening to plan the trip - - - its about 3 hours outside of Dhaka. My biggest regret is that Alex is not going to be with us. With Alex now in Kerala exploring naturopathic/ayurvedic health treatments, life is pretty dull in Dhaka without her. Will make sure to debrief you all on this interesting village journey when I get back. Hope all is well with everyone back home. Please keep Alex in your prayers. Some good news - while I was obviously unsuccessful with my attempts to post our photos on this blog directly, I did manage to find a way to post them. I created a website through yahoo which you should all be able to access. Not all of our photos are up yet, but its a start. Please find attached the weblink including a sample of our photos in Agra and Udaipur. Hopefully, this works. If so, let me know what you think. best, j

http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jjtcida/my_photos

Monday, October 17, 2005

Uploading pics from Bangladeshi computers....fun!

Just a quick update on life in Dhaka. Right now, we're in the middle of Ramadan, which ends in early November. As a consequence, its much harder to get work done since all government offices tend to slow down and close earlier. Last weekend, a couple of local (Bangladeshi) friends of ours, Reja and Bashir, invited us out to celebrate the end of Durga Puja - the biggest festival of the Hindu community and interestingly, a national holiday in Bangladesh.

Reja and Bashir are awesome. Reja works on primary education programming at BRAC (Bangladesh's biggest and most famous NGO, alongside Grameen Bank), while Bashir works for Unilever Bangladesh Ltd. Disinterested in the private sector, Bashir is somewhat jealous of Reja's career path and wishes he had pursued a more socialistic direction. And so just this year, Bashir enrolled in BRAC University's International Development Studies Graduate Program. Combined with his full-time job, he's quite busy. He loves to sing poetry while telling us about his past painful affairs of the heart, the 'dramatic' struggle between earning money (which his family desperately encourages) and seeking more socially meaningful work. Bashir is one animated dude. Reja, on the other hand, is more the quiet type. They're both incredibly sweet, hospitable and supportive of Alex and I. They're very proud of their country and the great sacrifices made to achieve independence from Pakistan. Touring around Dhaka with them is like taking a history class with two very passionately committed teachers.

I think in view of being stuck at home since arrival, managing most of the administration with the house, diplomatic registration, endless paperwork, the posting has been harder on Alex so far. What compounds this struggle, besides being away from family, is her feeling disconnected from her career (had to take a leave of absence from CIDA just prior to our departure from Canada). I imagine watching me go off to the High Commission every morning doesn't help matters. I believe once she finds employment, she'll quickly become integrated into the development community and feel more connected with our environment. Of course, she's purposely not pursuing work at this time since she intends on returning to Kerala (India) next week to undergo a naturopathic treatment for her psoriasis and related health issues. Naina's in-laws have researched a few such health facilities in Cochin near where they live, and believe this could be the answer. Please keep her in your prayers. Godwillingly, she'll return to Dhaka 100%.

As for me, as I'm getting more involved in my work with CIDA at the Canadian High Commission - most of the projects I'm managing address rural poor women and children - I'm finding that it would be very easy to stay all night at the office. Needless to say, the work is really engaging. Frustrating, but interesting.

Hopefully, Alex's treatment will end in time for her to return to Bangladesh for the end of Ramadan, so that we can celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Bashir has kindly invited Alex and I to his village - about two hours outside of Dhaka - to celebrate with his family. A real honour.

That's all for now. Here's just a test of a few pics from our vacation en route to the Bang. I pray this works. It only took a few hours. Kill me.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Settling in Dhaka....

Well, its been about 7 weeks since departure from Ottawa, and what a journey it has been. Our "relaxing" vacation in India started off like a nightmare.

Problem #1: As of 1am, early morning on the day of our departure (and against my better judgement I might add - - - I feel its important to lay down that qualifier at this point), Alex let Mickey out of Mr and Mrs White's garage (where she slept at night) for an hour or so until we finished our late night packing. She felt Mickey was boiling due to the heat and lack of air circulation. Of course, as many of you know, Mickey left and got lost. Consequently, Alex and I spent the next 3 hours driving/walking/crawling up and down the backyards of all of the neighbours on Viewmount Dr as well as many of the surrounding neighbourhoods searching for her. Thankfully, Alex left details with the Humane Society and someone on Juniper Court (believe it or not) found her a few hours later around 7am.

Problem #2: Thunder and lightning storm. Original flight from Ottawa to Toronto cancelled. Air Canada puts us on the next flight, leaving us only an hour and half to catch our connecting Air Canada flight in Pearson to New Delhi. Its a legal connection assures the Air Canada agent, so we should make it. Seems ok, right? Yeah.

Problem #3: After depressing goodbyes to our family at the airport, we check in. Of course, for obvious reasons, security gives my bags an extra review. Big surprise. Then, Alex's carry-on bag's handle breaks off. Nice.

Problem #4: This one's big. We're finally on the plane and it starts to back up and head towards the runway when suddenly, it stops. Apparently the pilot has received a message from Pearson asking all incoming flights to hold off due to the storm. Sweet. So now we're stuck on the plane like hostages waiting for approval to take off while the clock ticks away on our window to catch the flight out of Toronto. Of course, all of the flight attendants try to reassure us insisting that if all incoming flights are delayed arriving in Toronto, then all outgoing flights will also be delayed. Seems okay, right? Yeah.

Problem #5: We arrive at Pearson in Toronto 4 hours later. Nice. Both Alex and I run out of the plane to be greeted by an in-transit Air Canada Agent who responds to our frantic query about the Air Canada-Delhi flight as follows: "Of course that flight's gone. It left 30 minutes ago. Did you think it was going to wait for you two?" After Alex convinces me that killing her will not solve the problem, we move on to Air Canada ticketing to ensure that we can get on another flight without messing up our hotel reservations in Delhi.

Problem #6: No other Air Canada flights out until the weekend. Our hotel reservations in Delhi are messed up.

Problem #7: Attitude from Air Canada staff continues. When it finally becomes our turn in-line after waiting 1 hour, the Agent puts out a "Please see other Agent" sign. Frustrated, I give her my best "what do you think you're doing look?". She responds with, "Sir, I've been working for over 10 hours and am tired and hungry. I'm leaving. I'm sure one of the other Agents will gladly be able to help you". She then directs us to the long line-up next to the only other Agent working. Great.

Problem #8: After booking us a series of alternate connections to get us to Delhi using Lufthansa (Air Canada Star Alliance partner) via Montreal and Frankfurt, we naturally inquire about our baggage which was originally booked directly to Delhi from Ottawa. Air Canada assures us that their Pearson Baggage Crew will re-tag all four of our bags for our new route so that when we land in Delhi, we'll get them. Being somewhat skeptical at this point, I raise the option of us identifying our bags so that we can guarantee we receive them when we land. The Agent informs us that no passengers are allowed back in the baggage-hold-over cargo area. He then laughs at me, educating me on the expertise of Air Canada's baggage people and pompously reminding me "This isn't New Dehli Airport." No racial linkage to my heritage intended, I'm sure. He concludes that I'm being ridiculous to worry about the bags. Seems ok, right? Yep.

Problem #9: To conlude our business with Air Canada Ticketing/Baggage Agents, they proudly announced that since the flight was missed due to weather, they were not responsible for providing us with a hotel or any other compensation for the night. Of course, its now midnight and tracking down hotels at this hour is somewhat of a nightmare especially due to all the cancelled flights that evening because of the storm. The only available room we find? - $250 at the Airport Sheraton. Nice.

Problem #10: Having resigned ourselves to the fact that our 2 day jet-lag recovery and site seeing adventure in Delhi has been ruined, we figure that we'll at least get one good nite's rest at the Sheraton before starting the series of flight connections the next morning. Airport Sheraton - under construction. Hammering and drilling all night. All night.

At this point, I had had it. In the morning, I asked to speak with the General Manager of the hotel and told him exactly what I thought of the Sheraton's "A-Comfortable-Night's-Sleep-Guarantee". After a few minutes of me yelling death threats, he decided not to charge us for the room and throw in breakfast as well. Yeah!!!!!! That's right baby!!! Go Jacob. Go Jacob. Go Jacob.

Problem #11: After 3 brutal connections through Montreal, Frankfurt we make it to Delhi at 1am, two days late. Sure, we realized that we lost our 2 day break planned in Delhi, but we were glad to know that our next day's train trip to Agra and our hotel reservation at the Oberoi Amarvilas (right next to Taj Mahal) would be preserved. So we get off the plane and proceed to Baggage Claim. Big surprise. No bags. After a 2 hour administrative delay at the airport filling out forms and baggage identification papers, we meet a representative of the travel agency I used in Delhi who takes us to our hotel, where we have 2 hours to rest prior to catching the morning train to Agra.

Problem # 12: Jet lag. The travel agent takes us to the Connaught Hotel appropriately located near Connaught Place in Delhi. Its a decent 4 star hotel. Eventhough there's only a short window of time to sleep, neither of us can. So we stay awake for a couple of hours wondering what would be next and whether or not we would ever see our baggage again. As they contained all of our medication, not just for the vacation in India, but also for the first year of our posting, we started to freak out. Ok. I started to freak out.

But everything worked out. Agra was amazing. The Taj Mahal - gorgeous. The Oberoi Amarvilas - insane. Never stayed in a hotel like that. Ever. Once we figure out how to use this blog (of which we have a lot), we'll post our pics. After Agra, we returned to Dehli and thankfully retrieved our bags. Of course, this wasn't so easy. It required a 1am run to the Airport, the night before our flight to Udaipur. But it was worth it to know that we had all our stuff.

Udaipur was phenomenal as well. We stayed at the Oberoi Udaivilas. Also out of this world. In fact, the grounds of this palace were even more spectacular than the Oberoi in Agra. Its the latest Oberoi property and overlooks Lake Pichola (sp?) and all of the Lake Palaces. Our room was incredible with its own semi-private pool and view of the Oberoi's game reserve (peacocks, deer, etc.).

However, after an amazing candlelit dinner over looking the lake, I got food poisoning. Great. I spent that night and all of the next morning with my head and ass on the toilet (rotated). Alex was, of course, amazing and nursed me back to health, but not before the hotel doctor had to come to our room and give me an injection to stop throwing up. I also had to be wheelchaired out of the hotel. Nice. Needless to say, our experience at the second Oberoi was somewhat soured. After a day's consideration and after we had already moved on to our next hotel, they contacted us and informed us that they would knock off the charges of the doctor's visit and medication, but nothing else. Generous.

The Devi Garh. Wow. Over 200 years old, the Devi is truly an authentic palace. As our package included 2 Ayurvedic massage treatments per day, we finally got the kind of rest, relaxation and pampering we were hoping for. The Head Chef prepared us whatever we wanted and set up private dining areas for us in different parts of the palace every evening. Apparently, Elizabeth Hurley had just held a birthday party at the Devi for her partner, Arun Nair (Indian). Our 4 days and 3 nights there were fabulous, eventhough I lost the first day recovering from the food poisoning from the Oberoi.

After Udaipur, we had to fly to Bombay/Mumbai for a night in transit to Kerala. Getting down from the airport, a taxi cab scam stiffed us $30 en route to the hotel we had booked for the night. Of course, not speaking the language and not knowing where you're going, I realized that travelling with all our luggage (4 huuuuge bags and multiple carry-ons), I should have asked the Travel Agency to arrange a car for us in Bombay too. But that would have been smart. Since all the baggage didn't couldn't fit in one car (those Fiat taxis in Mumbai can't really support very much), we unhappily agreed to split up so that we would each be able to watch the bags. After loading all our baggage into two rather dodgy taxis, we split up and then prayed that we would see each other again.

Thankfully, both our taxis reached the hotel after 1 hour of the worst driving and traffic exhibition in Mumbai that I had ever seen. Suspecting a scam on the taxi charge, I immediately grabbed the hotel concierge and informed him of the price we paid and he stopped our taxis from leaving. Although we didn't ever end up getting our money back (since the scam was managed by some dude back at the airport), the hotel held the drivers and contacted the police. They also gave us a free ride back to the airport the next day. What was that? Problem # 37?

We then reached Kerala the next day. It had been 10 years since my last trip. Seeing all of my cousins, uncles and aunts after all that time was a real mind blow. Many of my cousins had since got married and had children. So much had changed. I missed out on so much. It was exhilirating and depressing all at the same time. Being there with Alex was also hard to describe. All my life, Kerala had always been this far, far away place in which I spent every other summer and where I had so much family. However, only my family (and the Indian community in Ottawa) understood. To all my "white" friends, this place may as well have been fictitious. Alex really represented the bridging of my two worlds. Hard to absorb at first, but it was awesome. Naturally, my family loved Alex. She fit in like a glove. I'll never forget my Aunt Molly, in Joylands (Mom's family home in Trivandrum) turning to my Uncle Tom and saying in Malayalam with a smile - "It seems as though she has been here for years."

Of course, I got sick in Kerala (minor ear infection). Alex also had a couple of migraines. But overall, nothing like in Udaipur. During our time in Kerala, we visited/stayed with my cousin Nimi's family, Naina's parents, my cousin Susan's family in Allepey (where we also had an amazing Kerala Backwater Tour), my Aunt Molly, Unlce Tom and cousin Sarah ("Akku") in Joylands in Trivandrum, and my Mom's oldest cousin-brother Thankachan for his 80th birthday party celebration. That was quite the party. Great to see his whole family, especially my cousins Lefroy, Shoba, Geetha and Manju. Massive feast. Most of my uncles got hammered, everyone caught up, cursed the mosquitoes, and then we went home. After Trivandrum, ALex and I also got to visit the Canada-India Village, Dad's project. Thankfully, Dr. Sister-Angel Mary also was able to be there at the same time. The project is doing well. Prospering, really. Seeing Dad's picture, which the sisters have framed and hung right in the main building's front entrance, always brings tears to my eyes. A new addition to the hospital is almost finished, and new quarters are being built for the nuns. Dr. Sister Angel Mary asked me to return in late October for the inaugural opening of the hospital. Hopefully, I'll be able to.

After tearful goodbyes, it was finally on to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Yeah, right. Air India cancelled their flight from Calcutta to Dhaka, so we got stuck there an extra night. Not so bad though. This opportunity really gave Alex a chance to connect with her old stomping grounds near the slums in which she worked 5 years back when she lived in Calcutta. Visiting the very streets and cafes where she walked was very emotional for her. I think she'll be going back.

Due to the flight cancellation, Air India put us up in a 5 star hotel - Hyatt Regency. Sweeeeeet. Not the Oberoi, but hey, at least no one got food posioned. Alex and I got a great nite's rest, filled our tummies with amazing food and said our final goodbyes to India. The next day afternoon, we arrived in Dhaka.

At the airport in Dhaka, we were greeted by Maury Miloff, one of my colleagues from the High Commission, and the Deputy Head of Aid. Maury's awesome. Together with Jude Jacob, a locally engaged staffer from the High Commission, they facilitated our quick "diplomatic" exit from the airport and brought us to our new home. A 4 bedroom massive house in a diplomatic enclave of Dhaka known as Gulshan, but more specifically, Baridhara. The house is really nice, clean and did I write massive? Apart from the heinous Canadian government-owned furnishings, its great.

Thus far, the challenges have been figuring out where everything is. Where to go to secure a car, groceries, banking, internet access, phones, etc. etc. While everyone in the High Commission has been individually amazing and kind to the both of us, the orientation program is somewhat disjointed. Nevertheless, Alex and I are slowly figuring it all out. We miss everyone back home and are thankful to finally have an internet connection in our house. The High Commission has loaned us a pentium for the house which I believe we'll be able to hang onto for a while.

Its been almost 2 and a half weeks since our arrival and we still have much to do to finish getting settled - - our sea shipment from Canada still hasn't arrived. I'm also recovering from a brutal case of diarreah. bruuuutal. Ever night for 4 nights was again spent in the washroom. One night, the pain in my stomach was so bad and I became so dehydrated, that I passed out. Nice. Once again, Alex has been there to nurse me back to health.

Thankfully, we are slowly getting past the shock of the realization that we now live here. Yes, LIVE here. Godwillingly, the majority of our 'travelling problems' are now behind us and we can begin the journey of this posting.

This blog entry has been uber long. Sorry. But make sure to check back for our photos that accompany the saga to date (over 400 of them). I'm sure we'll figure out how to post them soon.

Hope and pray all is well back home.

Monday, August 01, 2005

We're going to Bangladesh!

Welcome to our blog. Thanks to my knowledgeable bro-in-law, we are up and running! Lord knows that neither Jake or I would have known about this otherwise...

So Jake and I are leaving Ottawa on August 10th for a month long holiday in India and then will be off to the Bang. Tune in here for updates on our experiences and adventures. Who knows, we may even get some photos going.