Bangladesh – Tuesday, February 5, 2013 – Kushtia
After the long 39 hour journey of four airplane rides we arrived in Dhaka Monday just after noon. Our host, headmistress Kazi Alo, and her husband met us at the airport and presented us each with a flower bouquet and a warm welcome. They took us to Alo’s mother’s house where we had a quick lunch. Then we boarded the express bus for the five hour ride to Kushtia in western Bangladesh. Alo and her husband had taken the bus to Dhaka the day before to be in town to meet us. So it was a two day commitment for them to usher us to Kushtia. I had earlier assumed we would need to make the arrangements on our own. But our hosts are taking very good care of us.
You need to understand what a distance bus ride is like in Bangladesh. As I mentioned in my postings in September there is quite a mixture of traffic on the streets and roads. The bicycle rickshaws and baby taxis are all three wheeled. That means they take up a lot of space on the roadway. So you have pedestrians, bicycles, three-wheelers, big trucks and buses, and an occasional NGO SUV on the narrow roads with very little shoulder. The bus driver is of course hurrying to get to our destination as fast as he can. So he is passing vehicles whenever he can zip around and then squeeze back into the left lane just in time to avoid the two vehicles that are passing the same way in opposing traffic. Deni just didn’t look. There is a reason the city buses in Dhaka are scraped up all over. Traffic is crazy and everyone is trying to get ahead to avoid the next jam. On the intercity roads there are speed bumps in every little village or roadside market area. So it’s a repeating process of racing ahead, slowing down waiting to pass, or jerking to a near stop at a speed bump or to swing back into our lane to avoid opposing traffic. All of this is done with one hand almost continuously on the horn to warn the pedestrians, bicycles, and three wheelers to head for the side of the road to keep from getting hit. Even with the horn blaring much of the time Deni and I were able to sleep a bit on the bus. We were tired. At one point in the bus trip we pulled up to the dirt ferry landing and lucked out to squeeze onto the ferry just before it departed to cross the Ganges River. The sun was getting low. So we watched the sunset and the river traffic as we crossed the Ganges. Pretty nice!
We’re staying in a basic one bedroom apartment with bath and wash room that is located in the building next to the school. There’s power and cold water though the bathroom has pretty basic plumbing. Showers are mainly from a bucket. We’ve definitely had worse accommodations in Uganda. The advantage here is that the school is providing our housing and all of our Bengali meals. So we’re doing pretty well. Our hosts are doing everything they can to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable. They even installed a western style toilet in the bathroom before we came.
Yesterday evening after settling in Alo and Moni took us to a local restaurant for a good meal. It was a combination of Indian and Chinese dishes, quite tasty. We have to order our food “mild” since the little red devils are used profusely in local cooking. Deni was so tired she could hardly eat. But it didn’t stop me. Today we’ll be taking it easy with just a short session of introductions and planning at the school. Then we can take a nap and wander around town a bit. We’re right on the main shopping street. So Deni can start looking at materials for the sari’s she wants to have made for her.