Bhromon:

A Solo Trip Half-Way Around the World

Leaving

I leave for Canada in about 8 hours. I’m feeling a little anxious. I’ve got 17 hours of transit ahead of me.

I don’t really have much to say in what just might be my final post except for ‘Thank You’ to everyone I’ve spent even the briefest amounts of time with. Thank you for the good times, the good food, the good conversations, the good everything. I appreciate everything everyone has done for and honestly, aside from saying “thank you’, I’m not sure what else I can possibly say to convey my feelings.

Until next time!

Found in Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Found in Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh

I love that this mural looks so simple, yet it is so beautiful.

Coming to an end.

My trip seems to be very quickly coming to an end. I have just over a week left before I head back to Canada. As much as I am looking forward to returning to my routines and structures and my loved ones, I feel as though I should have come with more time. One month to spend time with my very large extended family is really not a lot of time (note that my mother comes from a family of 10 siblings and my father 6), not to mention time needed for all of that touristy stuff I’ve been trying to do. However that being said, I have accomplished so much on this trip. I have shopped, gone sight seeing, been to different parts of the country, met and visited with family members, tasted new foods, got through a number of different illnesses that pretty much all foreigners are bound to get. All in all with still over a week to go, this trip has thus far been a complete success. Now some last minute shopping and last minute visiting are all that remain on my to-do list.

Srimongal, Bangladesh

Ghost Stories and Street-Food.

How is it that at the age of 27, telling ghost stories with my cousins still gives me goosebumps? This evening me and three of my cousins spent about an hour at what was my maternal grandfather’s grain mill. It’s pretty much empty now, but the four of us just walked about it, recalling the ghost stories some of older cousins used to tell us the last two times I visited when we were young. It was pitch black out due to the rolling blackouts making the stories just that much more frightful.

I’ve been spending some time with my mother’s side of the family as of late and it’s made me realize how much I’ve missed out on these past 16 years. My cousins are so grown up. Going to college, married and even have children. I’ve missed so much but at times it doesn’t even feel like that. For example today I just walked on over from my paternal ancestral home to maternal ancestral home (though it has now been completely rebuilt). I got there and my aunt just sat me right down at the kitchen table and made sure I had something to eat and drink. I didn’t call ahead. I just walked right on over. Because in this town, when it comes to family and close friends you never really need to call. You just go. And everyone truly looks out for one another.

One of the best parts of today had to be spending time with one of my maternal cousins. She and I are just two weeks apart in age and our lives took two completely different paths. She is the proud mother of a stunningly adorable baby girl. Despite her busy life as mother and student, she took me out this morning to see some of Nilphamari’s landmarks but also to go pay our respects to our maternal grandparents as well as my paternal grandparents. Afterwards as she and I went to see the sights we happened upon a chotpotti and fuchka stand (which really are pretty much everywhere). Chotpotti and fuchka are very popular street-foods, usually eaten together. Chotpotti is generally a mixture of chickpeas and potatoes, seasoned with tamarind, cumin, coriander and red chillis and topped with everything from raw onions and cucumbers to eggs and poppadums. Fuchka is like a light, puffed bread. Now the thing about Bangladeshi street-food is that pretty much everyone, before I left for my trip expressly warned or even forbade me from eating any of it. Eating street-food in Bangladesh when you’re a foreigner is pretty much guaranteeing that you get some sort of stomach flu. However despite the warnings or maybe even because of it, I just couldn’t help myself! I bought me and my cousin a bowl of chotpotti to share and I am truly proud to say that I have not (yet) had any issues!

Coming to Bangladesh has truly been a blessing for me. I only have three more days in Nilphamari and about 15 more days in Bangladesh in general. Time has just flown right by.

-R.

Familial Histories.

I am so amazed at how giving and kind people can be even when they barely know you. After some 15+ years I visited both my paternal and maternal ancestral homes. At both homes everyone down to those that work for them have been so extremely giving that I am having difficulty putting my feelings into words. I am simply over whelmed.

I’m currently staying at my paternal ancestral home where my cousin, his wife and two children now live. Generations have lived here who have left to live overseas or have past away, but so much history still remains. Most of the stories I have heard are from those who have worked for my family for quite literally generations. Stories such as the hi-jinx my dad used to get up to are quite hilarious. But there also those that stories that have made me realize that I don’t know how I will say goodbye to these people when the time comes. Who knows how many more years it will be until I have a chance to see them again. One employee in particular truly touched me today as he expressed how appreciative he is of the kindness my family has shown him over his lifetime.

He is in this photo taken in 1972. He tells me that I am actually sleeping in the very room that this photo, which my father took, was taken.

-R.

Being a Tourist.

Visiting museums and historical monuments are certainly all well and good. I’ve already been to the National Museum, Shohid Minar (a monument commemorating those killed during Bangladesh’s 1952’s language movement protests and demonstrations) as well as the Dhaka University campus (which includes some beautiful buildings I might add). But I have to say some of my favourite places to visit in Dhaka so far have been Nilkhet (a massive book market, where they mainly sell textbooks for the university students but where you can also find novels, as well as English language novels), New Market (where shops of all kinds are found. There are stores for art supplies, jewelery, clothing, kitchenware and bed linens among many other things), and of course the outdoor fruit & vegetable and fish & meat markets. I have been loving weaving through the throngs of people.

Also notable is the fact that most stores and markets don’t have fixed prices. You have to bargain or haggle to get good value for your dollar. When I shop with my relatives I have to keep my mouth shut because right away the shop owners know that I’m thinking American dollars, not Bangladeshi dollars (takka). They can tell that I’m not one of them, so my cousin has been bargaining for me. Watching her has been one of the biggest highlights. Bangladeshi people are truly seasoned in the art of bargaining with shop owners and will not get taken advantage of. Often we have to threaten to leave their store, that’s when all of a sudden the shop owners change their minds, call you back in and lower their prices. It really is a great sight watching buyers and sellers go back and forth as they do.

-R.

Adjusting.

I didn’t realize until now just how stressed I’ve actually been. Between graduating, work and life in general I’ve had quite a bit of stress pent up inside of me. It’s just now that I’m slowly learning how to relax. I honestly can’t remember the last time I just laid in bed and read a novel. Aside from visiting with a few relatives and doing some shopping I’ve honestly done nothing but eat (cake for breakfast no less) and read one of the few books* I’ve brought with me. It’s still taking some adjusting. I’m not used to not doing things on my own. Here many homes have some type of servant or maid. I haven’t made a meal or done my own laundry once yet. It feels odd.

I leave for Nilphamari, where both my parents grew up and where my grandparents’ (who’ve all passed on) homes still remain. I’ll be there for over a week spending time with relatives who last saw me when I was only 11 or 12.

-R.

*I’m currently reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (finally!) by the way.

Scootering about Dhaka.

The driver’s in Dhaka are ballsy. Namely the scooter drivers. Scooters, for those of you who may not know, are quite literally covered scooters that can fit up to three people fairly comfortably in the back. The drivers are able to maneuver these vehicles into the most narrow locations as well as around rickshaws, cars, trucks and pedestrians by mere millimeters. So many times today on our way to one of the many new malls in Dhaka, I swore that we were going to hit someone or something, yet it just never happened. Most of these drivers have been driving for years and are fully confident that they will get their customers to their destination in one piece. Unfortunately I forgot my camera today, but I will try to get some video of what to a foreigner like me seems like insanity.

-R.