Michael P

December 15, 2008, 8:24 pm
Filed under: travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I took a train the the south eastern division of Bangladesh, chittagong. my train was called the mahanagar provati. I was hoping that it would have some sort of colorful history and great story to tell you about, but it just means morning intercity. like most transportation outings, someone decided to practice their english with me and make most of the 7 hour journey pretty awkward. Rafi is a journalist in chittagong and decided to tell me all the stuff i didn’t know about america. Like how after cyclone sidr (a terrible cyclone that killed like 40k people in southern bangladesh) the americans were trying to help the bangladeshis only so they could survey the area so they could take over bangladesha and a make it into it’s own seaport. According to Rafi, having bangladesh as the seaport would be very important for carrying out other military operations in south asia. Then he was criticizing the american democratic system saying that its not fair at all since i don’t get to directly vote for the president’s cabinet.  He wasn’t very keen on admitting that bangladeshi has a messed up government, which is does.   Needless to say, i was kind of frustrated with having to explain that there was no reason for america to invade any country in south asia. After this he proceeded to ask for my email, phone number, and address (like everyone else that talks to me on trains or buses) and insisted that i come see him when i come back to chittagong on my way back to dhaka. I think i’ll pass.
Besides the 7 hours of awkwardness during my train ride, i’m happy to have arrived in chittagong. Dhaka is as flat as a pancake, but chittagong has a few hills. I really like hills. I went walking in some hills for like an hour and a half today, it was really nice.
Tomorrow i have to work out some logistical things before i can make it to my next destination, Bandarban.
Here’s a picture of a hill.


Very last class
December 13, 2008, 8:52 pm
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So i taught my very last class today. Unfortunately only about half the class was there because some people were away working at a seminar (i think). The class got some money together and bought me a handmade khata from a handicraft store here. It’s like a big piece of black fabric that has hand embroidery all over it. It’s pretty nice.
It’s really weird to think that my time in Bangladesh is coming to a close. There were a lot of times where i thought there was no way i’d ever be sad or miss things about Bangladesh, but i’m definitely going to miss the people that i’ve been living with here at the CRS and my other students. tonight is my second to last night at the CRS (i think) and i’m gathering my things together so that i can move into a guesthouse for a couple of days between when i get back to Dhaka and when the more adventurous members of my family arrive.

train ticket purchasing
December 11, 2008, 5:03 pm
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I went to buy my train ticket to Chittagong today. I’m going to the eastern part of Bangladesh for 10 days on Monday and i heard that you should get your ticket ahead of time. Now i guess that’s not really true because there were lots of people buying their tickets for today.
When i first got to the train station i thought this whole experience was going to be a disaster. Everything was in Bangla and there were tons of people waiting in like 6 different lines. I decided to get in one a got some help from a guy my age who was leaving tonight for Chittagong. Luckily i knew the name of the train i wanted to take (mahanagar provati) and the ticket guy could understand dates in English, so it was a pretty easy experience. I was amazed that they had computers running all the ticket purchasing. I figured buying a ticket would be like going to the post office, which use scales that look like they are from well into the British colonial era.

2nd to last class
December 10, 2008, 8:41 pm
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Today i taught my second to last class. This class has never been easy to teach for me, so i’m kind of happy that i don’t need to worry about what i’m going to teach next anymore. But it is sad to think that all the people that i’ve lived with for the past 3 months will go back to their villages and we’ll probably never see each other again. After class we went on the roof and took a group picture. the first picture had a lot of people closing their eyes and looking the wrong direction, the second one turned out better except for the stupid white guy on the bottom that decided to lay down in front of everyone. I’m not quite sure why he did that. class picture

Eid ul-Adha
December 9, 2008, 4:37 pm
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So today is Eid ul-Adha.  I woke up in anticipation, excited for the photographic opportunity.  Now, i have mixed feelings about the whole things.  I posted the non-gory pictures and there’s a gallery below that has really, really gory pictures.  you’ve been warned!

The whole reason behind Eid ul-Adha is that it commemorates the sacrifice that Ibrahim (Abraham for Jews and Christians) made when he sacrificed his son Ishmael.  Historically Judaism, Christianity, and Islam come from the same basic beginning.  They all believe that Ibrahim was called by God to be the chosen race.  The difference started when Isaac and Ishmael came onto the scene.  Christianity and Judaism believe that Isaac was the next in line for the chosen people and Islam believes that Ishmael was the next in line for the chosen people.  In the New Testament and the Torah, Abraham showed his devotion to God by getting ready to sacrifice his son Isaac.  But God intervened when he saw that Abraham was going to do it.  In the Quran, it’s the same exact story except that its Ishmael instead of Isaac.

A lot of people go back to spend time with their family for eid.  People take buses, trains, boats, cars…Its just a mass exodus from Dhaka.  Supposedly 60% of dhaka goes back to their village. Who knows if that’s true, but it is noticeably quieter.  Its quite nice.


This can’t be safe.  What would happen when (not if) the bus crashes?


yesterday the knife sharpeners were making a killing.  There were tons of these guys walking around and preparing for the slaughter.


One difficult part of getting a cow or goat and slaughtering it is that you have to get it back to your house somehow.  this guy decided to take a rickshaw because his goat was small, but if you have a cow that weighs thousands of pounds it can cause some problems.  Supposedly, seeing guys in lungis chasing a cow down the street is not uncommon.


Prayer at one of the many local mosques.



This a Muslim imam (religious leader).  you can either have an imam slaughter your animal for a fee of around 500 taka or just do it yourself.  The more devout people have the imam do it.  He has a special shaped knife for the job.  Also, after watching different people doing this, the imam is much better at finishing the job quickly than an average guy.




Here’s the view from my roof.  Pretty bloody


This huge cow was tied up to my building.  He took like 20 minutes get down on the ground.  During that 20 minutes i almost got killed as he got loose and started running around trying to run people over.


Here’s another Imam.  His white clothes got pretty messy.


After the animal is killed its butchered either in the street or in the garage of your building.  Then you distribute 1/3 to you family/relatives, some for the poor, and some for the mosque.


Today is like Halloween for the people that can’t afford to buy their own animal.  Hundreds of lower caste people run around with bags and ask for pieces of meat.  Its like trick or treating, but with raw meat.

Although i think there are better ways to show your devotion to your religion, i do think there are some pretty cool things about this holiday.  It’s a time when family comes together and enjoys eachothers company.  Because i’ve been away from my family for a while, i see how important that is.  Also, a big part of the holiday is giving to the poor.  Being that there’s an insane amount of people in this country that don’t get enough food, i think this holiday does a good job of doing that.  But on the other hand, i thinks its a waste to be killing thousands of animals unnecessarily and to a certain extent, it can kind of be a show of how much money you have.  Kind of a game of which family has the bigger cow.

the farm comes to dhaka
December 7, 2008, 8:53 pm
Filed under: culture | Tags: , , , , ,

There are two main holidays in Islam, Eid ul-Ftir and Eid ul-Adha.  A couple of months ago Muslims celebrated eid ul-Fitr.  it marked the end of ramadan and was marked by going to various family/friends houses to eat lots of food.  Eid ul-Adha is on tuesday and the huge increase in the number of livestock in Dhaka is very apparent.  There are thousands more goats and cows than usual


The reason for the extra livestock is because the main part of the holiday is that you sacrifice the animal.  People spend thousands of taka to buy these cows and goats.  Any statistic or number overheard in Bangladesh should be taken with a grain of salt, but I did hear that people can spend anywhere from 450,000 to 800,000 taka for a cow ($6,000-$11,500).  In a country where a lot of people are living way below the poverty line, that’s a ton of money.  Expect to see some extremely bloody picture on tuesday.


Vietnamese embassy and Christmas presents and JPG Magazine

today i tried again to find the vietnamese embassy.  (i’m really getting tired of trying to get visas)   I found the email address for the embassy so i emailed asking for the address and directions.  The problem is that there are two house 7s on road 104 in Gulshan 2.  After over two hours of searching i finally managed to find the tiny booth and picked up my application, only to see that they wouldn’t be open until next thursday because of a Muslim holiday on Monday.

I got back to the center, feeling defeated and tired, and got back to reading my bootleg copy of harry potter 7.  After a little while a student told me i recieved a package the main PCB office and i needed to pay 1600 taka (like $22) to get the package.  They charge you all sorts of stupid fees when you get something sent here.  there are handling fees, customs fees, taxes for importing anything into the country… I was already have a pretty crappy day and i assumed that this was an english teaching book that i ordered back in september that was finally arriving.  It would have been no use to me now since i only have a week of teaching left. I really wasn’t excited to pay another 20+ dollars for a book i payed 25 dollars in shipping for and didn’t need in the first place.  At dinner i got the package was surprised to see that it was actually full of Christmas cards, magazines, and scharffen Berger chocolate.  My church got all the kids to make like 25 cards for me and some the other church members wrote me letters saying Merry Christmas.  I was pretty happy to enjoy my magazines, odd drawings from the kids, and chocolate.



Some of the things the kids wrote were pretty funny but a lot of them just didn’t make any sense.

The magazine on the top of the picture is called JPG.  Its a photo magazine that is made up of pictures that people submit online according to certain themes/assignments and users vote on their favorite picture.  I submitted the picture at the top of my blog back in the beginning of October and didn’t expect anything to come of it.  The assignment was faith.  It’s a hindu deva, so i thought it was applicable.  I got an email a while ago from the editor in chief saying that my picture was going to be in the magazine.  I was pretty happy.  Here’s the full sized picture.  It’s in the newest issue of the magazine.  i haven’t seen it yet, they don’t sell many photography magazines in Bangladesh.