Saturday, August 15, 2009

catching up

Two days go by and it seems like an eon since I've written anything. Catching up has also been what we've done with this weekend (Fri/Sat here). No big plans. Lots of relaxing, reading and (Matan) watching movies.

Thursday I had to do a lot of paperwork before I left for the meeting at the American Center. Another new location, another rickshaw driver who claimed to know where he was going. He did know the direction of the right neighborhood, from there he asked a lot of questions.

Got there early and hung out in the library and had access to their computer center. This is where my mail will be delivered. The American cultural director is responsible for the Fulbright folks: settling in, any problems. She's also the address when the school forms want another person's name for an emergency, and I don't have anyone else, yet.

I came with a list of questions ranging from landlord/tenant relations to skim milk to language learning courses. They had many answers, suggestions and lots of humor, which helps put things in perspective.

On the way home, I ordered a new outfit. Went back to the same place at the local shopping center, this time there was a shopper who helped by translating. I do buy the fabric there and they send it out to be sewn.

Matan came in pretty wiped out from another hard volleyball practice and long day at school. He's leaving at 7:30am and returning around 7pm. He seemed more tired than hungry - just ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and went to bed.

That night, the internet went off. I didn't know if it was my computer (always a bit weird about logging on, it still tries to connect to our home), and went to sleep a bit unsettled. Tried again at 2am when I woke up, and again at 6am. Tried Matan's computer. Texted the landlord. Waited until 9am to call one of the other Fulbrighters about calling the States. Since the internet worked so well, I hadn't even bothered to update anyone about our phone number here. And back home in MN, Nitzan and Shaked were getting ready to leave for California on Friday, and I really wanted to talk to them before they got on the road. Also we were still waiting for our first check from the Fulbright and I needed to know if it came and was deposited before I could pay Matan's tuition here. Really tense. Really isolated.

Finally got through - I had been doing it right, but all of the lines were busy - we talked on the phone, he called me to make sure that he, too, could get through, and I became a bit more alert to the idea of multiple systems of communication. Other people I talked to also had no internet. I found out that the internet outage was country-wide.

Friday I cooked pretty much for the first time. Got a chicken and had a masala seasoning packet and garlic and ginger pastes, but I wouldn't call it a total success. Didn't see the quantities as I had skimmed past the parts in Bengali. So I wouldn't have put in 2 cups of oil even if I had read it, but the seasonings? That was supposed to be 2 teaspoons, not the whole package (about 4x that much). Oh well. The meat was fine, the rice pretty awful. We have not yet attempted vegetables.

We were going to go to the pool and fitness center at Matan's school, but he really needed a day to relax, so I let it go. By the afternoon, I needed to get out and besides, I had broken yet another toilet seat. Yes. Someday I will laugh about this, but not quite yet.

The story is that we are in housing that is not quite right for us. Not only the bus line, though that is certainly a significant issue. But this is a service apartment. Our landlord would like to provide many services that we can't afford. We're not good for him (I'm sure, except that he has another apartment empty, so we do pay him rent that he apparently otherwise wouldn't have). Meanwhile, I don't think I can even hire someone from the outside to cook/clean/wash and I'm doing so much more work than I expected. Don't want to spend lots of money on sending out the laundry, but washing by hand with a high school boy who is in sports could be far more than I can handle!

sigh. I'm feeling like a not very street-smart person, I think. Learning that the hard way. Should have rented for a month to see whether it was right for us. But no, I paid upfront for 6 months and signed for 10. The local state dept person who's responsible for me says there's no way I'd be in real trouble, maybe my credit rating would go down in Dhaka, if we found a place on the bus line sometime around January.

So the toilet seat(s)? I told the landlord I broke one on Tuesday. He said no problem, he'll fix it, and billed me $25 plus 10% service charge and 15% VAT (and it wasn't fixed, he said that would take time). I actually talked about this in the meeting at the American center since it seemed to me, in my understanding, something a landlord would take care of. They confirmed that yes, here too, that's usually the way it works. But his approach is to bill us pretty much everything: a second wireless connection, drinking water, laundry, etc. We talked about the issues and we're trying to work it out, but I think our objectives are pretty much at odds. Not sure how this will work out.

So when I broke the second toilet seat, I almost cried. Can't afford to breathe here! I know I'm a big person, but I think I've broken exactly one toilet seat in my life, certainly not two in one week. I decided to fix it myself and if he wants a fancier, color-coordinated, *flimsy* one when we leave, then put it in later, after I've gone. I got a sturdy one for under $10 at the local shopping center. The hardware store folks and I are going to get along well. Ok, it was a little awkward carrying it around when I went into other stores. They don't do much packaging here, just some tape to make a handle around it.

It works. I have to remember this is week one. We've done a lot of things I didn't know how to start doing last Saturday at this time. I know how to fill the sim card with minutes and to check how many minutes remain. We got to all of our destinations over the course of the week. We're still smiling for the most part.

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