Monday, August 31, 2009
Before the trip to Kolkata fades, I'll try to catch up.
We left on Thursday afternoon, took a lovely cab to the airport and went quickly through ticketing and immigration. Had time for a snack (Bengali sweets) and waited for our flight to take off. Only 40 minutes in the air, but they managed to toss us boxes of food which most of the people seemed to be carrying off the plane with them. In India they did not rely on the swine flu surveys, but took everyone's temperature as we entered the country. Didn't see anyone who didn't pass this test, but I was glad we were both feeling well at this point.
Changed some money and found a cab (Matan was probably right, should have looked for one who had a fare closer to what the hotel people said it would be) and then had an hour-long ride into the city. Kind of hard for me to let go of knowing where exactly I'm going and it didn't help that the sun was going down and the streets were crowded. I just had to rely on the cab driver getting us to the hotel where we had reservations.
We got to a nice hotel, found out that it wasn't ours, both entrances were down the same walkway from the street. Ours was the "economic" one, up some stairs, through another building, up some more stairs (not all of this shares the same roof as we would discover in the morning and the rain came in on the walk down to the "lobby"). We paid for air-conditioning (a good move) but apparently not for hot water. Also a good thing I tossed a roll of toilet paper into my knapsack as we were leaving Dhaka. I prefer it to tissues here since they all seem heavily perfumed and make me sneeze more.
Matan conked out. He was in book 7 of Harry Potter and could not always be distracted. I knew we needed to have drinking water, so I set out to see what could be found. The restaurant 3 doors down was cooking paratha (malauh-like bread)outside which was very enticing. I bought one and brought it back to Matan. This was enough to get him to come with me for dinner. It was an Arab restaurant so Matan could have beef biryani, but it was really spicy. I just had two eggs, the fried bread and tea.
Slept soundly through the night. Woke up to rain. Ready to go see the cello store. The guard at the hotel passage way let us use his umbrella. Thought I had a picture of the cello store, but here's one of the piano store 2 doors down: (seems like the pictures are coming up all at the top, I'll see if I can fix it, if not, I'm just loading them as I write for now). We were the only customers in the morning. The owner went to get the cello and Matan tried it. They discussed the adjustments that would have to be made and he told us to come back around 3pm. He also said that if we were worried about the flight the next day, that the airline had an office on Park Street, just a few blocks away. Matan went back to Harry Potter and I went off to find Park Street. It was a walk from people and animals living on the streets to a place with bookstores and restaurants and room to walk and wide streets with tall, old buildings. Just 10 minutes difference in distance.
Got the reassurance from the airline that cello peleg indeed had a front seat so noone would recline onto it. Got Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide. Went back and told Matan he should come with me and see something different in Kolkata. He even got swim goggles (which btw are about 1/3 the price that they were in Dhaka). Books, too, about 1/3 of what I'm used to paying. Should have gotten a few more! We went to a very nice Indian restaurant with the best Chicken tandoori I've ever had. I think I started to relax. This was going to work out.
Went back and read. At 3 we went back to Barganza's and the store was crowded. Matan sat amidst the customers and tried out the cello again. Talked to the owner about a few more adjustments and then we waited a bit longer. One of the owners (or his brother?) and wife had just come back from Chippewa Falls, WI, where their daughter lives.
We got spare strings, tuner, rosin and, of course, case and bow. Ready to go!
Supper was an excellent Chinese restaurant (all of these are in the $2-5/meal range!) with brownies and ice cream for dessert. We did have to race back when Matan discovered his retainer stayed in the napkin there. But we got back in time to get it.
No hot showers at the Gulshan Inn Hotel, but they did offer us a bucket of hot water and Matan took them up on it. He was right, it was better than cold. We set our alarm for 4am and ordered a cab for the morning. The ride to the airport was swift compared to Thursday night's and we were among the earliest passengers for our 7am flight. Good thing since it took about 45 minutes for them to figure out how to print a boarding pass for cello peleg (though they told me not to worry, it was a bit disconcerting). Picture of Matan reading Harry Potter with cello by his side as we waited for Jet Airways to figure out boarding pass for cello. In the end they gave it to us, told me to put it away and not to confuse immigration with an extra boarding pass.
We got to the plane pretty much last, but it didn't matter -- there were probably 20 people, not a single person in business class, and the cello had 3 seats to itself.
Back in Dhaka - immigration went quickly and we got a cab home. Just wanted some internet and hot water. Neither was available in the apartment. sigh. But we did have electricity. By evening the whole building seemed pretty upset about the internet (apparently it was out all weekend, but we weren't exactly home to have noticed). The landlord rigged something with his business line and I connected by wires for awhile. Just wanted to talk to people -- I think that the randomness of the internet availability is still very jarring.
Final picture -- the goat that we passed between the hotel, the restaurant and the music store. Just on our way. Matan says it was at least four feet tall.