Just last week, I watched one of the Bangladeshi interns chastise a waiter who accidentally spilled a couple drops of a piña colada on her (non-alcoholic of course). The scene was fascinating to me, as I cannot think of a single one of my friends who would react this way to such an honest mistake. We ended up getting a free meal, but it felt so wrong, as the entire restaurant stared at the scene our party had made.
These two occasions made me wonder how attitude changes from person to person, between cultures, and in different environments. It has been especially interesting to see how each of the BRAC interns enjoys their time in Bangladesh. One of my friends from the United States takes very little risk in the cuisine she eats, but yet she constantly pushes me to eat out with her and travel around the city. I find it so funny how she craves exploring Dhaka, yet wherever we go she seeks American culture. She, on the other hand, is probably baffled at my desire to read in my room and escape the chaos of Dhaka, yet when we go out to eat, I am the first one to try the risky, authentic food. Then there are the interns who hate the hustle and bustle of Dhaka and want to reschedule their departing flights for an earlier date. There are also the interns who have traveled to all sorts of third world countries and have such a cool attitude about this adventure.
I have had my ups and downs in Dhaka. Some days, I stare hopefully at airplanes departing from Dhaka International Airport, and I dream of returning home. Other days, I enthusiastically make plans to travel into the countryside. While I would say I am overall a pretty positive, adventure-seeking person, Dhaka has brought out a home-body side of me. In the United States, I can’t stand to spend entire days indoors, unless it’s finals week. One of the reasons I went to college in California was to take advantage of the outdoors all year round. I frequently brag at my ability to compete in an outdoor pool all winter. Here in Dhaka, spending a day inside with a book or writing letters to home is extremely satisfying. Initially, I worried that I had lost my spirit of adventure, but maybe I have discovered my limits.
Normally, I have very few inhibitions. I make decisions based on what I want to do, not necessarily what my friends want to do. If they want to join me, that’s great. If they don’t, then I’ll do what I want on my own. In Dhaka, I generally feel quite uncomfortable. I have come a long way since I first arrived here. Some days I even feel quite well adjusted, but for the most part, day-to-day living requires a lot of energy. In the context of Bangladesh, I still enjoy adventuring, but I am more okay missing out an exciting night on the town just to relax.
Maybe I am okay with this homebody lifestyle because Dhaka makes me appreciate every little thing that goes right during the day. My American friend could not have said it better on the rickshaw: “At least it didn’t land on your head.” I find myself thinking this way a lot in Dhaka. At least I haven’t gotten food poisoning; at least I don’t have dengue fever; at least I made it to my hotel safely; at least the rickshaw driver didn’t try to rip me off. Having to endure a 30-minute long rickshaw ride with a pile of crap on my leg may have ruined some people’s day, but after the hardships I have faced in Dhaka, this little incident didn’t phase me. While being in Dhaka has taught me a lot about the world, this change in environment has taught me more about myself.