Last week I decided I needed to get out of Dhaka, so a group of interns and myself set our sites on Srimangal, the tea capital of Bangladesh. Yesterday I was summoned to pick up the train tickets for our group, and if you haven't picked up on this omnipresent scenario, getting there was a journey. First, an American friend and I left our hotel to find a CNG that would take us to the airport for a reasonable price. Our first contender asked for 300 taka. I asked if he would take 150 taka, and he responded, "M'am, we are poor people here." Normally, this statement would send a foreigner over the edge in heartbreak and remorse, but having lived here for a month now, I cannot tolerate being ripped off any longer. A local would never accept such a price.
We continued along this street, haggling with drivers along the way, when a pack of five children started following us. Although we wouldn't even make eye contact with the children, they followed us for at least five minutes, yelling at us. Once they began touching us, we became extremely uncomfortable to the point where we yelled at them to stop touching us. Clearly amused by our discomfort, they followed us until we finally managed a fair price to the train station. As we departed, the spit kids spit on us through the CNG doorway. This was probably the lowest moment of my stay in Bangladesh. I wanted to cry; my feelings were so hurt. I wanted to shake these kids and tell them, "How do you expect to ever do anything with your lives if you can't even treat people with respect." I don't think any of the kids were older than nine. Their circumstances probably wouldn't allow them to understand their actions as deeply as I analyzed them. I felt both angry and helpless.
Just when the CNG felt like a sanctuary, a truck almost hit us. Our CNG driver accelerated to get a look at the truck driver. They began yelling back and forth until our CNG driver parked and got out of his vehicle, provoking the truck driver to also get out of his vehicle. My friend and I timidly observed the situation from our seats, ready to bolt out of the vehicle if the situation called for such measures. The truck driver slammed his hands on our three wheeled car, causing us to rock back and forth. Needless to say, we were scared. We waited out the aggression and only crashed into one bus on the way to the train station.
When we arrived, I could have kissed the ground. Instead, we found our way into the shortest line, as we could not read the Bangla written on the wall. We managed to get the five tickets we needed, however we did not manage to score seats in an air conditioned car or first class. We'll find out tomorrow what 696 takas (for five tickets) buys you on an intra-national train.
On the way back from the train station, we found ourselves immersed in monsoon season. Luckily, we caught a ride back without too much hassle. Instead of going straight home, I had tentatively set a dinner date with a couple of the Bangladeshi interns at a Korean BBQ restaurant. Since I could not BBQ at home on my nation's independence day, I found this to be the next bests option. I had heard such good things about Korean BBQ, and Bangladesh's large Korean population has apparently infiltrated the local cuisine. I must say, the beef I had last night was the best beef I have ever tasted. Something about the sauce and texture made it melt in your mouth. As someone who does not eat meat often, I could cave in to Korean BBQ on the regular.
After dinner, the four of us girls went back to one of the local girl's homes, ate treats, and watched the rendition of 21 Jumpstreet together. That morning, I had woken up depressed at the thought of missing Independence Day, fireworks, and quality time with my family. That night, I went to bed feeling like I have made great friends here who I will miss a lot when I leave. From the moment I was spit on to moment before I went to bed, my mood had done a 180 degree turn. In the end, the 4th of July turned out to be a great success overseas.