Published: June 3rd 2008June 3rd 2008
Street in dhaka
I can't claim credit for this photo. I've taken these 3 photos from ICDDR,B's website but this is a great shot of one of the streets in Dhaka. It gives you an idea of why it takes forever to drive anywhere.
Yesterday was fairly uneventful, which can be good and bad. Uneventful leads to not being overexerted and homesick but it can also lead to overthinking and homesick. Not that I feel homesick necessarily. In the morning I did the first level of a work-out video I bought in the States and it was actually really great and kicked my butt a bit. The first work-out video I’ve taken a liking to, I think. Then a car from ICDDRB, my work, came to pick me up.
ICDDR,B stands for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, but it’s locally known as the Cholera Hospital. It was started a view decades ago as a cholera hospital, which treated the large amount of cholera patients Bangladesh saw (and continues to see) throughout the land. They instituted a successful rehydration campaign that taught many Bangladeshis how to properly treat their children and themselves for cholera. Since then, it’s developed into a rather large complex that both sees patients as well as conducts research. Its main location is in the Mohakhali district of Dhaka, which is a commercial area in the north end of the city. I work in research so I sit
This is a tent set up for ICDDRB patients during a flooding time last year. The tent is set up when there is an overflow of patients in the hospital, such as now when cholera is reaching one of its peaks.
at a small old steel desk under fluorescent lights and excessive air conditioning. I’m in the Child Health Unit and most everything around me is Dr. So-and-so, many of whom have degrees from institutions such as Cornell, Harvard, Tulane, etc. Almost everyone is male though there are some females scattered about. In fact the director of our division is an American, Dr. Marge Koblinsky. My advisor told me to befriend her and she’d show me where to get good pearls.
My overall task while I am here is to develop and validate an index for maternal enabling factors and their impact on child growth. It’s quite complex and my research into other studies that have been used to develop and validate indexes has found that doing so ends up being a published paper in itself with statistical methods that exceed what I learned in introductory graduate-level statistics. Kuntal, my advisor here, has not given me too much of a specific direction as of yet besides this immense task that I wonder if he realizes is so immense. I do not think it is neglect as much as he either doesn’t seem me as much use or doesn’t see how
My office is in this building on the second floor. It's the Public Health Sciences building. Pretty typical--lots of offices with fluorescent lights.
difficult this project will be. I sit with a data set that contains nearly 300 variables and 3,644 subjects. What to do with it, I’m still working on figuring out. After lunch today, I’m going to have a formal meeting with this woman who has been very nice to me and I think that will help. She also went to Cornell for her doctorate and had my advisor as her advisor so we have some commonalities going on. I have a good feeling her guidance. She’s also been researching violence and maternity, which is an interesting topic to me.
Last night, Ali, my roommate, made us an eggplant pasta with salad and grapes and it was so good. We watched Entourage on HBO and chilled out and that can be really nice. Luke, my other roommate—an American student at Yale, arrived last night and seemed wiped out from the trip but very friendly and cool. He’ll also be working at ICDDR,B but in the cholera division. It seems my living situation has worked out quite well so far, which I’m very happy about.
I took my first rickshaw this morning. I was a bit nervous about it, especially getting to the right place and dealing with money and all. It went decently well for a first time, I think. When I left my apartment building I asked the security guard where I could find a rickshaw to Mohakhali. He pulled up one for me, which was driven by a skinny, younger man in a ragged t-shirt and lungi
—a kind of cloth wrap that forms a long skirt and is the traditional dress of Bangladeshi men instead of pants. He never spoke the whole way, which was disappointing as I had been rehearsing my Bengali the day before. I kept messing it up anyway since I was nervous and said “go front, go front” instead of “go straight”, “turn left” instead of “turn right,” etc. He certainly wasn’t very experienced in leaving Gulshan and I had to give him directions all the way to ICDDR,B. The rickshaw is a strange concept for westerners. One person pulls one other person. It’s ridiculously awkward. I think most of us would much rather hop on a bike ourselves instead of taking a rickshaw yet you don’t see many bikes around and women are not allowed to ride them. I guess rickshaws are to Bangladesh as bicycles are to the Netherlands and both reflect upon their society’s culture.
The seat of the rickshaw is small and I wonder how even two normal size people cram into it, but they do. There’s no place to hang onto so I kind of gripped the vinyl seat while doing a scissor-leg hold on my backpack. It certainly was not as uncomfortable as it sounds especially since the whole city is flat and I didn’t get ask many beggers knocking against the window with their disabled limbs or pregnant girls holding bags of limes up to me since those people aim more for the cars. The rickshaws generally stay to the left of the motorized traffic like a lane for slow moving vehicles, which it really is in essence: rickshaws, bicycles, walkers, cattle drivers, etc.
I stupidly saw a sign for ICDDR,B and turned him to turn right away, which was premature. It let into an alley market, which is I guess is good because I would not have ordinarily wandered down there and real Bangladeshis obviously don’t go to the grocery store like I do. Due to miscommunication and high traffic, he dropped me off a block from ICDDR,B. When I asked him how much I owed him in Bengali he just looked at me. I tried again but still nothing so I handed him 50 taka, which was more than enough but he shook his head. Ali told me this is an indication that I’ve paid too much and thus they will try to get me to pay more and it’s hard not to. 50 taka is less than a dollar but it’s a good amount for an average Bangladeshi. So I handed him a 10. He shook his head. I handed him a 20 and walked away. Even though it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, it remains an unpleasant feeling to be ripped off because of your skin color and if I end up spending that much on every rickshaw ride, my budget for transportation will be a decent amount.
So I walked a block past men shouting to me to take their CNGs or buses or rickshaws (CNGs are mini-taxis that fit 2 people and run on natural gas, of which Bangladesh is bountiful. When other vehicles here also run on Compressed Natural Gas, no one seems to know why only the mini-taxis are called CNGs). I stepped around a herd of goats tied to a pole, through herds of people, and over piles of mud and who knows what else. When I got to ICDDR,B, the place was empty. Now I know that I really don’t need to leave the apartment until 8AM and if I do decide to leave earlier, then I can enjoy a bit of quiet and privacy to use the fast and reliable internet at work. I’m trying to figure out my transport for the future and still trying to get an ID and security card. For now it’s a pain to get anywhere in the building since most doors require a security pass. There is an ICDDR,B group transport that costs 1050 taka a month (about 15 dollars) and will pick me up and drop me off at a location in Gulshan. I wouldn’t mind taking a rickshaw or CNG and I think that it would be nice to control my own hours a bit more and they seem to be about as quick to get to work. However, if I spend over 3 dollars a day taking a rickshaw, it will actually exceed the cost of the van by quite a bit and probably won’t be so fun when the monsoon really gets its groove on. So that is to be determined. I’m going to give the bank and grocery shopping a second try. I’d like to make something for Ali and Luke tomorrow when we’re all home. Maybe not curry…