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Published: February 3rd 2014
Loved how the little guy didn't notice me taking his picture.
It’s been a busy first week in Dhaka!
It’s dark outside and I’m half sitting, half lying on the couch with a blanket around my lower body and the laptop in my lap to keep warm. It might be 27 degrees outside but the apartment is as cold as a fall night in Denmark. Unfortunately, there were only three duvets in the apartment when we moved in (and a fridge that was fully stocked with expired food), so I have slept with two blankets and still felt like a Popsicle all night. The apartment could get a chapter on its own; the Internet malfunctioned on the day we moved in, the maid doesn’t seem to have cleaned in the last six months, and small cockroaches make an appearance from time to time in the kitchen. But it’s all being taken care of so I don’t want to bore you with the details.
On the weekend, which is Friday and Saturday, we went on a boat trip outside of Dhaka. A whole-day trip with snacks, tea and coffee, sodas, and lunch. It was a wonderful experience to slowly sail away from the chaos of the Bengali traffic and into the
more rural areas where kids, and oftentimes adults as well, wave at you from the river banks and yell “madam” and “how are you”. The river is so calm and the green of the Bengali nature follows you through your trip. We spent the time on the boat on the tip of the boat and on the roof of it, soaking up the sun and socializing with some of the other interns – Ida and Ingrid are both from the Norwegian embassy and were kind enough to invite us on the boat ride.
Halfway through the day, we stopped at a small Hindu village close to the river bank where people make their living making pottery by hand. The whole village seemed to be part of the process of making a pot, whether by getting the clay from the bank, sculpting the clay by hand, burning the clay in a small hut until it hardens, or stacking the pots so they are ready to be sold to a middle man that will take them to Dhaka to sell. Our group was a funny mix of young white interns, rich Bengalis and other random nationalities, and especially the white people
Enjoying the view (and sun) from the roof of the boat.
caught the attention of the local village kids. Covert stares, suppressed smiles and lots of giggling followed us as we walked through the village. When Rikke pulled out her camera to take pictures of the locals, the mothers pushed and shoved the children until they stood in two fine lines with the oldest kids in the back so as not to shade for the smaller ones. And all were very excited to look at the pictures that were taken of them. The youngest of the kids, a baby on its mother’s arm, was so frightened by Christian that it started crying. It seemed its boogey man was a tall Viking.
The day was capped off with a wild car ride back to Dhaka where the cars were within inches of scraping against each other, and the traffic jams had us wait in traffic for 30 more minutes than the trip out of Dhaka. It seems like the drivers are reckless and selfish, but when you look closer at the way they drive all the honking and random merging actually start making sense. It is difficult to explain without experiencing it first hand, but despite driving 180 km an hour,
Children waving at us from the river bank.
swerving in and out of lanes and braking hard from time to time, I wasn’t too worried. Or maybe I was just tired after five-six hours on the river…
Other than that we have signed up at the Nordic Club where all the Scandinavian expats hang out. There is a tennis court, which Rikke and I will inaugurate tomorrow, a pool, free Wi-Fi (total lifesaver during our days without internet), and a library with Scandinavian books. The club functions as a family restaurant, networking area, and sports center at day, and bar and night club at night. I have a feeling we are going to spend at least some of our time down there, especially when it’s a mere 250 meters away.
Work-wise there isn’t much to report on yet. We have been introduced to the embassy staff, shown our tasks, settled into our offices and are all trying to get into a routine. Today was our first official work day and I have already been included in two major projects that will take place during our stay.
Not to forget, though, the whole embassy was invited to Ambassador Hanne’s residence for a day filled with team-building
and fun. The staff was divided into six groups and had to paint their interpretation of the embassy’s code of conduct of collegiate behavior. Only two paintings came out well enough that they can be displayed at the embassy, the rest looked like the work of a kindergarten. But we were all under experienced guidance of two prominent Bengali painters and it was a great start of our internship.
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