Intro to Dhaka

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August 24th 2012
Published: August 25th 2012
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Taking People PicsTaking People PicsTaking People Pics

Many of the people here aren't shy about getting their picture taken, especially if you show it to them afterwards. I just have to get used to them taking pictures of me in exchange.
My first few days in Dhaka were filled with settling into my new apartment, but afterwards I did make time to go out with some of my new colleagues to explore the city. Since we arrived at the end of Ramadan we found empty streets and many closed shops. Some parts of the city are eerily abandoned. I am enjoying it immensely. Gone are the traffic jams that greeted me when I first arrived at the airport. It is a relaxed introduction to the bustling city: Dhaka Light.

For one outing we visited the boat docks where ferries unload passengers and ships unload cargo via little boats. We “rented” a couple boats and paddled around until it started to rain, then boarded empty ferryboats to wait it out. It was fun seeing the city from the water. Lots of people were dressed up in their holiday best, taking a boat ride from one part of the city to another.

Another venture took us out of town to a Hindu village where families have been making brass objects for hundreds of years. We met an artisan who showed us around the place he worked with a couple dozen artisans making

They're colorful, uncomfortable and cheap. What else could you want for getting around? I have only had a few rides so far, but they're fun on the back streets. Traffic on the main roads is scary.
brass statues and household items. Since only a couple guys had come to work over the holidays it was fairly empty and we could explore the shops in peace.

Brass objects here are made using the “lost wax” method. Artists sculpt statues with wax, and then let it harden and paint it with a fine layer of clay. When that dries a second layer of coarser and stronger clay is added, leaving small holes at the bottom for the wax to drain out. After that hardens a final layer of clay mixed with stray and jute is packed around the sculpture, making it hardly recognizable. When it is fired the wax melts and drips out the holes in the bottom, as the clay becomes solid pottery.

Turning the fired mold upside down, brass is poured in the same holes that the wax melted out. When the brass cools the pottery is smashed with a hammer then the remaining bits of clay are carefully cleaned off the object and it is polished and ready to be sold. What amazed me is not only that each mold can only be used once, but also that each piece is so unique.
City TransportationCity TransportationCity Transportation

Besides the famous rickshaws, Dhaka has CNGs. They are little 3-wheeled green cages that whiz around the city at breakneck speeds.
Certain statues and objects are traditional and resemble each other in their form, but the artist still has some creative liberties to make each one in his own style.

Back in the city I am working on getting used to how completely different everything is. Of course, as with moving to any new place, at first everything is new and amazing. I expect that once I get to know the city more and settle into a routine it will seem less adventurous. For now, I’m enjoying exploring Dhaka and feeling like I’m in an exotic and exciting city.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Docks and PineapplesDocks and Pineapples
Docks and Pineapples

On an expedition to see the ferries and docks we found dozens of boats piled high with pineapples. What I liked even more was the bilingual Bengali-English signs on all the ferries.
Off for the HolidaysOff for the Holidays
Off for the Holidays

The docks were almost deserted since most of Dhaka's residents went back to their villages for the Eide holidays at the end of Ramadan.
Still StormyStill Stormy
Still Stormy

We have days of sun, but the end of the summer rains still brings stormy days. It was cool and breezy out on the water, which was a welcome change after the hot and stuffy streets of the city.
Both SidesBoth Sides
Both Sides

Living in Istanbul I got used to the city being split by the Bosphorus. My new city is full of rivers and lakes, and when it rains the streets fill up and join the network of rivers flowing through Dhaka.
Up Close and PersonalUp Close and Personal
Up Close and Personal

Looking down into the water from out little boat is not at all like looking across the river from the top of a ferry. If you look closely, most of the city is in a similar state.
National MonumentNational Monument
National Monument

This is the biggest open green space I've seen around Dhaka. It's surrounded by immaculate parks and even ponds with ducks.

Driving out to the brass village we passed flooded fields that are currently fishing and shrimping spots, but during the dry season will be rice paddies.
End of Monsoon SeasonEnd of Monsoon Season
End of Monsoon Season

It hasn't rained every day since I've been here, but enough water is left from the summer rains that most of the countryside is under water. In the distance you can see chimneys from brick factories. In a land without rocks all buildings are brick or cement.
Wax FiguresWax Figures
Wax Figures

These miniature statues are not even half-finished. Each little part is made separately out of wax, then assembled with amazing detail.
Clay LayersClay Layers
Clay Layers

After the wax figures are completed, they are painted with three layers of clay, the first being the most fine and the third being the strongest. They are then fired with the holes pointed down so that the wax drains out and the artist is left with the clay mold.
Brass PolishingBrass Polishing
Brass Polishing

Not all the art is complicated statues. The artisans also make decorated serving dishes and useful household items. After they break the clay off the finished brass piece comes an intense cleaning and polishing.
Hindu TempleHindu Temple
Hindu Temple

This is the largest temple in the brass village. It reminds me that I have a lot to learn about the culture and other religions here.

I'm excited to learn a new language, especially one with such a pretty script.

25th August 2012

Looks great!
Wow, Heather! What an awesome place to be! Can't wait to see more :-)
27th August 2012

Your newest country!
We are enjoying your first comment, Heather. Here we go on another adventure with our Idaho neighbor! We are so fortunate. Sending you positive energy, many hug and joy for the journey! The Walkers
4th September 2012

Dhaka, What a difference a new country can make.
Finally found the opportunity to check out your blog. OMG, this place is so much better than Istanbul. I am so happy for you. Can't wait to hear about the the school and the children. How utterly exciting is this new adventure.

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