First day in Dhaka

It’s HOT, it’s HUMID and it is teeming with people.  Those were my first thoughts on arrival.  It is certainly a long way from Bowen to Bangladesh! My flight from KTM was delayed by several hours, so instead of arriving in the afternoon, I got in at 10pm at night. Such a pity as I would have loved to see the city by day.  I say that because I spent my first morning in Dhaka asleep in bed – the sinus infection I got just before I left KTM had caught up with me, and a morning in bed did the trick. I did not see much of the city yesterday, given I slept all morning but I did spend the afternoon looking for short-term rental apartments in Dhaka. I have not yet started work, probably next week but will be based in Dhaka for the duration of my time here.  Manzoor kindly gave me a few real estate agents to contact and strict instructions to look for apartments in 3 specific neighbourhoods in Dhaka … to ensure my safety and easy access to the BRAC offices.  I will go with this sage advice. Other advice I have received thus far is not to be out alone at night time, even if I am with someone, not to take rickshaws or CNGs at nighttime either.  No fancy laptop bags or jewelry to attract attention, no use of a mobile phone while in the rickshaw/CNG.  I am sure there are more warnings to come.  Foreigners are a target here, simple as that so the less conspicuous I make myself the better.  The independent streak in me will be definitely curtailed while in Dhaka it seems.  I’ll softly get into life here and get a feel for where the boundaries are, and go from there.  I know I do not want to spend the next 4 mths cocooned, but neither do I want trouble.  There is a happy balance somewhere. So far at the hotel, I have found the (all male) staff to be friendly and curious.  Where am I from, what work do I do and am I married seem to be standard questions. When I say I am not married, I get incredulous looks, sometimes the question is repeated a few times I think to make sure they understood right.  I think they do not believe me.  It may be easier for me to say I am married and leave it at that.  I’ll have to test that theory. I am off to look at a few more apartments today and will probably make a decision tonight or tomorrow as to which one.  All the apts I am being shown are at ‘foreigner standard’, are quite spacious, mostly 2 bed apts with all the mod cons … and AC – yay!  And security at the entrance gate.  Two-bed apt means I can have visitors … Judi – are you still on for visiting me?? I am wearing the pure cotton shalwar kameez I got made in Banepa and am grateful for them.  They are comfortable and cool in this hot weather, and cover all thr right parts of my body.  I have not had to cover my head as yet given I am in Gulshan (where many foreigners live) but that may change once I start work. The food is delicious, fresh fish is yum yum yum, I have missed fish.  And the spicy flavours are really really good.  I will not be going hungry – Grace you would love it!  I will have to look into learning how to cook some of these dishes. So all in all, a good start to my time in Dhaka.  I am excited to find my own place and to get started at work, nothing like jumping in and getting the sleeves rolled up. Exciting to be here in Dhaka!

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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3 Responses to First day in Dhaka

  1. Katherine says:

    Hi Kate, Not married and no children! The strangest of the strange! I found telling white lies the easiest way. I couldn’t stand all the pitying looks.
    We’ve had summer weather for two days. Sitting on the back deck, working in the garden. Very civilized.
    Have fun!

    • Kate Coffey says:

      Good advice Katherine, I think I will take the white lies route! And oh to be sitting on the back deck in warm (not hot and humid) weather with a glass of wine … sigh. Belated Happy Birthday, the party sounded like a ton of fun and Ian’s presentation was lovely! Sorry to have missed it. xo

  2. Grace Coffey says:

    Great to hear all your news and you will have to do a few cookery classes – you will have to share the recipes! Keep safe and in touch. G xx Happy Birthday for Monday! Xx

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