I’m been in Dhaka for exactly 9 days now. It’s taken me this long to get over jet-lag, a nasty cold, to get my Internet service up and running and get generally settled in the motherland.
DHAKA IS A TOTALLY CHANGED CITY.
I’ve heard and seen on television and on the Internet how much Dhaka has changed in the 10.5 years since I’ve been here, but like they say, seeing and hearing are two totally different things. Of course, experiencing a city as a 15-year-old and a 25-year-old are also totally different scenarios.
I came prepared for a culture shock at the vast difference between the rich and the poor, but I underestimated the shock value. A day trip through Gulshan and Bananai (the upscale areas of Dhaka) left me shocked at just how much money Dhaka’s elite actually has. The houses look like movie sets and girls wear a thick face of makeup just to go to the market. I’m staying with my aunt in Dhanmondi which is less elite than Gulshan and Banani but is still an upper middle class area. It’s easy to live in these areas and ignore poverty because shopping plazas, restuarants, beauty parlors and flashy cars surround you 24/7 to block out the real Bangladesh. In fact, I found my first beggar 8 days after landing here. I’ve been walking around with change to give out, but found no one to give it to! I gave an old woman and a small child 10 takas each and they both ran back to their clan of beggar friends and sent them all over to me!
You haven’t experienced a real traffic jam unless you’ve been in Dhaka, Fortunately, I haven’t really been stuck in any so far (everyone keeps telling me how lucky I’ve been!), but it’s only my first week. But I’ve looked over to the other side of the road and seen how 10 cars move every 20 minutes. There are no parking and no honking signs everywhere, which is there more for entertainment value than anything else since people park everywhere and anywhere.
There is tons to do and see in Dhaka. You can spend your entire life in the Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi area and not really realize how poor of a country you live in, it seems like. But, poverty is everywhere–from the poorly-clothed children sitting on the sidewalk to the overworked rickshaw drivers–but, it’s very easy to turn a blind eye when there’s a brand new sushi place standing right behind the shirtless 8-year-old boy.