Friday, 26 September 2008

Off on a Bangladesh adventure

Today I am at the start of a 1 week holiday and I certainly feel like I need the break. This evening I leave on a 4 day, 4 night adventure into the wilds of Bangladesh along with some other people from work. Tonight we take an overnight bus trip to Khulna, down south. Then we spend the next 4 days and 3 nights on a boat cruising and exploring the World Heritage listed Sunderabans regions.
Here is a map of Bangladesh showing where Dhaka, Khulna and the Sunderbans are.

The Sunderbans are a huge mangrove area that is also home to the Bengal Tiger, not that i expect to see one. It is believed by many that in five years the Sunderbans will no longer exist due to rising sea levels and the increased frequency of monsoons. Here is a link to the Sunderbans National Park website.

From the website- :

Sunderbans National Park

Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans is a vast area covering 4264 square km in India alone. The Indian Sunderbans forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India. A paradise for birdwatchers, the list includes such rarities as the Masked Finfoot, Mangrove Pitta and the Mangrove Whistler.

The Sunderbans are a part of the world's largest delta formed by the mighty rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of the Gangetic West Bengal, it is also the world’s largest estuarine forest. The Sunderbans is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries. It is one of the most attractive and alluring places remaining on earth, a truly undiscovered paradise.

Wildlife of Sunderbans

The Sunderbans forest is home to more than 250 tigers. The Bengal Tigers have adapted themselves very well to the saline and aqua environs and are extremely good swimmers. As you enter the adventurous wild land of the Sunderbans you'll be thrilled to see the chital deer and rhesus monkey. The aqua fauna of Sunderbans include a variety of fishes, red fiddler crabs and hermit crabs.There are crocodiles, which can be often seen along the mud banks. Sunderbans National Park is also noted for its conservation of the Ridley Sea Turtle. There is an incredible variety of reptiles also found in Sundarbans, which includes king cobra, rock python and water monitor. The endangered river Terrapin, Batagur baska is found on the Mechua Beach, while the Barking Deer is found only in Holiday Island in Sunderbans.

Here is what I hope to see:

Next week I will write about some of the highlights and include some photos. Stay tuned.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Shake, Shake . . .

Yesterday evening the floor started to shake and the curtains started to move even though there was no breeze. Living on the 5th floor made it even more obvious. It was an earth tremor, followed 1 minute later by another. Luck it wasn't too strong, no glasses fell from shelves or books from bookshelves. It was more like a HUGE truck thundering by. Even the very loud planes that frequently fly overhead, as I live quite close to the airport, do not have such an effect.

From the Daily Star, an English-language newspaper here in Dhaka:

A minor earthquake shook the capital and parts of the country yesterday evening causing panic among the people.
The Meteorological department said the tremor measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale struck at 5:16pm. Its epicentre was 76 kilometres off the eastern side of the capital, somewhere near Brahmanbaria area.
It lasted for about 23.12 seconds.
Minor tremors jolted the city twice just before iftar. However, there were no reports of damage or injuries.
A correspondent from Madaripur reported that the quake's aftershocks were felt three times within five minutes across the district. The tremors caused waves in rivers, canals and ponds of the district.
Panicking residents of the area rushed outside to the open field when the tremor struck, the correspondent added.
A correspondent from Chandpur reported that the earthquake was felt twice in the area.
Earlier a moderate earthquake shook the capital and parts of the country in the early hours of July 27 causing panic among the people. At least 20 people were hurt in the panic and confusion as people rushed for safety following the tremor.

Friday, 19 September 2008

And the rain came down . . . . .

Today around lunch time the rain came down,a real deluge but no lightening and thunder like some have had previously. We seem to have had them fairly regularly during the last week but most often during the night. It was too wet to go out but it didn't stop the kids who live in the huts on the other side of the lake from enjoying themselves.
Here they are:

And here are their homes!

Here is the view from my side balcony across to the mosque minaret.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Another video!

Here is a video of a birthday party I went to last week. Once of the new teachers, he is Dutch, had a 1st birthday party for his twins at the Dutch Club. So lots of his fellow teachers went along in support!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Dhamrai trip video

If you want to see a video of the trip to Dhamrai last Friday, Chris one of the others on the trip, videoed some of it and has posted it on You Tube. Here's the link.


Friday, 5 September 2008

Dhamrai 3 - The village and its architecture

Dhamrai is a small village, with much water surrounding it as it is close to a river. It was a place to watch people going about their everyday lives. Small shops were open selling pieces of brightly coloured fabric all in neat piles. Vendors sat on the ground surrounded by flatish baskets containing piles of fruit and vegetables - papaya, banana, pomegranate, guava, tomatoes, cumcumbers, eggplant and many other green vegetables that I do not know. People were walking along the street, mostly in groups; others travelled in rickshaws while there was just a few cars tooting theor horns incessantly to fight their way through the narrow streets and the other traffic. While some carried goods/shopping in their hands, most carried it on their heads.

Here are some people piling the drying rice up before it is covered. The women looked beautiful in their brightly coloured saris.
Just near the brass workshop we saw a group of monkeys playing. In fact, I think they were scampering through the trees trying to get a better look at us, as we were of them!

A side alley running from the main street. I loved the contrasting colour and the wonderful metal columns on the verandah.

This show the high water level and on the left is a family house. A wooden boat, typical of those used by many is shown in the foreground.

The architecture of some of the buildings was stunning. Apparently they date back to the time of the Raj. Not sure when that was though. Some could do with a fresh coat of paint.

How could I have photographs with one of a door? Mind you, I did not expect to be photographing doors in Bangladesh!

Dhamrai 2 - The People

Before I went to Dhamrai, people told me it was a god place to get photos of people. They were right as most people didn't mind having their photo taken. Usually I showed them the photo on the back of the digital camera, which often caused great amusement. Mind they found us just as interesting. I sat outside the brass shop for a while and some people stopped their walking along the street to just stare at me. Some a couple of minutes, or even ten minutes. The driver from the US Embassy that was there with some other people told me that they had never seen "white people" before, that is why they were staring. had to beieve isn't it.
Anyway, here's some photos:
This one is of the local transport - a rickshaw and a bicycle cart.
Local kids having fun.
More local transport, this time transporting bamboo.
Here are two boys flying kites.

A shy boy (but don't you love the hat!)

Women walking round and round the rice to spread it thoroughly before drying. Then it is piled into piled rows and covered. What colour!
Here are the men getting laden with the rice pile covering.

Dhamrai - The brass village

Today I got to go sightseeing outside Dhaka, well 2o kilometres or so outside. It did take just over an hour to get to the village of Dhamrai, known as the brass village. Here Sukanta Banik and his family are maintaining the "Lost Wax" method, which is more than 2000 years old, to produce stunning pieces in brass and bronze. His shop and workshop are located in the beautiful house on the mainstreet of Dhamrai; mind you I think there really is only 1 street!

In the "lost wax" method a wax figure is made that has the identical design to the final brass product, often a statue, that is required. Then the wax figure is covered with layers of clay to look like those below.

Then the clay-covered wax model is fired and the wax "disappears", actually igniting on exposure to the heat. After bronze or brass is then poured into the now empty mould, it solidifies then the clay is broken leaving a unique piece. A piece is shown below.
This piece below I suspect was done using one of the other methods that the workshop uses.
Many of the figures made are related to the Hindu religion with the figures beng made out 8 metals - copper, zinc, tin, iron, lead, mercury, silver and gold; which are believed to have an auspicious link to the planets. The business also bolds old brass and bronze pieces that are usually plain on the outside. Craftsmen then etch designs into the surface creating a new artifact. One of these products is the "singing bowl", which after having its rim stroked by a wooden wand it begins to hum ("sing"). Absolutely beautiful. Chloe practises here:

There was lots of beautiful pieces there - a chess set, the bowls, Hindu statues, bracelets, animal statues and ornaments to hang on the walls. But talk about heavy and expensive. I hope to go back to visit the village sometime, maybe then I will buy something. I just looked today.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Slow.w.w.w.w. trip home today

Each morning I get picked up at 6.40 am by a school van to be taken to school. The trip usually takes about 25 minutes. Then in the evening I get a van home, usually at 3.45 or 4.15, which usually takes about 45 minutes depending on how many stops there are and where they are. I always get picked up first in the morning and dropped off last in the afternoon!

But today, being the first day of Ramadan it was another story. The 1 kilometre from school out to the main road took half an hour as we stopped and started and crawled along. It starts of 2 lanes then narrows to one with lots of rickshaws and CNGs darting along the edges. Then we couldn't turn right into the diplomatic area to drop one person off. Well it took about 15 minutes. Then got stuck at another intersection for must have been about another 15 minutes. At that stage, after one and a quarter hours, I got out and walked the 2 kilometres home, or a 20 minute walk. I think it would have taken at least half an hour had I waited for the van to get through the traffic. It made the traffic in Morocco look insignificant.

At least I made it eventually but the nice thing while walking was to see all the women dressed in their best, brightly coloured saris and salwa kameez for the first day of Ramadan. There was aqua, red, orange, yellow and lipstick pink, with scarves in a contrasting colour, it was like walking through a moving rainbow. Everyone was walking fast, in a rush to get home to break fast when the sunset, which is about 6 here. They have the dates and sweet pastries here like in Morocco but no soup. Interestingly, most the secondary Bangadeshi kids at school fast.

So bored did I get on the trip home, I got out my camera to take a few photos, through the van windows I might add. Here's a few:
The traffic jam

The top of a rickshaw and its driver

The back of another rickshaw

A stall selling for the breaking of the Ramadan fast

The local transport for pot plants

Yet another building site!


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