Friday, 30 January 2009

Back to Dhamrai

Today since I had a van I went back to Dhamrai, the brass village after first going to the International Trade Fair here in Dhaka, which cost a whole 12 Tk entry (20c). The Trade Fair was an exhibition of Bangladeshi companies//businesses and what they produce plus a few exhibits from surrounding Asian countries. There was shop after shop with saris and fabric for Salwar Kameez: scarlet, bright orange, pink, buttercup yellow, green with embroidery, sparkles, block printing . . . . . Some in silk, some in cotton and some synthetic but it all gets a bit over-powering in the end. Although you can get most of the same stuff in the shops around Gulshan anyway. I just bought a silk scarf for a gift for 250 Tk (about $4 Australian).

Then it was off to Dhamrai, along the mostly empty roads due to it being Friday, the day or rest here. Compared to last time it was very different. The vast swathes of water either side of the road have been replaced by rice paddies: a field of green. In some people were bent over planting the small plants in the water-covered mud.

Once in Dhamrai it was back to Dhamrai Metal Crafts located in a beautiful old house. This time I got to see of the more of the the steps in the traditional "Lost Wax" process they use. Plus I also got the hear the beautiful "Singing bowls" again.

The steps:
1. A rough shape of the statue is made out of clay.

2.This clay shape is covered by about 1 cm of grey-streaked black wax into which the intricate details of the outside of the statues are carved.

3.This is then covered by a further layer of clay. The whole thing is then fired, melting and burning the wax to produce the mould into which brass is then poured. The clay is then removed and "voila" there is a statue. The statue is then fine-tuned with trimming, polishing and the addition of any fine decoration.

This is the end product.

Again I didn't buy any brass, this time just a DVD of theprocess that I still have to watch. But there were five lovely frogs each playing a different musical instrument for 9500 Tk, a small but heavy cobra for 1500 Tk and the singing bowls, well they are upwards of 3000 Tk. Maybe next time.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Dhaka smog

These photos will give you some idea of the smog here in Dhaka, although it has been much worse on many days. So much so that when I go out my door I can smell it!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Habitat for Humanity

Yesterday I went with a group of students on an excursion to participate in a Habitat for Humanity community service project. Habitat for Humanity build help to built houses for families in needy villages throughout the world. The trouble was that we spent longer getting there (2 hours) and coming back (90 minutes) than at the village. But it was interesting anyway. The students found the physical labour difficult to cope with. I only did a little - showed them how to use the stiff hand pump for water and broke up some bricks into stones as there is no natural rocks and gravel here in Bangladesh. On the other side, the villagers were very friendly and the kids quite inquisitive.

They really enjoyed me taking photos of them then looking at them on the camera screen. It was also an opportunity to see some local life.

Plus the baby goats were cute.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Driving posts, the Bangladeshi way!

These photos are from before I went on Winter Break. These show the Bangladeshi method of driving posts or poles into the ground. All done by hand and from a movable frame with one person on the frame and one on the ground beside the frame doing the work! Take a look and see what you think???

These photos are taken through my balcony door as the sunsets.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Buying flowers

Most weekends when I go out walking I walk past the flower shop. Occasionally I buy. This weekend I bought 2 really pretty gladioli at 20 Taka each, that is the grand total of about 60 c for 2! I put them on my desk so I can admire them while I work.
Great aren't they.

The NEW bridge

Over the last few months I have been watching the progress on a new bridge and connecting road from by balcony that also looks across the lake. When I got back from the Winter break, the bridge is finally open, although the road at the back of my apartment is yet to open.

So yesterday I went for a walk across the bridge and just happened to run into a group of people marching across the bridge carry bunches of flowers! The reason, maybe something to do with Ashura, the Muslim holiday that was happening over the weekend. As well as me taking photos of the bridge, the locals were taking photos of me with their phones!

It is quite an attractive bridge with very well set up roads leading to and from it on the Gulshan side. But the other good news is that is provides a short cut to Road 11 in Banani, which is home to lots of restaurants. I went to Dhaba, a Bangladeshi one, over the weekend.

This is looking through the bridge towards the back of my apartment block.

The well tended lawns and gardens at the foot of the bridge, which provided ideal grazing for a goat.

This photo I really like - you can guess!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Old Dhaka: Sitara Mosque

Close to the Armenian Church in distance, but a whole world away culturally was the next stop - Sitara Mosque, also called the Star Mosque, but I didn't know this until I started writing this blog entry. Even though I have seen many mosques, and most of them in Bangladesh are very plain, as we approached I started saying "it's so beautiful", and it is. Facing was a series of archways with two large domes and three smaller domes above. But it was the colour that was most striking: white, not a grubby white, with coloured glass inset in these tiles. The mosque dates from the early 18th century but has changed considerably since then.

Inside there is a mosaic floor and tiles with floral patterns set on the wall. Many of these tiles added in the renovation around 50 years ago are from Japan and the UK. According to Lonely Planet this includes tiles with pictures of Mt Fuji but I didn't notice any, not that I was looking.

Why it is called the Star Mosque? The most logical reason seems that there is a large star in the pool out the front of the mosque. But it could also be that pieces of china and glass used as decoration appear as twinkling stars if viewed from a distance.

Old Dhaka: Armenian Church

The Lonely Planet guide wasn't lying when it said that this church is an "oasis of tranquillity". It is definitely a place of peace and calm among the mayhem, madness, noise and bustle that is Dhaka. It comes as such a surprising sight among the grubby apartment blocks and squashed together shops with boys playing badminton on the street out the front.

The ginger trimmed with white building that is the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection was mostly built in 1781 after an Armenian colony settled in Dhaka in the 17th century. Today nine families remain.

On entry what struck me most was the large number of graves, and there was more on the opposite side of the church. Not only did they fill the grounds but were also under the verandah. Many of the graves still had text that could be read. Some was in English, some in Bangla, maybe not looking at the photo below.

The interior is simple but stunning. with red and blue detail contrasting with the white walls and roof. There was also a lovely circular set of stairs in one corner. It is still used. Armenian Christmas Day is on January 6th but the service is to be held tomorrow on January 9th since that is the day businesses are closed here. We were even invited to return for the service for which a visiting priest is being used.

The caretaker, who has been there for twenty years, welcomes visitors and shows them around. he is also prepared to share what he knows and answer questions you may have. I made a small donation in return.

Old Dhaka: Shankharia Bazar

As today was a holiday and I didn't have to work, a colleague who had the use of a school van and I went and visited Old Dhaka. First stop was the Pink Palace but unfortunately it was closed - it is closed Thursday and half of Friday (opening at 3 pm) so maybe next time.

Next stop was Shankharia Bazar, commonly called Hindu Street that I had visited before. However this time it was decorated for something, but I am not sure what. You can see this in the first photo.

Even though it was a holiday, not much was closed on this street. The fruit and vegetable sellers were out on the street with their basket containing eggplant, tomatoes and some green vegetable or the flower sellers were out with roses or orange marigolds
or most interesting to me was a man with a basket of pumpkin flowers, tied into small bunches, that he was selling. Not sure what for, whether it was to eat or whether it was for some traditional Hindu ceremony. Something for me to find out!

Shankharias are Hindu artisans. Here you can see them making the conch shell bracelets, drums, carving gravestones and making kites.

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