Friday, November 4, 2011

An Update in Three Parts

Part I:


A staff member’s daughter died from drowning today. She was two years old. Can you fucking imagine? 2 years old. And my project is still wrapped up in a red tape nightmare. Tragic irony. I need to get away. I need a break.

Part II:


Heading to Nepal today. Can’t wait. It’s a break I really need. Between the gravity of death and the more petty boy relationship problems I just want to see a mountain and have it suck the perspective back into me.

I got to the airport 3 hours early. As I was going through immigration I was stopped. The man looked up. “Ma’am, you have expired your visa, please come with me.” Visions of left forgotten in a Bangladesh jail flooded. I was taken to the immigration police. I was told that I had expired my visa by 66 days. Bloody hell. Even though my visa was good for a year, it turns out it was a year “30 days at a time.” MEANING I have to leave Bangladesh every 30 days. I missed my plane and called my Jiva contact in Dhaka. “Please Saidul I’m at the airport and I need help. Please come get me.”

Saidiul came immediately and we drove the 2 hours (10 miles with Dhaka traffic) to the country immigration office. I’m on the phone with a travel agent trying to rebook my ticket to Kathmandu. But all the flights are booked because this is a big national holiday and everyone is trying to leave the country to vacation. We make it the office, cut past all sorts of people and have a guard open the back door for us. I don’t know, maybe they thought I was someone important and not some grungy little blue collar through and through?

We go straight up the Deputy Visa director. She is yelling at us with a mouth full of Dhal, “she is free to go if she pays us $550 in cash. But the banks close in 10 minutes for the holiday so run.” I run to an ATM, and, being the grad student I am do not have that much in my account. I have to borrow some from our driver. But no time to “oi” because now we’re running back to the office. Signing documents, hands filthy with money, collecting signatures and panting.

6 HOURS LATER, I have my passport signed and stamped. I have my exit visa. I am free to leave the country within 7 days and then return. Now we race over to the Bangladesh Airline headquarters to see if we can get me a ticket out of the country. Make it just in time. With a few tears and a pledge that it is my (13 year old) sister’s wedding in Nepal on Sunday and I got a ticket to Kathmandu Saturday, the day before I leave on my trek.

Giddy, starving and exhausted, we get back in the car for the 3 hour (11 mile) journey back.

Part III

Becky invited me to go to the American club with her to unwind and offered up her guest room for the night. The American club was dizzying. I was swept up by soft white hands, handed a glass of red wine, a plate of eggplant parmesan and placed in a soft chair on a rooftop deck overlooking a pool. I lost track of the Dhaka honking, and the heat and dust and death and stress of it all and let the wine make my head heavy. The scintillating conversation and parmesan cheese carried me away and I didn’t feel one bit guilty about it.

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