Saturday, July 30, 2011

My First Day

I’m lying in bed in Dhaka. It’s 7:30 in the morning and there are rickshaw bells and streaming car horns below me. There is a mango tree outside my window and I wish my arms would stretch so I could grab one for breakfast.

My 20 hour plane ride was 20 hours. I flew from Dulles in DC to Doha, Qatar to Dhaka. My neck is so sore I expect it to be a few days before I have a full range bobble head motion. Dhaka from an aerial view at 5 am is dotted with breakfast fires.

Outside the airport a man holding a Jiva sign was waiting for me with a car and driver. He got in the back seat, introduced himself and handed me a cell phone and an internet plug. “This driver will take you to your hotel. A car will come Tuesday to take you to the field site. I have to go now.” AND HE LEAVES THE CAR. I felt so bad ass and agent-like I was positively wriggling with happiness.

The hotel is exceptional with a large bed, a conference room (in my room!), a shower with hot water, AC in the bedroom and a restaurant downstairs. I called my parents and then went downstairs to take breakfast: thai noodles, bread with jam, coffee and apple juice.

I called Katie who went to the same program as me. “I’m in Dhaka!!” We met up immediately at a “roll shop” down the street and got chicken rolls and coffee. Three (!) other Hopkins students joined us and we hung out at the shop for hours. We trekked to a restaurant for dinner.

The pollution stings my eyes, throat and nose. My boogers are black.

After dinner some of them went back for a “movie night” to see a bootleg copy of Bridesmaids one of them obtained. I couldn’t tell if I was underwater or on dry land due to sleep exhaustion so Katie and I walked back to my hotel.

At night, men huddle around cha stands and drink tea and talk. There are no women on the street and the cars might kill you.

I’m off to explore Old Dhaka today and then maybe meet up with some people tonight.

Wish I had a cool sign off.

Friday, July 29, 2011


(my last American meal)

I thought wearing a long tube top dress with a sweater so you couldn’t see the tube would be the perfect outfit to wear to apply for my visa at the Bangladesh Embassy in DC.

But I forgot my sweater.

In my visa photo I look like I’m naked. In the (muslim) embassy I walked around with an open folder covering myself. It was very couture. Needless to say I got my visa the day before I left.

My mom came up two days before I had to leave to help me organize everything and keep me from throwing up. I ran to the school to finish up loose ends and to track down the turtle bracelets I needed to do my project in Bangladesh. The event went down in all caps.


In addition to the 70 pound bag of turtle bracelets I was to lug with me to Bangladesh I packed medicine. Medicine for coughs, cold, fever, headaches, itching, bitching, mild and severe diarrhea, hypochondria, burns, aches and pains and cuts. Medicine and turtles. That’s about it.

It’s the night before I leave and I’m lying in bed making lists of lists of lists. I was surprised at how nonchalant everyone was about me leaving. I wasn’t expecting speeches or sacrifice, but I also wasn’t expecting people to wish me bye and turn quickly to the person to their left.

I feel like I’m on this roller coaster climbing up a large hill and no one can get me off or stop the ride. There is nothing for me to do but lift my arms and give in. Maybe I’ll get a good picture out of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2.5 weeks until Bangladesh

So I’m done with classes. Possibly forever. Crazy crazy crazy. Crazy. School was a whirlwind. I absolutely loved it but I almost wish it was a 2 year program. We crammed the information and didn’t have time to savor it. And now they released me with the title of “epidemiologist” and I still can’t sufficiently define “epidemiology.” I think I’ll probably go back to school to get my PHD, but not for awhile. Nah uh. Gotta get me some life experiences before I turn into a useless encyclopedia.

I’m off to Bangladesh in 2.5 weeks. My anticipation gave way stress, which gave way to fear, which now is just anxious excitement. Baltimore sucks when people are working and friend are gone. I’ve been flipping through flashcarjavascript:void(0)ds of Bengali, trying to teach myself Photoshop and reading like a fiend. I hope some day I can be a person who can take leisure and relish it. “I think I’ll stroll to museum today, buy myself a croissant, sit at this here bench and read while sipping cappuccino.” That’s not me. I wonder around with my backpack and phantom textbooks searching for my lost homework.

My project in Bangladesh is to help reduce the number of drowning deaths for children under three. A whopping 48 children a day die in Bangladesh from drowning. I will be supplying the children with a bracelet (shaped like a turtle) that has a sensor in it that detects when the bracelet is submerged in water. When sensed, a signal is sent to the base station (similar to a baby monitor) where the parents are and lets out a loud alarm. Then, ostensibly, the parent will go run after their child and save them from drowning.

I cannot believe how much responsibility I have for this project. I am tasked to write the entire project, train everyone involved, budgeting, implementation and data collection. We should be ready to submit the IRB in a day or two.
In addition to this project I’ll be helping the Jiva trial which has enrolled over 160,000 households in Bangladesh.

I have wanderache. When I sign into g-chat and talk to my classmates who are in Zambia (Jessie), Senegal (Sarah), Peru (who isn’t?) and Cambodia (Kiira) it makes me feel like a temporary baller for having such cool friends but also makes me jumpy. I can’t wait to be learning how to ride a motorcycle in Gaibandha. (Which by the way is completely written into my protocol. “Chelsea learns to ride motorcycle. Chelsea gets Bengali License.) To put this year of study and a lifetime of dreaming to practice.

I’ve been thinking about where to move when I get back from Bangladesh. I’m a real person now. It’s so unbelievably scary and exciting. Where should I start my life? I’m thinking Boston. There are so many opportunities there. (PIH, CHAI, Harvard, BU etc etc etc.) I feel splitting my time between hectic and tough cities like NY and Baltimore and the chilled out who-cares-it’s-sunny Florida has made me savor the less hectic city. A bridge between the two. Do you think Boston would be good for that?

Ciao for now,