When I got here and began shopping for local products like leather, glass, and the like, everyone kept telling me the same thing. “Wait till you see Corferias!” They told me I’d be in a shopping tizzy when I got to Corferias. I imagined a rough-around-the-edges Christmas market. I was wrong. Corferias is like an expo showing with artisans from all over the world. It seemed like everything was hand made. Better still, each piece was made with care.
There were at least nine hangar sized buildings with an entire floor selling only jewelry. On the international floor, they had stalls from Turkey, Iran, India, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and so many others (though not Bangladesh). It was truly a world bazaar.
The local crafts were high quality and some were a good price while others were very pricey. The place is organized and there are many signs, a mobile bar, food courts, cash machines, rest areas, and a packing and delivery service.
I enjoyed the local flavors hall where they gave free samples of all sorts of foods. Roast pork at ten in the morning. Why yes! When I went back later to buy some pork, the vendor gave a friendly wave as I waited in the longest line in the hall.
It’s a good thing that this fair is over many days because I got tuckered out and did not see all the stalls. I’ll be back! Corferias is from December 6-18 (I think). Bring money for the entrance fee and shopping!
Here’s another doodle about learning Spanish. The previous one was not as much fun to draw as this one with the octopus.
It makes me laugh to think how delighted I would be if I used this phrase incorrectly and someone actually brought me a glass of juice with an octopus in it (that would be a lesson I would never forget!). Considering my “100 challenge” to match my 100 in Dhaka, I imagine that I have many glasses of juice in my future. I don’t think any new list I compile will match the popularity of my list of 100 restaurants in Dhaka… but, who can predict what the google bots will pick up?
One of the things I enjoy about Washington, DC, is that almost all the museums are free. Most of the big museums are part of the Smithsonian but there are lots of smaller unknown museums like the one at the Organization of American States. Located near where Virginia Avenue meets Constitution Avenue, this small building has a great garden and some pretty tiles, plus a rotating exhibit. I went to see the photo exhibit about identity. Although the exhibit was Argentinian, a discussion of stereotypes is relevant to all nationalities, including Bangladesh and Colombia. My mental image of Bangladesh before I lived there was one of cyclones and floods. Colombia suffers from other stereotypes.
My photos are taken from the photo catalog because I did not have my camera with me. But, flash photography is allowed in the temporary exhibit. I was just amazed that they were giving away the color catalog for free. Not all the photos in the photo exhibit were of people but I thought they were the best. I’ll write more about art and photography in a later post. Certainly once I have been to the famous gold museum in Bogota. For now, these photographs allowed for a little armchair travel.
For some expats, the biggest souvenir they buy in Bangladesh is a rickshaw. I decided to buy one for the blogging experience. There are many places where you can get them. Apparently the folks at River Tours will arrange a sale for you. If you want a used one, it is unlikely that the local rickshaw puller owns his own and so he may not be able to sell it to you. A colleague bought two rickshaws so I got the shop information from him.
Then I enlisted the help of two Bangladeshis. One arranged for us to go out to the rickshaw “shop” and made an appointment with the rickshaw maker for us. The shop we went to was back in the rabbit warren of streets to the north of Baridhara (it ended up being somewhere near the train tracks, for those of you who know your way around Baridhara). Without my Bangla-speaking Bangladeshi, I would never have found this shop. The shop was more of a “parts” shop and there were no shiny ready-made rickshaws for sale. That said, looking at the photo, now I see the tires on the roof.
Rickshaw Maker: Hasan
Address: Maria Cycle store, 97/1 Joar Shahara Bazar Road, Dhaka.
The rickshaw took one week to build, it weighs 250 pounds, and cost 20,000 taka (about $250). I paid 5,000 taka in down payment and rest on delivery as you can see from the receipt but you can pay all of it at once if you prefer. If I had bought two or more, I would have received a bulk discount (and remember that everything can be negotiated so I could have perhaps haggled to a lower price. Frankly, I was distracted by the gentleman on the right in the photo who was performing depilation in his nostrils — I could not take my eyes off his fingers!).
I left the decoration of the rickshaw completely up to the craftsmen making it. At one point, the shop owner called to find out which name I wanted painted on the back and my friend told him to put my name on the back! I will most likely paint over it at some point. The rickshaw also has the maker’s telephone number and name painted on it. I like how my rickshaw is decorated although I would have chosen to not have guns painted on it, despite this being the tradition.
The rickshaw was ready a day early and the rickshaw maker wanted to deliver it as soon as possible. I asked why the urgency… they did not want it to get dirty. It was delivered to me fully assembled and driven by a professional rickshaw driver. Since then, it has only been driven by two people. I will mostly keep it in my future home, as a piece of installation art. Some people have suggested I take it out and give rides on it…
Yesterday, a friend recently sent me the link to World Market’s site advertising Bangladeshi rickshaws on demand for $3,000! But, theirs are not meant for actual use (it says so in the ad). Therefore it is better to buy one while in Bangladesh.
Normally, I try to post a new blog every sixth day, but because of yesterday’s rickshaw email, I decided to publish this now.
The answer to my previous post’s trivia game of “M’s Adventures moves to ______?” is: It is a country with a river famous for being the most _colorful_ in the world. Thanks to the random person on the Internet who decided to play along.
One day in Bangladesh, I was invited to a friend’s house and saw these painted stairs. They were painted as a wedding present. This colorful daily reminder reminds them of their friend, and their wedding, every day.
This would probably not work in the U.S., but one could offer some other gift from the heart.
As with almost everything in Dhaka, you can have a curtain maker come to your home. Or you can buy ready-made curtains. The curtains in Aarong or Jatra are more expensive than the curtains in New Market. In fact, there is a whole “curtain row” in New Market. It is near the “book street” entrance. This is also the area where you can find art stores and art supplies. Some of curtains range from 500 taka to 1,500 per curtain. These curtains are standard size of about a meter/yard wide so you may need several to cover a window.
Go to New Market on a day when the traffic will not be as epic as it is on a weekday. Some of the shops are closed during Friday midday prayer so I usually plan to arrive around 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Curtains up!
A great delight of living in Dhaka is getting custom made, hand crafted frames. But, much more than that, my framer, Shamim of Cezanne Gallery, is an artist. Like great artists, he grows and develops his craft. I have given him several new styles of frames which I designed for my own photographs and artwork, and he took the ideas and “ran with it” as Americans like to say. I am impressed. Cezanne Gallery also has ready made paintings and artwork for purchase but I prefer the framing experience when sitting in the calm studio on the second level of UAE mall, ceiling fan blowing, and artistic inspiration flying.
The Cezanne Gallery is hard to find because it’s in plain sight. It’s located in the UAE Market on Kemal Ataturk, in Banani. If you drive west on Kemal Ataturk away from Gulshan 2 Circle, then this red brick two level mall will be on you left right before you reach airport road.
He is pricier than some other shops but his frames are cheap compared to the U.S. where a custom made frame can cost $24 per inch. Cezanne’s prices vary depending on what you get done but my frames have cost from $4-$150. Cezanne Gallery will re-do something if you do not like it. They deliver in a week (literally will deliver if your frame is too big or you cannot pick it up). They have an array of frames, mattes, and will match the color of the matte and frame to some part of the artwork or anything you can indicate (I once asked for the frame to match the brick wall outside). I thoroughly enjoyed the creative process of thinking up designs for my frames and I have done a fair amount of framing. Shamim is a gentleman and I have enjoyed the endless possibilities we have discussed while sitting in Cezanne Gallery.
Finding places can be tricky in Dhaka. As much as I’d like to show you all where things are… I thought I’d make a map of the 99 expat places instead! These places are current as of September 9, 2013. I put an extra huge marker on Goong, the Castle, because that is the number one place people ask for directions to — Road 50, House 12B — and I made it number 12 on the map! Look for the large wooden gate. Go in and enjoy.
In Dhaka, businesses rise and fall like eddies on the delta, and they often change location. So, most importantly, on my map(s), I have put the ACTUAL location, not what the address indicates. Because floor numbering varies in different parts of the world, I have only listed it if the place is not on the first/ground floor. Otherwise, I’ve called it “level” using the ground floor as the first level. As the Westin’s sign is like a lighthouse beacon in the night, I started with the Westin Hotel as number one as it is often used as the North Star. Then I divided Gulshan into four sections divided by Gulshan 2 circle. For those counting, there are not 99 numbers on the maps because many of the locations are in the same building or on the same block. Also, I have not included all 100 restaurants at which I’ve eaten. Only places people ask about.
I have tried to make sure that the addresses are correct, though not always written the way that the locals would write it, and I cannot vouch for the phone numbers except for those who do house calls, like Tailor Johny, because I did not call all the numbers! Bangladesh’s country code is 88 and for some numbers you will need to drop the zero/zed and/or the two or add them or something… it’s confusing. But that’s a whole different topic. If you cannot find the location, check back on my blog as I may have posted a photo of the actual location. Again, the official address may be different; the location is for real. Happy hunting!
Buying art supplies in Gulshan is not easy as easy as buying art. There is one store in Landmark mall (on the ground floor in the right hallway) in Gulshan 2 circle. They have canvasses and oil paint, etc. But if you want to buy fine point drawing pens and art paper in different grades and weights, then head to New Market. The art stores like Modern and ABC are located near each other by the south gate, also known as Book gate, of New Market. Coming from Gulshan, you drive between Chawdni Chowk and New Market, then make a right turn. There are art supply stores in Old Dhaka but that requires more time. And as always, go on a Friday so that the trip will not take so long. Some of the stores are closed for Friday prayer so after 2 pm is best.
One thing about shopping. Make sure to ask for the cheapest items. For example, we asked for poster size water color paper. They showed us the 250 taka German brand, the 120 made in Britain brand, but did not show us the 60 taka Chinese brand until later. The store owners understand a fair amount of English which is nice but you still need to persevere to get the cheaper options explained to you. All the prices are still cheaper than in Gulshan. The stores have lots of really nice supplies which is a delight to find in Dhaka.
Also on “book street” in New Market, are several wedding invitation stores.
In the long hot rasping breath before the monsoon, my mind turns once more to images of Bangladesh. Decades ago, the only impression I had of Bangladesh was monsoon rain and flooding. Now, I have met the man who took the rickshaw photo of my imaginings.
Obviously, to my vivacious and educated Bangladeshi friends, this image is so passe. “Why must you foreigners have only such images in your heads?” To which I reply, “This is not a bad image.” I see the rickshaw puller in the monsoon flood and find it an image of tenacity and perseverance. Not a bad thing to be known for, wherever you are.
While the lungi is the traditional Bangladeshi men’s wear and the shari or shalwar kamees is traditional women’s wear; fashion is changing. Many people wear denim jeans and western style clothing. Recently, I went to a fashion show and one could see the local influences merging with western clothes.
This show was the result of a joint venture by the French and German cultural centers here in Dhaka, but the billboards around town show modern Bangladeshi fashion from Arong, Yellow, etc.