Saturday, August 28, 2010

General Disarray

As a stranger in a strange land it can be difficult, at times, to not try and generalize individual experiences as representative of the country as a whole. And it becomes even more difficult to resist the temptation after that experience starts to repeat itself. It is easy for the weary traveler to dismissively say, “That’s typical Bangladesh.” And I have been avoiding that by trying to keep an open mind, but it’s getting tougher.

I think I’ve benefited, somewhat, by having met many people and done many things outside my program, and having already stayed at three different hotels, because I could see how one might adopt a very negative view otherwise. When I first moved to this hotel, and met the other interns staying here, they were of the opinion that service in Bangladesh is typically horrible - as the service at this hotel is always horrible. However, I was of the opinion that service was very good, since I had just moved from two nicer hotels, and had eaten at many nice restaurants. Though, after a month here, I’m beginning to get jaded myself. I suppose maybe you just get what you pay for – here like anywhere else.

With that in mind, here are some scenarios that have repeatedly found myself in, here in Bangladesh. I won’t say they are typical, but they might just happen to you, too, if you were to visit:

The cab driver has picked you up with no gas in the car, and no money in his pocket. So, he will stop at a crowded gas station for half an hour, while you sit there, in the overheating car, with the windows rolled up, because there is a gather crowd of beggars sticking their hands in to ask for money from the foreigner. And not only will the driver expect you to wait through this ordeal until he finally gets gas, but then pay for it, as well.  

Or, your cab driver will not know where the street you are going to is, so he will stop and ask every person along the street, since they will all give a different answer, and then try to charge you more because it took a long time to find, even though it was because he got lost (and even though he is already overcharging you).

You work in an office in which every computer is riddled with viruses, and the printer practically shreds the pages that it prints.

It’s quite warm in the restaurant you’re in, so you ask if the temperature can be adjusted. The a/c is not working properly, so instead they place a high-velocity fan directly in front of you, which promptly blows most everything off the table.

 You go to the same restaurant multiple times and order the same dish multiple times, and receive a different dish every single time, since there is a different cook in the kitchen each night, and none of them follow a recipe.

The list goes on….

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