Thursday, August 5, 2010

The (Hot)House that Grameen Built

The heat here is overwhelming. And it’s not that it’s much hotter here than it is in Dhaka (or even New York for that matter) it’s just that there is no escape from it. You just say hot and sweaty 24 hours a day. There is no A/C, no refrigeration, and even though there is no hot water, the cold water is room temperature after sitting in a black, plastic water tank up on the roof all day. Can’t catch a break….

The house we’re staying in is part of the Grameen Bank Branch Office here. It is wired with electricity, and has ceiling fans, but the power is out most of the time – expecting power for more than three hours per day is being optimistic. According to the newspapers, and our translator, Matin, this is because the government officials in charge of energy are corrupt. Bangladesh actually has quite a significant supply of natural gas and coal, but from what I understand, the corrupt officials export much of the country’s resources resulting in vast resource deficiencies at home. On the way up here, I read about an effort to ban the export of energy resources to address this problem.

Anyways, the house has four rooms plus a living room, but it’s basically just cement walls and a roof, which trap and radiate the heat throughout the day and night. The windows are not glass, but just open cut outs with bars. The bathroom has a squat toilet that I’ve been holding out on testing. Though, what makes it all the more daunting, is that the bathroom is packed with mosquitoes – promising some bites in very vulnerable places. There is no proper kitchen – the food prep and cooking happens in an outhouse-style shed with a traditional pit-fire oven. On the plus side, while we’re here we have a personal cook. Her repertoire of cooking is limited to traditional Bangladeshi food, but that’s fine with me. I haven’t had any direct interaction with her yet, but she looks poor, and somewhat sad. She stays in the background – cooking outside, and coming in only to bring the food and clean up after.

Michael, Matin and I share one bedroom, Sam has another, and the Branch Manger a third. The beds are basically wood slabs with about 1 inch of padding (I actually got a bruise on my hip from sleeping on my side). They have one sheet - to cover the mattress pad - as it is too hot to actually require any kind of covering for your body.

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