Friday, September 3, 2010

Exploration Nation

After a week or two of worrying how I was going to make the next month a productive experience, I am feeling pretty good about my remaining time Bangladesh again. I had previously scheduled in one week of time just to travel around, but wasn’t sure it would be enough to see everything I wanted. And since I hadn’t met many people with spare time to travel, I wasn’t sure how far I would be able to make it on my own – not speaking the language. But now, I’m rearranging my schedule, working in enough time to see most of what I want, and looking forward to having a wild journey that takes me across the lush green lands of Bangladesh. One way or another I’m heading north, south, east and west. I did not come to Bangladesh to sit behind a desk.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beard Update: Week 6

A little shaping went a long way. Utilizing a few utensils and a bit of luck I seem to have evened out my beard. And now, I am comfortable saying that I am fully bearded man, this is no longer just stubble. I just hope I can keep it under control for another month…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Haggler’s Heaven, Non-Haggler’s Hell

Nearly every price in Bangladesh is negotiable. And while that means you can get nearly everything on the cheap, it can also mean that nearly everyone is trying to rip you off. Perhaps this duality creates an “efficient” market in which people can negotiate to reach a natural market price at which supply meets demand, but for me it creates a nightmare. One problem is that, as a foreigner, I have very imperfect knowledge of the market itself. I have no concept of what labor and materials cost here, and thus have no way of determining if I am overpaying or not. And while I am more than willing to pay a slight premium for goods and services due to this handicap, I do not like being taken advantage of simply because I am foreign, and don’t know better.

I’ve been told that the general rule of haggling here is to offer a quarter of the asking price, and then negotiating to somewhere near half. However, I am somewhat uncomfortable with this proposition. I am non-confrontational, and feel like it is almost offensive to say to a vendor - I value your work so little that I am going to offer you one quarter of what you think it’s worth - especially since both he and I know that I could probably still easily afford the inflated price. I’d rather pay a slight premium for a fixed price that I know is fair. The alternative of me trying to take advantage of some vendor, or him trying to take advantage of me is much less desirable.