Day 33 – Ghost Town

It felt a bit weird to be waking up in our twin room again, surrounded by the mosquito net and having kicked off the sheet as usual due to over-heating. It was the weekend – or rather, one day off – and yet I still woke at normal work time of 7am. I listened to my audiobook, something I never thought I’d enjoy but since the discovery of podcasts, it made me realise they’re exactly the same. I’m reading a book recommended by a friend, Ready Player One, and I suddenly had the realisation I have symptoms of being a nerd; Cringey thought. Aaliyah woke up around 9am and we went to the gym, only to be interrupted by a phone call saying that the car we’d requested to get into Dhaka today would be ready in 25 minutes.

Knowing we were here for another 5 days at least, we decided to take another expensive trip to Unimart in Gulshan except this time it was by a CRP van, not a hot, overcrowded, mosquito infected bus. Needless to say, it was fairly boring. An intern had been asked to come with us, one that we knew well and spoke good English and though I appreciated he wanted to improve his English I have to admit I zoned in and out a few too many times and had put the ‘yes’ and ‘mhm’ button on repeat. Aaliyah, meanwhile, sat on the seat behind listening to her music. Not like she planned it or anything.

We’d been told that if we were stopped by the police, we were to say that we were on our way to the embassy. What really happened was that we were stopped and then the driver informed the guards that we were infected with Coronavirus and were therefore urged to continue and drive away as fast as possible. We all had a little laugh over that. Unfortunately, it was also the first evidence of hostility towards our foreign presence but since we rarely went out now, it wasn’t much to be worried about.

Dhaka was a ghost town, or at least as much as a country like Bangladesh can be ghosted. Every independent store seemed to have it’s shutters down, we didn’t see a single bus in action and nobody was lining the streets with stalls selling everything under the sun. Only commercial shops and big names were still in business. We weren’t allowed in the shop without a mask; Aaliyah had bought one as a ‘just in case’ whereas they allowed me through by using my Orna instead. Now, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to rob the place and it also gave the image of a haircut from the wrong era, see picture below. Yet again it was an expensive trip, my own total coming to 2000 taka (£20) though I felt I’d bought so few things. Aaliyah spent 4000 taka due to a craving for the chocolate tart I’d made back in week 2. I refused to pay any contribution to the cause, my own personal argument being (and hoping) we would soon be back to our home comforts; so, I had to agree I was allowed one slice and nothing else. She wouldn’t know if I ate the odd oreo, maybe a kitkat, or a quick mouthful of mango juice… It’s not like I’m suggesting anything by ironing her clothes or offering to cook tea…

Food is something we’re missing. We have access to make our own things – when we can get out of the gate – but all the restaurants and cafes have been closed and we can only make up so many different meals one can do with the same veg, pasta and rice. I was just starting to get used to the Bengali spice and overwhelming sugar in the tea but now we only get that at breaktimes whilst at work. We can ask to have food made for us at lunch and dinner but recently we were receiving the same thing and it’s salt and spiciness was getting a little too much. I have yet to try a real Bangladeshi Biryani.

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