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The long wait
I thought that I might have worked on my last contract in a
developing country and I was more or less resigned to
staying in WA until the end of our lease in Safety Bay and
then returning to Queensland for retirement proper.
It wasn't too bad there. It is a very pretty place and I was
making some very good friends at the Rockingham Golf Club.
But it was getting colder and it was about to get colder
still and I really felt that I still had a few more years left
doing the work I enjoy.
But none of my applications had had the desired result and
although, in May, I had received an acceptance email from a
consultant in England for a job in Bangladesh, I had heard
nothing more since and I thought that the job must have
fallen through. Then, out of the blue, in early October, I
received instructions to get a visa, buy my ticket and to
present myself in Dhaka asap.
However, the Bangladesh High Commission decided that
they weren't going to rush anything and that mid October
would be soon enough for me to travel,
The project I am on is an extension of a previous contract
for my employer, IMC Worldwide Ltd.
I am to be based in a district capital, due south of Dhaka,
called Barisal (pronounced Borishal). However, two months
into the job and I am still in Dhaka.
I have had a few short visits to the area and to some of
the widely scattered sites but my permanent move is on
hold pending the unorthodox manoeuvres of the two major
The ruling party is refusing to follow the constitution and
set up an independent interim governing body to organise
the elections and so the opposition is calling what is known
here as a 'hartal' at every opportunity.
This consists of calling all the party supporters to prevent
normal movement of traffic throughout the country.
Apparently this is a very common occurrence here, dating
back to the days of Mahatma Ghandi, and it was also
practiced by the ruling party when they were the opposition.
The only difference this time is the level of violence.
Fortunately we don't have to move in the trouble areas as
we can move freely from our apartment to the office.
However I wouldn't be able to visit the sites even if I
were in the project area and hence the reason I have not
yet moved from Dhaka.
It is an interesting project and a slightly different set up
to all of my previous jobs.
It is called the Fael Khair Schools cum Cyclone Shelters
Fael Khair means benevolent, anonymous donor, and
someone has generously given a very large sum of money to
the Islamic Development Bank to administer the project
which includes several hundred buildings throughout the
southern, coastal areas of Bangladesh.
So we are contracted directly to the IDB and not through
the government. Which is an unusual concept.
All of the contractors are local as are the first level of
When we have our full complement in place there will be
five expats on the project.
I arrived at 10.30 pm at night and my first impressions
were just as I'd imagined. It took me about an hour and a
half to get through immigration and find my luggage.
By that time my pickup had left and there were no
public phones. Fortunately I managed to find a
friendly taxi operator who spoke some English and let
me use his phone and I was soon collected and taken
to the company 'Guest House', an apartment where
the Team Leader lives.
The next day everything looked a lot better and
Dhaka was better than I'd expected. Although you
can't see the smog very well when you're in it. And
you certainly are in a pretty thick smog most of the
Viv arrived a month or so later, by which time I was
supposed to have set up home in the south!
She was accompanied by her brother Tony who came
with her for a few days break from his job in Perth.
Unfortunately the politics spoiled our plans for a trip
to our permanent location but he managed to see a
few sites around Dhaka and the inside of a few bars!
Most expats live in the same area as most of the
embassies and high commissions and they are
generally cocooned from all the political disturbances.
There are also several decent shopping areas within
the same area where we are free to move around.
Bangladesh is generally alcohol free but expats are
allowed to buy it, though it is a bit more complicated
than going into a liquor store.
However, most of the embassies and high comms have
sports clubs that have decent bars. Most of them are
open to members only but they have the concessions
that members can sign in a limited number of
non-members. So far we've been able to get into the
clubs whenever we've wanted to.
Then there's the Dhaka Hash House Harriers.
They run and walk every week on either a Friday or a
Saturday. Since I arrived they've only been able to
20 December 2013 – First impressions of Bangladesh
run in Dhaka but they normally have country runs
every few weeks.
They get crowds of 60 to 70 each week and it's a
very lively Hash with a proper circle and usually an
On On to one of the embassy clubs.
Because of the Hash we've seen many parts of
Dhaka we wouldn't otherwise have seen.
Like most people, I had a pretty stereotype
opinion of Bangladesh. Rather like a poor, densely
populated version of India!
Most of the people are certainly poor but the land
is extremely fertile so they all have access to the
cheap necessities. And it certainly is very densely
populated. In fact, it is the most densely populated
country apart from the city states such as
Singapore and Hong Kong.
I have already seen quite a lot of the countryside
outside of Dhaka on my trips to the Barisal area.
Once you've driven for two hours or so to get out
of Dhaka the countryside is very green and
pleasant. The roads are straight and in quite good
condition and in many places they are shaded from
the sun by archways of overhanging trees.
Of course, in the south, the landscape is
predominantly rice fields and these will be brown
very soon, but, at the moment, the views are green
The terrain in most of Bangadesh is very flat with
more water that land. It would be very pretty if
the lakes and rivers were blue, but they're not.
Hopefully, after the election we will be able to
move to our new location and I will be able to
report on the real Bangladesh. That is, provided
the elections end the political unrest which, at the
moment, looks very unlikely!
|Jack & Viv on the Dhaka Hash House
Harriers 'Lake Trip' run
|Jack, Viv and Tony at the Lalgabh Fort Gardens
|Tony, Jack & Viv at the Nordic Club
|Coconut stop on the Christmas Day run