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  • Writer's pictureLouise Clover

The Chronicles of Dhaka #2

Well it would appear that I’ve survived another week on the set of Wacky Races.

My brain is on such overload, it feels like I’ve been here about a hundred years. And at 5,000 miles distance, Skype is a lifeline to peep into the oh-so-familiar, and now oh-so-strange, lives of J and the kids back home. And the show is coming together … ish.

Some mornings, I go running round Lake Gulshan – this ain’t no Lucerne, if you fell in, it’s unlikely you’d get out alive. There are a few fish in there, but God knows what they taste of; I have been informed that I’m probably showering in several million other people’s excrement – cue Bleach Babe rushing out and buying Dettox Shower Gel.

Anyway, I digress, braving my fellow townies astonishment, (who the hell is this sweating mad woman?), I plug in my headphones and dodge the massive 4x4’s chauffeuring the fleets of International NGO’s, the zillion or so rickshaws and tuc-tucs, the little boys carrying giant baskets of bananas, the beggars lying in the road, security guards guarding the posh houses and embassies, the chai huts, the one-legged women making dust twisters as they sweep the roads with twig brooms, the packed school buses, the building sites where men, women, and five-year-olds climb bamboo scaffolding with bags of concrete on their heads, until eventually I get to the lake and sweat and puff my way round, clenching my nostrils as I pass the occasional hole in the ground, which I try not to fall down. (Think the latrine moment in Slumdog Millionaire).

The marathon training has done me a favour – 26 miles will be a synch compared to doing 5 here. It’s like running in a sauna. A polluted sauna. Anyway, already, I’ve got my regulars who grin and wave hello, as long as I do it first. Plus, they point me in the right direction when I get lost – which is all the time.

The other night, I was taken to the rather upmarket International Club, with its Olympic pool, hot tubs, (as if they’re needed here) smart tennis courts, and big rattan chairs. The members are a mix of colonial-types, young rich Dhaka babes and dudes who speak Banglish, and a mélange of internationals. A good band was playing, and we hooked up with some journalists who were over from Beirut – let’s just say they were Scary Marx Brothers. The reporter was psychotic, while the producer was a bag of nerves, mainly because of his war-junkie cameraman. This huge guy only spoke French and told me he was pining to get back to the front lines in Beirut where he refused to wear a flak jacket or helmet as it curtailed his shooting ability, for his camera or his gun, I couldn't be sure. Anyway, mid-conversation, finding it hard to hear me, he suddenly leapt onto the stage to cut the wires on a large speaker because the band was too loud. As he was hauled off by his producer, it was pretty clear that some members of the I.C. club were not amused. I was, though.

My final Hep B and Rabies jabs were due, so I attended the Travellers Clinic, which is on the same site as the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research. Having been deposited at the gates, naturally I got lost, whereby I encountered one tarpaulin makeshift ward after another of sick, saucer-eyed babies and children on saline drips. The temptation to sit down and hug them all was pretty strong – and this was no Comic Relief film, this was everyday normality.

Another eye-opening event, was my trip to the market where I became the focus of attention for every stall holder and small boy wanting baksheesh to carry my purchases in a basket on his head. Having done the fruit and veg department, I moved further into the dark centre – first, the fish aisle, where a platter of still-alive-and-flapping fish with Jaws-like teeth were thrust in my face with ‘You buy feeeeeeeesh?! You buy!!!!’ I deliberately avoided the meat department, which consisted of several tethered goats and two hundred clucking chickens. This meat was fresh.

By the by, I got back from work the other night and fancied a glass of cool white wine bought from the Bangla-Majestic last week. However, upon opening the wine box of Banrock Station – it appeared to have gone brown. So that will teach me to shop on the black market.

Apparently the cockroaches here are the size of Mars bars and they fly at you if you scream, so I’m going to be very quiet from now on.

That’s it for now – the adventure continues.

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