Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One of My Favorite Hobbies: People Watching

It’s been one full week since we’ve been in Bangladesh, and people’s polite facades are starting to disintegrate, and I am interested (though not exactly eager) to see how the group dynamic will evolve.

As I mentioned yesterday, several of us were quite sick from the lunch we ate on Sunday, and for most people, that carried over into today. Class moved at a slow pace, and we covered only four letters. Since it was 110 degrees by noon and so many were feeling ill, the teachers dismissed us an hour early and told everyone to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. That’s when things started to get interesting…

A couple of the students (as in two) pitched a fit that we were getting out early, not learning enough, etc. Their tone was such that it implied that they were far more dedicated and capable of learning much more and much faster than the rest of us. It almost became a discussion, but most people were to sick to care and left the classroom anyway. The two individuals previously mentioned loudly refused to leave the classroom, and demanded that the teacher move ahead with them in the lessons. Those remaining in the classroom, including myself, quietly indicated that we were not quite so dependent on staying the extra hour, and dismissed ourselves.

Now, one of the “uber intelligent” individuals mentioned above lives in my apartment, so, slightly more than an hour later she stormed in the front door (coming from her extra lesson) complaining about how the rest of the group doesn’t have their priorities in order, we aren’t learning fast enough, etc. This rant was basically directed at me, since three of my other roommates were sick in bed and the other had gone to lunch. I put down my book and pointed out that many people were sick (she seemed to think it was a poor excuse), and that despite that, everyone learns at a different pace. “We are, after all,” I said, “in Bangladesh, at no expense to ourselves. It is not so incredibly serious that we master an entire language in only two months.” This earned me an exasperated, overly-audible sigh and the silent treatment for the remainder of the afternoon.

Around 4:30 p.m., I walked to Gulshan 2 (a neighborhood) to pick up the clothes I had ordered from a tailor last week. Both outfits are surprisingly sheer, and consequentially self-defeating, but will be fine with an undershirt. Pictures will be provided over the next couple of days. While in Gulshan 2, I found a perfectly modern grocery store (the first I’ve seen) and picked up some apple juice and saltines for my ill roommates (whom I’ve assigned the group name “the sickies”).

Returning home around 6 p.m., I did some homework, then went to dinner. We had the delicious saffron rice again, this time with yellow dal and vegetable curry. During dinner, the educational coordinator – a Ph.D student in Southeast Asian Languages at University of Chicago who is married to a Bengali – stopped in to get some of our feedback on how things went the first week. While most of us tried to offer up some genuine and constructive feedback, our voices were drowned out by the two “super-smart” girls, who complained about everything, especially our pace. Again, the obvious overtones of superiority were present, and feeling better, most people caught it that time and were appropriately offended.

After dinner, I noticed two factions beginning to form: those who are generally pleased with the way class is going, and those who feel their intelligence is being slighted. Each group was talking about the other, but I noticed that the “intelligent” group was naming names and pointing fingers, while the “average” group remained politely nondescript in their references.

Returning home, I found the obnoxiously self-righteous roommate trying to bolster support from the sickies, telling them that her plan was just “to whine and complain until she got her way.”

Seriously? I sometimes wonder if I’m on a hidden-camera reality show fronted by the State Dept.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted as I remain, as much as possible, in a neutral corner… observing the craziness.


Sara said...

Wow are they 5? You haven't been there that long. Honestly, people are just annoying. Maybe they should get sick and see how it feels. Ok, off the soapbox.
I'm sure you are enjoying this though. I know you like stuff like this, but don't fuel the fire too much. ;) Hope you are feeling better! (Don't eat TOO much yellow dal. I speak from experience on this ;) ).Miss you tons!!


terris213 said...

You are THE BEST writer! When you finish your first masters degree, you should think about writing for your profession. You'll do well in the State Dept, you are Switzerland! So, have you used your regular vernacular yet to get those smarties to shut the @#*% up!?!?!?! Next time you get that heavy sigh, you should say it in Bangali to her! hee hee hee hee!
luvs ya, miss ya,

Tannikka said...

So hilariously entertaining. You should turn this blog into a book. Glad to see that you are weathering the food pretty well (at least you're not a sickie).

You look nice in you Bangla gear (can't remember the exact term you used).

Be in touch soon. Take care,


Lindsey said...

Hey Reen!I'm glad you are having a good time, aside from the current drama which is bound to happen anyway. Don't get into any fist fights... just slap 'em around alittle.

And tell Dhaka I said hello.

Miss ya!

Sean's new roomie,

Anonymous said...

Amid the dramatic whirl I am not at all surprised to see that you are buying Saltines and apple juice for the sickies. You take such good care of us all.
I'm glad you are feeling better and look forward to continuing posts. Come join the State Department with me!!

Irene said...

I have always felt you should have been a jounalist. Thanks for sharing all of these experiences with us. Hope you had a great birthday.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that I'm part of one of the four religions for the world, according to Milan :)

Keep the photos coming...I love seeing them and the video was really cool too.


Anonymous said...

Drama ... I love It !!!