Trip to Beximco

Over the weekend we went on a CLO-organized trip to Beximco industrial park, one of Bangladesh’s biggest private sector manufacturing companies.

Sounds riveting, huh? (That was Nate’s general impression, too.)

Basically, Beximco makes clothes for several American and European clothing lines, including American Eagle, Topshop, Zara and H&M.

Beximco also houses Shinepukur Ceramics, which makes fine china and porcelain, and this was the main reason for our visit. Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, and other fancy brands?  All made in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

So, the drive to Beximco.  It was terrible.  Thank god we had an air conditioned van to sit in while we weren’t going anywhere.  Prime Minister Moti was flying into Dhaka that day so they closed off a bunch of roads, which meant that in an hour, at least, we moved maybe a quarter of a mile. It was supposed to take 2 hours, and instead it took 3.  Luckily we got there eventually.

At least there were some interesting sights along the way.

"Scaffolding", or bamboo rods tied together with rope by barefoot unsecured men at least 10 stories off the ground

“Scaffolding”, or bamboo rods tied together with rope by barefoot unsecured men at least 10 stories off the ground

Cows!

Cows!

There are almost always men riding on top of trucks and buses.  Or sometimes there are goats.

There are almost always men riding on top of trucks and buses. Or sometimes goats.

The tour of Beximco was actually pretty interesting, and the CEO was more entertaining that you’d usually expect.  The Ambassador came to Beximco with us, and she was scheduled to have dinner with Moti later that night.  Completely seriously, the CEO offered her his helicopter for the return trip.  No biggie.

Due to our delayed arrival, we didn’t get a tour of the clothing factory, but we got to see the fashion design studio and the ceramics factory.  I only lasted through about 5 minutes of the ceramics factory tour because it was so hot.  The minute I stepped outside of the factory, a rush of cool air hit me…. and that “cool air” was at least 90 degrees.

The Beximco grounds are really nice, much more scenic than you'd expect from an industrial park.

The Beximco grounds are really nice, much more scenic than you’d expect from an industrial park.

There’s also a little zoo, with deer, black and white swans, parrots, and peacocks, near the area where we had lunch.

The trip to Beximco was capped off with a visit to the ceramics showroom, where loads of brands and patterns were on display, filled with employees eager to take your order.  Porcelain and bone china place settings and serving ware are available at stupidly low prices, and then they knock off another 20%.

Quick!  Buy some china!

Quick! Buy some china!

After two hours in the ceramics showroom (we did some serious damage, which I’ll talk more about in a few weeks when we get our order), we finally headed home.  Beximco gave us a police escort back to avoid further problems with the traffic, and the ride only took about an hour.  While traveling with a police escort is certainly not a regular occurrence, it sure was nice! At one point we even passed an ambulance with its lights on, which isn’t a big deal because apparently they are more frequently used as expensive taxis than as vehicles transporting people seeking urgent medical care.  They also double as hearses.

If you ever had the opportunity to visit Beximco, I’d highly recommend it.  Especially if you’re in the market for some bone china.

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Two weeks in Dhaka

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for over two weeks already.  On one hand it feels like we just arrived; on the other hand, it seems like we’ve been here for months.

It’s really hitting home that we live here now.  We are making friends and developing social circles, and creating new routines. Most of our worldly belongings are in Dhaka or on their way here.  It’s kind of crazy.

Having our UAB here is huge.  Stuff is just stuff, but having our stuff here has really helped make our apartment feel like home.  I’ve missed my favorite wooden spoons and my mini-spatulas, and there’s nothing like curling up in bed under your own duvet and blankets in the same sheets you had in the States.  Just ask Athena.

A few nights ago we experienced late-night road traffic in Dhaka and it was harrowing.  Apparently the main road through Dhaka is closed off to big trucks during the day, and then at 10 pm the roads are opened up to everyone.  This meant the roads were filled with huge trucks carrying who-knows-what, sometimes with people on top of the trucks, and enormous buses bursting with people, hell-bent on getting where ever they’re going as fast as possible.  There was one bus that was right behind us, literally a foot away, blaring its horn.  I thought the bus was going to hit us for the hell of it. Eventually the bus passed us, and when a truck wouldn’t let the bus cut in front of it, the driver thrust a long metal rod out his window and waved it menacingly. What a three-ring circus.  I can’t imagine what traffic is like outside of Dhaka where drivers can actually pick up some speed.

Over the weekend we went to the consular section farewell party, and, wow, do they know how to party!  Americans and Bangladeshis were shaking it on the dance floor for hours, including the ambassador.  The party was hippie themed, but the DJ seemed to have his American music decades mixed up and he played 80’s dance tunes all night.  But, hey, who doesn’t love the 80’s?!

Our apartment has a little rooftop where we sometimes take Athena to run around and eat grass.  You can bolt lock the door from either the inside or the outside, and theoretically when you lock the door from one side it can’t lock from the other side because there is no one there to lock it.  Well, that’s apparently not true.  Somehow we got locked onto the roof.  Neither of us had a cell phone or anything. Nate tried leaning over the roof wall and yelling for the guard, but that didn’t work.  So then he yelled to the guy across the street who was also on his roof, who then yelled to the guard.  Eventually they both got the guard’s attention, but nothing happened.  Finally the guy who lives on the floor below the roof came home, and he came up and let us down.  Nate talked to the guard, and apparently he could tell something was wrong but he didn’t know what exactly, so he decided to ignore it.  Gee, thanks buddy.

Oh, and our apartment building has kittens!  About 10 days ago there were two dead kittens by the tree in front of our building, and we had a feeling they came from a liter nearby and just didn’t survive.  Life here isn’t easy for street animals.  Well, yesterday we noticed three little black and white kittens bouncing around in our compound parking area behind the generators.  They are really cute, and I’m glad to know that some of the kittens were able to survive.

Storm clouds rolling in over Dhaka

Storm clouds rolling in over Dhaka

Our adventures in walking Athena continue.  There are lots of nice parks with well-maintained walking paths, but dogs aren’t allowed.  So that sucks.  A few nights ago we were walking by the American School and two stray dogs came out from under a bus and started to approach Athena.  Nate tried to scare them away by kicking in their general direction, which usually intimidates the strays enough for them to leave you alone, but these two were undeterred.  These dogs seemed friendly and easy-going, and we let Athena meet them because we didn’t really have a choice since neither of us is heartless enough to actually kick a nice dog.  All went well, and she had fun strutting down the street with her stray dog posse, getting the occasional butt sniff.

It’s monsoon season here, and Nate and Athena got caught outside in their first monsoon.  Luckily they weren’t too far from home, and they came back only moderately soaked and bedraggled.

So, yeah, things are good here.  Maybe I still have my rose-tinted glasses on since we really only just arrived, but we are enjoying life here.  And no matter how hot it gets outside, at least we always have an air-conditioned apartment to return to!