June 3, 2003: We have arrived safely in Dhaka and already have had many adventures. My colleague Shawn McCann met us at the departure gate. The plane trip was as uncomfortable and interminable as ever - more than 22 hours to Bangkok. We had a row of four seats to ourselves Ö no wonder Air Canada is going down the toilet. We had seen all of the movies on the Vancouver - Narita leg: Catch me if you can, Oceanís Eleven and the last Harry Potter movie. At Narita we found an amazing cyber cafť with at least 50 notebook computers hooked up to the internet so we killed an hour there - did you get your Mumís email?. I bought a cute little travel clock that shows the time in about 100 different cities, but not Vancouver. Shawn had an earlier flight to Bangkok than ours. We were on a sold-out 747, not even sitting together. They showed a Sylvester Stallione movie that we hadnít seen, but I slept through it and your Mumís seat couldnít see a screen.
We stowed our suitcases in a storage place at the airport, hooked up with Shawn again and arranged for a ride to a nearby hotel, getting to sleep at 1am local time. Our Dhaka flight was at 10:30 am so we had time for a disgusting breakfast (runny-white fried egg, cold with canned sausages and white toast, Nescafe) and Pepa spend a half-hour in a hair-dressing salon full of tiny Thai girls getting her hair washed for $2.
At the Dhaka airport a PSU guy with a sign showing a Canadian flag and our names led us to a SUV and whisked us off to the Fairly Home. We have a suite. Right away Pepa rearranged the bedroom so that the head of the bed wasnít under the window. We unpacked and settled in, and at 4pm went to CEGIS (where I work) to meet with the rest of the team. Kevin, Shawn, Bart, Pepa and I were to go on an erosion field trip the next day and the others were to stay. Then we all came back to the Fairly Home to rest up for dinner. I went out to change money and buy water for the field trip. We had a super Indian dinner at a restaurant down the street, with wine that someone brought.
Next morning we got up at five and met our field trip companions on the ground floor. Bart had to be phoned to be woken up so we were late at the 5:30 rendezvous at CEGIS. Usually itís the Bangladeshis that are late Ö they have a latin-like attitude to time.
We drove for a couple of hours to an army base on the left bank of the Jamuna River, that guards the bridge. Mustafa made a deal with the base commander to get us a couple of fast boats so that we could go downstream about 10km to see some otherwise inaccessible erosion sites. Mustafa is Richadís (the guy studying at SFU) father, right-most in the picture below.
We visited a village that will surely be gone this time next year, swept away by the riverís inexorable movement to the east. Last year it gnawed 200 meters of the left bank and is expected to do the same this flood season.
At about 10:30 we were back at the army base having lunch. A procession of bizarre boats entertained us.
Sid and the Jamuna Bridge.
We got back in the cars again (lovely air conditioning) and crossed the Jamuna bridge to the right bank. After going east for a while, we headed north again and hit the Jamuna again at another serious erosion site weíd identified on a satellite image of the region with river bank delineations for last year (red line) and this year, so you can see the active erosion where we were.
One of the union (sub-district) prashad (council) members who had come to see what we were up to befriended Pepa.
Then we headed south uncomfortably on bumpy levees for a couple of hours, almost to the confluence of the Jamuna and the Padma (respectively known elsewhere as the Brahmaputra and the Ganges), to a village that seemed entirely devoted to weaving, with scores of corrugated-tin buildings jammed with ancient looms operated by men and boys, never women.
The villages must rarely see foreigners because they followed us everywhere. The kids were especially thrilled. They were clamoring to have their picture taken, spontaneously posing in huge groups with the more insistent pushing to the front and bouncing up and down to get in the picture.
By this time weíd visited all of the places we intended to see so we started home, by a different route that at one point involved crossing a river by loading the two vehicles onto a bamboo platform laid across a couple of the long skinny boats you saw earlier. The perfectly-good-looking bridge in the background wasnít available to us for some reason.
We didnít get back to the Fairly Home until 10pm - long day.
more later ...