bonnieylau

Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

blackberry:”alarm goes off. ” bonnie: “HOW DO I WORK THIS THING?”

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 11:04 am

After 6 and a half weeks of humidity, 40 degree plus weather, non stop traffic, rickshaws, and 10,000 km later, i am home. After getting nearly 10 hours of sleep –passed out at approx 730pm, I have finally got the chance to reflect, just a little bit.

It’s quite odd now, trying to reacquaint myself with the life that i was living, only roughly 2 months ago. Everything seems so foreign. Since when was my room so big? The last time i checked, I was complaining about the little amount of space I had. And the washroom? I never noticed how white it was until this morning. Everything was neatly put in place, with all the shampoos in one area, and all the soaps and conditionners and creams in another area. It was really different considering 1) for the past 2 months, before I entered a washroom, I would spray the washroom with bugspray, 2) I would be encountered by at least one cockroach or geiko, 3) I would have barely any access to hot water. 4) I have not seen or used a bottle of conditionner for the past 2 months — so you can imagine how different it was for me. And then, the kitchen. Wow, the kitchen seems just so different to me. Coming back, has made me realize how much PROCESSED foods we actually eat here. I mean, cereals, cookies, and more cookes, and chips, and crackers and just… I’m not used to it. PLUS, to have all these things in stock? and just there, is something that I am starting to be thankful for.

For the past 2 months, I have literally been living off of 6 tshirts, 2 long sleeves and 3-4 pairs of leggings. Now that I’m back, I don’t find myself particularly ‘interested’ or ‘motivated’ by shopping and clothing. And the fact that more than 70% of the clothing here is made in Bangladesh, and having been there myself, well that doesn’t help the case either. But who knows, i’ll let everyone know how i feel when I go to a mall maybe later on this week or next week.

A funny incident: I woke up extremely early this morning–jet lag, and so I take my blackberry downstairs with me (for the time). And so, i’m just uploading some pictures and what not, and alll of a sudden,  my blackberry alarm goes off. And then, i panic! “which button do i go to to unlock again?” “which icon do i click on to turn the alarm off?” After two minutes of looking, scrolling, and panicing, i manage to find the alarm button and successfullyyyyy turn off the alarm.

Anyhow, it’s quite early in the morning at the moment, and I think I’m going to go and treat myself to an early morning run– i haven’t ran in ages!

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every city has a unique rhythm and beat.

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2010 at 4:39 pm

These past couple of days have been amazing. I realized about a week and a half ago that I wasn’t taking full advantage of my time here to get to know the locals and do what the bangladeshi’s do. So, I made some changes in my daily routine. 

1) I began to eat dal (By the way, thick dal, like with minimal water is actually quite amazing. chick peas are a great source of protein and the flavouring adds a new life to whatever it is you are having, be it naan or rice) 

2) I only eat with my hands now and I realize that there is actually something quite natural about being able to touch your food– not play with it by any means. 

With these two changes, and my constant urge to learn Bangla, I began to really love the people and city here. The more i could communicate with them, the happier I was. So what have i done? 

Well, for one, I went down the market below the CARE office — which is the wholesale market of the city and it is might i say, crazy (the only word that comes to mind to describe the market is jungle) and I went up to a man, sitting on the floor, completely bangla, and conversed with him as I wanted to purchase some fruit from him. The fact that he understood me, and didn’t charge me a “foreign premium” for the fruit, made me feel so welcome. Just a little gesture like that, made me feel like, I wasn’t an outcast, that I had a place here 🙂 And i must say, i was so afraid to go out on my own before. I mean, it was actually a frightful experience for me, not that I was scared for my safety or anything like that, but because, to go out to a place, that was 1) extremely busy and crazy 2) there are people everywhere 3) did i mention like crazy, like local market busy — and to converse in a language that you barely understand with someone who has been speaking the language their entire life, and buy fruit from him, it was just a bit difficult for me to muster the courage to do. However, now, i’m certainly a pro with conversing with the locals! 

Speaking of conversing with locals, I love talking to them and learning new words. Most of them have broken english (again depending on who you talk to) so it’s such a great learning experience for me to meet new locals and learn new words. It’s actually an amusing experience because when they first see me, they speak to me in english, of course, expecting an english response in return. But instead, i surpise them by saying either “lakh ben ah”–which means no needs– or “kemon asho”–which means how are you—. And almost always, they either start to chuckle, are thoroughly amused by me, or look at me in awe. I must say, I get a joy in awe-ing them and seeing them surprised because for me, somehow that little expression on their faces , or that chuckle, shows that I’ve somehwat broken down a barrier of communication and that i have a genuine interest in their country and culture. actually a funny experience happened today lol. We were in bango bazaar– and for those of you who dont’ know, almost all the clothing in Canada– including h&m, gap, zara, garage and etc– the clothing is made here. so guess what???.. you betcha 1$can to 70taka exchange rate( or big mac index) i did……. I went shopping!!!  So Afzal and I, at first, were a bit lost, and so we kept walking by this one vendor over and over again. After conversing with him a couple of times, leaving, then passing by him again… Well, let me describe the situation. I had my face turned away from him, and was looking at some jeans. All of a sudden, i heard someone saying “hey, HEY MISS”. and i turned around and saw the same vendor I had passed by many times before. Then he pointed at his mobile phone, then me, and asked, “you have number miss”… and that was when I pointed at Afzal and said “I dont’ have a mobile number. Ask my boyfriend” LOL. So yes, that was the first time I have ever gotten picked up by a Bengali guy. 

At a Moghul's Palace.

Yesterday, Afzal and I, along with his friends–also from Canada– Connor and Melinda, with Murtaza explored Old Dhaka. We went to a Moghul’s palace and a museum, and it was all fun and games lol. Connor had quite the female following, as he even got stopped on the street by some Bengali girls (maybe my age) and got told that “my goodness, you are so handsome, i am so grateful to have met you. add me on facebook”. This, was by far, the highlight of the day. And also, well the rickshaw traffic jam that we encountered. 

Wow, that was quite the long post, and I know I didn’t get a chance to include everything. However, I must go and finish preparing for a presentation tomorrow as well as finishing up the business plan. Plus, I have less than a day in this city and country, so I’m going to go make the best of it. every city has a unique rhythm and beat, and eventho i dont’ think i will ever get into the groove of dhaka and Bangladesh, I have such an appreciation for it. 🙂 

-Bonbon

and its all starting to hit me, right in the face…

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 3:50 am

This past week, Afzal and I spent our days in Mymensingh, by far our favourite place of the country. It is absolutely beautiful there, and yes, it’s a university town. It’s just, so quiet there, and peaceful. So what did we do?

On the 14th: We went into the office and started to brainstorm. We realized that we needed not only a business plan, but a transition plan because the business plan was more theory based and more about… “You need to do x, y ,z” rather than, “this is how you should proceed…”. As a result, we came to somewhat of a conclusion that we should produce a business plan and a transition plan (change management plan) that specifically outlines, who is responsible for the task, the budget allocated to the task, time period for completion, and metrics to track progress.  We also got a lot of the numbers we needed at this time, and afzal started pluggin the numbers away! This day was an okay day for me, because i was struggling with some stuff. Just that, I didn’t know if i was a worthwhile investment, if you know what i mean. I mean, i’m sure all of you know how amazing Afzal is, and with all the culture shock and everything combined, I was a lot less vocal over here. And I wasn’t sure if Dr. Shamsuddin saw value of me being here… Other than that though, I was getting really excited about the two plans.

on the 15th-17th: So on the 15th, we went into the office again and it was quite productive. Afzal really analyzed the company from a financial perspective and came to several conclusions on the overall operating efficiency of the company. As for myself, I took over the marketing role and really started to look at the company from a marketing perspective. It was really fun and exciting because for those of you who know, I LOVE MARKETING! It was nice to know that the knowledge that we acquire from class can actually be applied to in real life. So I looked at the brand equity of the organization and really compiled steps for them to build and improve their equity. We went to the botanical garden here, and that was super fun. There were so many flowers and it was just nice to get away from the office. we also went to Dr. Shamsuddin’s house to eat dinner. I must say, his wife is an amazing cook. I am extremely picky when it comes to vegetables, and wow, it was amazing!!!

Veggies, rice and more!

anyhow, it hit me this weekend. It’s almost all over. And i’m starting to regret all those days I just stayed in because I couldn’t take all the noise, or all those days I really didn’t like it over here because I threw up twice in one day– motion sickness and food. I’m starting to regret it because, despite all those things, the people here are amaazing. To see them make due with what they have, and to be happy, is a beautiful thing. So, what does this mean? Just means that for the next 9-10 days, i’m going to make the best of my time here!!! So BANGLADESH, here i come!.. again lol 🙂

me with Dr. Shamsuddin's son

Cox’s Bazaar, the world’s longest natural beach!

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2010 at 3:42 am

At Cafe Mermaid, the best cafe in Cox's Bazaar

me with the candle, at the cafe!

This entire week, up until around tuesday, I have had the pleasure of going to Cox’s Bazaar, in Bangladesh.

This experience was honestly amazing, and it was nice to get away from the hussle and bustle of the city of Dhaka. The beach is beautiful! And we went to this one cafe, called Cafe Mermaid, OH MY GOODNESS. I recommend it to anyone who plans to go to Cox’s Bazaar. It is absolutely amazing!!!All afzal and I did when we were there was brainstorm, take in the view, and write the business plan. Everything is starting to come together now. For those of you who dont’ know what we’re doing…

Afzal and I were asked by CARE Bangladesh, who’s funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to act as external consultants for one of their parterns, CDVF. CDVF= Community-based Dairy Vet Foundation. Essentially, CDVF is currently a foundation, but their funding runs out soon. So our job, is to go in, figure out if they can be sustainable by itself, and if so, how? I can’t lie, but so many of the issues we’ve been running into, the issues,  have either been OB related, or marketing related. Needless to say, for everyone who said specializing in OB is just unthink of, well think again! 😀 We’re redesigning the way the organization looks, and how to structure it (by function, by geography, or?.. remember OB Class everyone?) Yeup, and the organization, is having trouble with getting the poor to act a certain way; essentially, changing their behaviours. –marketing anyone?– Anyhow, we spent this weekend brainstorming, and so much of it was marketing, it was amazing! JUST, wow. I LOVED LOVED LOVED every second of it. Those of you in Sirsi’s class, remember needs segmentation? YEUP. and Remember, all the things he wrote about segmentation, and the pitfalls of over-segmenting and all those things, yes, you can actually use those in real life! they’re applicable!!!

Anyhow, i’ve been back in Dhaka for the past couple of days, but today, in about 30 minutes, im off to Mymensingh with afzal again to look over the finances! IRR’s, and NPV’s, here i come! & remember when i said Afzal and I don’t stay in one place for more than 3 nights, well it’s actually true! lol

Afzal: “no i’ve never met Dr. Yunus.” Guy: “yeah, i’ve met him… 3 times.”

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2010 at 4:04 pm
Been so busy these past 3 days!  Finally, I get a bit of free time to reflect on the experiences in these past couple of days.

On July 4th, Afzal and I left Dhaka and headed for Chittagong, the second largest city in Bangladesh. After arriving in the afternoon, Afzal and I decided to get settled in, do some reading, and yes, we explored the city. The first night, we ate at a place called Hotel Zaman: this restaurant is very famous with the locals. As a matter of fact, Dr. Moshuir told us that there is not one person in Chittagong that doesn’t know of this restaurant! Anyhow, walking around the city was quite an eye opening experience and as you walk, you began to notice differences and similarities of the people here, as compared to let’s say Dhaka or Satkhira. First, the people here are noticeably more wealthy. You wouldn’t be able to guess, but glasses, something in Canada that we just take as normal, or something that we don’t speak/think much about, says a lot about a person’s status and place in society. Now, glasses with thick western bands on the side, that says even more about your job and education. In Chittagong, it is noticeable that many of the people here are quite wealthy, and most are upper class. 

Yesterday, Afzal and I, along with Dr. Kemal and Dr. Moshuir, decided to visit some farms, and go with them on their field visits— as a part of their contract with CDVF, they must pay the farms monthly visits to ensure the health of the cattle. Now, I must say, the highlight of this day was when we were waiting in a small part of the town for some of the farmers to come, and most of the kids (8-10) were getting off of school. I began to snap pictures of them, and the next thing you knew, there were around 30-40 kids dressed in uniform surrounding me. 

In a village, in Chittagong.

I'm trying to speak to them. Clearly, they have trouble understanding me! Can you spot me?

It was quite an experience trying to speak with them, and when i asked them about the world cup, boy, did they have an opinion about it! By the way, as i mentioned before, most Bengalis are either Brazil or Argentina fans, but now that both teams are out, they’re cheering for Spain!!! But it was such a heart warming and amazing experience to have met all of them. And despite the language barrier, and me struggling so hard to speak to them, i could tell that they understand what I was trying to say , and likewise, i could understand somewhat of what they were tring to say!

 Today, Afzal and I didn’t do much, but go around town and explore the city. We saw giant torteoise and fed them, which was super cool. We also went to Chittagong University, where Dr. Yunus was a professor at! It was just great seeing where Dr. Yunus came from, and was totally Afzal’s idea, but I’m so glad I agreed to go— not that i had much of a choice lol. But boy, am i glad? And as we were in the car, we were reflecting a bit, how urban poverty and rural poverty differs.

Me feeding the giant tortoise!

But the highlight of the day, we visited Jobra village, which is where Dr. Muhammed Yunus, first founded Grameen Bank!— that’s what i recall Afzal saying!—Afzal even met a guy, around our age, who has met Dr. Yunus, not once, or twice, BUT THREE TIMES!!! Wow!!! 

Let’s just say, that was by far, the coolest thing ever we’ve done in Bangladesh so far! Anyhow, Afzal and I are probably going out in the town to see some more attractions and hang out with the locals. Maybe we’ll even watch the Spain game on the streets with them, who knows? 

The plans for tomorrow, well Afzal and I, yes, will be going to Cox’s Bazar and will be spending the weekend there brainstorming and what not. For those of you who have never heard of it, google it! And Yes, be jealous, be very jealous 😛 

By the way, Afzal is awesome, for taking all my  pictures! So here’s your shoutout biya! 😛

Jobra Village: Where Grameen started.

By the way, here’s a picture of a school in Jobra Village!

“Hey you, that should have cost 10 taka, give them the rest of their change.”

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Today has been my favourite day thus far in Bangladesh. It really introduced me to the beauty of Dhaka, and how despite the pollution and the people, and all the constant honking, the city has a unique charm and life to it.

The day started off with breakfast followed by Afzal and mine’s first ride in a CNG !

at the back of the CNG

 It was quite an eventful experience, and although it looks very tiny on the outside, it is actually quite spacious and roomy. We took the CNG for about half an hour and ended up in Newmarket, which is in Central Dhaka: a bazaar that sells western clothing and essentially everything and anything you can think of!

Here is what I bought: A backpack, and a scarf!

the backpack!

the scarf! yes, 1.50$ canadian!

The scarf is beautiful isn’t it? And it cost me, wait for it, a total of 1.50$ Canadian! BOO YAA!! I must say, thank you afzal for helping me bargain. His hindi is actually really useful thus far, and has helped a lot, especially when purchasing items, since everyone raises the prices like 93420934 times because we’re foreigners!

Then, we decided to walk around, and we walked over a bridge and ended up with this view of the city. Crazy isn’t it? A mess isn’t it? But if you took the time to explore , you’d figure out that there is a method to the madness.

View of Central Dhaka

 There are just so many rickshaws, and CNGS! We ended up walking some more, and thanks to lonely planet, we ended up in this restaurant called Malancha Restaurant, which is where many of the university students go to eat and what not. We sat down to eat, and met some uni students! It was really cool to meet the locals and people our age, and people that could speak English!!!

After lunch, Afzal and I decided to, well, go to the National Stadium. For those of you who don’t know this, Afzal’s grandfather used to own a store at the national stadium in Dhaka, and so, we wanted to go see if it was still there! Now, the part of this trip that really made an impression of me, was that the locals could see how Afzal and I were struggling to find our way there , and they could see that we didn’t really know where to go, and what method of transportation to get there. 2-3 men actually stopped, and told us where to go, and even waited for a bus to come, made sure we were on the bus, and made sure the bus driver and the guy who calls the stops (over here, if you want to get off, you have to tell a guy, who then hits the side of the car, which is a signal to the bus driver), that he should let us (afzal and i) know when we get to the national stadium. The bus ride was quite an experience. Although the entire bus was star-ing at me, i must say, I am starting to get accustomed to it. They’re just curious! So the bus ride was really fun and we really explored and go to see Central Dhaka. A really heart warming incident: As afzal and i were getting off the bus, we paid (this is how it’s done here). And we gave the guy 50 tk, and he gave us back 35 tk. All of a sudden, a stranger on the bus—a local—  said to the money collector… “hey, that should have cost 10 taka. Give them the rest of their change”. Although the difference was 5 tk, it was just really nice of the guy to go out of his way to ensure we (afzal and I) weren’t ripped off.

So we finally arrive at the stadium, and boy, it was beautiful. We got some pictures, but they’re currently renovating, so it’s not perfect (the stadium), but it’s surely big and beautiful! They play a lot of the cricket matches here, so that’s super cool!

After we saw the stadium, it was around 4:00 and so we decided to try to catch a CNG to go home. However, we walked and walked and walked, and soon, I think we walked near Old Dhaka. It was just so cool, seeing the locals do their thing. We even walked by a band of boys, who were playing this game, sort of a mix between pool and checkers— you use your chips and you hit the other persons chips into their holes: the game is played on a board! And they saw that we were watching, and even invited us to play!!! I think it’s called Karem, that’s what affy said. Although afzal and i both didn’t play, we made a promise to ourselves that we would next time!

At night, we decided to hit up a fancy shmancy restaurant! Lol, it’s called spaghetti jazz, and we had pizza! yay! The best experience tho, of the night, was going into the markets, and seeing all the fruits and meeting the locals.

The fruit market!

 BUT THE ULTIMATE BEST PART, was watching the argentina vs germany match, with hundreds and hundreds of people, on the streets. At first, it was in the nearby fruit market, people, all from the shops and nearby, just gathered, in front of one large tv projector. Sitting on the pavement, all together… just watching. It was amazing. Then, in the middle of the “times square” of Dhaka, on the giant bigscreen, the game was playing, and Afzal and I, decided to join in on the festivaties. The crowds roaring, and full of emotion; especially since most Bengali are Argentina and or Brazil fans! Despite Argentina’s loss, I will say, this was an amazing experience, being out with the locals! I hope to do the same in Chittagong, and in Cox Bazar!

Anyhow, i’m going to bed now, because i have an early 6am morning tmrw! Ciao for now! Ps richard todd, i tried some more indian / bengali food today lol. Thought you’d be proud. And sylvia, i bought you a keychain!

DHAKA, and Middle East Grad Trip?

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm

So, for the past couple of days, Afzal and I went to Jaipurhat, and Bogra and it was amazing!

Afzal and I actually conducted a meeting, with all the primary stakeholders who were part of the project.  

Afzal and I conducting the session.

me listening to suggestions

So we had people from Mymensingh (north), Satkhira (South West), Chittagong (South East) and from Jaipurhat and Bogra (which is North west). We presented to a room of 20 plus people I would say, and did a vision-ing and mission-ing session where the stakeholders,  which was super cool. At first, I was a bit nervous , i can’t lie because most of the people in the room were about 30-40 and plus, but as time went on, I felt more and more comfortable!  It was lots of fun, but now, imagine this…  a six hour meeting, with people who don’t understand you and thus, you need a translator, in the HEAT WITH NO AC. NOW THATS A WORKOUT!!!!! AH HA HA, i swear, it was so so so hot, and humiddd! OH MY GOODNESS!!!!

Red Chillies Menu! Beautiful eh?

 

After the meeting, we just chilled, and that night, we went to a restaurant called Red Chillies in Bogra, Bangladesh. AND LET ME TELL YOU, how amazing it was for me to get some chinese food in my system. Oh how i miss soy sauce, and vegetables!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even if it was hakka style chinese food, I still loved it!!!

And yesterday, i got supersick and yes, i threw up. :(, But like i said before, Afzal was there to take of me. I don’t really know the exact cause, but I will say that it was a combination of breakfast (something weird there) and the car ride. Yesterday, i must say was a real low of my experience here in Bangladesh. I just hated it. The car, the constant stopping and going and stopping and honking of the car for 3 hours straight and noise and just everything. All the people and pollution! I wanted to get away from ALL OF IT!!!!  I wanted time to myself. But i’m better now. I know i’ll adjust, because that’s what I do!

Another thing that i’ve really appreciated is the fact that i’m learning a lot here. For example, a lot of the men here (a lot of business meetings and what not will only consist of men, and thus at these meetings i’ve been having, for almost all cases, i would be the only women there) would not look at me or even acknowledge me during these meetings, even as I am speaking. At first, I took a little offense to this, despite that fact that I knew that it was part of the culture for them—- to not shake a women’s hand or look at them directly. It started to bug me a lot because I felt like they weren’t acknowledging me or didn’t feel like what i was saying was of value. But then afzal told me, that the fact that they don’t look at me, or shake my hand is actually very respectful, because they think i deserve my space and what not… i don’t remember what the concept is called again, Afzal explained it to me.

Anyhow, I watched a movie today; Body of Lies, and after being in Dubai and everything (with the 8 hour stopover) I AM CONVINCED. I AM SOLD BABY, grad trip 2012, TO THE MIDDLE EAST!!!! OH MY GOODNESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED, the people the culture, the EVERYTHING, is just so exotic to me!!! I don’t know man– I think certain news stations and the media may portray the middle east in a certain light that isn’t true. I don’t know man, all i’m saying is that the middle east, fascinates me!

Also, today, Afzal and I went to Dhaba to eat! and it was amazing! Oh my goodness!!! This restaurant, is known to serve high class street food. It was amazing, just look at my plate, i cleaned it off!!!!!!

DHABA!!! AMAZING FOOD

ANYHOW, on sunday, Afzal and I will be travelling to Chittagong, and then staying in Cox Bazar for the entire weekend; Cox Bazar is supposed to be the longest white sand beach in the world! So we’re super excited for this!! Anyhow, goodbye for now. Talk soon!