One day, two days, three days, four
Well we arrived. 5:30am Bangali time on Tuesday morning.
Day 1, 2, 3
The flights were pretty uneventful, just your normal across the world flights until we got to Mumbai. Mumbai has an interesting airport and security measures. After deboarding in Mumbai, we proceeded to the ticket counter to be able to board our next flight to Dhaka. The security split men and women into two different lines where everyone was hand searched in addition to the normal electronic screening. All bags had to have a name tag (the ones the airlines usually provide for you) which were stamped by security as having passed successfully. We had about 4 hours so we all grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the gate. By the time 2:30am (boarding time) rolled around we were exhausted and ready to finish the travel to Bangladesh. When they called to board, immediately hundreds of men formed a line. It was like someone had announced a free give-a-way. We all waited patiently at the end of the line. When we got to the top of the line, our bags were x-rayed again and we were frisked before loading the bus to the plane. The stamped security tags were checked as well, several people did not leave security with the much coveted security name tags and were rushed back to security to obtain them. Fortunately, everything worked out well and we all made it onto the plane.
This particular plane trip was interesting to say the least. It was the 12 Americans on board with 200+ Bangali/Indian men who seemed to amazed by our presence – they stared at us the entire trip. The flight attendants moved people around to ensure that all of us were seated next to eachother. Immediately upon boarding, I noticed a rather foul stench and knew the trip would be a long four hours; when the flight attendant came down the aisle with air freshener! I’ve never seen this happen on a flight, but on this one it did. On top of it all, everything was a bit rickety, broken emergency exits, lots of creaks and cracks as we flew. Check out Mike’s Blog for a video of the this plane ride.
Arriving in Bangladesh was very exciting and after we deboarded and entered the airport, we started filling out customs papers and standing in a seemingly never-ending line for foreign nationals. Then Dr. Ahmed’s brother-in-law showed up and our entire group was moved from the back of the foreign nationals line to the beginning of a new line, specially designed for us! We breezed through customs, collected our luggage and headed to our hotel transport. I was amazed at the number of people at the airport, just staring at people coming and going. And the hotel transport was another crazy ride. I’ve never seen buses so close to another vehicle without actually hitting them! I know that I felt there were a couple of close calls but we finally arrived.
The hotel staff is incredibly accommodating and transported our bags to our rooms for us. We gave them $1 USD tip (70 taka), and we quickly became the favored guests. One staff member even brought us a drinking glass (which we didn’t ask for) in an effort to obtain a dollar!
Today was our first day at the bank. We met with Grameen Bank’s General Manager and Deputy General Manager and went over our general itinerary. We also had the opportunity to go through the Grameen Bank Nobel Peace Prize museum. I’ve uploaded pictures onto flikr which is linked on the right.
Tomorrow we are doing a day-trip to a village and Sunday we leave for a four-night, five-day village stay followed immediately by a trip to the Grameen Fisheries which is a three-day trip. Right before we leave on Sunday, we will be meeting Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank!