02.05.2010 35 °C
The last day in Dhaka was pretty sad for many reasons: we were saying goodbye to some good friends who we wouldn't see this side of two years time, it was the end of the Asian adventure and Mark and I were to say farewell to each other for at least 8 months.
Mark’s flight was first and so I went with him to the airport. There were many tears and hugs, but I just told him to stop being so dramatic. Boom boom. My flight wasn't until 9pm and so Mark was already in Bangkok dodging grenades before I made it to the airport departure lounge where my plane would take me even further west and this was very sad in deed. However the prospect of going to Costa Rica seeming very real was also getting progressively more exciting.
Anyway, enough emotional chit chat. I wanted to mention my flight home because there were many notable occurrences. The first was that: a) I was the only white person and b) I was the only woman in the airport. Although there was the usual staring I didn't get a crowd of inquisitors surrounding me as is normally the case when with Mark. I think they have reservations about talking to a solo woman out of respect. Phew! Couldn't be bothered with all the questioning right then.
Once through the departure gates we found out we were going to be delayed 30 minutes due to bad weather and so myself and about 50 blokes sat cooped up in a room watching European football on a TV that was wheeled in for the occasion. I pretended to intently watch the football match as people blatantly sat there staring. When individuals do this you can do one of a few things:
1. Stare back until someone gives in. My personal favourite technique.
2. Smile and a smile will always be returned. This however gives men the wrong impression as women are supposed to lower their gaze. Basically this is the equivalent of winking suggestively to lecherous workmen on a building site, so use with caution.
3. If the staring is weirdly persistent (like on this flight where one man in the row in front made the effort to turn his neck approximately 120 degrees to stare throughout take off) then a stubborn frown and a shrug of the shoulders puts them right off.
I’m sure it’s just curios ignorance.
After a half hour wait we boarded the plane. The plane was a quarter full and I had 3 seats to myself. I don’t mind flying at all but I was on a Bangladesh version of Easy Jet and after seeing a cupboard door break when the hostess pulled on it too hard I suddenly didn’t feel safe.
We waited a further 30 minutes on the runway and then we were off. We were suddenly level with a spectacular electric storm in the clouds which was really amazing to see actually, although I was half expecting to see a gremlin tearing strips off the wing. Then the captain came on the Tannoy: he was English! Hugh Grant English! It really made me smile that amongst this alien atmosphere, gosh darn it there was a good old familiar voice waffling on and making unfunny jokes to an audience that aren't used to any kind of customer service, let alone happiness. I was now sure the old boy would fly the plane to safety regardless of broken cupboards and potential gremlins. I almost ran into the cockpit to shake his hand. But then 120 Degrees Neck would have something more to stare at. So I lay across my 3 seats and tried to sleep.
We arrived in Mumbai an hour late in total and then had to wait 20 minutes for some step ladders in order to get off the plane. I was staying in Mumbai for one night before heading to London and was now getting concerned that my airport transfer would have given up the wait. Luckily immigration wasn’t too slow, even with two staff members playing Grand Theft Auto instead of stamping passports. After my re-entry stamp was scrutinised for 10 minutes I was waved through to baggage where I waited for 45 minutes on the wrong belt because the handlers loaded our luggage onto the wrong one. Welcome back to India.
In arrivals I was very happy to learn that my transfer was ready and waiting and off I went to Anjalil Hotel for a few hours sleep before returning at 11am the next day. Some people in the hostel were still up watching the football highlights of the match I’d been watching and I joined them for a beer. They were suitably impressed with my knowledge of European football, especially when I started predicting free kicks and goals...
Bangladesh was a lot of fun. The people are very proud of their country, which I imagine is down to its struggle for Independence with Pakistan in the 70's, and welcome tourists with open arms - if of course you don't mind the staring! There is plenty to see and do for a week or so and the Tea Plantations are a fantastic way to spend a few days away from the hustle and bustle of Dhaka. Rural Banglasdesh is how I imagine India was 50 years ago and is very green, peaceful and beautiful. We didn't make it to the Sunderbans National Park which is home to the Bengal Tiger and is the largest mangrove field in the world with an abundance of wildlife. Unfortunately it was cyclone season and so it would have been too risky but if anyone reading this is going to Bangladesh this should be visited I think.
The next day I got on my flight to the UK. As I came into land through the thick cloud and grey skies, I saw good old London and I know one day I'll be back. For now though I'm off to check out Central America.