7up-the taste that has taken over

If you ever visit Bangladesh, there are a few things you should know:

 7up

When you go to a restaurant outside of Dhaka, you often have two choices: water or 7up. If you are in Dhaka, Pepsi—or in a very rare occasion—Diet Pepsi might be available. They will also ask you if you want your water or 7up “normal or cold.” The drinks, including 7up, are often room temperature. Once you realize that 7up is all you can get, you will start to love 7up. You will rejoice when you find out the restaurant sells cold 7up. If you find a diet coke, it is a rare occasion. My advice is to buy all of them.

Roundabouts

Dhaka loves roundabouts. These are the circular traffic patterns used instead of four way stops. Keep in mind that the traffic lights probably mean nothing (there are a few intersections where people pay attention to them, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason why). If you need to turn, your driver will just dodge traffic around the roundabout. Sometimes a policeman with a long, skinny stick directs traffic and beats cars.

Doreos

It is not always easy to find chocolate bars or cookies. If you go to a store and they sell Doreos that look on the package like Oreos, do not buy them. I repeat DO NOT BUY THEM. They are not good. In fact, when we played card games the loser had to eat a Doreo. Hence Tim Delaney’s new nickname “Doreo Delaney.”

 Sitting down

Everyone in Bangladesh wants you to sit down. If you say that you would like to stand, they will take this to mean that you just don’t like the chair they have brought. One or more people will then go get more chairs for you to choose from—sometimes it is the exact same chair you said you didn’t want to sit in. No matter. They want you to sit.  My advice is to just sit the first time you are asked.

 Eating

Bangladeshis love you to eat. No matter how much you have eaten, they always believe you are holding out on them when you say you are full. They just know that you can fit a few more bites of rice into your stomach. They will continue to offer food to you until you leave.

 Tea

Drinking hot tea in 100 degree weather seems crazy, but it is what you do in Bangladesh. Our group adapted quickly and also began drinking tea in all kinds of weather. Somehow, it does not make you hotter. Also, Bangladesh people love sugar. At least one teaspoon of sugar is put into each small cup of tea.  You won’t find artificial sweetener anywhere in the country. Don’t worry, though, because it tastes great.  We’ve gotten used to having tea after every meal. I wonder who will serve me tea after lunch and dinner in the states?

 Sweets

Speaking of sugar. Bangladesh has the most wonderful sweets. Make sure you try the blackberries. The name is deceiving. There are no berries involved. It is a soft oval doughnut (no hole) submerged in a krispy kreme-like glaze. It is heavenly.

 Eating times

It is a good idea to pack snacks. You eat when you get up, 2 p.m. and 8 or 9 p.m. We also quickly adapted to this schedule. Although it is so hot, you don’t want to eat anyway.

 American food

If you absolutely need American food, hit up American Burger (several locations) or Coffee World (in Bhanani–they also serve pizza).  Coffee World grinds the beans and makes a plethora of coffee drinks, including just plain coffee.

 Bangladeshi head nods

There is a hole language of head nods that you need to know: yes, no, maybe, thank you, etc.  Our interpreter Younus was  nice enough to demonstrate each of these nods. Lynne Ausman is posting the photos and an explanation. Make sure you check out her blog.

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Tori’s first post

One week from tomorrow I board a plane to start my five-week journey to learn firsthand about Grameen Bank. I am extremely interested in Grameen’s concepts, especially micro lending to those not considered credit-worthy and Social Business (more on that in a later post).

If you haven’t had a chance to learn about Grameen, I encourage you to go to their Web site www.grameen-info.org or, even better, read Dr. Yunus’s Banker to the Poor and Building Social Business books.

There are currently Grameen Bank branches in the US in New York and Nebraska. More are planned for larger cities like San Francisco.  I was having lunch with a friend a few months ago and I explained the Grameen concept to her. I wondered if it could be applied in Cincinnati.

She shared a story with me about a woman that she knows in our city. The woman works fulltime, has two children and is married. Her husband is disabled and as a result cannot work. The family lives in poverty in a dilapidated building and struggles to not only pay their bills but put food on the table.  She works hard, goes without for her children and somehow finds the time to be active in her church to help others. 

She said that the woman has a talent (I am changing the talent just in case someone knows her) in making puppets. She often puts on shows for free at community groups, or for very little money.  She wishes that she had more money to buy better supplies to make better puppets and build a stage for them. If she did, she believes she could start a business and do well.

This woman is an example of someone in Cincinnati who could use a small loan.

I think about myself and how, while I have had some terrible jobs along the way, I have always had the opportunity to choose what I did based on my own talent and interests. I chose my major in college, I chose my career path. Why shouldn’t this woman have an opportunity to choose her career path like I did? Is it only that I started in a better financial position because of my family?

This is a concept I plan to explore and learn about while at Grameen.  Wish me luck. Until next time.