So although Bangladesh is not your average stop on an around the world trip we are stopping here because our friend from school is getting married here and invited us for the week long festivities.
Also in case we are unable to get photos uploaded (the internet here is sooo slow), here are a couple albums Misia posted on facebook, they may help explain some of the events:
We spent our first day sari shopping in a local mall with Anika's (the bride's) cousins. We all loved sari shopping. They sit you down in the store and come and lay out and display all these gorgeous fabrics for you. We also bought some cheap large jewelry and bangles (a must for Bengali weddings), and some Bindis to put on our foreheads. Then we were rushed off to the beauty parlor to get our hair down (in the large teased Bengali style), and to get our saris put on. (a process that can take up to a half an hour and a ton of bobby pins.) The first night's event was the bride's holud, where the bride must be sad because she is leaving her family to join the groom's family. This is the night where the bride's side does various performances and we all did an Indian dance we had a friend from school teach us while we were in Hong Kong. Hopefully we will be able to post a video of it at some point. We also got henna on our hands at this holud.
The next morning we went to one of Anika's bride's houses to help wrap gifts for Arshad. When the bride's side enters the groom's holud they bring many gifts for the groom that is everything he needs for the whole week. (outfits, shoes, sweets, fruits, even cologne, lotion etc.) The same was done for Anika the day before. That night we went to the groom's holud but Anika was not allowed to come. (She is not allowed to see the groom yet, she hasn't seen Arshad (the groom), for a month at this point). The groom's holud had entertainment as well, but Arshad was allowed to smile and party because he is happy to be welcoming Anika into his family, we thought it was very unfair! At both of the holuds guests would take turns visiting with the bride and groom and rubbing tumeric on their hands and faces and feeding them. (We also did a ritual where we rubbed yellow tumeric on Anika that afternoon, the tumeric makes them yellow, or paler, which traditionally is what a bride should be.)
The next morning was the actual religious wedding ceremony, where Arshad and Anika were put in two separate rooms and the priest (well the muslim religious representative, not sure of the title), went back and forth between the two rooms having them sign the official wedding document. That night was the wedding where basically they were put on stages again for people to take pictures with them. The craziest part of the night was when Arshad arrived (Anika's side was hosting the wedding night), he arrived on a horse drawn carriage and his family was stopped at the door by our "Gate" of Anika's cousins and her friends. They are suppose to pay money to the family before Arshad is allowed to have her. It got to be a pretty aggressive gate, Candice and Jenny fought and yelled a lot and Misia was trampled. They brought fake bags of money, and that was all we managed to negotiate, because Arshad snuck in back door while we were all still fighting. Later that evening it was the first time Anika and Arshad got to see each other. Arshad first had to see her through a mirror and tell her how beautiful she is.
The next day was the wedding reception, which was more Western. And then everyday after that was full of one family member or another hosting a lunch or a dinner at their various homes. (the whole thing lasted about 8 days.)
One afternoon we had a luncheon at Anika's Dad's cement factory. It was very interesting to see how a factory is run in a foreign country. One luncheon was at a country home where we got to help fish Bengali style with nets in a lake. We also got to see some village children which we loved!
One afternoon/night we also got to see a local Dhaka fashion show. It was fun to see what they could do with saris in a fashion show. We liked a lot of the day wear too.
So we should mention a few cultural notes of what we have seen and experienced in Bangladesh outside of all of the wedding activities. It is extremely extremely poor. Definitely the poorest place we have all seen. Every car ride we took we had street beggars knocking on our windows asking for money. They are not your typical beggars either. They are missing one or both arms or legs, they have boils, they can't walk properly, they have no teeth, etc etc. It is said they mothers cut of legs or injure their children so that they can make more money begging. Mothers also steal other people's babies so that they can carry around a naked baby to try to make more money.
The streets are also filled with men publicly squatting and peeing in sewers, make shift homes on the side of the roads etc. There are random cows tied up places and the occasional wandering goat.
We also learned about Bengali standard time, way worse than Peruvian standard time. A wedding event would be written on the itinerary as starting at 7:00, people would arrive 9:30/10 and dinner was on average at 11, our record was midnight. It did not phase most of the family to wake up at 9 or 10 the next morning after a party that went until 3 or 4 and be full of energy. We decided that Bengalis just don't need sleep, they are crazy, they could party all the time. We were very tired by the end of the week!
The traffic here is crazy, somewhere ten minutes away could take an hour to get to. The flooding and rain did not help. Though they would drive through streets full of water up to your knees without thinking twice. They also hit each other rather regularly, they are crazy drivers, and think nothing of it. Everyone's cars are scratched up. Yet the accidents are never severe and in a weird way they are good drivers. The population is twice that of New York and all of Bangladesh is the size of Wisconsin, so crowded is an understatement.
All of this aside, Bengalis are the nicest most hospitable people you will ever meet. We are staying at a lower end hotel and it is the best service we have ever received in a hotel, and not even just on this trip. 5 people come out to tell us good morning every morning, they ask us twice a day if everything is going okay, and is our stay going well. They are so ready and willing to help us with everything and anything we need. We have seen this same type of service everywhere we go. At dinners it seems like every table has its own waiter to serve you anything. They get upset if you pour your own water. If you spill something in a house we would go to wipe it up like we would at home and they get upset. Someone else cleans it for us. We are getting very spoiled!
Everyone we meet is so excited to have internationals in town and want to make a good impressions on the internationals. You always feel very welcome.
Next we are off to India to see the Taj Mahal!