Sunday July 5th was my first real day in Dhaka because a) I was recovered from jet lag and on normal hours, b) it was a weekday, and so c) Matt went to work and left me on my own. So what did I do?
Well, after Bangla class our driver took Matt to work, and I went along for the ride. On the way back, Amdad (the driver) took me to an office supply store, where he helped me negotiate on the price of some notebooks. He then drove me back home for lunch. By this point, Suchona (our housekeeper) had finished cleaning our apartment and doing our laundry, so I came home to a spotless place. I hadn't fully unpacked yet, and was planning on doing that while Matt was at work, but since Suchona took it upon herself to organize our closets (we have 5 spread between the 3 bedrooms), I now had an afternoon to kill.
So I summoned Amdad, who was waiting downstairs for as long as I wanted to stay in the apartment, hanging out with our team of 4+ full-time security guards behind the gated entrance to our building of 10 apartments. I asked him to take me to the beauty salon for a manicure and massage. 3 hours later, I emerged with my nails painted and neck considerably looser. I was even somehow able to relax amidst the stares of the entire spa staff and wealthy Bangladeshis getting pedicures.
Then Amdad went to pick up Matt from work, and when he came home we decided to head over to the American Club for some exercise. And by exercise, I mean talentlessly whacking tennis balls at each other while two ball boys chase after our missed shots and offer technique instruction. We then enlisted our favorite tennis pro to play doubles with us when Matt's friend came along. By the time we finished I was practically swimming in sweat – the humidity here, especially in monsoon season, is unbearable – so we headed up to the American Club pub for dinner and drinks while we watched the Federer-Roddick showdown. Dinner & drinks doesn’t sound extravagant, except when you’re eating a bacon cheeseburger and drinking margaritas in a Muslim country where all pork products and alcohol are strictly forbidden.
In summary: private car & driver, personal shopper, maid, gated home, security staff, beauty salon & spa, members-only country club, tennis, private restaurant with contraband menu. I realize this makes me sound extremely spoiled and snobby, and just for the record, I’ll concur that I’m the former but trying not to become the latter.
Now for some perspective:
This was one of my cheapest days I’ve spent anywhere, ever. The total cost of spa treatments was 600 taka, less than $10. We generously overpay both driver and housekeeper to the point of being told we’re fools, and they earn $4.30 and $7 a day respectively. Tennis court time is $1/hour. Food costs are so minimal that it’s silly to even add up the cents.
And secondly, if all Westerners were placed in 5 tiers (tier one being the most elite, and five being the base), Matt and I might fit into tier 3 or 4. Yes, the 18 year old Grameen interns live in hostels and travel by rickshaw, but there are also sprawling mansions near the American school that rival anything I’ve seen in Cherry Hills (the wealthy enclave of Denver). Most expats over 30 have their own compounds with personal security details, multiple drivers and maids, a cook, and imported furniture/art. Matt’s friend is house-sitting a place while the family is back in the States, and as I toured past the kid’s guitar collection, the secret wine cellar of rare vintages, the hand-painted family portraits, and the elaborate air conditioning system, I kept thinking what your world must become for this to be “home”.
All of this is to say that Bravo should consider piloting a “Real Housewives of Dhaka”.