From the moment Ryan and I stepped off of the plane in Dhaka, the sharp contrasts between the U.S. and Bangladesh have been readily apparent. Upon entering my first Bangladeshi bathroom, imagine my surprise as I found four young girls eating dinner upon its floor! To further enhance this experience, I entered into the stall to find not a toilet, but a sanitary latrine (essentially a porcelain hole in the floor). Although I had prepared myself for this transition--including the unfortunate absence of toilet paper--I still had to take a moment to come to terms with my surroundings before returning to being a functional human being.
After finally managing to locate our bags, Ryan and I proceeded to leave the airport. The week prior, we had received an email from Mizan--one of the Bangladeshi PEP workers--directing us to meet our hosts outside of the airport. From the moment we left the doors, Ryan and I found ourselves in absolute chaos. In front of us, several cars and taxis squeezed and maneuvered themselves through the small road. A large fence prevented the swarms of people waiting for arrivals from all entering the pick-up area. Overwhelmed, Ryan and I scanned the crowd, looking for the "Welcome Kendra and Ryan!" sign we had been promised. A man approached us, and--in English--explained to us that a large protest had caused most of the roads in Dhaka to be closed, and it would be very unlikely for our hosts to have been able to make it to the airport. Just as I was on the brink of panicking, a man came up behind us and introduced himself as Titov, our translator (and--for that moment in time--our savior).
Although PEP had arranged a rental car for our pick up date, the large protest had prevented the car from reaching the airport. Fortunately, we were able to find a taxi willing to drive us the YWCA Guesthouse, where Ryan and I are to spend our time while in Dhaka. For those of you who have not driven in a country lacking in traffic laws, let me assure you that it is a terrifying experience! Buses, cars, trucks, rickshaws, and bicycles zoomed past each other with little regard for--to be blunt--anything remotely resembling an "American" safety precaution.
We finally--safely--arrived at the YWCA Guesthouse. It wasn't until we reached the guesthouse that Titov informed us that earlier that day they had been planning to arrange picking us up at the airport in an ambulance. Imagine if our first driving experience in Bangladesh had involved an ambulance! Although, I am quite certain it would not have been the strangest experience we will have this summer.