This photo isn't mine (I couldn't get my camera out fast enough), but it captures the amazing crowds I saw on trains. Simply mind-blowing. The photo is the winner of National Geographic's best single image in their 2011 travel photo image. Photographer: Yeow Kang Yeo.
I just returned from coaching soccer in Dhaka. Yep- you’ve read that right. Fortunately, I have one year of recreational soccer experience under my belt when I was six, and I found out Dhaka is in Bangladesh over a month ago, so this makes me more than qualified for the job. Also fortunately, I was only the assistant coach and female chaperone so the girls did have head coach Laurence to give them pointers and I was free to drum up team spirit by chanting “How funky is your chicken?” from the bench.

Most of our time was spent in and around the school soccer pitch but the 20+ hours we spent in the car to and from locations in the city left me with a memorable impression. I hope the following can give you a glimpse into the city.

Dhaka Fast Facts
– 16 million and counting (some say numbers are as high as 30 million)
– 400,000 cycle rickshaws operate in the city
– literacy rate is 72.7% ; national literacy rate of Bangladesh is 56.5%
– 90% of the city’s population are Muslim
– 50% of the country’s population make less than $1.25 / day
– National average life expectancy – 69
– You must pack a lunch if you are going to drive somewhere (traffic jams can mean hours at a stand still).
– As many as 60% of bus drivers get their licenses through bribes.
– Double-decker buses may be constructed by simply welding two regular buses on top of one another.
– Spitting in the airport is mandatory.
– Bangladesh just beat Sri Lanka in cricket by 5 wickets 😦
– Bangladeshis would also beat Sri Lankans in a staring contest. They not only stare but they take it to a whole new level by forming a crowd to circle around you.

* Stats are taken from UNICEF Bangladesh, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhaka#Demographics., and my extensive study in the 5 days I spent there.

All and all I did enjoy my stay and the interactions with many very warm and friendly people in Bangladesh. I would have liked to have the chance to do more exploring to develop a much clearer picture of the country.

Trina

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