Normal is a relative term that recalibrates frequently.  At first glance, my normal life when I’m away is basically the same as my normal life at home: I eat, go to work, sit in an office, come home, and try to have some sort of social life.  On the surface, not that different. It’s all the little things that make my away normal unrecognisable from my home normal.

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Embassies are odd places, each have a distinct character, with similarities – separate spaces serve different purposes behind the walls, gates and guards.

Sitting under a tree with sixty policemen. As I sit, he pulls his boots back on, and adjusts his rifle. I am grateful for the occasional gritty, soggy breeze.

I’m in a bubble – beggars, pervs and the curious are kept away.

The man sitting beside me purchases two small bags of peanuts. They are diligently weighed out on an ancient hand-held scale.

As he passes me a bag, the ice is broken.

Charging through the jungle, following the sound of many hoolock gibbons. Clambering up and down dense undergrowth, slippery and wet underfoot. Bamboo, and spiky things whipping my face and legs. We are running. Flat out, pounding through the jungle after a family of gibbons.

Gah, spiderwebs. And worse – orb spiders the size of elephants. Cunningly positioned at face height.

Passing a soda bottle between friends, that may contain whisky, not soda.  Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s not soda.

Lulled by the rocking, the noise of the wheels on the track, warm air gushing through the window, the warm, close night.

Leaning out of the window into the darkness to have a cigarette as we pass over a bridge.

When I arrived in Dhaka, I purchased a few salwar kameez and I gratefully received some appropriate clothes from other Australians who were leaving – I had them altered, and have been living in them ever since. (Thanks Viv).

I have sweated through my clothes to the point of disintegration, so in an effort to keep myself nice, I have had to update my Sub-Continental Uniforms For Ladies.

After a day of vagueing out in the heat, my friend and I drag ourselves out to a French house party.

On my way home at 1:00am – sweat dripping off my face and getting in my eyes.

The street is silent and empty – no cigarette vendors squatting in the dirt, no traffic, rickshaws, or chai sellers. The stray dogs are silent.

The rickshaws in this town are not built for 5’10” ladies – with the canopy up to protect from the rain or the blazing sun or the continual sexual harassment has my head, tilted to fit, smashing into the metal frame.

Hair covered, body completely shrouded, I’m the object of comment, random suggestive noises, and hostile stares from the men as I pass by.

Today, Dhaka knew what I needed before I did. And gave it to me without reservation.

Sitting on a Fendi couch – green tea in exquisite china – a private collection of Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Dali, Mr Brainwash, and so many others.

I barely knew where I was. I’m talking quietly about modern art and other wondrous things.

Surely this isn’t Dhaka? It can’t be.