My flight out of Saudi Arabia left thirty minutes late. It was a two-story Saudi Arabia airline, and almost full, mostly with Bangladeshi male laborers returning to their country, and very few women. It was slightly uncomfortable because I received a lot of stares at the airport, and one guy even took a photo of me with his phone. I was completely irritated and wanted to say something but didn’t want more attention. My seat was upstairs and I got more stares as I saw down from the men surrounding me. I almost wanted to snap and ask if they planned to look my direction the entire five hours. The hostess though right before take off came by and told me she has a “more comfortable” seat for me and I was taken to the back where I got an entire row to myself.
Landing in Bangladesh was really cool since I find the view to be breathtaking when we cross India and you can see the rivers snaking around the country. The city itself is vast looking and dense, with buildings clustered around each other, and the slums pocketing around spaces. You could feel the volume of people from the air, even if you did not see them yet.
After landing, I found the man holding my name pretty quickly and was taken immediately to the diplomatic counter which was really cool since I got to avoid the line and pretend I was more special than I really am. He filled out everything for me and I was escorted by two men who helped me locate my luggage. This part took forever and it did not help when my mother called and told me that last time it took three hours for her luggage to come out. I didn’t realize there were so many people on my flight and that they just had so much…stuff. Mostly wrapped around in what looked like comforters and then tied around in ropes. It reminded me of my childhood when we used to come to Dhaka and wait forever and almost every time, some luggage was missing and my dad had to fill out forms and we would get those two weeks later, often with items missing. A guy nearby who was on my flight asked, “is it always like this?”, and I told him that yes, as far as I heard, flights from the Middle East to Bangladesh were chaotic since they were usually full of labor migrants who probably were returning after years.
After they located my luggage we walked to the VIP section to greet the car that awaited us and off we drove to my apartment in Baridhara. The ride did not face the dreaded traffic that you hear about in this city. As we drove through Khelket, I just stared outside where I met familiarity of language and culture, though all unfamiliar at the same time. I wanted to buy the guavas sold on a stick by the random boys- they are cut like a flower and spices sprinkled at the top, a favorite of mine- but I didn’t want to risk getting sick already. I saw a train pass by with people sitting on the roof, to which my driver told me that they were “low class”, as translated from Bangla, and that they did not have the money for a seat so took to the roof instead. When I told him I wanted to try that, he looked at me in the rearview mirror and laughed, but in that foreigners-are-crazy way. The buses always amused me on the streets too, as they are packed beyond humane means, and all sorts of things are shouted from it. I saw a boy lean out of the bus and wash his entire head with bottled water, and then use it to spike up his hair in the front. The water dripping from his face was landing on the roof of a brand new white Toyota, and nothing was being said.
The familiarity of the honking followed me to my apartment where on my first night you could hear it all through the window. I forgot to sleep with a mosquito net but I always hated them, leading to a few red bumps on my feet. Welcome back.