Many years ago I first became interested in the storms of Bangladesh. It was the mystery of it all, the fact that here was this place that to most of us has little perception to the world. And weather lore, news accounts and a whole lot of meteorological data seemed to all suggest, that behind the curtain may lie one of the greatest, if not the greatest, severe storm capitols of the world.
After years of indecision and conversations with Jonathan Finch who pretty much wrote the book on forecasting in Bangladesh, I decided this year was the year. No doubt the preparations were immensive, the amount of studying, planning and coordinating was a substantial undertaking. But I am truly happy to report that these things have all come together and that I currently reside in Bangladesh with a wonderful local team including a University of Dhaka student, an excellent maniacal driver and a team back in the United States assisting in the forecasting and nowcasting duties.
I arrived in Dubai and around 7am last night. My first trip overseas, I was amazed at the splendor of both Dubai and of Emirates Airlines in general, hearkening back to a world where perception was everything and status was a reflection on how people saw you (PAN AM days of America). The plane for Dhaka left at 2am, still having been able to sleep during the previous 17 hour flight and 7 hour delay, I would most certainly not be doing so now. It was a packed plane with around 350 Bengalis ready to head home. It was truly funny to see how many of them couldn’t understand anything the flight attendants said even after repeating herself over and over, as if they aren’t really concerned with such things.
On landing the old airport sent out a raggedy old bus that was rusting with many broken fans and we packed in tight on it.
After an hour and a half of getting through customs and getting my bags which thankfully arrived, I went outside to the hot, moist and slightly burnt smell of Dhaka. There were cars coming in everywhere being yelled at by some military officer. Behind a fencer were about one hundred people. young and old, unfortunates.
Having decided that due to lack of data and a definitive target I would stay In Dhaka we went on a 3 hour trip to the hotel through Dhaka. All I can is ‘wow’, this place is chaotically beautiful. Immensely unique – full of incredible friendliness and insane poverty. You can see anything anywhere, and the roads are complete anarchy. It’s an adventure to go anywhere, where at anymoment you may be sandwiched in by two buses or watch a bunch of people run nearly over. The sound of Dhaka is the sound of the horn! It’s not aggressive driving, it’s just anarchy where by the rules are dictated by who is willing to push the farthest. Rickshaws both motorized and pedal driven are all over the roads.
People were living on the street, with a simple cloth tent, while next door may be a BMW dealership. A fire burned out of control for no particular reason and yet underlying it all, there is some structure to this chaos, not a lot but just enough to sustain it. The people are friendly and helpful and are immensely proud that a foreigner would visit their country. One thing to remember is Bangladesh is a young country and it creates feelings in the soul similar to what those people who came to an early America. Imagine that time you showed your friend a favorite track of a record you wanted them to hear, that eager anticipation while they listened to it. The art, uniqueness and warmth are of the Bengali people are of a degree you can find very few places.
Tomorrow we resume our mission to locate severe storms, onward!