I am Stefan Belabed, writing this about 6 months after initially meeting Iffat in Dhaka during my 4 week trip across Bangladesh. It has been a while but I vividly remember the time we spent and it still puts a smile on my face. According to an old friend of mine from Austria these moments must be among the most precious ones when looking back at the things you did and the people you met.
It was in March of 2019 that I made my first visit to the country, walking across the northern border from neighboring Meghalaya in India. Around 3 weeks after I had just spent the night on a bus from the Hill tracts in the East when I reached Dhaka early morning and headed straight to Iffat’s house. Comfortably squeezed onto the back of a mototaxi with my 20kg backpack on the back and my rucksack dangling off the side somewhere I now figure it must have been my sleep deprivation that balanced me to stay on the bike for the 40 minute or so ride while taking in my very first impressions of Iffat’s buzzing hometown.
She had already left for work the time I reached but upon my desperate call gladly informed her mom about a disoriented traveller waiting down in the street to be picked up and brought inside their house. A shower and a short nap later I went out to start discovering the surrounding areas. With the Botanical Garden, the National Cricket Stadium and tons of delicious street food ticked off the list I headed over to the other side of town where we finally met for dinner in a cozy yet stylish rooftop restaurant. Had it been a rusty old tea stall in the old quarter I know it would not have mattered at all. I really enjoyed listening to your story, your travel memories, your choices of not giving a damn about what other people think of you. Now there, I thought, was one impressive and independent woman and lucky I started feeling to have met you.
Over the course of the night and the next couple of days we shared a whole bunch of conversations, home cooked meals, ridiculous stereotypes about our countries and most importantly the mutual sense that you simply never know when your best childhood friend suddenly pops up on couchsurfing. We played games, danced the Waltz in the middle of the night, watched football and pulled each other’s leg over citrus fruit terminology – they are NOT oranges! 🙂 – and whatnot.
6 months after I still smile about all of it. That baby’s fancy first birthday party I happily tagged along for, the picturesque university campus you took me to on your work trip, the most refreshing kulfi, the app based bicycle and your lovely friends you introduced me to. Not to forget your very own rooftop and the longest, most hazardous walk back down ever. Thank you from the heart for your hospitality and generosity, your humour and kindness and our long-distance texting friendship since then.
My two years of travelling around the world would have been incomplete without my stay in Dhaka with Iffat and her lovely mom. To all future travellers: Iffat is passionate and knowledgeable about her country and the places she has visited. Take her advice or plan something out together, you are in for a treat. So do swing by and send my regards.