Germany: blissed out with Bangladeshis

After our stay with Fred, we headed to Karlsruhe to stay with our good friend Bishawjit and his family. Bishawjit couchsurfed with us for a week in Colorado when he was presenting at the Global Governance conference at CSU. Within a few minutes of meeting me back in May, he insisted that when we come to Germany, we had to come stay with his family.

Months later, and there we were.  We had such a nice time with them. Dipika, his wife, and he make the most delicious Bangladeshi food, and we got to eat it for every meal.  Dipika is so well-known for her sweet achar (in Bengali cuisine, it’s a sweet chutney) that  her friends delight in being pregnant so they can ask her for achar as a baby shower present. She also made us these amazing banana fritters with bananas we brought and gram flour.

 We were invited to go with them to an Eid celebration with all of their Bengali Muslim friends.  They themselves are Hindu, but the beautiful part is that they all respect each other’s religion, and because mostly, they identify as Bengali.

Dressing up for Eid in gifted clothes

As I mentioned elsewhere, the most touching part of the celebration was the cultural talent show when everyone joined in singing popular Bollywood/Hindi love songs.

Bishawjit recited from memory a very beautiful poem by Tagore (a Bangladeshi!)

When he had time, Bishawjit gave us a great tour around town and his university.  The town was really nice, with great public transportation by tram to nearly every place, and lots of shopping, cafes, and museums.  We got to see his office and department where he is working on his PhD at KIT (and he’s almost finished! woweee!).

Bishawjit's office

We spent one evening having good conversation and beers with his good friend who also just completed his PhD in chemistry. Another day he walked us around the royal palace and explained how he had helped create a 3D map of the place.  It’s so neat to me to think how this man all the way from Bangladesh has settled down in this German town and made it his home.  He’s lived here with Dipika and Netui for 6 years already, and they just had a baby (well, about six months ago) so baby Babui is here now too.

He and Dipika had to learn German (Netui just picked it up naturally, of course) and adjust to a new environment, but they are doing really well.  They and all of their friends are incredible: they’re highly educated since almost all of them are in school for their MAs, or PhDs and they all speak Bengali, English, and German (and some of them speak more languages).  I was really inspired.

The funniest time we spent together with the entire family was when Bishawjit wanted to take us to the river.  We walked and walked and walked and Dipika and I were laughing about how men always think they know where they’re going.  We finally asked directions and got on another tram to the river.  It was perfect timing though since the sun was starting to set and was glowing golden on the grass, so I snapped this picture of the family.  They’re so lovely!

Dipika invited me to go with her to a women’s gathering one afternoon and I was glad to attend, though it turned into a co-ed affair.  We were served this tasty Bengali snack called Chaat Pooti.  It consists of: a thick dahl, raw green chilies, paprika-seasoned potato chips, extra spices sprinkled on top, homemade tamarind sauce, and fresh lemon juice squeezed over everything. I can’t wait to have some in Bangladesh!

Chaat Pootie

I also got to listen to their conversation which was hilarious.  At first I thought everyone was arguing over something silly with the women on one side and the men who snuck their way into the gathering on the other.  Then when someone apologized for speaking only in Bengali and asked if I understood.  I said no, but asked what the argument was.  They laughed and laughed and explained that this is just how they talk when they get together and are all excited.  I was embarrassed but it was still funny.

We were also lucky to get to hang out with Bishawjit and Dipika’s adorable and precocious daughter, Netui.

She is only six but is fluent in German, Bengali, and English. She also understands Hindi from watching so many Bollywood films.  We spent hours making clay animals and figures with her.

Julian's work

One day we also got to go to Switzerland and Rhein Falls with Bishawjit, Netui and Bishawjit’s friend.

Netui usually avoids people taking pictures of her, which probably happens a lot because she has this endearing cheeky face, but on the train back to Karlsruhe, I showed her how to make stop action movies using a camera, and so we had fun making a movie with her as the star running up and down the stairs. Hopefully one day I’ll put it together.

OH also, we were able to visit a vegan grocery store which we luckily found out about before we left. It hadn’t been on Happy Cow when we looked months ago but we looked again and saw it! We rode our bikes there and bought way more than we intended. Such good snacks!

Owner of Karlruhe's vegan store: Schilfgrun - Der Vegane Laden (and our purchases)

We even got some vegan honey made from…. DANDELIONS! I was so excited.  The bottle had actually expired recently so the owner gave it to us for free!! It was a wonderful day.

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