In what appears to be just another one of those things that isolates us Americans from the rest of the world, our cell phones are locked to work only in our country. Where the rest of the world can swap SIM cards in and out depending on what country they are in, we cannot. Why would we want to leave our country anyhow?
I arrived to Bangladesh with my locked Motorola phone. Good thing too, because I was referred to Dalton Zahir, the GM of the Motorola store in Dhaka. Dalton and I immediately clicked. He’s a writer, photojournalist, author, and businessman, although he doesn’t like to talk about that. Dalton took me to his home village where I played Kabaddi, to the textile factories where I saw underage kids working, introduced me to almost every journalist and writer in the entire country, and published my photo in a local newspaper.
When we weren’t meeting his family or friends, Dalton was sneaking me in places.
“Dalton, this time tell them the truth: I’m a journalist in search of the factory where my underwear was made.” I told Dalton countless times before meetings.
We would walk in, he’d say something to the party we were meeting in Bangla and the next think I knew I was a big garment buyer from the USA or a Motorola executive. I don’t lie. Not for moral reasons, but more because I’m lazy. I don’t want to take the time and effort to spin a story and to remember what I told this person or what I did there. I know that I would get caught up in my own web. I’m not clever enough. Dalton is.
“Kelsey, if you say you’re on business, people will be much nicer to you and show you much more.”
So, I was always on business. And anytime that I wasn’t sure what my business was, I let Dalton do the talking.
We would leave a meeting giggling about what he said or what I said. I didn’t feel right doing it, but it was kind of entertaining.
Besides his cleverness, Dalton is one hell of a guy. At the age of 19, before he worked for Motorola, he was put in charge of the construction of one of Dhaka’s fanciest hotel, the Lake Shore Hotel. You may not believe that someone would put a 19-year-old in charge of a multi-million dollar project, but you haven’t met Dalton. You haven’t been with him to the hotel where, now seven years later, everyone treats him with the utmost respect. You haven’t stood by his side as he talked with executives of hotels and multi-national corporations, or there when people approached him, “Your Dalton from the Lake Shore, right?”
The most impressive thing about Dalton is the conditions he overcame to get where he is. He lived in a small village, hours from any major city, was educated there, survived an ugly rickshaw accident, a midnight robbery on a river, and a broken family. He’ll be the first one to tell you that he isn’t a rich man, “I don’t own any land. My family relies on me to support them. I don’t have financial status, but I do have social status.”
I would have never guessed that my time in Bangladesh would be so rich with stories. I have hopes, and an agent that also hopes, all this Where Am I Wearing? experience will be a book. The thing I’m worried about now is that as chapters of my story, Cambodia and China will not be able to carry their weight compared to Bangladesh.
It’s a good problem to have. I have it thanks to Dalton.
I helped Dalton setup a blog, Dalton’s World. He plans to post pictures ever week or so about life in Bangladesh. Although, his current post is all business – he’s soliciting ads. Dalton constantly looks for a way to get ahead and I suspect that’s why, in fact, he has gotten ahead.