The harsh bedroom light is snapped on. Rehana is ushering in a tall, thin woman with short, greying hair and a friendly if bemused smile; the same look I have had on my face all day.
â€œChristine from Australia.â€ Rehana says by way of introduction. â€œAnne from Ireland. You sleep here.â€ She points to the bed in which I lie, and I obligingly move over to one side. Before Christine or I can say anything, my friend Shahardot, who is lugging two suitcases, launches a huge square canvas bag into the room. He points at me in recognition, laughs for old timeâ€™s sake, and demands money from Christine.
With Rehana watching avidly, Christine changes into the long johns that contrast nicely with my oversized purple T-shirt. She opens her canvas bag and from its depths, and like a modern Mary Poppins, she shakes out a full-sized duvet and pillow. We lie down side by side and make the desultory small talk of strangers who have just climbed into bed together.
â€œMust be a bit like an arranged marriage, this,â€ says Christine.
â€œWell, they said Bangladesh would be an experience,â€ I add. â€œI donâ€™t know about you, but this is the first time Iâ€™ve slept with someone three minutes after meeting them.â€
The first few days in Dhaka were a blur. I was suddenly alone in a country where I could do nothing for myself. It was like being a toddler again: I couldn't read Bangla script and I barely spoke the language. I tied myself up in knots trying to dress in the traditional salwar kameez and I spilt food everywhere because I was eating curry and rice by hand. Much good I was going to be as a volunteer worker in a developing country!
Then two things happened: I met Christine, a fellow volunteer - wise, experienced, laid-back, the complete opposite of me - and we both got sent to a little place called Khalia. There wasn't much scope for a music teacher(Christine) or a public health advisor (me) there but a great deal of opportunity for digging, painting and 'cultural exchange'...
That's when I knew a travel diary was just crying out to be written.