Wednesday, December 29, 2004

You really, really love me!

Thanks to all of you who have sent emails, prayers and messages for my safety! We're fine, and actually wouldn't have known that anything happened if it were not for the terrible pictures that come in on the fronts of the daily newspapers. I just can't believe how horrible mother nature is to this part of the world. It really makes one question their belief in God. As the death toll rises, and disease starts to spread, it's just so hard to imagine what these people are going through.

On that depressing note, it's really cold here (not good for all the folks living under a tarp on the sidewalk), and my feet are freezing so I'm going back to bed. Thanks again for all your concern.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

All I want for Christmas is a nice Hartal day!

Today we were all greeted with a nice day off, as several politcal groups have called for a country-wide Hartal in protest of the rising price of gas. Not that I had anywhere to go, but I did end up having a great day!

Yesterday, Tanya and K. and a few of their BRAC buddies came over and we celebrated Christmas, complete with gingerbread cookies, roast beef and mashed potatoes. There was even a gift exchange! Thanks to Tanya for setting that up! Isaac absolutely loved it, and quickly became the center of attention. He went around and asked people if they wanted red or white wine, and then poured and delivered it in paper cups. He had some help, of course, but he was in charge. It was funny.

Is it legal for four-year-olds to serve alcohol? Oops.

As I type this, Masud is busy uploading music on his new iPod (thanks Mom!). He's also packing the mountain of things that I asked my mom to get for him to bring to Bangladesh when he comes in two weeks. I can't wait! Among some of the things I requested are a CD drive, a bread maker, pfefferneus (how the hell do you spell that?), SpongeBob Bandaids, and Neutrogena face lotion. Page also burned me a ton of new CDs, the good stuff that's not available here. Yipee!

Masud will be flying in around 9:30 a.m. on the 8th, and sadly I have to fly to India at 4:00p.m. That means we'll see eachother for an hour or two, that is if his plane is on time. It will be hard to leave him again! But I'm coming back in a week. At least he can hang out with Isaac. Isaac's having Baba withdrawal.

Time to upload some pictures.
Happy Holidays everyone!

Isaac was "Santa's Helper". He passed out each gift and said "Okay, you can open it now!" to each person, and then proceeded to help them open it. Posted by Hello

K. and Isaac really hit it off!  Posted by Hello

Keisuke, Tanya and You-Know-Who...Three Junior Fulbright Scholars to Bangladesh. Merry Christmas! Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Check out my handsome boy in his favorite purple shirt! Posted by Hello

There's a beautiful park down the road from where we're staying, and we went there today to take some pictures. They turned out great and I thought I'd share them! (We got yelled at after this picture was taken for going INSIDE the flower garden. We were supposed to stay off the grass. I played the dumb foreigner.) Posted by Hello

A nice cuddle. Posted by Hello

After this picture was taken, I let go. Isaac was mad for 20 minutes. I'm satanic. Posted by Hello

Isaac and Momota Posted by Hello

self-portrait Posted by Hello

Momo's gorgeous! Posted by Hello

Momo is so cute! Posted by Hello

They even had swings! Posted by Hello

They even had teeter totters Posted by Hello

Fun for all... Posted by Hello

This is a scary slide. Posted by Hello

Shada the White Dog finally let Isaac touch her head. Posted by Hello

Me and Momo are hanging out in Baridhara... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Fried Chicken

I had an epiphany outside of the new A&W on Gulshan Ave. today.

We went to A&W for root beer floats, and Isaac decided he wanted chicken with a handle (meaning a drum stick). I ordered a chicken meal, and of course he didn't eat it because it was "slimy". We packed it up to take home. We started walking down the sidewalk in search of a grocery store. I'm always disoriented in Gulshan, and we went in the wrong direction. On our way, we passed an old man who was laying on the ground, covered with a thin blanket. Under his head, he had an old cloth wrapped around probably all of his worldly belongings. Cuddled up next to him was a tiny puppy.

After being here for 3 months, seeing people living in abject poverty every day, I'm starting to become a little hard-hearted so I ignored him and walked on. After we discovered that there was no grocery store in the direction we were headed, we turned back. I couldn't stand walking by the man a second time.

I stopped, bent down, and asked him if he had eaten today. He said that yes, he ate breakfast. I then gave him the package with Isaac's chicken in it, and told him to eat it. He mumbled something and I started to leave. By then, a small crowd had gathered around, wondering what this crazy foreign lady was doing talking to an old beggar. One woman asked me if I understood what he said, and I said no. She said that he said he will eat it and will pray for me from his heart.

In Islam, we believe that this kind of sincere prayer is the most powerful and effective kind. This man, who seemingly had nothing to give back to me, gave me such a wonderful gift. I've been feeling so defeated and incompetent for the past few weeks, but he helped me to realize that my being here is important. Even if I only manage to do one small thing, it's still worth it. The suffering is so great here that a little compassion goes a long way. Maybe someday I will be able to make a change here, maybe I'll do something to help relieve this suffering.

I often think about how most Americans (myself included) are unsatisfied. We always seem to be looking for something more. We are unhappy even though we have food and shelter and money to spend. We are in debt and obese because we try to fill that hole with material goods and food. Today I realized that when I gave away that stupid piece of chicken, it made me feel better than any shopping spree or any pan of brownies ever could. Maybe because we "have it all", we forget how important and necessary it is to show compassion to others, maybe because the need for compassion is more concealed in developed countries. It's still there, but it doesn't show itself in hunger or poverty. It shows more in loneliness and insecurity. I hope I can learn to show compassion to those who need it in those less obvious ways. It's easy here because it's right in front of me. I hope it will carry over to my life when I go home.

What a great life lesson.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Lap o' Luxury

For the past few days, Isaac, Momota and I have been staying in Baridhara in a really really beautiful house. We're house/dog/fish sitting for a woman who works at the American Center. She and her family are on vacay to the states and needed someone to feed the doggy.

"Shada" is sortof a yip-yip dog. She's psychotic, which I usually find amusing in my friends, but she has this odd way of "cuddling" my leg that makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable - if you get my drift. I didn't know girl dogs did that. Anyways, she can't stand Isaac. It's as if she's jealous of him or something. He pretty much stays on the couch when she's around. When he lets his foot touch the floor, she comes a-runnin'.

All of the warm showers and oven baked food has really brought out a major fit of homesickness. I had to let a few tears squeeze out this morning when I woke up on a soft bed, thinking i was in Minnesota, and then realizing that I was still here. Nine months sure is a long time away from my family and friends. It wouldn't be so bad if only Masud could be here with me. We talk every day over the phone, but it's just not the same. I feel like a single parent and I know it's hard on Isaac to be away from his baba. Although he's coming to visit in a few weeks (Jan. 8th), I can only think of how hard it will be when he leaves again. I need to snap out of it!

On a happier note, tomorrow is my birthday. This will be my third birthday celebration in Bangladesh. In 1997, I turned 21 here. Last year, I had to stand on a chair at the Gulshan Pizza Hut (wearing a sari), while the staff sang a weird version of Happy Birthday to me. This year, I'm going to my bhabi's house where she's cooking for me. I'm sure Mithu will call me to say Happy Birthday (he never forgets), and then I'm going out to dinner with Keisuke and Tanya, fellow Fulbrighters. It should serve to lift my spirits. But I wouldn't mind an email or two from my buddies back home!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Another photograph by Isaac. Left to right: Yours truly, Maya and Rina Bhabi. Posted by Hello

Dalia at the biye ceremony. Photograph by Isaac Posted by Hello

Shumi, Isaac and Katie Posted by Hello

Left to right - Isaac, Iqram-bhai, Rina-bhabi, Dalia, and Sadi. This is the "gaye holud", where the bou is force fed fruit and misti, and everyone smears her with a yellow paste. I think it's for good luck and prosperity. Posted by Hello

Isaac! Put your tongue back in your mouth! Posted by Hello

Isaac and Richi sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Posted by Hello

This is Richi - she's about the same age as Isaac, and she's so adorable that I had to take a million pictures of her. She's wearing a sari! Isn't she sweet??? Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Two blogs for the price of one...

December 7, 2004
I got a letter from my grandma today. It was great. She even sent a check for $20. I'm sure no bank will take it here, but it was a nice thought anyways. $20 goes a long way here. I miss my gram. I'm homesick! Wahhhh!

Today Isaac and I were walking down Gulshan Ave. and I bought him a Kit Kat. He ate half of it and then didn't want any more, so I told him to give it to some little kids who were sitting on the sidewalk. They were probably 3 and 2. The three year old grabbed it and ran as fast as he could so that the two year old couldn't get it. Isaac was happy that he liked it, but it made me so sad to see the way he devoured it, and then licked the wrapper. God, this poverty is hard to look at up close all the time. I wonder if it's really a good thing for Isaac to see it. He's only four. I want to shelter him from all the pain and suffering in the world. But on the other hand, maybe he'll grow up and want to do something about it.

December 5, 2004
After a month of preparing my PhD application, I’m pretty sick and tired. It’s rough, trying to think of how to convince an admissions committee of how great I am and why they should give me lots of money. My dad says that I should avoid using multi syllabic words because phd holders are all a little dim. Let’s just say he’s not in awe of higher education. Keeps ya grounded anyways.

Besides writing my own eulogy, I’ve been immersing myself in the stack of books that I bought from BARD in Comilla. If I had lots of money and free time, I’d set up some kind of internet system so that all of these books could be available to people in the US. Do I smell a grant opportunity? Maybe? I’m such a nerd!

Today I took Isaac to the Indian High Commission, figuring that we would be able to get our visas and get out of there. I walked straight past the line of 1000 Bangladeshis waiting for their visas - to the line of four foreigners. I figured all I’d have to do is wave my shiny blue American passport and the visa fee under his nose, he’d give me the stamp and we’d all be happy. I was unpleasantly surprised when he asked for documentation of the conference I’m going to attend, so now I have to go and get that documentation, go back on another day (with Isaac, of course), and try again.

But tomorrow all of my plans are down the tubes. Isaac randomly started puking a few hours ago, so I’m out of luck. I’m hoping he just had too many Oreos, but I’m thinking otherwise. I’m not feeling great either, and he was pretty hot and whiney all day. Oh joy.
I’ve been “out” quite a bit lately, and I think my in-laws are wondering if all of these outings are really necessary. They are used to women being home, especially women who have children. Between my language classes, trips to the American Center, Tuesdays and Saturdays at “Sathi”, and all the Pokemon buying sprees, I’m out somewhere pretty much every day. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting something done, but I can tell it’s rubbing some people the wrong way. Everyone will be relieved I’m sure, once I get back to Comilla where all of my outings are “supervised”.
Thursday we’re going to Comilla to see the next part of the marriage of Masud’s cousins. We’re missing the groom’s “gaye holud” on Thursday (because we’ll be on the bus to comilla), but we’ll see the “biye”, which is the part that I most wanted to see anyway. I’ll try to remember my camera so I can post pics.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

"a"-kar'ed out

This week, I started my Bangla script lessons. I'm not going to be in Dhaka for very long, so I'm doing the accelerated version. Two hours a day, three lessons per session. Just one question for all you Bangla speakers out there, why do you have to have SO MANY LETTERS? And all those combo deals, it makes my head swim. But I'm proud to say that I can make out a word here or there on my way home and in the newspaper. Not that I understand what I'm reading. One thing I'm realizing is that I really did learn "gram" Bangla. Gram Bangla is the equivalent of a southern accent in english (or as they say in Bangla "engriji"). If a person learns to say "I ain't gon' eat no fish head", they will have a hard time learning to say "I do not wish to partake of the head of the fish". My teacher is constantly correcting me. "It's not 'buchi', it's 'bujhechi'. Its not 'kaisi', it's 'keyichi'." And she's always telling me to "boshun", "porun", "bolun" (which I know as boshen, poren, bolen). OK this won't make much sense to people who don't know Bangla, but my Bangla buddies will get a laugh out of it.
In other news, I've been tooling around Dhaka by myself. My brother in law showed me the ropes (he took me to my Bangla class on the first day) and then I was on my own. The second day, I tried to take a rickshaw to the American Center, which is about a 10 minute walk from my language center. The rickshaw wallah drove around in circles until I asked him if he knew where he was going. He finally admitted that he didn't know. I had to pay him 5 taka, and then get another rickshaw, who took me to the American Center and charged 10 taka. It should have been a 6 taka ride. Oh well, live and learn.
Isaac fits in well in bangladesh. It's a corrupted country, and people take bribes. Nowadays i have to bribe Isaac to do everything from eating his cereal to taking a bath. He used to get toys but that got too expensive. Now I bought him a little wallet, and each time he does something that requires a bribe, I give him 10 taka. He's saving up to buy a 550 taka airplane. It won't be long, let me tell you. Is it bad that I have to bribe my four year old to bathe? Yeah, probably. My excuse is that I'm in a third world country without my husband. Bad parenting is acceptable. Hopefully the cultural experience will make up for it in the long run.
Well, time for my evening cup of tea. Keep those emails a-comin', friends. I live for them.

Monday, November 22, 2004

My Bhabi's brother has two little girls (Noreen - 3 and Shaneen - 1 1/2), and they live upstairs. They love Isaac (except when he doesn't share). He loves them (except when they want him to share).  Posted by Hello