Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hartal = No Jilapi

Some high-up Awami Leaguer died in a bomb blast, so the Awami League has called a 60-hour non-stop hartal. It’s been a pretty violent one, so that means I’m “bashai-bound”. Tonight we decided to sneak out for a little bit (mom, if you’re scared, do not read any further) because I was hungry for jilapi. Maya, double-Masud (my hubby and Maya’s hubby have the same name), and I got to the end of our road and were standing on the sidewalk when all of a sudden there was yelling and running. A little mini-riot had apparently broken out. I was oblivious but my Masud completely freaked out. He shoved me into the closest store for safety. His concern was valid but fortunately nothing happened, except that my ankle got a little twisted from his over zealous shove. In short, I didn’t get my jilapi.

It’s probably a good thing, because I think I can blame my most recent stomach troubles on the jilapi-fest I had over Eid. For those who don’t know, jilapi is like a funnel cake – fried and then soaked in syrup. And, yes, they are very, very tasty.
We’re in the process of dismantling things and putting my copious amounts of books into boxes so that we can make the move to Dhaka on the 4th. I’m looking forward to it, but moving always sucks.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Epiphany no. 257

I am still recovering from a very intense trip to the village. Masud, Isaac and I, as well as Iqram-bhai and Rina-bhabi, Kauser-bhai, and Boro-bhabi, Jitu and Urmi all squeezed into a little van and then onto a rickety boat and made the trip. The place we went, called "Baji Bishara", was about 3 hours from Comilla by car/boat. It's extremely remote, and there is no electricity yet. The hard part of the trip did not involve lack of phsyical comforts, however. It was very emotionally distressing for both me and Masud to see the situation in which his relatives are living. His first cousins live there, as well as some other distantly related people. Sometimes I just wonder how it worked out that Masud was born to the man who "made it", while his brother's children are still stuck in poverty. Then I wonder how it happened that I was born in America, and I have never had to experience hunger. How is that fair? We actually ended up cutting our trip one day short, because none of us could handle the emotional stress. There is such a feeling of oppression there, even though the people who live there seem to be very optimistic and happy with what they have. The school where all the children study is an absolute dump, and I wonder how anything ever gets learned there. I'm told it's one of the better village schools. I hope that someday I can do something to help here. For now, I'm just learning as much as I can.

Anyways, I did manage to get quite a bit of data collected. People were very willing to talk to me, and I became sortof a novelty. Everyone came to see the "bideshi" and hear her funny Bangla. I also forced myself to watch the "korbani" - the ritual slaughtering of the cows. I am now stating in no uncertain terms before the cyber-world that I will never intentionally eat meat again. Not even a little meatball. It was so awful, that poor cow. I've found my ethics. It's no longer about being grossed out by meat.

Time to take another anti-puking pill. I've caught a bug. Lucky me.

This is the "school" I mentioned. No chairs, hardly any light, falling apart. I think it would be nicer to study outside under a big tree, but that's just me. Posted by Hello

Yes, he's carrying cow legs. Posted by Hello

Oh so sanitary. Posted by Hello

This is a new version of the house that Masud's father built. They used lots of materials from the original house to build this one. Inside there are beautiful woven mats that he had commissioned. In village terms, this is a pretty nice place. Posted by Hello

As a special treat for Eid, all the kids got "balloons". I think I've solved the over-population mystery.  Posted by Hello

On the morning of Eid, all the men went to pray. They all wore panjabis and tupis, but my hubby wore jeans and a sweatshirt. I think he's more American than I am! Posted by Hello

Isaac absolutely fell in love with this baby goat. He carried the poor thing around all day. That night, he puked. Coincidence? Posted by Hello

For all of you who are wondering, but were to shy to ask, this is the reason I'm in Bangladesh. I'm conducting interviews on breastfeeding beliefs and traditions to understand breastfeeding culture in Bangladesh. Most of my interviews are conducted while women are working, especially in the village, where they work nonstop from dawn to dusk. This woman was making "roti" - a type of bread - over an open fire. Posted by Hello

I managed to conduct about 60 interviews while we were in the village! Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Be right back...

I'm off to the village - don't worry if I don't post for a week or so. I'm still alive, I hope.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

While we were at the beach, we had a guy read our palms. Apparently, I'm going to have another son and my married life is very happy. Hmmmmm. Posted by Hello

We managed a quick trip to the beach on the morning when we were supposed to leave. The tsunami killed 150 people here. It's hard to believe such destruction happened only a few weeks before we took this beautiful picture. Posted by Hello

K. and I "accidentally" dressed alike one day and we had to take this cheesy photo to remember it by. Posted by Hello

We had the conference at a place called the Indian Institute of Management at Kozhikode. It's a pretty new institution, so they had lots of areas that needed to be landscaped. They had us get in on the action, and we all planted some trees and put our names on them. K., Tanya and I planted one together. If we ever get back that way, we'll have to check on our tree! Posted by Hello

The "Indian WC" indicates that you will have to squat. "European WC" means that you can sit. Posted by Hello

During one of the more boring meetings, we had a woman get up and teach us some classical Indian dancing. We were not very good at it.  Posted by Hello

I love these guys so much! K., T. and KT. Team BD. Posted by Hello

"Team BD (Bangla-Desh)" against a beautiful backdrop of Kerala coconut trees. I hope you all get the hand signal...we're making "bd" with our fingers. Ha ha, get it? He he. Posted by Hello

I love street kids. Posted by Hello

You can't tell from this picture, but I was so terrified of this snake that I almost puked. It made a hissing noise and sortof lunged at me. I don't care if it doesn't have a fang anymore. It's a freaking cobra. Posted by Hello

K. and I stopped at the "Gateway of India" in Mumbai, and I got blessed by this guru. He tied a string around my wrist, put some goop on my forehead, gave me a marigold and said something that I didn't understand. I'm supposed to have a happy life now. Hope it works! Posted by Hello

Off again!

I had so much fun in India that I don't think I can explain it, so I'm just going to post pictures. I ended up staying at Tanya's house in Kolkata for a few extra days. If it weren't for my boys, I'd probably still be there. Tanya's mom is a great cook, and their flat is really comfortable. Tanya, K. and I had a lot of fun going around Kolkata. We shared a hooka and broke it down in one of the new clubs they have there. Quite a change from the Bangladesh scene where alcohol is prohibited! It was a nice vacation for this old mom.

It was nice to get back to Dhaka and my guys, though. Isaac and Masud had a great time without me, but they seemed happy to have someone who cares about cleanliness come back in their lives. Masud bought Isaac all of the toys that I had forbidden (anything that makes loud noises, requires adult assistance, or costs more than $10). Isaac took Masud to all of the western restaurants - Pizza Hut, A&W, Wimpy. I think they even went to a theme park!

Today we rented a micro bus and came to Comilla. I brought enough dry goods to last us for the next couple of months, and we're all busy putting it in plastic bags so that the bugs don't find it. (So I hope). In the next couple of days, we'll be going to Masud's father's village. It's pretty remote - we have to take a bus, then a boat, then a rickshaw or something...and there is no electricity. We're going for 4 or 5 days, so don't expect any blog updates anytime soon. I'm really excited because although I've been to villages before, this one is pretty darn rural. I'm gonna get lots of research done on this trip.

Korbani Eid is on the 22nd. This is the holiday where we remeber how God saved Isaac from being sacrificed by Abraham by providing the animal sacrifice. We are taking two cows there to sacrifice in thanks. For many people, this is one of the only times they get to eat meat all year. I'm not fond of the whole bloody sacrifice/gory feast thing, but it will be nice to celebrate this holiday in the village. They grow their own vegetables, so I'm planning on getting some really fresh "niramish".

Well, my house is a mess and I have guests so I'll have to post more later. Stay tuned for pictures. Hi to any new blog readers that I met in Kerala! Wish I was still there with you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Update from India...

I now officially am obsessed with India. Over the last 4 days, I have been in Calcutta (ok, so it was just the airport), Mumbai (did you all know that Mumbai and Bombay are the same thing?) and now Kozhikode, Kerala. I am making myself a goal to save up enough money to do a 2 month tour of this country before I die.

I'm still at the conference. There is a boring panel discussion going on now, so I snuck out and came to the computer lab. Besides this one boring panel, I am having such a wonderful time. It's been really invigorating to see what all the other Fulbrighters are doing. Sometimes it gets overwhelming to be in the midst of such poverty, and it's easy to feel like my little research project is meaningless. But in the context of the Fulbright program, I really feel like I'm a part of something that's very important.

The other Fulbrighters are amazing. I just had a long talk with a woman who is working on her dissertation...for HARVARD. Gulp. And there is another woman who is studying the block printing in India, and I'm incredibly jealous. The range of projects and the sheer brain power of this group is so overwhelming, and somewhat intimidating!

I'm also having a BLAST with the two Fulbrighters to Bangladesh, K. and Tanya. We get along so well that it's almost scary. I told them both that if they didn't keep in touch with me after this experience that I'd have to kill them. I mean it, T and K, no matter what far-off land you end up in, I will find you! Wait, do I sound codependent?

I better sneak back in now, but check back soon for some amazing photographs. This is a beautiful place, thus the nickname "God's Own Country".

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Blog Hiatus

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm going to India on Saturday, and probably won't be able to post until I come back on the 14th. I'm going for the South Asian Fulbright Mid Year Conference. I hope I'll have lots of juicy tales and fascinating pictures to enthrall you with. I am planning on spending lots of money. Don't tell Masud.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I think I've said before that some of my most insteresting conversations have been with rickshaw wallahs and CNG drivers. Today I had such a great talk with this driver, Mr. Abul Syed. By some twist of fate, I had paper and a pen with me, and I was able to write down some of his comments. For those who don't know, CNG drivers are just above rickshaw pullers on the caste system, and they usually don't have much education. This man, however, made some very profound and poignant statments. For example, he said that Bangaldesh is a Muslim country (he is also a Muslim), and because of that, many men believe that they should keep their wives locked up and not allow them to work. But, he said, that's slowly changing, and that's a good thing. People are becoming educated. After months of hearing the religious freaks talk about "purdah", I was overjoyed to hear this man's voice of reason. What a great moment! Posted by Hello

Monday, January 03, 2005

I know you're all (my mom excluded) probably sick of seeing pictures of Isaac, but I can't help it. Posted by Hello

In order to remember our time in the "big house", we staged this picture. Isaac stood on a chair and took it. Then we collapsed into fits of laughter. Notice that we wore matching outfits. It's just too much fun! Posted by Hello

This is the kind of beggar that I like to give money to, because it's obvious that this man cannot work for a living. He was happy that I took his picture. I'm going to print it and try to find him tomorrow to give it to him. Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 02, 2005

After I took their picture, these girls kept following me, asking for more. So I had Momo take this one. Posted by Hello