Sunday, March 27, 2005

Flying by...

I can't believe how fast time is flying by right now. I'm working and learning a lot, and beginning to think about how to write everything up for a nice little presentation. I'm also starting to worry about how to fit the contents of this room into four little suitcases that must weigh less than 70 pounds each. Yikes.
I got a nasty little rejection letter from the U of M last week, so I am going to be taking the year off. If anyone has a lead on an easy yet good paying job that will help to pay off my student loans, please keep me informed. I'm hoping to apply to more programs for next year, and it's actually good that I didn't get in so that I can figure out what I want to study first. I need more direction before I jump into a PhD program.
Isaac's video game died yesterday. It was very sad. We took the whole set back to the store, where they said "in Bangladesh, there is no such thing as a warranty". But they are going to try to get it fixed anyway. How nice of them. I'll probably have to pay for the repairs, but I hope that they can fix it. I'm considering buying a Gameboy for Isaac, but then I wonder if I'll turn him into a computer game nerd. I don't want that. No offense to all my friends (and family) who are computer game nerds.
Well, the rain has ended, and now it's just steamy here. The sun is harsh. I can't imagine that it's cold anywhere else in the world, and I wonder how people can stand to be outside working all day. I suppose they would wonder the same thing about people who work in the snow.
I'm out of interesting things to say, and my eyelids are heavy, so it's time for bed. More soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

One of the great things about being here is learning about Masud's life history. I found this picture at my mother-in-law's brother's house (it's from his wedding), and it has a picture of Masud in it when he was about 7 years old. Try to guess which one is him. Also, his dad is in this picture - way at the back peeking over everyone. I don't think he was short, maybe he was sitting down or something. This is the first clear picture I've seen of him.Posted by Hello

I spell relief R-A-I-N

We’ve had a few beautiful days of constant rain. I actually had to use a thin blanket last night, and I’m not sweating right now even though the fan is not on. It’s so wonderful, although the open sewers are starting to smell really bad. Oh well, it’s better than the heat!

I just went to the bootleg DVD store and bought some of the Oscar nominees...Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Finding Neverland (was that a nominee?), and the Aviator. I also bought Meet the Fockers...and I'm halfway through it - geez it's funny! I love bootleg DVD's. It's unethical, I know, but oh so nice. Cheaper than renting them back home, and no late fees.

Saturday is Shadinota Dibosh (the day Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan), and so our office is closed. We're also closed on Sunday, so that gives me two days of sleeping in (sortof) and loafing around. I suppose I should use the days wisely and analyse some data (SNORE), but I need a break. Happily, the Awami League has called another hartal to protest some injustice by the ruling party, so Thursday will be another day off. Yippee, Awami League! Plus, they decided to end it at 2:00 in the afternoon because a section of the Awami League scheduled a "human chain" protest for that afternoon, so they didn't want their own protests to clash. He he! That means I can actually go out in the afternoon. Good for me!

Well, time to rest up, I have a big day tomorrow - I'm venturing into Dhanmondi by myself for the first time to meet with a photographer who I hope will help me with my photovoices project. I've been so productive lately, I deserve chocolate. Thankfully, the commissary shipment was finally released by the government of Bangladesh, and I got a bag of DOVE. Mmmmmm Dove.

Monday, March 21, 2005

What kind of pirate am I? You decide!
You can also view a breakdown of results or put one of these on your own page!
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

Tanya, this was hilarious.

Which Annoying B-list Celebrity Are You?
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey.

Isaac officially has his first "nintendo thumb" - a blister from playing super mario brothers over and over on his fake Sega that I bought him for his birthday. Ahhh, I remember my first blister. Tetris, 3rd grade. Posted by Hello

Isaac was a little overwhelmed when the pizza hut staff sang the pizza hut birthday song. I think he was about to burst into tears. Poor guy. Posted by Hello

Isaac and his cousin Abir, getting ready to blow out the candles. Posted by Hello

whoa buddy, don't blow so hard! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I had to post this picture of my sister - she is so beautiful! She was the lead in the school musical. Brains, beauty, and a beautiful voice - sheesh, we all know where the talent is in this family! Posted by Hello

Isaac took this picture during English class - from left to right - Monica, one of our youngest students; Riya, one of our outreach workers; Shamima, receptionist and assistant manager; and Masud, computer teacher.  Posted by Hello

This is my new mentor, Dr. Kathy Ward. She is the executive director of Nari Jibon, and is also the moneybags of the operation. She likes to call herself "pagol nari" (crazy lady), but we all know she's really a "shakti nari" (strong woman). Posted by Hello

Also a big hit - these weird magnet things.  Posted by Hello

Isaac turned five yesterday! Grandma's packages got here just in time...and Spiderman is always a hit! Posted by Hello

Thank you!

My one wonderful friend, whose name I won't mention because I don't want to embarrass her, (although she deserves recognition!) has donated the full $100 to buy a sewing machine for Tuni. Thank you so much, friend! Because of you, I know her life will change for the better, and both of us are very grateful.
The rest of you will have another chance to help in the future, so don't feel bad that you didn't respond quick enough. I'm already working on another situation. I want to make sure that the money is donated to something that is sustainable, meaning that it will provide more than just an immediate boost - there should be a good, long term effect. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Stuff about me...or...just another way to waste time.

This was kinda cool I thought, I copied the format from a this blog (credit where credit is due):

13 Things that I love:

1) My boys.
2) My iPod.
3) My laptop.
4) Reading in bed.
5) Skittles.
6) Rainy days.
7) Laughing so hard that my belly hurts.
8) Talking to intelligent people.
9) The smell of Tide laundry soap.
10) cotton clothes.
11) comfortable yet stylish shoes.
12) Snow days.
13) Silver jewelry.

12 movies:
1) The Three Amigos
2) The Breakfast Club
3) A Hard Day's Night
4) Moulin Rouge (although it is no longer cool to like this movie, I still do)
5) All of the Star Wars movies
6) Bourne Identity
7) Devdas
8) Kandahar
9) Distant Thunder
10) Almost Famous
11) Anne of Green Gables
12) Disney's Robin Hood

11 Good bands/artists

1) Tori Amos
2) Natalie Merchant
3) the Beatles
4) Ani Difranco
5) Sheryl Crow
6) Cake
7) Eddie Vedder
8) John Lennon
9) Madonna
10) Tracy Chapman
11) Weezer

10 things about me physically/personality:

1) Kindof a pushover
2) Squishy Tummy
3) Feet like skis (as Deb says)
4) Good at making peace
5) Slightly immature - farts are still funny
6) Taller than my husband
7) Strong, willful
8) Long hair does not look good on me
9) Sincere
10) Gullible

9 Favorite Songs:

1) Imagine - John Lennon
2) Your Song - Elton John
3) Crucify - Tori Amos
4) Tiny Dancer - Elton John
5) Self-evident - Ani Difranco
6) Comanche - Cake
7) I am the walrus - the Beatles
8) Sweater Song - Weezer
9) Precious Things - Tori Amos

8 Favorite foods/drinks

1) Dill pickles
2) Goldfish crackers
3) Vanilla ice cream with oreos
4) Brownies
5) Homemade chocolate chip cookies
6) Begun bhaji
7) Grilled cheese sandwiches
8) Cucumber, onion, cilantro salad

7 things I always wear

1) my glasses
2) my wedding ring
3) my nose pin
4) comfortable underwear
5) something cotton
6) a clip in my hair
7) moisturizer

6 pet peeves

1) When people yell for me from the other room
2) Not being able to express myself clearly in Bangla.
3) When I wash my hands in the bathroom and reach for the towel and water drips down to my elbow.
4) Dirty public restrooms.
5) When people don't email me even though I'm on the other side of the world (PAGE).
6) Getting parenting advice from people who are not parents.

5 Things I touch every day:

1) Isaac
2) my laptop
3) my journal
4) the phone
5) my wallet

4 shows I watch:

1) the news
2) Friends (reruns)
3) Indian Idol
4) Digimon (with Isaac, of course)

3 celebrities I have a crush on:

1) Ewan McGregor
2) Shah Ruk Khan
3) Matt Damon

2 current wishes:

1) That I can actually do something to make a difference in the developing world.
2) That I can make a living while doing it.

1 person you could spend the rest of your life with:

1) My love - Masud Kala - the man of my dreams.

You know a girl's got talent when she can make a tin hut with a dirt floor look this great. Posted by Hello

A sample of Tuni's block printing on a bed cover. Posted by Hello

Tuni's Story.

Well, a few posts ago I mentioned that I was going to put some interactivity into this blog. So here it is.

I've been here for over 6 months now, and I can't count the number of times I've been asked for financial help. I always try to do what I can, because really a small amount of money can go a long way here, but as my friend Tanya once said, it's not the point of a Fulbright grant to fund everyone's emergencies. So I have had to draw the line, which has been very painful for me at times. That's why I'm turning to you, my beloved friends and family.

When I went to the village in January, a girl named Tuni helped me a lot. She's probably distantly related to Masud, although I don't know how. She's a sweet and very talented girl, but her family has fallen on hard times, much like lots of other families in the village. They don't have electricity or water, and she's one of 9 children. Her father died tragically a few years ago from getting electrocuted. Tuni has been married and divorced, and although she still has a chance to get married again, she will need to provide a large dowry to the groom's family. She also has two sisters who are of marriagable age, and it's putting lots of financial pressure on the family.

She asked me to help her by buying her a sewing machine. She's extremely talented, as you can see from the pictures below. She taught herself how to embroider, sew, and do block printing, among other things. She wants a sewing machine so that she can sew fast enough to make a small living for herself and help support her family. In order to buy her a nice machine (the kind with the foot pedal - no electricity required), I need 100 US dollars.

I'm asking you now to please contribute whatever you can, so that I can buy her the machine. Even if it's a few bucks, it would help. If you think you can spare something, please send it to Masud (he'll forward it to me). His email is - you can email him and get his address.

I don't want to start sounding like one of those awful, guilt inducing commercials begging for money, so I'll just mention here that this is your chance to know that your money is going right to the person who needs it, and the benefits that it produces will multiply for years and years to come. And you will have my undying gratitude, as well as the knowledge that you did something that may profoundly change the course of a person's life.

This is Tuni. She is gathering water from the village pond, because there is no running water in her house. There is no electricity either. Posted by Hello

Allergic to...Bangladesh?

Well, I got a second opinion on this whole gross cough thing I have going on, and the second doctor did a test called a spirometry and determined that I do not, in fact, have asthma. He concluded that I am severely allergic to the air in Dhaka. This diagnosis makes far more sense to me, as my symptoms occured after a three day stay in the smog-blanketed city of Kolkata, where I also enjoyed perhaps a few too many puffs on the ol' hookah (not really, mom and dad). Plus, I've been out in the Dhaka air almost every day for the past month. The smog is visible, and when I come home and wash my face there is a layer of black film that comes off. I can just imagine what my poor lungs look like. They're probably in shock, having grown up in the pure and fresh countryside of the midwest. Oh well, at least it's not asthma. Hopefully it'll go away when I go home in June.

I'm still really busy, but I had a chance to have lunch with Tanya today, which was very refreshing. She seems to be having some of the same issues as I have (homesickness, loneliness, frustration with the third world) and it's good to have someone to gripe with. Isaac also enjoys hanging out with her, although after he called her fat the other day I'm not sure the feeling is reciprocated. I've been fed up lately with lots of different things, plus I'm hormonally imbalanced at the moment, so it was a welcome lunch break. Plus, the veggie pizza is good at the American Club.

Isaac's birthday is coming up, so we ordered a cake and booked a time at Pizza Hut. I think Isaac's forgotten about the outrageously expensive toy he wanted, and I might be able to make him happy with a 100 taka dvd and whatever my mom sends (thanks mom!) There are two packages waiting for me at the American Center. I hope there is something in there for me!

As of today, we have 89 days left. So much to do, so little time. When I come home I'm going straight to my mom and dad's new spa for a massage! Although, I did get a great massage today from one of the women who is a student at Nari Jibon. Blood circulation in the neck and shoulder area, it's a good thing.

Isaac is going to be five on March 15, and Nawreen was three in November. Is Isaac small or is she big? Should I be worried? Posted by Hello

Isaac and Nawreen are buddies for about five minutes at a time, and then they start hitting and biting. This was a good minute. Posted by Hello

Friday, March 11, 2005

This is the new logo for Nari Jibon, the NGO that I'm working with. Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Diagnosis: Asthma

Yup, I thought it was weird too. Of course, I know nothing about asthma, so I thought it was like that commercial where they say "Imagine having to breathe through a straw" or the one where the fish has only a few teaspoons of water in the fish bowl and is gasping for...ummm...water, but I guess coughing hard for no reason is another symptom. Whatever, I got an inhaler and I feel a little better. Still not great, but hopefully it will improve more.

I am working on a new project and I'm really excited about it. One of the senior Fulbrighters (meaning she has a PhD and gets more money than I do) has an NGO (non-governmental organziation) called Nari Jibon (Women's Life). Man I use parentheses a lot. Anyways, the NGO is aimed at disadvantaged women, mainly garment and sex workers, and the main goal is to give them skills such as English, computers, and office management, so that they can get good jobs with decent pay. So I started randomly going to English classes just to observe and help out, and now that I'm in Dhaka I decided to get more involved. I am starting with helping to set up the computer class, and I'm going to do my photovoice project with them. Hopefully we'll get a website up so you can all see what we're doing. I've been pretty busy with this project, and I'm trying not to forget that I still have to analyze my data from my first project. I love being busy, I feel so productive.
I'm also taking Bangla lessons again, which is kind of nerdy but I'm happy about it. For all of my Bangla-speaking friends who read this blog (it will not make sense to the rest of you), today I learned that the proper sentence is not "Amar class-e jete hobe" but "Amake class-e jete hobe". Hmmm. It's a little embarrassing when I realize how many mistakes I've been making, but always good to fix them. My teacher is so nice about it. Poor guy, it would be like teaching someone to speak English who learned to speak deep south English. He has to say things that are the equivalent of "Now there is no such word as 'ain't' in the English language. Instead we use 'isn't' or 'is not'." He's so tactful.
Besides that, Isaac's birthday is coming up. I actually found a place that makes a Thomas the Tank Engine shaped cake, and we're going to have a big shindig at Pizza Hut. He wants me to buy him a ridiculously huge and heavy (non-suitcase friendly) toy that costs 4500 taka (about 75 smakeroos). I'm hoping that he forgets about it. Yeah right.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I will survive!

Ummm, did I freak you all out with that last post? I'm okay, not dead yet, and I do appreciate all of your phone calls/emails/good vibes. Perhaps I should have waited for my tests results before telling the story. I actually do have the test results but have not had time to go to the doctor, so we must wait. I'm no doctor, but it doesn't look like anything abnormal to me. I don't think I have TB, which is what the chest x-ray was for. I still feel like crap, however, and am developing a sinus infection to top everything else off. I have to go to the doctor tomorrow again, so we'll see what he says.
Today, I sortof took the day off. Had to take Isaac to Pizza Hut of course, and then we came home where I slept and then watched half of season six of Friends. I miss Friends. I hoped that I'd feel better so I can do lots of dora-dori (running around) tomorrow. Oh well, maybe the doc will give me some miracle pills.
My friends Tanya and K. headed off to the Sundarbans yesterday and I wish I could've gone. I think I've heard people say that it's the worlds largest mangrove forest (what's a mangrove, you ask? Google it.) and it's the home of the endangered royal bengal tiger. Sigh. I hope they take lots of pics. We had a big plan to dress up in tiger suits and pretend we were tigers to scare all the tourists. We are such dorks.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ghorar Dim (Horse's Egg), or Public Health Research by Immersion

On my trip to India, we went to see an astrologist (his card says he was a "gold medalist" and a professor at the West Bengal College of Astrology). After he did some math using my birth date and time, he said that my fortune was "extraordinary". He got up and ran into his bedroom and brought out this huge and gaudy pearl for me. He said that I should get a ring made and wear it on my index finger, and it would help bring balance to my life, lower my anxiety level, and help to lower my susceptibility to colds. I have never thought of myself as particularily susceptible to colds, but everything else he told me was pretty accurate, so I figured maybe I am susceptible to colds and didn't realize it. I dutifully made the ring and have been wearing it on my index finger for the last month and a half. It's pretty big, and I feel a little like a pimp daddy with it on, but hey if it makes me less anxious, I'm willing to pimp some daddies.

After we came back from the village in late January, I had some kind of gross stomach bug, which ended up lasting 2 weeks. In the middle of the stomach ugliness, I started getting this terrible headache and a scratchy throat, which I attributed to all the puking that I had been doing (makes you all want to visit me here, doesn't it). Anyways, the tickle developed into this really awful cough that originates deep in my lungs and doesn't want to come out. I also have a fever and feel really really crappy. At the advice of my sister in law, I've taken two different antibiotics, but to no end. When I called her to complain again, she told me to take some Paracetamol (Tylenol). Yeah right. I told her I needed to see someone else. So she took me to the Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujib Medical University Hospital - the biggest government and training hospital in Dhaka. It's pretty big, and kindof gross (people spitting pan-juice all over the place), but it has good doctors - trained in London, and with lots of experience in the typical diseases of Bangladesh.

(Sidenote: As a Fulbrighter, I used to have access to the Medical Unit in the US Embassy. I've never used it because Maya has been able to take care of all of our medical needs until now. Of course, now that I need it, we've been informed that because of funding issues, we are no longer allowed access. The head doctor is a good man, and he has told us to continue coming until he gets "official" notice from Washington, but he's out of town for 3 weeks. The lesson of this paragraph: call your congress person and tell them to support funding for the Fulbright program.)

So we got to PG hosptial, as it is popularly known, and went to see Maya's friend Tushar, who works there. He took us over to the doctor I needed to see. There were probably 250 people in the waiting room, which was the size of a large auditorium (thank God). I pushed ahead of the line and walked into the doctor's chamber, where there were already three patients, a nurse, a male assistant, and another unidentified woman. The chamber was the size of a large closet, and there was some invasion of personal space. After the doctor finished with his patients, he asked me what the problem was. I told him my symptoms - low grade fever, painful cough, headaches, body weakness, for the past month. He scribbled on a pad and gave me the paper.
Once we left the chamber, Tushar told me that I had to get one prescription for an antihistamine, and take one per night before bed time. Then I needed to go to a "diagnostic center" and have some tests done - a chest x-ray and a blood count. I told him we usually have all of our tests done in the clinic or hospital.

I got home and asked my bhabi where to get the tests done. Apparently there are several such "diagnostic centers" around the city, and there is one a short rickshaw ride away from our apartment. I hopped in a rickshaw and told the guy where to take me, and got off at "Padma Diagnostic Center". I went in, left my shoes at the door, and walked up (barefoot) to the second floor where I handed the illegible prescription paper to the clerk. They typed some things in a computer, and I think took some time to decipher the doctor's handwriting, and then asked me for 358 taka (about 6 dollars). That's what it cost for a chest x-ray and blood draw. The cost of health care in the US must be outrageously inflated. They gave me some more papers and herded me over to a blood draw station, where a guy stuck a sterile needle in my arm - I made sure the package was sealed first - but he didn't use gloves. Then I walked into the x-ray room, and had to do two films because I wiggled on the first one. I have to go pick up the films and blood test results tonight.

This made me think about some things: 1) It makes sense for a person to keep their own patient records with them, instead of having health records at the medical institution. 2) It must be awful to be really really sick (like my bhabi was with dengue) and to have to go to the doctor, then go to the testing center and get the tests, then go back and get the results. 3) I'm really lucky to have relatives who are doctors - If I was just the average bideshi (foreigner) off the street, I probably wouldn't have gotten that kind of treatment. I got to skip in front of all 250 people in the waiting room, and tomorrow I'll do it again. Yeah, I feel bad about that, but I'm also pretty sick.

So, basically my point to this post is that my pearl ring is as useful as a Ghorar Dim (Horse's Egg) - although I'm still going to wear it because it might still help with anxiety, and that even though the US health system is crappy, at least it's better than in most of the world.

I'll keep you updated on my health.