Monday, April 25, 2005

43 days left!

I am starting to feel really strange about coming home. I'm desperate to see my family and friends, to drive a car again, to eat salad and breathe clean air. But I'm starting to feel very sad about leaving Bangladesh. I've made some wonderful friends here and I'm going to miss them a lot! When I think about the fact that I might never see some of them again, I get really choked up.
I spent the day at the US Embassy today, hoping to help a friend of mine get a visa. She has been in the US for a while, but had to come back to Bangladesh because of visa issues. Her husband is there, and her baby is a US citizen, but they still refused the visa. I felt so awful for her. I'm praying that somehow she can get her petition through, but it looks bleak. I understand the need to regulate immigrants to the US, but what is the point of breaking up a family? I just don't understand.
In other news, I have a bloody lip. Today, just as I was bending over to fix my shoe, Isaac jumped and rammed his rock hard head into my face. The result was pretty gruesome. I now look like I was in a bar fight. Isaac feels terrible about it, of course, so I'm trying not to complain. But OUCH!
This week I'm actually going to get some social action! Wednesday my friend Asheque is going to take Isaac and I sight seeing around Dhaka. Thursday is Tanya's birthday, and she's having a rooftop party complete with live music. Saturday and Sunday, I'm going to my buddy Rubeena's house (and her mom is literally the best cook in the WORLD.) It's good to have friends!
And how excited am I that Page is coming in three weeks? I can barely stop thinking about it. I'm just planning every moment - where we are going to shop, what restaurants I have to take her to, how can I keep her from being burnt to a krisp, how will she handle the heat....I'm just so happy that she's coming. She seems happy too, but she's pretty darn freaked out about the flight. Don't worry Page, you'll be fine! Just brush up on your kung-fu moves before you get to Dhaka, so when people try to "help" with your luggage, you can kick their asses. You'll be fine!

And now I'm off to eat a popsicle (to make the lip-swelling go down!)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Here we are at the first part of the wedding - the Gaye Holud (literally "yellow body"). We sat next to the sad bride (who had just said goodbye to her parents), and smeared holud on her forehead. Then we fed her some cake. Posted by Hello

The third day of the ceremony is the celebration where the bride feeds all of her guests for the first time as a part of her new family. Here are the bride and groom on their happy day. Posted by Hello

Tanya, Lila, Katie and Isaac Posted by Hello

We were pretty bummed out when there was no veg food on the second night of the wedding. At least we had salad! Posted by Hello

Isaac said "why is the bride sad?" and I said, "because she has to leave her family and go live with her husband." and he said, "Oh, that's terrible. I better go give her a kiss." Posted by Hello

This is the second part of the wedding - the actual marriage ceremony. Strangely, the bride and groom are separated. The bride sits on the stage and people stare at her all night. Posted by Hello

Pretty Bride - she has tear tracks down her cheeks and an appropriately sad look on her face. We sat next to her and smeared holud on her forehead and fed her cake. Posted by Hello

a closeup shot of the fuchka - for those of you who don't know, it's these little crunchy bread things that are filled with dal and then topped with chopped cukes, onions and tomatoes, and sometimes eggs, and then they have this tamarind sauce that is drizzled over the top. SOOOO yummy. Posted by Hello

My favorite forbidden food - fuchka. I didn't eat any this time, because it was really hot outside and god knows how long it had been sitting there. But it's SOOOO delicious! Posted by Hello

Back in Dhaka.

We had a wonderful mini-vacation in Chittagong this week. Tanya, Isaac and I came back to Dhaka this morning on a domestic flight. It took forty minutes as opposed to the dreadful seven hours by train, and it was worth the $100 for all three of us. I came home and slept all day. I'm sure I'll be up all night now!

I’ve decided that Chittagong weddings are definitely way more cool that their Dhaka counterparts. The decorations were more colorful and elaborate, and the traditions more fully observed. I had to leave early every night because Isaac needed to sleep (ok I admit it was me that needed to sleep), but I heard about all the fun they had. There was jamai (groom) teasing and force feeding galore, and the bou (bride) did a great job being melodramatic and weeping as she ceremonially left her parents house and moved into her “sosur bari” (in-law’s house). Our host, Saif bhai, went out of his way to make sure there was vegetarian food available and that we were comfortable. It worked out every night except one, when Tanya and I were stuck eating salad (see photo). It’s traditional here to have meat in everything – biriyani, chicken roast, kebab – feeding meat to your guests is the ultimate in hospitality. But I appreciated the veggie dish they had specially made for us. And the polau was excellent! Isaac even ate it.

I also got a chance to spend time with Maya again. She is so busy – doing her residency as the Assistant Registrar in the Gynae Dept of Chittagong Medical. She also is getting over typhoid, which she contracted from unclean drinking water. I got to see her do a few c-sections (she’s a pro now that she does at least 15 per day), and watched her perform her rounds. Isaac was happy to see her and his Momota-Apu, who is also in Chittagong. She’s going to a new school and likes it, although I think she misses Dhaka. It was sad leaving because I don’t think I’ll see them until it’s time for me to go.

I’m trying to finish my data analysis before Page comes (in exactly one month!) so that I can spend more time with her. I’m getting a little worried about how she’ll handle the flight here. It’s long and there are lots of connections. And the Dhaka airport is a zoo. Deep breath. She’s 17 and she can handle it!
Time to get back to work – tomorrow it’s back to the grindstone.

Thank God for the Gameboy, Isaac and I played on the seven hour train ride. Actually I played quite a bit while Isaac watched. Posted by Hello

My travelling companions - Ripon Bhai, Saif Bhai, Isaac, Papri, Lila Apa, Tanya and Ritu. It was hot on Pahila Boishak and we all had some ice cream to cool down. Posted by Hello

Monday, April 11, 2005

New pictures from Farhana.

My friend Farhana came by this morning and went for a stroll with my digital camera. She came back with some great shots, and I wanted to share them with you. She is helping me to teach a group of Bangladeshi women how to use cameras and take nice pictures, and we are hoping to put together an exhibit for the US. I am going to include some of her work as well. She has had international exposure as an artist and has worked on similar projects in India and Bangladesh. Right now she's working on a rickshaw project for UNESCO. Tanya, Kei and I are hoping to put together an exhibit on Rickshaw Art to bring back to the US, so it was a serendipitous meeting. Both Farhana and I keep saying that we wish we had met earlier in my stay. I only have a few weeks left (which makes me happy and sad at the same time). Anyways, enjoy the pictures, and know that there are more to come!

(on a side note, I'm going to Chittagong on Wednesday for my friend's brother's wedding and wont be back till Sunday, so don't expect to hear from me until then.)

photo by Farhana Posted by Hello

photo by Farhana Posted by Hello

photo by Farhana Posted by Hello

photo by Farhana. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bahrwala/Story 1

Bahrwala/Story 1

Please check out this site when you have a few minutes - my friend Farhana is a photographer and she does photo stories. She's working with me on a really awesome project here, and I hope to share it with you soon. She's such an insightful and sincere person and I hope to share more of her with you all in the near future!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Happy Happy Day!

I just got an email from Masud that my sister is coming to visit me in May! I'm so happy about it that I could just cry! She's coming on May 17th and she'll go home with me in June. It has given me something to look forward to, and I think Page will have a great experience here. I am hoping she doesn't get some gross intestinal disease (which is probably inevitable). She's pretty resilient, though and I've got lots of oral saline. Wow, what an opportunity, to visit the developing world when you're 17. I'm jealous of her!

And let me just holler out a huge THANK YOU to my friend Wendy, who sent me the most wonderful and thoughtful care package today. You really made my day, dude!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

This is my Bangla teacher, Thomas (picture stolen from Tanya's weblog). He's a good teacher, and I learn fun things like "kukri-mukri diye boste hoyeche" means "I had to sit all squished up (because there were too many people in the car)". Posted by Hello

Here's a pic of us (thanks to my friend Tanya, who caught us unawares.) Isaac is learning to play chess thanks to my friend Keisuke. We're starting with just the pawns. He knows that you can move forward, but only kill DIAGONALLY. (More than I know.) Posted by Hello

Friday, April 01, 2005

Psycho child.

It's probably because I worried so much that he would be a hermaphrodite when I was pregnant. He was born clearly a boy, but Isaac is a real nutcase. Shall we engage in the "nature vs. nurture" arguement? Or should I just tell you what a nut my kid is.

For a long time, he's had a really hard time with change. I was not allowed to get rid of old broken toys, clothes that were too small, and even returning library books was traumatic. Rearranging the furniture spurred a 3 hour tantrum, and he still is bitter about the fact that I changed the curtains. (Remember, mom?) So it's been tough on him - coming to Bangladesh - so different from the US, and where we've had to change apartments several times. It seems the last straw was when we moved from our room to his aunt and uncles room a few days ago. We had to move because this is the room that has AC. He cried for an hour and a half straight, and finally seemed okay with it. A few hours later, though, he started asking me "Mom, come here. See the shape (position) I'm in? See how my hands are? See where my shoes are on the floor? Memorize this shape and put me in it again for this many (holds up ten fingers) days." Ok, no problem. Kindof strange but sortof funny at the same time. Then he says it again five minutes later. And again. And again. Every five minutes. Every time he moves. If somebody moves his shoe he flips out. If i say "no I wont put you in that shape" he flips out. If I refuse to come from the other room to memorize his shape, he flips out.

Here I thought that bringing him to Bangladesh would help him to get to know his father's culture, and make him more flexible. What happend is that he hates everything Bengali, and has become rigid to the point that he doesn't want to "change his shape". Should I be blaming myself for this? So my plan backfired. Now what do I do? Parenting is hard.