Tuesday, December 29, 2009

vacation

in Israel. very quiet. sometimes I hear birds. usually not even that. walking in the desert this morning, I just couldn't believe how quiet it is. I'm saving that up for next week.

also how spacious the negev is. also saving up those views.

everyone got here by Sunday night. We've just been hanging out. some talking, some swimming, some walking, lots of eating. some shopping, some movies, a wedding, a family gathering (over 25 people), and then some more eating and hanging out.

almost time to leave. we haven't visited anyone north of Ashkelon. yikes. I suspect we're not going to make it to visit many people this trip. sorry. we really needed to see each other. usually we come together after having been away from here, this time we've come separately and need to see our family. another time -- we'll be back.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

in Israel

Matan and I have been here for a few days now (Wed-Sun), mostly on the kibbutz. The first few days had sandstorms, but yesterday was brilliant. Even Friday afternoon had cleared enough to go picking oranges. I've been grading off and on (really, with 16 papers, how can I even sit down more than once to do them?!) and will be done before the others arrive from the States.

When? who knows. They've been re-routed because of the snowstorm on the east coast. If they arrived in Newark, their new flight is scheduled to take off shortly. So, no, they're not arriving here Sun am. Earliest is now Sun 6pm.

So we're in Beer Sheva. Matan went rappeling yesterday with Doron -- pretty much all day. I'm being pampered with the best food ever, both on kibbutz and here. Hot bath. The quiet is a pleasure. So peaceful and sunny.

In a while I'll go get the rental car. May even try to solve the Bituah Leumi (national insurance) issues, though for some reason, they want us to come to their Ashkelon office(?). Still haven't made many plans, waiting for everyone to be here together.

Hope everyone is safe and warm!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

journey to Israel

Finished teaching for the semester. Collected most of the papers and went home on Tuesday to finish packing. Some bulky presents, but not a lot. Some warm clothes, but not nearly enough (the MN folks will bring us some warmer clothes!).

On the way home from the university, I asked the driver to arrange a cab to take us to the airport at 6:30pm for our 9pm flight. We stopped at a taxi stand and he talked to a driver -- arranged the price, told him where we live, all in Bangla so there wouldn't be any confusion.

Home and packing. Cooked lovely paratha with corn and mozzarella cheese, saved half for later, but the ants got it first. I hate little ants.

We finished and were ready to go on time. Go downstairs and at about 6:35 call the cab driver who says there's a big traffic jam and it will take him a few more miniutes. Go back upstairs to get mosquito spray since sitting downstairs we are just big tasty targets. Call the cab driver every 10 minutes and he keeps saying "big traffic jam" and that he'll be there in 10 minutes. I have other people, one of the other renter's drivers call to clarify in Bangla that the driver is indeed on his way. By 7:15, I'm really scared. We are only about 10-15 minutes from the airport, but everything in Dhaka depends on traffic. If there's a "jam" on the way to the airport, we have to leave early, accordingly.

We walk out to the bigger street to see if we can find a CNG or cab. Of course not. We'd have to go back towards the center -- where the jam is much worse -- to find one. I am so scared that we'll miss our flight that now my brain is working on last resorts. Oh yes, friend at the Radisson, they might have cabs there -- so I call her. She says she'll have one sent immediately. We walk back to our apartment building since 19 rickshaw drivers have offered to take us, even though they are not allowed on the main road to the airport.

At the apartment building the driver-who-didn't-show calls to say he is not in the right neighborhood. I give my phone to the (latest new) apartment manager and ask him to tell the driver that he doesn't need to come. (actually I think much nastier things to tell the driver who had, at that point, over 3 hours to find our apartment building since we arranged for him at 4pm to pick us up at 6:30pm, but I refrain). I start to cry very softly. Waiting for the Radisson guy to come. Now it's 7:45 and our plane leaves in one hour and fifteen minutes. The guard, the other renter's driver, the apartment manager all stand there. Finally they say, here, go in this renter's car and we'll work it out. We get all loaded into that car and the Radisson car comes around the corner. Yes, there had been a train and that blocked traffic for 5-10-15 minutes around here. So we get in the Radisson car and start on our way.

We're at the airport by 8pm (it really is very very close to our apartment), and then race through the lines. The check-in people say we're very lucky since the hold is being closed but they call down to hold it for our suitcase. In this chaos, I lose the book Matan was reading. Pretty sure it stayed at one of those three counters that we were shifted around there. Immigration -- we totally cut the line since our flight was boarding. People were not happy with us.

Boarding as we get there. They separate the men and women but I insist that Matan boards with me. Then we discover the book is missing and I turn around and go back -- but only as far as immigration, can't go out to the ticket counter. No book. Good food, good movie, good sleep -- what more can we ask for? Ok, so getting up at 3am in Bahrain is not ideal, but it's before midnight there. Very orderly procedure for getting to hotel (including transit visa), but squeezed into a van with a few too many people. Nice talk with a woman from Dhaka who is at a different university. Hotel is fine, we go to sleep, I had a nice shower, but no hot water for Matan! Have a buffet breakfast and a beautiful ride back to the airport. What a different city that was. Traffic is orderly, streets are clean, there are sidewalks. Buildings are built. The airport was loaded with things to buy buy buy that you had to walk through to get to your gate. Changed a bit of money and bought someone some fast food...

(not my picture)

Next flight to Amman was pretty quiet. More cosmopolitan than the flight from Dhaka. Also not 98% male.

In Amman we have to change money for the taxi to Israel, and, it turns out, for single-entry visas. So they are $15 each, and once we leave the country (in 2 hours), have to get new ones next time. Still, everything seems to work well. We get the cab and set out. Looks so much like Jerusalem. Zoom through the urban areas and then have stunning views (I'll try to upload the pictures) before we drop below sea level coming into the Jordan valley. Agriculture rules! We also saw a few too many sheep hanging in the meat market. I'd prefer future food to not have heads attached. I got a little green. Matan was also getting carsick from the speed and the sharp curves. By 3pm we were at the border, and then there was a process of walking, cab, walking, bus, walking, through the different stations. They wanted an exit tax from Jordan but I guess my weary objection worked -- we'd only been in the country 2 hours!

Then we waited in the bus for another half hour until we were driven over to the Israeli side. Took awhile to get through immigration -- I don't remember them even asking for the "other" passport before -- usually we just arrive and hand over the Israeli passport as though we've landed from outer space. Nothing since our last exit from Israel. I suppose our American passports are starting to get interesting: visas from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bahrain and Jordan in the last six months...

Finally we get out and look around and don't see anyone waiting and someone says, go that way, your parents are just outside the gate! And indeed we could see Chava and Yehuda from there! We start to walk toward them and someone yells (in Hebrew of course), no, you have to go back and walk around a different way, and so we do, finally getting out to where we were met.

Lots of hugs -- it's been nearly 2 years since I've been here, and Matan grew 4-5 inches since he was here in July (!) -- and then we get on our way. Stop for shwarma, the boy has been dreaming of this -- and we have wonderful salads. The route to Gvulot is only 3.5 hours now, even with a food stop, on road 6, and we're at a huge family gathering with new nieces I've never met and so many other people who have grown in the last two years.

Slept well, woke up to a sand storm and am glad to be here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

bike buying

before this fades...
We did go to buy the bike on Saturday. I try to think of an equivalent journey -- it's not like taking off for some unknown neighborhood in Chicago on a gulf cart, but that's about as close as I can come.
We went at 1pm so we'd have lots of daylight -- it wasn't clear if this was going to take 2 or 4 or 6 hours, so I said if we don't leave by 1, we're not going. We walk out to our main road and look for a CNG - that's the 3-wheeled motorized transport. It's allowed on all the main roads. They're not always available and they have been known to charge high fares. OK, so we found one right away but the guy did not seem to understand "Bongshal" and I wasn't sure enough of my pronunciation and/or whether it was a street or a neighborhood. So I look around and yes, already, two or three people are pausing to see if they can help. I describe Bongshal as bikes? and the guy behind me nods and starts to tell the driver. Two more people chime in and a discussion ensues in Bangla. OK, so he's got the idea where we want to go and I make sure that all of the 7-8 people now gathered agree this is the bike street. Yes, yes. Then I ask the driver what the fare will be and he answers (but it's not a number, or at least not one that I understand). I look around again, and my lovely cohort starts negotiating. They tell me he's agreed to 200 taka. I'm surprised (it's 100 to work and that's about 25-30 minutes. I thought this would be at least 500 taka (about $7).

Great -- we're on our way. We ride through the neighborhoods we know, go through the neighborhoods we've seen once or twice (the tour or on a bus) and then we get into unknown territory. I take out the map and the driver tells me where we are. Right direction. Then we go very slowly on some crowded main roads where we are between buses and trucks and can't see much of anything. The popcorn vendors offer us some popcorn. We make slow progress. Going on 2pm. I ask if this is Ramna Park, and yes, then he shows us the Supreme Court. OK. More traffic. More city. The city goes on and on.

Then he says, here we are. No bikes in sight. I ask at the nearest market vendor about bikes. He says other direction. At this point traffic is so thick that we get out to walk and thank the CNG driver very much. We walk across the street and start to see bike stores. These are open market stores -- everything is accessible from the street. Matan starts to ask prices. Too many flashy bikes, mountain bikes, multiple gear bikes.... I wonder if I brought enough money.

We keep walking. There must be 100 stores. Just on this street (we don't realize that it goes on and on beyond, in fact the used bike stores are a whole additional area). Matan finds the bike he wants. Still too much. We keep going. He finds another one like it. This time the price is better. We get ushered into the back of the shop and seated. Don't understand. Are they getting the bike out for him to look at? They want me to pay before he tries it out? No, they're sending someone to bring the bike from storage. They don't actually pull the bike out of the 20 on display (good thing since there was rust on the display bikes). We wait and look around at all the locks and bells, etc. The bike comes. Matan likes it. We pay for it. They start making adjustments. He brings it back to have the seat raised. We ask how to get it home (crucial and unsettling question since we are now many miles from home). They said to walk about 10 minutes to the edge of the market where the motorized traffic starts up again and there to find a CNG and put it on the roof.

We start walking. People ask us how much did it cost? We find the edge of the market but turn to start looking for a cab or CNG and find nothing. This part is a bit unsettling. We ask a rickshaw/flatbed driver, but really it's way too far to go by bike. However, once we start asking questions, lots of people have suggestions. They send a 10 or 12 year-old boy with us back in the direction we came from. He's been told to find us a CNG, help get the bike on the roof and set the price. And he did it! It took about 4 CNGs until one agreed to take us (this uncertainty is challenging) and then he started looking for twine on the street to tie the bike on the top. It worked. He set the price (same 200 taka!) and we were on our way. This driver went a different route, but actually got us back in less than an hour. I think part of the argument at the beginning was whether to take this faster route or not, and the first driver wasn't sure enough about it. So. Here's a picture of the bike upstairs in our living room on the first night and then there's a picture of our morning fog and if you look very carefully, you'll see Matan on his way to school. He looks distant, but that's because I'm taking the picture from the 5th floor. By now he's gone to school 3 days with the bike and is really happy with it. We'll get him a helmet next week when we're in Israel.

Monday, December 14, 2009

bike buying and yesterday's conference

will be described in a future post.
have to get to school.
flying out tomorrow night.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Hanukah!

I think we lit candles before anyone else I know! of course, we needed YouTube to help us sing Maoz Tsur! Looking forward to soufganiot and holiday celebrations in Israel next week.

meanwhile, my week in dhaka...

finishing up classes. students are finishing up papers. racing to get them to me by Tuesday, when we leave town. there are still 2 weeks left for them in the semester -- a week of prep for finals (no classes) and then finals from the 24-31 of Dec. Since both of my classes are writing classes, a final paper is ok instead of a final exam.

this morning it would have been nice to know that water aerobics was cancelled but I guess they just figured everyone knew there was a school event today, so the pool wouldn't be available. got a good 30 minute walk home instead. I'm so kvetchy about getting beeped at -- I know the drivers use the horn instead of the brakes when they approach corners. this even makes sense to me for rickshaw drivers: who wants to lose the momentum with an unnecessary stop at an intersection? but cars, they don't have to push those pedals so hard to move from gas to brake. also the cars who approach me from behind, I guess they really want to make sure I don't make any sudden moves, like dashing into the middle of the road from walking on the side, so they beep 3 or 4 times as they approach. just me walking on the side, and them driving down the middle. it's not a conversation.

today's plan: go to Bangshal and find a bike. I'm starting to wonder if we shouldn't just get the *local* too fancy bike for $150 -- since this jaunt is going to be 1-2 hours by cab and who knows what we're going to find there. I think I'm getting less adventurous. certainly less interested in seeing new neighborhoods when the cost is hours and hours and hours in traffic jams.

also today - Matan has to try on hiking boots so that we know whether to get them here or in Israel. If they are very expensive here, we'll get them there. In any case, we'll see what's here and wait to see what's there.

there's a party tonight at HEED that I should go to, but I feel very awkward since I haven't been back to the language center since the end of the script class. I was going to have tutoring, but never did call since it's been a pretty overwhelming last 3 weeks or so. I guess it's also that the people I studied with are not there anymore, so it's mostly people I don't know.

conference tomorrow on being Bengali in the outside world. should be interesting. skipped 2 days of conferences yesterday and today -- feeling a bit lax about not going, but also just needing a weekend.

anyway -- doing pretty well. seem to have reduced the bug issue, the washing machine is ready for us to use when we return, and I'm feeling fine. didn't do much cooking this week (one pizza? bacon cheeseburgers? brownies? is that really it???), so it's a good thing we eat meals at school. and take away from the American club... sometimes...

Friday, December 11, 2009

I lose the details when I don't write often

Maybe it's the details I'd rather not remember -- seems petty, like bugs, but while not dangerous, the annoying factor takes up much energy.

Starting to recognize that I need occasional days where it's ok not to go out and deal with the noise and crowds.

I'll come back to these: parent meetings, department meetings, student conferences (no wonder, um, there's a theme here of intense interpersonal contact this week!). Downtime at home in the evenings seems like hiding out, but maybe it's essential?

And now, in spite of thinking maybe I'll just stay in on Friday, I had breakfast with a friend, and need to go out if I'm going to bring any presents to folks in Israel, and I do want to see the play at Matan's school. AND I worked on the syllabus for next semester for the comp from lit class (which I'll be doing at Century in the summer online, so I really want to set it up for the future versions, as well).

Hard to believe we're leaving on Tuesday!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

learning, still learning

pretty nice day overall. went to school late. still no 10 taka bills to be found.

working around it, like everyone else. worked on next semester's readings for the course that I'll be teaching both at BRAC and next summer at Century. reading articles (yes, I am thrilled to be able to spend time reading academic articles...). worked with one student who needs access so her computer can read the articles to her and two of the pdf files didn't work. so we tried again. still no success, so I helped her figure out which parts of the articles would be helpful in her paper.

the department had lunch with the provost and heard about plans for teacher development across the university. interesting meeting after he left, too. it's a hugely different environment when faculty are not unionized.

water aerobics are great. next semester it's not going to work quite so well since one of the days is a teaching day and the distance is just a bit too far to be able to finish in one place and get to the other.

finally -- stopped on the way home to look for solutions to eliminate the mosquitos. It is not a particularly risky or dangerous situation, just annoying. there are chemical/electrical things that get plugged in at twilight in each room.

Usually there are mosquito nets -- this I will deal with when we return in January. Duct tape on windows (and doors) that don't get used.
Even got an electric zapper that looks like a badminton racquet that I imagine Matan will have fun with once it's charged.

overall, a pretty good Tuesday.

another queasy morning

no, I don't think I'm dehydrated. my officemate is astounded by how much water I drink every day. maybe the water makes me queasy?!
too many mosquitoes. finally set up the "good knight" anti-mosquito systems. combination of electric and chemical gadget that runs all night. still 3 mosquitoes over my bed this morning when I woke up. earplugs help not to hear them all night.
not sure though if the bites are even mosquitoes. maybe more bedbugs? looks like I have measles.
good thing the grading is temporarily caught up. I can go out on the mission for 10 taka notes once again on the way to work this morning. Matan keeps needing all the ones I come up with in change.
cheerful, eh?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

nope, no 10 taka notes, not today

maybe day after tomorrow. really. that's what they said in the bank. no 20s either. I got a bunch of 50s. they work for most of our jaunts.

pretty good day. almost caught up on the grading. walked from the university to Matan's school for a parent meeting. it's about an hour walk. not all of it is pretty and some of it literally stinks, but I need to walk a bit.

Matan's school trip in Feb is to Bhutan. what an opportunity!

10 taka notes

I can't believe I'm going to work 2 hours late so that I can stop by the bank on the way and maybe get 1000 taka worth of 10 taka notes. The last 3 days I've had to keep track of whether I have enough change for the rickshaws. Matan always needs at least 30, if not 60, taka in 10s. Last week I stopped at the market just to change a 500 taka note (less than $10 and no, they would not do it at the grocery store for a small purchase).

wish me luck.

Friday, December 4, 2009

thanksgiving trip to nepal

We got to Nepal late on Thursday, maybe the delay was meant to be as we saw gorgeous mountain peaks as the sun was setting and we were landing. If we'd gotten there during the afternoon, we might not have had that spectacular view. As I said earlier, were met by someone from our hotel at the airport, but our room was actually at a different hotel. So the first night was pretty minimal. On the other hand, we went out for steak and enjoyed that very much.

Huge steaks. Warm blankets at the hotel. And a wonderful host (from the hotel we eventually stayed at on Sunday night) who went and got our tickets to Pokhara for the next morning, 6:30am.

In the morning, we got a taxi to the pickup point (200 rupees was twice what it cost us to take a taxi back upon return, so that hotel manager seemed less reliable... he also asked for 300, but when I didn't have enough small change, went back to 200. hmmm).

Bus trip -- took a long time to get out of Kathmandu. So we saw quite a bit of the city in the early morning light. On the way we stopped for breakfast and lunch.

Lunch with Podhar (if I'm not mauling the name). He was returning to Pokhara from working in England. Has brothers and sisters in Pokhara (not a big city) and his parents live "up in the hills". Their farm was washed out in a mudslide -- all of the cultivating is done on terraced sides of the hills (or mountains). He offered to take us up to the farm, but it would take a couple of days to travel and we weren't going to be in Pokhara that long.



We continued until 2:30pm on the bus. As for the local stops, Matan's new philosophy: I used to hope there would be toilet paper, now I wonder if there will be a toilet...

Lots of almost dry riverbeds with huge bridges over small rivers. Some of it is seasonal, some is climate change. Pictures didn't seem to come out. Not sure why. We did see kayaking and river rafting in some of the bigger river areas.

Heading west, away from the Mt Everest mountain area, but near to the Anapurna range. That's approximately a 20 day trek, with Pokhara one of the main starting places. So there are lots of stores with trekking gear and folks getting ready to go or returning. Day or week treks were leaving all the time. We walked from the bus drop off place towards the lake front since we kind of knew that's where our hotel was located. We stopped and asked questions and changed more money. Matan wanted to know mostly about renting a motorcyle... less than $10 a day, not many questions asked!
Our hotel:


First we tried to rent a motorcycle, and the hotel called someone and he brought it over. The owner and Matan went out for a spin and to fill up the gas, but it was a big bike and had manual gears, so the owner said he was reluctant to rent it to Matan. That was ok with me, and we decided to postpone that project until the next day. We also postponed the dawn visit to the lookout points until Sunday, even if it was going to be cutting it close with our 7:30am bus ride back to Kathmandu.

We had dinner up on the patio, and, well, didn't go out for the evening. What tired folks we were! Lots of reading which I dearly love on vacations.

In the morning I did wake up for the sunrise and went up to the patio to wait. What I could see before the sun rose was the neighborhood just under the hotel. People obviously didn't have electricity, they came out with flashlights to the outhouses, they started fires in the backyards for cooking. Kids got dressed to go to school. (This picture is better if you click to enlarge it).



After breakfast I went out and walked around. I found a motorcycle rental place around the corner and talked to the owner about having someone give Matan a quick lesson before he went out on his own. We agreed on a price (less than $10 for lesson and 2 hours) and I went back to tell Matan. He was ready!

I was pretty nervous, but sometimes I just have to let go a bit. Walked to the lake. Talked to women who were selling handicrafts from Tibet. Couldn't afford anything they had to sell anyway. They were pretty aggressive and just didn't seem to believe that, no, I don't have that kind of money. Eventually I shook them. It's an awkward feeling, but it was also really hard just to walk along the lake without a crowd. I walked in each direction - found the Chabad house, found bookstores, found lots of Hebrew! - even menus and letters of recommendation!

Later I just waited in a coffee shop and Matan eventually came back from the hills. We went to lunch and I wanted details!!


More great food, easy going Norah Jones music, and he told me about his adventures. He didn't get too lost, didn't have a cell phone (at least not with a SIM that worked in Nepal) but the owner gave him his card so if he had any problems, someone would have helped him call in. All in all, he was happy. I thought I was going to rent a motorcycle, too, but in the end, I decided that I would rather not. oh well.

The day was clear and the mountains visible (the dawn had been cloudy, so I was really glad I didn't do the trek up to the observation point that day).

We hung out, read, walked, and eventually went out for supper. This time it was Italian with music from the 80s. Lots of older tourist trekkers (ok, my age), not only the post-army kids from Israel!



The next morning I did go up to the observation point. The car stalled about four times on the way up (it's 40 years old, they said)

but I had a clear sky to see the mountain peaks.



We had to hurry to get to the bus and back to Kathmandu. Another beautiful day. Lunch -- lots of rice -- what more could Matan want?!

Long time getting into the city, but by about 3pm we were at our hotel. It was amazing. Just lovely. If we ever want to go deluxe, it would be $18/night instead of $14, and then there's a bathtub and balconey, too! The downstairs area was welcoming and folks sat around -- sofas and guitars, some computers (and wireless for those who were carrying laptops -- which we were not!), a beautiful garden with a hammock.

We went out to the most famous pizza place in Kathmandu (though our hotel clerk said maybe we wanted Pizza Hut -- it had just opened that week. we said no!). Fire and Ice. We played chess and enjoyed the food.


Found out there was no exit tax to be paid (there is, but now it's included in the price of the airfare), so we had a bit of money to spend. The credit card may have given me a bit of security, but it was not useful when it came down to buying say, good walking boots for Matan. oh well. we managed on the cash reserves, just so folks aren't expecting a lot of presents!

Flight back was uneventful. We'd brought another pizza with us for the airport... it's kind of odd to know a few people on the flights, like Matan's school principal or one of the high school seniors traveling on his own to see someone in Nepal. I'd sure like to spend a few weeks there the next time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

back to work

deep in grading and class preps for the last two weeks before winter break. our semester here continues until the end of December with finals, so my students do not yet sense the urgency of getting everything in before I leave on the 15th.

will post more about Nepal soon.

bought jeans and a fleece jacket yesterday in Dhaka. what a great feeling to know where to get something I really needed. hope Matan gets over there too since he could really use some jeans that fit better.

ok, back to work.

everywhere in Nepal:

Monday, November 30, 2009

a very short visit to Nepal

we left Thursday much later in the day than we were supposed to -- the flight was delayed from about 2 until 5pm. got there in the dark, the hotel came to pick us up, but had given away our room. they did, to their credit, find us another room at the hotel next door. the guy who met us also asked what else we needed and then arranged bus tickets for the 7am bus the next morning to Pokhara. we went out to eat at a steakhouse nearby, leading Matan to say when we got back to the hotel, that it seems like we're really going to splurge on this vacation! this in a hotel which (at the time) had no electricity, no elevator, no heat, no hot water, the toilet didn't flush, the tv didn't work (and didn't even before the electricity went out), but it did have heavy warm blankets, so we slept well that night.

I'll write more tomorrow, but don't worry, the hotel rooms improved and the picture I'm posting is from the hammock at the hotel this morning.



We had a good break, went way out of urban areas into very rural villages, by bus. there were stunning views next to houses with no electricity or running water. lots to think about.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

Happy day to all who celebrate and safe travels to all who are journeying.
Thanks for your support, cheers, questions and concern throughout this amazing adventure we are having.
Off line for the next couple of days. Must say I'm looking forward to that, too!

ps the amex appears to have authorized so I think we're good to go!

so will the amex card work?

trying to be grateful that the IPASS ran out and the credit card (one of the stolen and cancelled ones) was rejected. IPASS notified me and I changed the card to amex. unfortunately, amex has not yet authorized the transaction, nor the replenishment. makes me really nervous to travel today with a credit card that might not be working from abroad. working on getting it verified in the States that there might be charges from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bahrain, Jordan....!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ready for something a little more quiet

I'll have to get a picture of the new sign at the entrance to our neighborhood: "no horns in ----" since it seems that horns are usually connected directly to the gas pedal. or the brake. or both. There are traffic signs with a big circle over a horn symbol to show folks that this is a no horn zone. Matan says it just reminds folks that they have horns. I find myself jumping lately when a car driver honks over and over and we're all equally stuck in traffic, but I'm on a rickshaw and getting the full benefit of his blast. No car windows to buffer it a bit.

Guess I'm to the point where I'd like a little quiet. The planes go right over our apartment building, pretty darn low. And trains, I usually like them. There's a guard or police officer that blows a whistle at hourly intervals throughout the night. I think. I still like the roosters. They seem to blend in.

The rest of the week was challenging, as well. Monday I got some grocery shopping done, but not much else after work. Tuesday I went to swimming and then thought I could get to the commissary between 5 and 7pm and back to Matan's school for an award ceremony. No. traffic was miserable and after about an hour on a rickshaw, I just said let's go back to the school. With the groceries. sigh.

Today the students in the first course continued to say they could not read an autobiography, but now, since they were supposed to bring it with them to class today, I have very little patience for this. There are 30 autobiographies in the library. I don't care if 20 of them are by Nelson Mandela. It does not matter that there is no internet connection in their village over the holiday. They got the assignment 2 weeks ago. And yes, the book has to be read by next Wednesday even if there is no school for the next 5 days. And yes, there will be an in-class essay on the make-up class day on Saturday next week (lest we think we have 5 whole days off, there are make-up days here when there's a holiday bridge over what should have been a class day....). I think maybe one person had read the articles for today so that quiz didn't go very well either. Is the frustration coming out of my ears?

At least when all of my powerpoint presentations were lost on the thumb drive today, I could replace everything (I think) since I actually write them on computers and save them on the drive only to move from computer to classroom. Of course, if anything was really lost I won't know until I look for it sometime in the future.

So. yes. that kind of week. Looking forward to the weekend vacation. Two days in Kathmandu and two days in Phokhara. No computer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

mostly better

The bank was not helpful. They are a separate entity from the American and online version where my account was established. They tried to help but it would take a very long time to get the money out.

Cancelling the atm card took a 7 minute phone call to the states. the person in the office next door laughed out loud when I got off, I guess my patience was obviously strained...so I went over and talked to her about the whole thing.

Worked on replacing other local cards. Realized my phone was out when it went dead while I was talking to my embassy contact. My computer was also out at the time so I was getting a bit frazzled. IT came up and figured out what connection was loose on the computer. The phone got some minutes added. Good thing I wasn't trying to grade or teach or anything like that. Reading for a lecture for Wed was about all I could do. I had done quite a lot of prep while procrastinating last week on the presentation(!).

Made plans to see a friend who is leaving next week. Decided to get new photographs since all progress in getting new documents in Dhaka depends on having photographs. Every office wants photographs. So instead of having the driver take me home, I went to a commercial center, got the pictures and with 10 minutes to spare got to the American club before the office closed. New document granted. Slept poolside while waiting for my friend. Glorious to talk to her. I miss seeing her everyday at language class. Turns out she can also help with my lack of local currency. Brought supper home for Matan. And just felt like it was going to be ok.

This morning was cold so I wore a long sleeved shirt and went directly to campus by rickshaw. It's a little longer than 30 minutes and that was chilly so I was very glad for time enough for hot tea. I like the paratha and egg too. Wonder what exactly makes it spicy!

Soon after I got to my office I got a call from my landlord that someone called him and said he had my documents. I had sent an email to the landlord Sat night just to let him know that his card was in my wallet and if anyone came around, that would be the source of the information. My suspicious side was concerned that someone knew where we lived and wanted more; my better side thought if anyone found it, that would be a logical place to return it. And indeed, a cab driver found the pile of cards, no wallet or money, stuffed into the back seat cushion of the cab. He hadn't had the car for the last 2 days and found the documents when he got the car back and was cleaning it out. So I got the number from the landlord and our English department coordinator did all the talking. Arranged for the driver to come to BRAC and I left my phone with him so if he came when I was in class, the coordinator could meet him.

Most all of the contents were returned. I was especially glad to see my driver's license and our insurance cards. The credit cards and atm card are cancelled so they're not much use. All those wonderful business cards from contacts here. Wonder what they can do with the purchase data about my modem SIM -- that's gone, too.

So teaching today was somewhat distracted (I know). Did my presentation for the theory class and asked them for feedback, esp since the conference people do want it written up into a formal essay by the end of January and I am interested particularly in the applications in Bangladesh. My students can help me see the project of online learning from a wider perspective.

Lots of really helpful and concerned people around me.
I'll write about Ibsen some other time. Hard to remember that was this past weekend too. And we're off to Nepal on Thursday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

mostly very frightened

I hope that the local bank will be able to replace the atm card. Don't really want to list everything we have and don't have. Feeling very vulnerable.

Haven't slept enough to cope properly.

Need to get new photographs urgently: for local cards and on-the-spot visas in Nepal.

better get up and get going again. the cynical me wonders how much weight I lose on this one. during the first two months of anxiety, I lost over 10 kilos.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Matan places 3rd -- both individual and his team -- in math competition


Three days of math! Hosting kids from India, Pakistan, Nepal. Some field trips (they had math problems to solve!), some pizza outings, but mostly math and more math. Long tie-breaker for the individual scoring.

wallet stolen at conference

sure took all the fun out of that presentation.
5 minutes before I went on. while I was working on the computer setup.
less than 5 feet away from me.

with a trip this week, I admit, I'm just sad and scared.

Friday, November 20, 2009

the cluelessness

I just want to know --

how do I know when not to schedule Thursday conferences?
clue: when classes have been cancelled because admission tests will be held on campus. no student can get in without admission test ticket.your students will not have admission test tickets.

how do I know when I get billed for internet?
clue: when there is a box that says messages as the program comes up. try to open it. you'll see messages from the last month and a half that say when you filled the SIM and when it was billed. not random at all.

how do I know that you can look for people on Facebook by year at high school or university?
clue: it says so there. ok. I figured it out. eventually.

how do I know there's a final exam at the end of Bangla class?
clue: there's been one every time the session ends? how did this come as a complete surprise?

hmmm. when I write them down, it doesn't seem quite so infinite. It was a week though of too often feeling very dense and not very perceptive.

So I got to read the English essays on the admission tests that day that classes were cancelled. And I haven't missed any internet payments -- the threat of being dropped from the unlimited package kept me in line! And new friends on facebook -- people I haven't seen in many, many years. Others I didn't even know were in my "class" at Hebrew U since they were in different divisions! Finally, I just got pictures of the last class in Bangla and went to work. I was not ready to take an exam in script yet.

I'll catch up more tomorrow. It's been a pretty good week, though a hard one with starting out behind (sleeping through last weekend) and having a conference presentation tomorrow that's kept me working steadily all week. I think it's ready. Not ready enough for me to go to water aerobics 2 hours before the talk, but ready enough to sleep well tonight.

the little ants

size and color of my freckles will eventually drive me crazy. they are so tiny that I usually don't think I'm really feeling them. like a hair in a breeze or a drop of water on my arm. and next thing I scratch and yes, that was an ant. they come up off the tablecloth onto the computer screen or the keys or my arms. they leap from the sink when I do dishes. but the worst worst worst is finding them (occasionally) in bed.

I'm truly less disturbed by a once-a-week cockroach than these constant little nasties.

Monday, November 16, 2009

a bit about teaching

Last week I had a class that I went into knowing that I didn't want to do what I had planned for the second half. Did*not*want*to*do*it. By the midpoint I had figured out what to do (gee, they had said "more practical applications, please" very clearly in the midterm evaluations I asked them to fill out), and there it was. In the text was a story we all had read - Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" - and this theory book, probably because it's American, didn't have much of a Marxist analysis section. So that sample essay hadn't been evaluated in that light. I took Peter Barry's "Intro to Theory" (British) and went to his section on "What Marxist Critics Do" and said now let's apply it to this story. I did it as well and since I really didn't have a prepared outcome, was good to see what they all came up with. It worked really well.

The next class was less successful -- it was me trying to tell them everything I knew about feminist theory and trying to manage the three texts we had, plus an article by Annette Kolodny. That was the class with the either/or on the ppt or internet, and other equally unsuccessful items.

Today was supposed to be about post-colonial theory. They had too much to read. I had their annotated bibliographies. So I decided to have them choose one of the readings, to take Peter Barry's question about the version of the theories he presented and to answer his ponderings based on the authors/texts they had. And to assume the others hadn't read them (loud approval here from the group). They will present these on Wed and had time to work on them today. Meanwhile, I sat with each person individually on the annotated bibliographies. Some were great, others needed additional ideas. I think this was the most productive use of time even if we finished early. Also in one case it seemed like I did magic since he was describing a source that he couldn't find and I knew I had read it recently. Probably after reading his research proposal. AND I was pretty sure I had printed it out, so somewhere it was accessible. Indeed, I found it in my office and gave it to him. I love that I have time to look through people's proposals and wander a bit through the sources.

On the other front, the class with drafts that needed comments. Well, I skipped Bangla class this morning to finish those and decided that they needed far more revision than from Mon to Wed (the deadline had previously been Mon, so I would have been giving drafts back on Wed with more revision time). I told them we were moving on, starting the next unit, but that I was taking advantage of the tutorial day - no classes on Thursdays, just TA groups or extra sessions. So I want to see every one of them on Thursday with a revision (and a worksheet that I gave them to evaluate their thesis, topics and supporting evidence) since most had not yet developed a thesis. They were not thrilled since it had seemed that the end had been in sight. On the other hand, the papers were not ready for final revisions.

So why was I still behind this morning? Well, I got distracted on the paper that I'm writing for the conference on Saturday. A really cool screenshot application that I can add arrows and boxes is fun to play with and really, really, helpful so that I will not have to rely on internet access for my presentation. YEA! Thanks again, Paul!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

back up and at 'em

feeling good today. sleeping for 48 hours pretty much takes care of whatever ails me.

Bangla class (last week of this session). then I went to the American Center to pick up a package and to the bank to take out money and get another 1000 taka in 10s. lots of work at school -- printing out all those annotated bibliographies, drafts to comment on, lecture for tomorrow to prepare. still haven't written the conference paper. yikes. lots of email about the upcoming Nepal trip. travel far by bus and not have much time anywhere? or sit still and enjoy one set of views? Pokhara? Nagarkot? views? relaxing? elephant rides? hikes? bikes? ok, we definitely need a few weeks...!

then another meeting at Matan's school - this parent advisory committee is taking up more time. quick hike over to the American club to pay the bill for the month and pick up dinner.

now I've got to go over those drafts. while there's electricity.

(and for those who are keeping score at home, we are back *on* for the reasonable laundry for another 2 weeks, but we have serious misunderstandings in the interpretation of when rent payments are due. I am weary. Don't these things get settled and then you move on with living? Or is it all inter-cultural?).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

too congested

that's all. tired. need to grade and write a paper for a conference next weekend. want to go with Matan to get this elusive bike - the ones we saw last weekend were too flashy, too expensive, too complex. the place to buy them is an hour or two away, depending on traffic. if we don't go today, it's postponed until Dec. yuck.

I'll probably go to the doctor tomorrow at the clinic at Matan's school. They host a travellers' clinic twice a week.

back to bed for now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Savar and sinuses

Yesterday I went out to BRAC's residential campus. All first-year students spend one semester at Savar, about an hour outside of Dhaka. It was quiet and peaceful. Reminded me very much of kibbutz with the community dining hall and grounds. My department head was doing the advising with the five students from the English department before their spring semester registration. She asked them a lot of questions about how their courses were going and pretty much told them what classes they needed to register for!

I enjoyed the trip out of town and having some time to chat with her.

Today has been very low-key with too much sinus headache pain to do much of anything. If the tylenol doesn't start to help, I'll go to the travellers' clinic at Matan's school on Sunday. Did have good conversations on Skype today with quite a few people, backed up the laptop (I think), and made brownies. Matan missed tutoring since he didn't wake up to the alarm clock and I didn't know he meant to wake up. And flag football was cancelled because of a Christmas fair (!), but he went back to the school to hangout at the student center this evening.

Meanwhile, the laundry solution has been halted! It was too good to be true: we had clean clothes, sheets, towels, everything, delivered for a reasonable price for two weeks. I think someone told the landlord that he'd made a mistake and he said to me: "my people can't continue to do this" -- gee, and that's with a washing machine and a dryer. I wonder how "my people" are supposed to manage! (He simply doubled the price we had agreed on for the month [after two weeks] knowing that I wouldn't continue to use the service). sigh. He is installing a washing machine for self-service use. However, the prices he was trying out on me in our discussion were ridiculous. as usual. not sure why I expected anything different. not sure what we're going to do. It's kind of sad that he says electricity costs so much -- as though providing maid service would be less expensive. Maybe that's the wall I'm hitting my head on -- (no wonder my sinuses hurt! :-) -- if the bottom line is someone can be hired to wash by hand for much less than running the machines. sad, no?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

yesterday

*didn't want to go to Bangla class. After one hour, I left. The teacher wrote words on the board and after we carefully copied them down, he erased about 1/3 of the letters and said, oh no, that's just how they're pronounced. Now we'll see the correct spelling. I do not want to copy down incorrect spellings. I *know* how these simple words are pronounced. argh.

*getting to the U early is good: less traffic, cafeteria still serving breakfast, I take time for tea.

*students in the first class doing peer reviews. Six arrive on time. The other five come in at five minute intervals, all needing individual explanations about the peer review, the assignment for Monday, the changes in the syllabus. should have known when I was on the verge of tears, that something is wrong. usually I can handle this.

*sudden interview pops up for a job search I'm on. oops, must go upstairs to sit in on it. (opening a writing center here).

*still no good lecture for the 2pm class. the one about feminist theory. I can handle things I know less about far better. how to squeeze in something that was one of my minor subjects for my whole MA and a main subject of my phd into 90 minutes, much more difficult. wanted to show a clip: didn't have a pen drive, took my laptop, could have either the powerpoint *or* the internet, not both simultaneously, opted for the internet first, get the clip up, no sound. oh, the dept provides speakers, not the classroom and you have to arrange for them in advance. the things we don't know to ask for.

*one single annotated bibliography turned in on time in that class. without any annotations. gave everyone who asked a one-day extension. we'll see what that yields today.

*home. figured out that this is a real sinus headache and simple otc medication will contribute immensely to me feeling more human.

*Matan has a cello lesson.

*I go to the much-anticipated PTA-sponsored meeting on raising teens in Dhaka. more on this later.

*I get home to find the door bolted and Matan doesn't answer. key won't help. try the doorbell and cell phone. no answer. pound a lot. neighbors offer help. I try leaving a message on facebook -- maybe he's in his room with the door closed, and air-conditioner on, and earphones? no, he's not online. try the intercom from their house. no answer. pound more. wake the 4th floor folks. pound more. door bell runs out of batteries. pound more. cell phone doesn't answer. pound more. now the third floor is involved. landlord and his father come up. they try waking Matan from the roof with a hose hitting his window. no response. the landlord suggests that Matan will wake up eventually and miss me. I think maybe he'll wake up hungry. so I slide a note under the door asking him to open the lock and call my cell phone. meanwhile I hang out at the neighbors. the landlord's dad doesn't give up. he's sending someone up the side of the building from the 4th floor. this person taps on the window and flashes a light in at Matan. Matan wakes up. they come running to get me because Matan is not opening the window to this stranger. he opens the door. sees many neighbors. whole thing took 1.5 hours...

*took awhile to fall asleep.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

kind of queasy

Came home after the first hour of class. Should have listened to my stomach before I left the house. Hope that it's only a mild version of Matan's gastro upset -- he was pretty miserable on Sunday, but better yesterday. At least there's still some chicken soup left!

I don't teach today so I figured I can prep at home. Fell asleep almost immediately.

Some odds and ends:
pictures of the new tablecloth,

our ready-for-the-weekend water supply,


and my class in script with David, the teacher, and Blanche (she's not the one from Maplewood).


a link to an article about global warming in a Dhaka refugee camp, a link about why college professors don't envy the young, and a link to an article questioning whether too many students go to college which I will surely use in the unit on educational philosophies in my comp classes.

maybe a few more pictures from the weekend.



Enough for today. Time to take another nap.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sonargaon trip with Mahmud's classes

Saturday we went on a field trip with my officemate's classes, to Sonargaon and Paran Nagar, previous capital of Bengal with ruins dating back to the 13th century. Only 27 kilometers from Dhaka, but easily 2 hours each way with most of the time spent on city streets at a crawl. The bus was called a murimati (I think) which has something to do with rice that's popped like popcorn...


We started at the folk art museum


which had some electricity problems -- some of the displays I saw more clearly in the pictures Matan took!

But the newer building with the fabrics! WOW! amazing works of art.


We walked through the gardens and saw boats, flowers,


people-powered ferris wheels and many booths with fabrics, saris, etc.



Matan enjoyed the shooting balloon stand and at 1 taka per shot (70 taka = $1), it was quite a deal.

Then we had a picnic at Paran Nagar which is a very old Hindu neighborhood, with little restoration done.


(yes we eat with our hands, even rice, no silverware).
Walking through the street -- it was a place of immense wealth at one point.


I didn't understand when I was seeing it, but most of the waterways are engineered to be moats and water sources, it's not a river running through.



Pictures of the girls dipping in the water,

and others exploring more buildings.


One of the students commutes from this village and our last stop was to visit her family's home. Up five flights of stairs and they hosted all 28 of us for tea and fruits. Then the long long ride back to Dhaka. I followed the map out of the city, but the sun was setting when we got back and I was very disoriented. Really I know so very little of the city.

a very good weekend

pictures coming. but now I have to get to class.

Friday, November 6, 2009

children's literature

thinking about whether to attempt a project looking into children's literature here. learning the script so slowly that it seems presumptuous to start looking at children's books. but I will be doing a department conference (they have one every semester) which is a full day affair in Feb or March. lots of people from outside the university will participate.

just thinking right now. seems like something I could do and would work well with both teaching and research.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

not that I'm counting, eh?

the electricity went out three times in the half hour I was in the grocery store. usually the generator goes on within 10 seconds, but not tonight. nope. it was out for a couple of minutes each time. some organized folks, not me, have flashlights with them. took forever to get through the checkout since only one third of the registers were working. lots of threes here. hmmm. ice cream soup for supper!

the guests aren't coming for dinner tomorrow, so we are going to look for the bike. Matan is tutoring at the school in the morning and playing football in the afternoon. hope we have daylight after that to try for a bike.

Saturday we have field trip with my officemate's class.

got the midterms graded today. the department chair checks the grades and discusses the progress for each student before she signs off on them. then the students have meetings next week with her before the students register for spring semester classes. the range of grades was very similar to the MN range (it's the same test!) but there were some interesting twists in the answers that surprised and pleased me.

maybe I'll just go swimming now. because, yes, the electricity is out again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

on and off, mostly off

ooof. three electrical outages in the last six hours (since I got home from work). at about one hour each, that puts us at having electricity about 50% of the time.

at work, when it goes out, the generators kick in and computers, lights, fans, elevators just keep running. we only notice that we're off the grid when we start to feel the lack of air conditioning. the a/c doesn't work until the real electricity comes back up.

considering that we've been in the dark so much of tonight, it's very strange to have talked to the States on skype (and helped Shaked with a paper over gmail), talked to two people in Israel on skype and one by phone. so something's been working, even if the electricity was not.

such is life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

good routines

waking up before the sunrise. riding in a rickshaw through the morning traffic. school with two classmates who are studying far more than I am (ouch!). but how were we supposed to learn all of the letters in 7 class days???

another rickshaw ride to work at 10am. teaching is going well -- we're at the midterm tomorrow. students coming in to talk about their research projects. putting classwork online since one of the classes I'm doing both semesters here, I'll be teaching next summer online at Century. lunch is trying new food at the cafeteria.

ride after work today was me alone in a minibus with a driver! so I get a ride home or, on Tuesdays, to Matan's school for water aerobics. fun group. after that I meandered down one of the main roads (got a meat pounder for Matan's shnitzel requests), and went out to eat at an Italian restaurant with a friend. so many good places are hidden off the street level, totally out of sight.

home by rickshaw. getting used to coming home in the dark. pizza carryout for Matan when he got home even later than I did. a fine day in Dhaka.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

one of the pleasures of this sabbatical

is having enough time to read as I prepare classes.

I can't imagine anything better than having 2 classes with a total of 21 students -- just enough to hold classes, to prep, to try new ideas and texts and to not have too much grading! I sit at my office desk and read for the literary theory and research methodology class and look up the articles the text refers to, and sometimes I print them out. Amazing access. Seminal articles. TIME enough to read them! I tell my students that I really like going through their research proposals with them and showing them the wonders of JSTOR. And then reading a few articles on David Copperfield and The Great Gatsby, just to see what's new in the scholarship there.

In our shared space, I also listen to my officemate's conferences with his students. He teaches linguistics and teaching materials prep, and it's new content to me. He also goes over my Bangla lessons so I can study the texts with a better translation than what I've managed to capture during class.

I'm keeping a list of the readings so that at the end, when the sabbatical report comes due, the list will be full of sparkling bits that I incorporated into my lectures or that I read for next year's contemporary world lit classes at home. Or even pieces that I don't know yet if they'll ever fit in to teaching, but they intrigued me enough to read today.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

just blah

no one on skype when I woke up and I really wanted to talk. water aerobics was fun, and I should have stayed and had breakfast with the ladies since skype folk were not around at 10am either (10pm Friday night). no news on the summer classes at Century though the rotation was yesterday.

not sure enough how to get to the place in the old city with all the bike shops and I *really* don't know how to get back with a bike. cab company dithered all day. soon, soon, they said. neither of us had the energy to make it happen.

little kid rang the doorbell every hour for 3 hours until I told the landlord that his son was starting to bug me, but no, the landlord said, he is not my son. he works here (the kid is maybe 2 feet tall. maybe 5 years old). he kept asking me to call a number he had written down, and I did try once, but it wasn't a working number. not sure what I think about this. is he in school?

I read Bee Season and didn't do much other than some more laundry. we had many leftovers: spaghetti, meatloaf, chocolate chip cookies, apple crisp. Matan practiced.

the lethargy magnified otherwise usually tolerable situations: we both have slight colds and not much energy. my joints hurt. every plane that flies over seems to make more noise than the previous one. the little ants seem to have multiplied and wander constantly across my arms, but sometimes it's just a stray hair. good thing we have plans for next weekend: we've invited a family over for supper on Friday and have been invited to a school outing on Saturday. busy is probably better.

Friday, October 30, 2009

landlord laundry puzzle

The landlord asked to speak to me earlier this week and I have just been out every day and evening since then. I kind of wondered what he was thinking about. So today I went down. He asks how we're doing, and I said there are challenges. Indeed, I had just finished doing a lot of wash, the apartment is pretty dusty and starting to need a thorough cleaning in the kitchen and bathrooms and the cooking, well, somedays I do, somedays I don't. I really didn't feel like talking to him. He's so difficult for me with all this "service" that he wants to provide when I can see the numbers clicking in his head how much money he can make...

I suspect that his father gave him hell about me taking the laundry out in the overflowing duffle bag and coming back with loads of clean laundry, especially because we did it by rickshaw this week! He wants to solve this problem for me. And I told him, I thought about getting a washing machine, but his electric situation is so bad that I don't want to be the one he blames for blowing out all the building. (the a/c overloaded this week). So even though his father had an electrician come up and ok'd the place that I thought would be good, I hadn't moved forward on that. I don't know, maybe I still think we're moving out at the end of the period we've paid rent on (mid-Feb), and in that case, I would not want to be hauling a washing machine with me. And I do have a solution that works pretty darn well even if it's a shlep.

So I think his assignment was to figure out what it would take to make me happy with this apartment, short of allowing me to have a maid here when I'm not here (and even that came up as an option, but with the replay of the long lecture about security, blah blah blah, but I know everywhere else allows it).... What am I willing to pay for laundry? 2000 a month, I said. Not for 4 loads (at his current 500/load), but for 12 loads -- three a week! Ok, he's taking notes. He suggests getting a machine for the whole building. Now that's a good idea, I think. Anyway, temporarily, I think just to keep me from taking it out of the building (I am amazed that this is so important to him), he will have it done for 2000/mo for 12 loads. Is that really 160 instead of 500? I've got to wonder what's going on here. I am puzzled.

So, we're off to a Halloween party tonight at the high school. Looking for a bike for Matan tomorrow. Swimming in the morning. Made chocolate chip cookies today and they turned out well.

disjointed

This week it seems like we made lots of arrangements: settled on tickets from the US to Israel, from Dhaka to Israel (via Bahrain and Amman), from LA to MN and back to LA, from Dhaka to Nepal and back (at Thanksgiving). wow. looks like we're going places!

Also submitted a proposal for a conference in November and now have to write the paper. It's on online teaching and literature.

Student-teacher conferences with Matan's teachers. He's really doing well, though stressed. Ironically, while he feels English and History are weak subjects for him, his teachers disagree. His teachers, for the most part, did not know that his schedule is so strangely divided among the different grades: 2 classes with freshmen, 3 classes with sophomores, and 1 with juniors.

My classes are going pretty well. The advanced one is more willing to work. The 2nd year class just doesn't show up when the assignments overwhelm them. This does not make the work go better.

We're looking for a bike for Matan.

Really happy to be swimming a couple times a week in an outdoor pool.

Started Bangla script class.

The real challenge this week: some kids from his school were in a car accident last weekend and didn't know who to call. Five kids were injured. Ambulances didn't come. Eventually they took the injured by car (passersby) which was probably the best of terrible options, esp for the kid with the punctured lung. The parent group was meeting on Sunday (anyway), so we grappled with what do we tell our kids to do in that kind of situation? How do we encourage them to call their parents? What numbers do we have for reliable help in an emergency? So now Matan and I do have phone numbers *in our cells* for the local recommended hospital and the Embassy's emergency line.

Halloween party tonight at the school.

If this entry feels disjointed, yes, that's the way this week was. And yet, it wasn't overwhelming. Just moving from one challenge to the next, step by step.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I really prefer to have electricity at 10pm

because when the lights go off now, I just roll over and go to sleep. or kind of go to sleep because it really is too hot to sleep without the fan on. and then I wake up in an hour when all the lights go back on, no matter how I've tried to figure out which ones were on and I should turn off now.

other than that -- a strange day. way more transport than usual -- to bangla class (CNG), the ride through the slum took twice as long as usual (rickshaw), and I finally walked part of it, worked for awhile, met people for lunch at the American club (CNG since it was before my scheduled car time) (and since I had my swimming suit with me for later, I took a quick dip in the pool before lunch. ah.). and then to meet up with the travel agent (rickshaw) and paid for our tickets to Amman in Dec (yea!), and then water aerobics and then walked back to the apartment (stopping on the way for water)(rickshaw). but I forgot my membership card at the American club so I went by there on the way back to the school (one rickshaw there, two more rickshaws to the school) to meet up with Matan because I thought we had a ride home with the laundry (but we didn't so we took rickshaws). yes, I didn't catch that all, either. we're all ready to crash and then the lights go out. only two short segments used fuel, other than walking or pedal power....

Monday, October 26, 2009

she's from Maplewood


New month of classes starting at the language school: script! One other person is in class with me. So we ask each other where are you from and what are you doing here? and she said Minnesota, and then narrowing it down a little, the Twin Cities, and finally ... Maplewood! Amazing. She couldn't believe that I'm a teacher at Century.

got to get going

grading to do. couldn't seem to do it last night and then the lights went out at 10pm and I said, oh time to sleep. (it's not entirely impossible to grade during the load shedding -- we do have one light connected to the generator in the dining room). but, no.

then I woke up at 4am, obviously ready to grade. hmph. so I sit down to the portfolios and discover that I do not have a single copy of the assignment sheet (thoroughly cleared out the folder yesterday), and in that clearing out, also managed to leave the syllabus at work. nothing online. it's all saved at work. this is so not like me. have to figure out a way to save work things in an accessible place. maybe good old D2L. taking the laptop to work everyday is not great. Matan has adopted my USB drive since his got lost. so I worked on the portfolios, but have not done the real grading.

also must get an abstract in for a Fulbright conference. got the cfp (call for papers) yesterday, the deadline was last week. dept head says email the organizer anyway. so it's ok, just get it in now. I can do that: the subject is online lit courses. not thrilled that the conference is on a day when Matan is competing in an international (!) math competition being held here in Dhaka. we've also volunteered to host visitors, but may not be included since we're out of the neighborhood and do not have a car. it will be the third day of his competition, so I'm not sure if that's the day I wouldn't want to miss, or if I'm available Thurs-Fri, is it ok to have other plans for some of Saturday? all new to me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

vacation flights

The folks from the states are arriving in Israel on Dec 20th. We're looking at flights around the 15th via Amman, Jordan. We'll take a taxi to Israel from there.

Maybe on the way back going via Petra? We have to be back to Dhaka by the 4th of January.

The travel agent here does not recommend Gulf Airways but will book it if I insist. It's over $400 cheaper for the two tickets than the airlines he recommends (Etihad or Emirates). But his flights would have us staying over in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, and I'm not keen on doing that either.

I know he's used to working with the ex-pat community so his basis for setting up the flights might be a higher comfort level than we actually need. Bad service? I can live with that (food or entertainment). Being stranded and losing vacation days in Israel while waiting for a different fight? Not so much. Have to decide soon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

pizza in the oven

some days we don't even pretend to eat local cuisine. I was going to wait until we could get the local bakery's pizza base when I remembered that I have yeast. So I just tried to remember how mom made pizza: yeast/sugar/warm water, flour, salt, oil? hope I didn't leave anything important out. It felt and tasted right. We have pepperoni and shredded cheese. all we need now is electricity for the next half hour.

rehydrated today. put a container of crystal lite into a 2 liter bottle of water and drank pretty much the whole thing. when I don't feel like drinking water, I know I have to figure out a way to get it in.

no rain lately and not quite as hot. wash dries quickly. dust accumulates rapidly. definitely a change in seasons.

paypal wins. I give up.

Last month it was so easy to order the necessary cello part from cellos2go and pay with paypal. Unfortunately, paypal decided that someone accessed my account and limited access. Next time I tried to log on which was this week, nope, no access.

That someone was surely me, since when I accessed the account to fix it this week, they slapped another limit on it.

They suggested three steps needed to restore access - to prove that I'm the account holder. Two steps were easy: change password, institute new questions. The third took more time and involved linking a credit card to the account. Paying a small fee and then getting the transaction number. Ok, did that too. This is taking 3-4 days so far and the cello lady has already sent the humidifier to MN since I paid so promptly last month.

Now they say, no, even though you did those things, please call us and we'll tell you what to do next. Actually, first they offer me the option of answering the phone at home in MN either immediately or in one minute (if I needed to get off the line). Don't know whether to laugh or cry about that. But this calling them to resolve the issue doesn't work very well either. I tried, but pre-paid cell minutes go pretty fast when one has to get through stupid automated menus.

When I finally get through they say, ok, now fax us your utility bill with your name and address. Unfortunately I got off without getting the fax number and the site will not give it to me. Call us, they say, so we can give you the best fax number. I don't know if our utility bill even has my name on it. Maybe. Probably not.

I gave up. My brother (thank you!) paid the bill.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

kind of queasy

Already this morning. But I wanted to go to the last day of Bangla class. And I needed to go to the U since I'd left the portfolios there that I have to grade. So I just kept pushing on. By 1pm, I decided this really wasn't working and asked if I could get a ride earlier instead of waiting until 4pm. And it was fine. I fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Some days it's really a problem that there's usually no toilet paper at work. I'm not skilled enough yet with the spray hose that is next to the toilet (everywhere), nor have I figured out how that works without a towel. Drip dry?

So, coming home was good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

teaching

My students are surprised by quizzes in the first five minutes. Don't I know that sometimes they just can't get there on time? Or that they can't really read two short stories in one week?

But they did seem to appreciate having signed up to talk about some of the concepts and that being their area of expertise today. Others, who had missed class on Monday, were very surprised at how much those with topics had to say. I wonder if there really is little participation in other classes? One guy said he'd never heard those people talk before.

But I don't want to veer too much into the class-led discussions in the theory class. Though they were well prepared today for the most part, I think some of the students were just not interested in hearing others talk about the readings, esp when they were just going from one citation to another. On the other hand, for Monday they are preparing the discussion *and* two quizzes. They seemed kind of energized by that challenge. Interestingly enough they divided into two groups that I suspect reflect their earlier educational backgrounds. One group immediately changed languages and held their prep meeting in Bangla. The other stayed in English (one of the guys does not know Bangla).

Proposals for research projects came in today and I'm looking forward to working with them. Already I'm reading new books and lots of post-colonial theory as it seems to permeate everything here.

Reading Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines now. It's the third book of his that I've read since I got here.

Seems like I read with an Israeli perspective when it's about nation building, bombing the British to end colonial rule, national languages, religious divisions.