Monday, August 31, 2009


Yes, my birthday! I hovered around the internet and did get to talk on skype with a few people. Had some phone calls, while others emailed to say "what's wrong with your phone?" -- nothing, I think, just random service. Such is life.

Bangla class was good though I'm not very articulate. My office mate is waiting for me to say something in Bangla and he's taught it, so he'd be great to help me. I went in to work (thought I'd clarified to Nilofa not to come) since the dept head had called on Saturday to invite me to hear an MA defense and later a BA presentation. I was delighted to be included. Also got a lot of work done on the syllabus. The MA defense was about online communities, but limited in scope to social networking. Later we talked about the online work I've done and perhaps I could offer several workshops (or lectures) about online teaching to faculty. I think that would be excellent. Met the vice-rector with the dept head and met more faculty at each of the defenses.

On the way home I really wished I'd brought my camera. Usually it is tucked in my bag, but I forgot it yesterday. I was in a traffic jam that felt like a puzzle. All of the rickshaws and CNGs and cars and school busses were tightly jammed into the streets. No one could move. At intersections people would get out and try to direct traffic a bit, but there were only inches to play with. I was in a rickshaw so I was hearing all of the suggestions and commentary. It was also the first time I was really annoyed by a leering, nasty rickshaw driver who kept moving around where I was sitting. My driver finally told him to go away.

So it took nearly two hours to get home. It can be done in about 20 minutes, though to be fair, it does usually take more like 45 minutes. I stopped at the grocery store and loaded up: eggs, milk, water, bread, chicken breasts, and cookies. I really have no appetite -- too hot, too much outdoor time, too tired. Also I have to remember to eat before I leave the house since no one is eating at work these days (Ramadan). I suppose I could eat something, but it's not like having lunch at my desk as I was before.

I got home and was internet challenged again. This time my Century computer just gave up on the apartment's connection. The landlord kept insisting that everyone's computer was working except mine, until he came up to our apartment and as we walked up the stairs, people heard us and opened their doors with their laptops in hand to complain that the service was down again. By the time he got to the 5th floor, he understood that it wasn't just my computer. Good thing that Matan's is working. (My dept head said I should bring it in and the university IT will help me).

We didn't do much celebrating, but we'd had such a good weekend that I think it carried over to my birthday. I really just wanted a cello in our apartment and it's here.

And we met the new neighbors. When I wasn't home at 11am, Nilofa called to ask where I was. I told her at work and I thought she understood not to come. She calls back at 11:30, but with an American on the line. I had noticed that the name next door had changed to Ms Samantha, but hadn't met the new neighbors yet. Nilofa was probably surprised that it wasn't the LA family, but Samantha could help. She translated that I was at work, and not coming home, and would be there Tuesday. Ok, so that evening I invited them over - it's a young couple, she's here on a research grant for her dissertation and they have a 6-year-old who will be going to the French international school. Also by rickshaw, but with his dad accompanying him. Good to know them. She's been here two summers on previous grants, so she does know some Bangla.

One final note: the rickshaws in Dhaka are bicycle rickshaws. Maybe I didn't mention that. It didn't occur to me until I saw the people-running-rickshaws in India that you might be thinking that's what I'm riding in. Nope. Not sure I could do that. It's awkward enough for me to have someone biking me around. I usually opt for the CNGs as I prefer the motorized movement to someone working so hard.



Before the trip to Kolkata fades, I'll try to catch up.

We left on Thursday afternoon, took a lovely cab to the airport and went quickly through ticketing and immigration. Had time for a snack (Bengali sweets) and waited for our flight to take off. Only 40 minutes in the air, but they managed to toss us boxes of food which most of the people seemed to be carrying off the plane with them. In India they did not rely on the swine flu surveys, but took everyone's temperature as we entered the country. Didn't see anyone who didn't pass this test, but I was glad we were both feeling well at this point.

Changed some money and found a cab (Matan was probably right, should have looked for one who had a fare closer to what the hotel people said it would be) and then had an hour-long ride into the city. Kind of hard for me to let go of knowing where exactly I'm going and it didn't help that the sun was going down and the streets were crowded. I just had to rely on the cab driver getting us to the hotel where we had reservations.

We got to a nice hotel, found out that it wasn't ours, both entrances were down the same walkway from the street. Ours was the "economic" one, up some stairs, through another building, up some more stairs (not all of this shares the same roof as we would discover in the morning and the rain came in on the walk down to the "lobby"). We paid for air-conditioning (a good move) but apparently not for hot water. Also a good thing I tossed a roll of toilet paper into my knapsack as we were leaving Dhaka. I prefer it to tissues here since they all seem heavily perfumed and make me sneeze more.

Matan conked out. He was in book 7 of Harry Potter and could not always be distracted. I knew we needed to have drinking water, so I set out to see what could be found. The restaurant 3 doors down was cooking paratha (malauh-like bread)outside which was very enticing. I bought one and brought it back to Matan. This was enough to get him to come with me for dinner. It was an Arab restaurant so Matan could have beef biryani, but it was really spicy. I just had two eggs, the fried bread and tea.

Slept soundly through the night. Woke up to rain. Ready to go see the cello store. The guard at the hotel passage way let us use his umbrella. Thought I had a picture of the cello store, but here's one of the piano store 2 doors down: (seems like the pictures are coming up all at the top, I'll see if I can fix it, if not, I'm just loading them as I write for now). We were the only customers in the morning. The owner went to get the cello and Matan tried it. They discussed the adjustments that would have to be made and he told us to come back around 3pm. He also said that if we were worried about the flight the next day, that the airline had an office on Park Street, just a few blocks away. Matan went back to Harry Potter and I went off to find Park Street. It was a walk from people and animals living on the streets to a place with bookstores and restaurants and room to walk and wide streets with tall, old buildings. Just 10 minutes difference in distance.

Got the reassurance from the airline that cello peleg indeed had a front seat so noone would recline onto it. Got Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide. Went back and told Matan he should come with me and see something different in Kolkata. He even got swim goggles (which btw are about 1/3 the price that they were in Dhaka). Books, too, about 1/3 of what I'm used to paying. Should have gotten a few more! We went to a very nice Indian restaurant with the best Chicken tandoori I've ever had. I think I started to relax. This was going to work out.

Went back and read. At 3 we went back to Barganza's and the store was crowded. Matan sat amidst the customers and tried out the cello again. Talked to the owner about a few more adjustments and then we waited a bit longer. One of the owners (or his brother?) and wife had just come back from Chippewa Falls, WI, where their daughter lives.

We got spare strings, tuner, rosin and, of course, case and bow. Ready to go!
Supper was an excellent Chinese restaurant (all of these are in the $2-5/meal range!) with brownies and ice cream for dessert. We did have to race back when Matan discovered his retainer stayed in the napkin there. But we got back in time to get it.

No hot showers at the Gulshan Inn Hotel, but they did offer us a bucket of hot water and Matan took them up on it. He was right, it was better than cold. We set our alarm for 4am and ordered a cab for the morning. The ride to the airport was swift compared to Thursday night's and we were among the earliest passengers for our 7am flight. Good thing since it took about 45 minutes for them to figure out how to print a boarding pass for cello peleg (though they told me not to worry, it was a bit disconcerting). Picture of Matan reading Harry Potter with cello by his side as we waited for Jet Airways to figure out boarding pass for cello. In the end they gave it to us, told me to put it away and not to confuse immigration with an extra boarding pass.

We got to the plane pretty much last, but it didn't matter -- there were probably 20 people, not a single person in business class, and the cello had 3 seats to itself.

Back in Dhaka - immigration went quickly and we got a cab home. Just wanted some internet and hot water. Neither was available in the apartment. sigh. But we did have electricity. By evening the whole building seemed pretty upset about the internet (apparently it was out all weekend, but we weren't exactly home to have noticed). The landlord rigged something with his business line and I connected by wires for awhile. Just wanted to talk to people -- I think that the randomness of the internet availability is still very jarring.

Final picture -- the goat that we passed between the hotel, the restaurant and the music store. Just on our way. Matan says it was at least four feet tall.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

cello peleg

Not sure how much time I'm going to have on this internet connection, so the news is that we're back in Dhaka with a cello and had a great time in Kolkata. I'll write more when I can.

We are coming to appreciate hot water (ask Matan about taking a shower with a pail of warm water), electricity, and learning to live with unreliable internet, but glad when we have it.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

leaving for the airport soon

I asked my officemate how to best get to the airport and he said by cab. I do have a list of cabs from the embassy and it was pretty easy to order one. Not like it's going to break the bank at about $15. Just so much more than rickshaws and CNGs.

Matan should be home from school any minute. The tacos I made do not look or smell much like what he'll be hoping for -- just the shells are "right".

packing light, really hoping this is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump trip to keep a promise to provide a cello. can't believe it's a 45 minute flight and then a new currency and a half hour change in time zone.

turned a lot of course materials in to be photocopied so I'm starting to feel a little more prepared. talked to the dept head about which days I'll be expected to be in (M/W/Th) and which I'll be working at home. might only get a ride home since I'll be coming from the language center before school.

looking forward to this weekend journey and hope that we have a great time and find a cello that Matan will enjoy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

moving right along

Sometimes. I think traffic is a major preoccupation in Dhaka, not just my own personal challenge. The paper covers it daily, including pictures of a police officer trying to bring in a tow truck to tow illegally parked cars and meeting a human wall resisting. Or articles about enforcing the laws about streets with no rickshaws. I am seeing that more on the street lately. Usually the rickshaw driver just begs to be allowed to cross a little bit on the big road to get to the next side street, meanwhile contributing to the constant gridlock.

Yesterday I took a motorized rickshaw (CNG) (picture from a different blog) to class and it took less than 10 minutes to get there. Same driver came looking for me this morning, but I'd gotten on the rickshaw, so I stayed with him. Takes 20-30 minutes by rickshaw. The CNGs run on compressed natural gas and they've apparently reduced air pollution here considerably. They also, I swear, can drive not only forward and back, but left to right, when needed. Unfortunately, with the limitations on rickshaws being enforced more stringently, the demand for CNGs is up and they are getting hard to find available. We'll need one for the airport tomorrow since that's another road that rickshaws aren't allowed on.

After class I went to the American center and picked up 3 boxes of books that I'd sent less than 3 weeks ago. Yea! I also found a CNG right away and was home really quickly.

After Matan finished school, I met him there and we went to see what's at the commissary. This is a store with products from the US which we have access to because of my work. Of course, we had our usual limit of only buying as much as we could carry! We did get some fun food like cheddar and swiss cheese and turkey slices, pasta, sandwich bags (mostly for ice packs) and ice cream. The trip home by rickshaw was nearly an hour (on an empty road could have been done in 15-20 minutes), so the ice cream was a little soupy.

A day full of accomplishments overall.

One note that left me pondering, though. In Bangla class, on our second day of class, our teacher, Sultana, asked what we liked about Bangladesh. Four adults sat very quietly until one said "the people." I had literally gone over different things in my mind and couldn't come up with something. Over the course of the day, I came back to the question. I think I like the challenges of finding how things are done (so why am I so cranky about the process, sometimes?). As Matan said, it feels very real here. We feel the rain more if we have to get somewhere (bring that umbrella home, Matan), and recognize that carrying the water we drink is an effort (one that we are nonetheless glad that we can afford to buy and are able to carry). Later in the day, I also remembered that I'm glad to be able to study and teach in a new environment. I also really like the community in Matan's school.

I was definitely taken aback, though, that I couldn't come up with something off the top of my head.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

sleep challenged

I can't seem to get it quite right. With the windows open, I'm hearing the calls to prayer from 3am today. With them closed, it's stuffy and I still hear the sounds.

Need more sleep to get rid of the colds that have been hitting me. Looked like a faucet yesterday and it was uncomfortable because I was in classes, in an office and at meetings.

I think I'm a bit anxious about the weekend adventure: Matan should get out of school an hour early and come back to the apartment. We should be able to get an automated rickshaw to the airport (regular rickshaws aren't allowed on the major roads), flight there should be ok. It's 45 minutes long and because of the time difference, we actually get there earlier than we leave here. The hotel says it's a cheap close cab ride and it's on the same street with the cello store. The cello store is open Friday and says it has good cellos in our price range. All that we have to wonder about is the flight back with cello. I have the phone numbers and locations for bus tickets if that becomes necessary.

Maybe I'm not quite so adventurous, after all. Don't seem to be embracing this with energy, but with apprehension. I feel somewhat like Don Quixote.

Monday, August 24, 2009

starting another language

I'm really not very successful at language learning. I've tried several - in high school - Latin, German and Russian, then Hebrew which I failed the first time in a class at Spertus in Chicago, but it was enough to help in Israel until I really did learn it. Arabic at the Unviersity of Chicago. I think I started French in Jerusalem and lasted a few weeks. Yiddish as I worked on the dissertation. Not very successful in any except Hebrew which I did have 20 years and 2 degrees to work on.

So this morning I'm sitting in a classroom with 2 other students remembering the cases and thinking back to Latin. We aren't learning the Bangla script yet, it's all phonetic for the first month (or two). But it should help us function a little more in the world in which we're currently situated. It was nice, too, to run into Amanda from the Fulbright orientation, who is one monthly session ahead of me. They seem to be running 4-5 levels with just a few people in each one.

Then into a rickshaw over to work. Found the book I was looking for in the library (not coded correctly in the computer, it did not look like the right shelf, so I wandered around a bit). Decided to come home early since I have yet another summer cold and wanted to rest before the PTA meeting at Matan's school. Got word that I have 3 boxes and a letter waiting for me at the American center. I'll try to pick those up tomorrow morning between class and getting back to the apartment.

Also got a list of taxis recommended by the embassy. We may be making progress on our transportation issue.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


So, some despair at the end of the weekend, that seems to be the pattern here. Ready to be back to the daily schedules since the weekends have been pretty quiet.

Some help from my friends via email and Skype to sort out what's swine-flu panic and what's just plain overwhelming newness. As long as the other Americans are not leaving, it's probably ok to be here. (Of course, I do have a sense that we are living a little closer to the regular population in our getting around on our own, a lot less isolated than those who are driven everywhere). Two middle schools closed in Dhaka today, but the health department condemned the move saying it was unnecessary.

I worked out a two-day a week schedule with Nilofa. Both of my contacts from the U and the American center said, it's true, maids do not have keys here. It seems ok to plan to work from home after class. We'll see how the first month goes. There really isn't enough work to do here anyway for so many hours.

Getting the syllabi going. I'm always inclined to be looking for yet another text that would be just right, but Amazon-used is a little less accessible (at least in a timely manner) than it used to be.

Not able to help Shaked sort out financial issues with her school. She'll just have to go in on Monday and figure out why payments haven't been credited and why the Stafford loan isn't showing.

Finally, or really the beginning of this day, I walked through the screen out to the balconey and pretty much did it in. I duct-taped the corners, but there is no wheel now, and the screws which kept the corners squared are lost in the inside, so it doesn't roll easily. dang it. I think even feeling clutzy is part of an ongoing culture shock.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

there are moments

Not that I really yearn to be back in the States and surrounded by familiar people, norms, products, noise, but it's been another challenging week.

Today I was thrilled that the maid came and did the laundry again. And more cleaning. Matan and I left for his school to pick up the key that he'd left there and for me to sign up for a 2x/week aquatics exercise class. From there I went to duplicate the key.

I know that I should not expect to find things where I'd find them elsewhere. But sometimes I start with the familiar. So I go into a hardware supply store and ask if they duplicate keys. (Sounds more like "key?", showing a key, me looking around, and asking if they make new keys). They say, no, go to the place where they make keys and point across the road a ways. I go across the road (ok, I go down to the corner and cross at the intersection rather than climbing across the barrier like most people seem to) and don't see anything that looks like "where they make keys," so I ask in another store. Don't even bother to look for a hardware store. He just says, no, but you should go to the place where they make keys. Duh. I ask where? And they point further down the road. I cross in between the cars -- there are cars densely packed into this back road, no one is moving anywhere except the people on foot -- and ask at the next store. And the kids says, no, you should go to the place where they make keys. An older man looks at me and then says in English, that if I go down the road a bit more and turn left, I'll see where they make keys.

Indeed. There was a long table up against a wall and a dozen men sat on the table with door locks in front of them and yelled out that they could make a key for me. No electrical equipment or buzzing sounds like keymakers. The first one said 2 hours. I went on to the one who said he could do it right then and there. If it didn't work, he would come to my house to fix it. He gave me his card and said something about the number. I took it and got in a rickshaw and went home. (I'm not oblivious to the huge number of children begging for money and following me everywhere. Just assume they are in every picture).

Got home and of course it didn't work. Neither did the phone number. I need to pay more attention to the details when people hand me a card and then say something about the number. So next I went out with Nilofa to the grocery store to return the window spray that didn't spray and to ask her to buy some groceries for lunch. She got vegetables I don't recognize and a great pineapple. She held my hand going across the main street as though I wouldn't make it on my own.

Now it's noon and hot and I know that I should finish this key business before she leaves with Matan's key and he comes home without a key. So I go back downstairs and look for a rickshaw, taking into account that it's Saturday and the streets are relatively free and most of the police will let the rickshaws onto the main streets where they can't go on the work days. Better to get this done today while the guy still remembers I paid him already. I get back to the place where they make keys (so obvious when one knows what to look for) and he's gone. Another guy says he'll come and fix it. In the rickshaw I ask him how this will work since I already paid the first guy? He said that's my brother, we'll work it out.

He tries to fix it. Offers to change the lock and provide 5 new keys. Tempting, but I suspected the landlord would not look favorably on me changing the locks (esp with the whole building's router in our apartment!). Too expensive, though. So he works on the lock and the key. I do suspect that he's made the lock less rigorous and that more keys would probably work now. So I have some (minimal) qualms.

An hour after he goes, I get a text message from the landlord to come to the office asap.

Three people are there to lecture me on the security threat that I pose to all of the tenants in the complex. Don't I understand that there should only be one key in an apartment, one head of the family, one sheep (?) leader. For me, as a foreigner, they made an exception and gave me two keys. No one else, in any of the other apartments has more than one key. Futhermore, I should understand that I never want to take people up to the apartment who are not close friends. This is hugely risky in Bangladesh. OK. I'm learning. So what would be the solution? They were genuinely appalled that I would make a key when they wouldn't give me one. I think the young apartment manager (the one who goes very much by the books) is just expecting that when he says no, then no. His dad (ex-military, I think) actually works more with the situation and tries to explain and persuade and to figure out solutions.

But their bottom line is -- no key for the maid and no maid to be here when I'm not in the building. I have been thinking about how to rearrange my schedule inside and out to get 10 hours or so a week that I could say, I'll be here, and she could get enough of the work done. Unfortunately, she really needs full-time work, so I'm not sure that we can do this. Nor do I want to just be on campus MW even if that's the only time I'm teaching. Plus I'm starting Bangla lessons M-Th 8-10 every morning. Not sure how this puzzle works out.

I wrote to my dept head and to my contact person at the American Center. Maybe they have suggestions. Maybe this really is the way things work here and I'm trying to make it all work the way I want to. But I don't have the impression that other people have to stay home with the maid all day.

More electrical outages. More internet outages. Making progress on the syllabi.

nb - I think that the title of this entry actually came after I read the google news round-up from a Chinese newspaper that said Bangladesh now has 98 cases of swine flu and officials fear 70,000 to 100,000 cases within two or three months.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Nilofa came to work today and did all of the laundry. She also cooked pancakes (after I made the batter and she watched) and lunch. And cleaned the room that hadn't been cleaned yesterday. We asked the neighbors for some help with translations, but mostly with the help of the phrasebook, we worked out some of the questions.

How odd it is to have someone else doing the work that I've been really challenged to keep up with. Clean sheets tonight!

The landlord doesn't object but will not provide an extra key. Either I'll find a way to duplicate the key or Matan and I will share.

Now, if I would just get going on syllabi, I think I would feel a bit more competent and ready for the school year. I'm hoping for a bit more of a social life once school starts up -- there's no rotation of people inviting us to visit on the weekends.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Moving ahead here. Matan's better. The doctor's phone number is definitely a clinic nearby for the next time (I called to verify the place his insurance recommended). Talked to lots of people and felt connected again.

Talked to the cello store in Kolkata and made sure I know how to get there. They said people travel with cellos on planes, as far as they know, as long as a ticket is purchased. The Kolkata-Dhaka ticket will probably be the cheapest way we ever ship a cello. So I bought the tickets: two round-trips on Thursday afternoon, and one one-way for Cello Peleg for Saturday morning with us on the way back. Now to get a hotel reservation (I'm waiting to hear back from a place on the same street as the cello store, with an airport shuttle).

And then I went to the market. Picked up my new outfit. Went grocery shopping, Bought way too much (ie, more than I can carry easily) and still had to pick up the carry-away supper. Yummy fish curry and pecan chicken. The rickshaw wallah argued about the price and a woman stopped to help. She picked up my many, many bags and carried them up the five flights of stairs. OK, I understood that she might want something in return. The apartment was being cleaned by the person the landlord offers, and she couldn't help translate.

I just couldn't let this opportunity pass by because I was shy, so I knocked at the next door neighbor's. So much help! One person translated, that yes, she is looking for work and needs it. She wants to work 7 days a week, 8 hours a day, for more than I wanted to commit to, at this point. So we negotiated it down to 8-2, for a monthly salary of less than what I'd be paying for a weekly load of laundry and a weekly cleaning, per month, by way of the landlord. And she would cook, too! I still feel like there must be a catch. Then the next-door neighbor dad came and started questioning her and said I mustn't be so trusting.

They're almost done with their visit and returning to the States (LA!) next week. Still after the interogation and agreeing to meet the landlord tomorrow morning at 8am, we might have this problem worked out. I'm not sure how I feel about someone being here every day, we could cut it back a day and still pay the same amount and that would be fine with me.

Anyway, we're invited over to chat and he has a few more warnings for me. I'm a bit shaky, but I seem to be moving in the right direction with lots of things today.

getting better

Matan is home sick again today, but he seems much better and the fever is down. The school wants 24 hours of normal temperature, so it's good that we have the weekend (Fri and Sat) to get him back to normal. I think the bedrest is helping his toe, too. We're both staying home so as not to share his germs with others.

I'm working on syllabi, occasionally distracted by teaching blogs (this one is new: Preparing a class I haven't ever taught on critical theories. Working through the materials that the previous teacher used. It's only going to have 6 students!

The other class is like our 1022 at Century, writing from literature (the 2nd in the comp sequence) which I haven't taught since the nightmare fall 2006 semester. While that was the first semester after being hired, I also had 5 classes which has never happened before or after that. It was the first and only time I taught comp I online, though not the first time I taught WS online, I had 2 different schedules for the 1022 (MWF and TTh), and the first time teaching Contemp World Lit. It was also the semester that my mom's twin sister died and the first time a student of mine died. No wonder I've dreaded opening up that class again. However, it is good to revisit and rethink it. It used to be a class I taught often, enjoyed, and did well.

We had 12 hours of no internet since last night. Fortunately I had noted the phone number and address of the doctor Matan's insurance suggested or I would have been in a panic this morning. Learning not to count on the internet access. I suspect that when I start classes next week (as a student), I'll be busier and a little less focused on the day-to-day in the States. Still it's very nice to talk on skype and keep so closely in touch.

Edited to add: a note about that nightmare semester. It was worse than I thought. Obviously I blocked out that it was the semester that started with one of Nitzan's cousins losing a son to suicide. The worst semester ever.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

and the rain came

Not sure where all the water goes, but it poured last night from about 5pm until 9pm and then just drizzled the rest of the night. the picture is me cooking by flashlight (it's on my head) but the flash of the picture doesn't capture the way the flashlight beams onto the project. good thing we didn't need to go out last night.

Yesterday was very productive. I signed up for a month-long language course that will start next Monday. Usually it will be from Sun-Thur, 8-10 am. It's in the same direction as my university, but the distance is not as easily walked as it looks on the map.

First of all, getting to the language school. Rickshaw drivers in our neighborhood don't really know that neighborhood, even though it's not far. So yesterday's driver dropped me at the shopping mall and set me up with another who claimed to know where he was going. Indeed, he did take me to the right street. The most harrowing moment was when he took an exit entrance onto a bridge and the oncoming traffic beeped at him until he pulled over. He couldn't make a u-turn since there was a barrier down the middle. He just waited until there was a lull in the traffic and continued on in the wrong direction. So I guess you could say he knew where he was going. At the end he wanted more money than I had in small bills and some other guys came over to sort it out. They told him to take 50 taka and be still. I was still offering 70 (or 100 if he had change for 500). He was not happy. Then I had to call the school since I was actually on the wrong side of a big road and it didn't seem like this street continued on the north side. I kept walking and found it a little further down.

The language school is a 3-4 room apartment that looks like a very nice gathering place. I'm looking forward to meeting other new people and teachers who will answer lots of questions.

From there I went to the university. The security guard at the language school arranged the rickshaw and explained where I needed to go. Wasn't sure why the rickshaw driver put up the carriage roof, because it was noon and hot? or, as I later saw, we went through the most densely populated neighborhood I had seen yet. It looked something like what I would think of as a refugee camp. We came out almost exactly across the street from my university. Who knew that there was a route between those buildings on a fairly modern looking street, that wound the way it did through to the place that I would be studying? And I thought it looking like walking distance on the map. Distance-wise, maybe, but I don't think I'm going to try walking there.

At work I'm reading through books and previous syllabi and exercises trying to get a feel for what I'll be teaching. Not sure who my students will be. Met my officemate. Cooled down.

Eventually went out to make my way back home. I walked this time to Gulshan II which is a huge round-about intersection where traffic is usually backed up. I wanted to get to a large grocery store. Along the way I almost popped into an appliance store to see what a washing machine would cost (I figured that to send out wash would cost about $80/mo, so the breakeven point is $800? except that one could hire someone for far, far less. I guess). Anyway, got to the grocery store and they did have maple syrup so pancakes are on the menu again!

Took a motorized rickshaw home and made it just as Matan called to say he was home without a key (left it at school). No after school activities on Tuesdays. We'll learn that, too.

Today he's home sick with the flu and the school is requesting that people stay home 24 hours after the fever breaks. There is swine flu in Dhaka, but not at the school.

I think I'll probably stay here with him. There's so much work to do on my classes and the journey to get to the university isn't really necessary every day, I think, though I do like talking to the other teachers and running things by the dept head.

Got to talk to Shaked on Skype from her dorm room! Nitzan is on his way back to MN -- not sure what route he's taking.

And it's a beautiful, sunny day today. Mabe the wash will get dry!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

load shedding

The 2-3 electrical outages every day are the way that Bangladesh deals with not having enough electricity and is called load shedding. If there is a predictable rotation, I'm not sure what it is. So we lose electricity usually once in the morning, once later in the afternoon and usually between 8 and 10 pm. Sometimes it's for an hour or so, sometimes a little longer. We must be on a dividing line because our back neighbors have electricity when we don't, but the front ones are out when we are.

Last night I was talking to Shaked and Nitzan in LA when the outage hit. Usually I'm ok about the lack of electricity, but sometimes it's a little harder to accept. We do have a flashlight that sits on our head, like a miner's helmet, so I can just go on reading or doing whatever, but obviously no internet. Lately our backup generator which provides one light and fan has also been out. sigh.

Yesterday was mostly productive. I stayed home (sometimes I think I need that after a particularly full and intense day) and worked on syllabi and cello acquisition. I finally talked to the owner of the store in Kolkata and he does have cellos available within our price range. Hope that Matan finds a good one. I think we're going to fly out next Thursday afternoon, spend Friday looking at cellos and fly back Saturday morning. Our backup, if the cello isn't allowed on the flight even if we buy a ticket for it, will be to take a bus on Sunday. Feels like a lot of uncertainty -- but I'm working my way through it. I need to be flexible about taking a bit of information from one source (there are busses, but no bus station address) and then go to a map and start searching for the bus station that goes with that bus company name. Also spent some time tracking down other possible cello sources in Dhaka, but people seem to have their cellos having brought them from somewhere else.

I also found a Bangla language and culture course starting on Sunday. It runs 4 weeks, 8-10am, 5 days a week. I can sign up for one month at a time. This is really exciting. They also have city tours and information about holidays, politics, religion.

Other than that -- Matan is still limping and I'm trying to figure out when to say, yes, you need to see a doctor. There will be one at his school tomorrow, so I think that's what I'm going to insist on. Hard to tell because he's still doing everything at school (like playing baseball and volleyball practice).

A different kind of load shedding -- not that I've lost weight (though I probably have), but the exercise I'm getting in walking and going up 5 flights of stairs, along with doing laundry by hand, seems to help my back a lot. Or maybe it's the very thin mattress on slats. In other words, so far, I seem to wake up a lot more limber! Cheers!

Monday, August 17, 2009


Sunday was a day of connections. Matan went off to school with his toe still sore and a bit swollen (another reason that he wasn't into going out much over the weekend). I aimed for a 10am PTA meeting before going the university.

Since it rained so much over the weekend, the roads were full of water. On the side of a two lane road that connects our suburb from his school's, the water came up to the edge of the road. Usually there's room for pedestrians and the rickshaws to share that space, but now it was pretty much walkers only through the water. So there was quite a bottleneck on the way to school. I wondered if he made it on time.

At school I started by asking about cello students and billing systems. Found a student and got her parents' names and will call and ask if they have any ideas about where to find a cello. (I kind of doubt it, but you never know. They probably brought theirs from Korea when they came). The elementary school's music teacher could offer piano lessons (like I'm going to start looking for a piano for this 5th floor walkup) or a trumpet if Matan wants to try another instrument! But even better, she told me about her husband, the gym teacher, who is a wrestling coach with no wrestlers. So even if he doesn't have a team, I hope Matan will feel comfortable getting into a work-out routine with some help.

The PTA meeting was a mix of people who had been there for years and many who arrived in the last week or two. As we introduced ourselves and our kids' ages, we added a word or two about what we might be looking for: orthodontists, bridge players, a ride to school from beyond the bus line, and voila, Matan has a ride now in the mornings. One person drives down our main road every day from a point just beyond. It will be about a half hour earlier than usual (which was why the school office when I asked about others coming from our direction said that there weren't any other high school families out here), but earlier works. It made my day.

Talked to many other moms and dads. Found out that a clinic visits Matan's school twice a week if we need medical care (or that we could go downtown any time to this clinic). Lots of people are accompanying spouses and have quite a bit of time available. Most people have household staff: cooks and drivers, especially. So they can tell me there's a great German butcher's store with cereal if Matan's eating a lot of cornflakes, but they have no idea where exactly this is as they're not watching the road very closely.

Around noon I started to make my way over to the university. Traffic was standing still in the direction I was walking, so I just kept walking. I walked some of the same route that we took on the day we did many errands and now I recognized the stores. Continued walking even though traffic had started moving. I was curious about the distance by foot. It was so hot and so wet that even though it wasn't raining at the moment, water was condensing on me as I walked. It took about 45 minutes to get to my office. At one point I thought I'd taken a wrong turn, but no, there are not that many road/bridges across the lake that I could have mistakenly walked down to the next one.

Worked most of the afternoon on syllabi and schedules. I may teach one evening (graduate) course if they have enough students sign up next week. That's just-in-time scheduling! I wonder if they're telling the students that there may be x or y courses, that also depends on how many sign up. It's a very small MA program.I have a lot to read before I actually write a syllabus for the 300 level course. I've never taught this, and I think I missed a lot of it by not doing an undergraduate degree in English or literature. So I've got work to do. It's an opportunity to fill in some real gaps in my knowledge and understanding, but odd to have come from courses in literary theory in Jerusalem via a phd in the States to doing this kind of reading in Dhaka.

A connection that did not develop well yesterday was with my landlord. He and I email each other our concerns and, I thought, had just agreed to disagree about whose responsibility fixing toilet seats would be. He says anything that breaks in the apartment is the tenant's responsibility and it does say that in the lease. I'm thinking about bigger things like water heaters or toilets, but also what about a sofa or shelf in the refridgerator? At what point would he take care of them? So, I just figured I'll pay for these (stupid) seats when the time comes, don't fix them now because I don't want new ones like the old ones.

However, his email came back with some different considerations that I had not thought of. He was really bothered that I had spoken poorly (he thought) of his business to the American embassy. I hadn't thought about it that way. I said many good things about the place, but I was checking with my contact (whose not really at the embassy, but yes, it's all state department, so I guess she is, in a way) trying to clarify what I might be misunderstanding in terms of different norms.

He considered this very unfair and that while he was doing exactly what we had agreed upon (in the lease), he would now be at a disadvantage with renters from this source.

That might be true. He is choosing this route of implementation and he sees that as correct for his business. Nonetheless, he is one of the faces of Bangladesh for me, and this is how I feel about it.

sigh. We're still left with not being on the bus route and not having evening rides for him. Even if the landlord gets a new driver (no rides available currently), he's not offering more than 2-4 rides in the evening. I'm still left with fees for services that are high and not sure if I can, or how I would hire someone. There are moments that I just want to pack up and move to anything within bus range, but we really are in a good apartment. Not sure exactly what I'd find out there. I saw one on Craigslist and asked for some details and the response came back from someone with the same first name as the landlord. That was freaky in my email box.

Other than that, still working on the cello and Kolkata. Maybe we'll fly there mid-September when we have some holiday time, if the stores are open (and they should be, it's a Muslim holiday, not a Hindu one). Still have to talk to someone at a store to verify that this is where we need to go. I'm not really ready for new money, trains, and a hotel, but I'd probably stop thinking about it so much if it were settled as a plan.

Lights out at 10pm with a electrical outage and a backup generator failure. So Matan's up at 5am to take a shower and get homework done. There's a real consequence for postponing homework here -- no fun to do it by flashlight.

It was so hot without fans that even sleeping was not easy.

update: missed connection. ride came 10 minutes (or more) after we waited for 20. finally sent Matan on a rickshaw. talked to the mom and we'll aim for 7:20 tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

on the other side of the world

My baby, my beautiful big girl, my powerful woman daughter moved out last night as she started her journey to college. She and her dad are making a road trip of it, visiting family along the way.

For her, and for me:

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. I’ll always be with you.-- Winnie the Pooh

I miss her so much already.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


We live in a really quiet neighborhood. Street noise is usually constant in Dhaka, but we live about 20 houses down from a main road, and our road is really quiet. The most constant noise is construction: hammers, shoveling building materials, people yelling to each other.

The other constant is, of course, the calls to prayer. I wake up to them at 5:15, see the first light, and go back to sleep. This weekend, however, has been like living in the middle of a revivalist tent city. I'm assuming that the major mosque I see on the map is just a few blocks away. It's not a direct path though, I'd have to walk out of my neighborhood and re-enter a couple of streets down. In fact, all of what I see behind our apartment is inaccessible from our street level (at least as far as I can see). The sounds started Thursday night and went pretty much all day Friday, and to my surprise, got louder today.

I have no way of knowing if the intensity was due to today's national day of mourning on August 15 for a founder who was assassinated along with much of his family, or if it was entirely unrelated. It's very unnerving not to know what the roars were about. If there hadn't been equal parts sermon and music, it might have sounded like a very loud soccer game. Some links here if you're interested: news, editorial, op-ed.

The other part of feeling a bit battered had to do with going over Matan's planner and seeing a list of countries and their capitals and seeing Israel left out and the Palestinian State included. I know that's official Bangladesh policy, but the school is supposed to be an international one, with accredidation from one of the American organizations and with an IB curriculum. Made me really wonder what the content of the teaching will be. Later, I went back to go through the list and found that Lebanon was missing too. No, actually it was in the P's. But wait, there are no R's at all? No Romania or Rwanda. This whole thing looked strange. Went back to the I's. No I's -- goes from El Salvador to Libya, no Germany, France, Italy or even India. No Spain or Saudia Arabia, either. What a weird list. So we're taking it a little less personally.

Still trying to figure out getting a cello. No answer from the stores in Kolkata, so either it's not a business day or I'm doing it wrong. I'll ask tomorrow at school. Found a bus line with a phone number but no address. Some steps forward.

Finally, since I sent an email with our phone numbers, folks have called. It's been wonderful. Feel a little less isolated. That really helps.

catching up

Two days go by and it seems like an eon since I've written anything. Catching up has also been what we've done with this weekend (Fri/Sat here). No big plans. Lots of relaxing, reading and (Matan) watching movies.

Thursday I had to do a lot of paperwork before I left for the meeting at the American Center. Another new location, another rickshaw driver who claimed to know where he was going. He did know the direction of the right neighborhood, from there he asked a lot of questions.

Got there early and hung out in the library and had access to their computer center. This is where my mail will be delivered. The American cultural director is responsible for the Fulbright folks: settling in, any problems. She's also the address when the school forms want another person's name for an emergency, and I don't have anyone else, yet.

I came with a list of questions ranging from landlord/tenant relations to skim milk to language learning courses. They had many answers, suggestions and lots of humor, which helps put things in perspective.

On the way home, I ordered a new outfit. Went back to the same place at the local shopping center, this time there was a shopper who helped by translating. I do buy the fabric there and they send it out to be sewn.

Matan came in pretty wiped out from another hard volleyball practice and long day at school. He's leaving at 7:30am and returning around 7pm. He seemed more tired than hungry - just ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and went to bed.

That night, the internet went off. I didn't know if it was my computer (always a bit weird about logging on, it still tries to connect to our home), and went to sleep a bit unsettled. Tried again at 2am when I woke up, and again at 6am. Tried Matan's computer. Texted the landlord. Waited until 9am to call one of the other Fulbrighters about calling the States. Since the internet worked so well, I hadn't even bothered to update anyone about our phone number here. And back home in MN, Nitzan and Shaked were getting ready to leave for California on Friday, and I really wanted to talk to them before they got on the road. Also we were still waiting for our first check from the Fulbright and I needed to know if it came and was deposited before I could pay Matan's tuition here. Really tense. Really isolated.

Finally got through - I had been doing it right, but all of the lines were busy - we talked on the phone, he called me to make sure that he, too, could get through, and I became a bit more alert to the idea of multiple systems of communication. Other people I talked to also had no internet. I found out that the internet outage was country-wide.

Friday I cooked pretty much for the first time. Got a chicken and had a masala seasoning packet and garlic and ginger pastes, but I wouldn't call it a total success. Didn't see the quantities as I had skimmed past the parts in Bengali. So I wouldn't have put in 2 cups of oil even if I had read it, but the seasonings? That was supposed to be 2 teaspoons, not the whole package (about 4x that much). Oh well. The meat was fine, the rice pretty awful. We have not yet attempted vegetables.

We were going to go to the pool and fitness center at Matan's school, but he really needed a day to relax, so I let it go. By the afternoon, I needed to get out and besides, I had broken yet another toilet seat. Yes. Someday I will laugh about this, but not quite yet.

The story is that we are in housing that is not quite right for us. Not only the bus line, though that is certainly a significant issue. But this is a service apartment. Our landlord would like to provide many services that we can't afford. We're not good for him (I'm sure, except that he has another apartment empty, so we do pay him rent that he apparently otherwise wouldn't have). Meanwhile, I don't think I can even hire someone from the outside to cook/clean/wash and I'm doing so much more work than I expected. Don't want to spend lots of money on sending out the laundry, but washing by hand with a high school boy who is in sports could be far more than I can handle!

sigh. I'm feeling like a not very street-smart person, I think. Learning that the hard way. Should have rented for a month to see whether it was right for us. But no, I paid upfront for 6 months and signed for 10. The local state dept person who's responsible for me says there's no way I'd be in real trouble, maybe my credit rating would go down in Dhaka, if we found a place on the bus line sometime around January.

So the toilet seat(s)? I told the landlord I broke one on Tuesday. He said no problem, he'll fix it, and billed me $25 plus 10% service charge and 15% VAT (and it wasn't fixed, he said that would take time). I actually talked about this in the meeting at the American center since it seemed to me, in my understanding, something a landlord would take care of. They confirmed that yes, here too, that's usually the way it works. But his approach is to bill us pretty much everything: a second wireless connection, drinking water, laundry, etc. We talked about the issues and we're trying to work it out, but I think our objectives are pretty much at odds. Not sure how this will work out.

So when I broke the second toilet seat, I almost cried. Can't afford to breathe here! I know I'm a big person, but I think I've broken exactly one toilet seat in my life, certainly not two in one week. I decided to fix it myself and if he wants a fancier, color-coordinated, *flimsy* one when we leave, then put it in later, after I've gone. I got a sturdy one for under $10 at the local shopping center. The hardware store folks and I are going to get along well. Ok, it was a little awkward carrying it around when I went into other stores. They don't do much packaging here, just some tape to make a handle around it.

It works. I have to remember this is week one. We've done a lot of things I didn't know how to start doing last Saturday at this time. I know how to fill the sim card with minutes and to check how many minutes remain. We got to all of our destinations over the course of the week. We're still smiling for the most part.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

walking distance

In our family, we have a concept of walking distance. It's usually the point where the noise from the backseat of the car would get to be too much for the driver and I'd say, ok kids, we're within walking distance now. Usually we would indeed be 2-3 blocks from home at that point; however, I have been known to say this at about Eau Claire when returning from Chicago (about 100 miles from home).

The concept is getting a workout here. Matan's school is acutally walking distance -- about a 45 minute walk, but could be done. My school is about twice as far. Lately I've been walking a lot. Sometimes it's easier than dealing with a rickshaw driver and a bumpy ride. Sometimes it looks faster to walk. Even though I was warned about the traffic congestion, it's not like anything I've ever seen or imagined.

Yesterday, for example, Matan and I went by rickshaw to his school since I had a meeting at the embassy and it was the same direction. We made great time -- less than 20 minutes. We know now to get off and walk through a gate when we enter the school's neighborhood and change to a different rickshaw. Apparently it's territorial.

Then I walked to the embassy. I was walking against traffic since the waves of people were heading downtown. This main road would usually be 2-3 lanes on each side, but multiple lanes form with rickshaws and CNGs (motorized rickshaws), cars and bikes. Didn't see many busses on this road. (btw, got to the embassy too early and they said to come back in a half hour. didn't mention that I was at the wrong gate and would have to hike about 3 blocks around the compound when it was the right time. AND I had been warned not to be late or they wouldn't let me in to the briefing). So I walked back down that road and figured I'd see 15 minutes worth in each direction. Found a new atm to add to my collection. (I'm still not used to needing cash for everything).

Back to the embassy and almost late. Last one into the meeting. It was for new embassy staff and fulbrighters. So they describe all of the levels of danger and how they provide security for their staff (alarms in the homes, two-way radio, 12 hours of guard, etc) and then they would say, oh, but not for you fulbrighters. You just need to use common sense. Lock your doors. Then on to transportation - for the embassy folks, no public transportation. Ok, you fulbrighters will have to use public transportation. Use common sense, etc. Fortunately we fulbrighters left together and sort of decompressed. My friend from the orientation had his aunt's car and driver so he offered me a ride to my next destination -- the college where I'll be teaching.

What a drive! It was a pleasure to be inside air-conditioning and to see the route a little less in my face. It probably took 30 minutes to go 4 miles. I got to the school and someone was sent down to find me (I stand out in a crowd, to put it mildly) and we went in to the university. Elevators have long lines. But there was an office and a computer waiting for me! I'll talk more about this later. Great news: they will send a car to pick me up and return me on the days I teach!

Return trip home: I decided to try a CNG. That thing zoomed along without me feeling a burden in the rickshaw. Less open to the sun and to the folks in the rickshaws along the way.

Waiting for Matan to get home, it got later and later. We're still not up to speed on the cellphones (no voice mail?) and need to text rather than having a missed call. He tried to tell me that volleyball practice would be 4:30 to 6:30 pm. When we did talk, I asked him to get to the shopping mall before dark and I'd meet him there to eat and walk home together. I got there and waited and waited on the steps. Did see at least 3 other foreign women in rickshaws going into our neighborhood. What a surprise!

So, logistics are the biggest concern for me right now. Our apartment being out of the school district bus route is an issue that I'll have to solve. Maybe we will have the complex's driver take him and pick him up, especially in the dark. Do I even know when it gets dark in Bangladesh? Today it's 7:30pm, but I don't know about next month or 3 months from now. So much to learn.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

starting the routine

Matan went off to school this morning, strolling down our "lane," looking like this is what he's done on the first day of school, every day of his life. He had to walk to a busier street to find a rickshaw.

It sounds like he had a fun day at school, including a climbing wall and working out after school. He made it home a few hours late and, of course, I don't know much yet about how to call the school (what area codes do I need?). He stopped on the way home to check on the pants we'd bought that were being shortened. In other words, I was looking out on the balconey every 20 minutes or so.
Tomorrow I get started: briefing at the embassy in the morning and meeting with my department head in the afternoon. Still some logistics are not clear. Rickshaws are banned on some roads and I don't know how I get to the university otherwise. I guess I'll ask questions.
Only 3-4 electrical outages today. They certainly cause us to pause. Also to save frequently.
...and in Minnesota: Happy Birthday to Shaked!!! YEA!

Monday, August 10, 2009

rickshaws go astray

We went to Matan's school today via rickshaw. The driver claimed to know what we wanted and we knew enough to get him started. He went off in a congested and totally unnecessay direction before we convinced him to ask others for help.
We ended up on a very crowded, major street that I knew was beyond the range of where we needed to be. Still, having left early, we got to the school with plenty of time for Matan to write his English placement test before the orientation began.

Met with other parents a bit. We're pretty much out of our league here -- they're coming with drivers from places close-by (the really upscale neighborhoods), but we've arranged, at least, a pickup point for Matan to get on the school's bus transportation. At least one of the parents was shocked that we came by rickshaw this morning, but Matan is going to have to do that to get to the pickup point.

He also took a math placement test and I was able to get his most recent transcript from the online system in MN. At first I blanked on the passwords, but it came back. Got him out of the French placement test, too. But since his math placement depends on today's test, we have to go back tomorrow afternoon.

Got a lot of little errands done, in typical Bengali fashion, the hard way. The next rickshaw driver took us totally out of the way (but at least on this tour we saw where the earlier one had missed the turn!), and eventually got us to the point we'd asked for. It was noon and hot and I was not doing particularly well with the crowds. The first atm rejected the withdrawal request. Then a guy turned up to help us. Actually, he really did help us. He found the right atm and then asked what else we needed to do -- passport pictures, photocopying, sim for the Matan's cell -- and guided us through the maze. Even lunch, and he joined us for lunch, which was in a place I'd never have seen and probably wouldn't have dared - it just looked too fancy. Cost $7 for all three of us and there were leftovers. That was pretty much the end of what we had energy to do, so we also took his recommendation of a rickshaw driver -- one who spoke English and pointed out many landmarks, including the pick-up spot for Matan's school bus. We got to the local pick-and-pay, got laundry soap and walked home.

I'm trying to stay awake now (at 8:30 pm) since I did take an hour nap, or maybe it was 3 hours. Didn't feel like I was asleep until the last hour. Need to sleep through the night tonight.
Cooked supper here. need to learn about the spices. keeping in touch with folks by skype. haven't unpacked and organized, but I think I'll spend some morning time on that tomorrow. Today I postponed the meeting that seemed impossible to get to, and I may pass on the one tomorrow morning and just go to Matan's afternoon counseling at his school.

slowly, but surely.

day two in Dhaka

well, it's 2am and I'm awake. hard to get that energy and sense of competence back when it's so undermined by a lack of sleep. yet I need to jump into some functions in order to get tired at the right times again.

today we started out very early -- walking at 7am, looking for a small grocery store. we had nothing in the fridge except water and peanut butter cups. too early for anything to be open, but we got sort of a feel for the neighborhood. found the lake that seems too rectangular to be natural. it has a walking path around it, clearly labeled "for residents of this neighborhood only" which surprised me. our neighborhood is gated with only several points of entry, but it seems to be full of people all the time. we found few people who understood English and only one couple at the end of our walk who could tell us that we'd have better luck around 9am.

we came back and waited. still haven't unpacked and sorted out much stuff. I guess Matan is going to take the air-conditioned room for now, so we could move clothes into the different rooms. meanwhile everything is in the small bedroom that will be a study? if I find that I need the air conditioning, I may move the small bed from the study in there, just to sleep some of the time. I'd prefer the room with the morning sun (not the air-conditioned one) anyway.

we went out around 9am and found our way to the major shopping area and continued walking in the direction of his school. we didn't walk far enough and turned around, too hungry to continue at that point. we headed back to the shopping area -- walking on pretty muddy streets -- with lots of people walking, taking rickshaws and cars. didn't see any buses on these narrow, yet major roads. found the atm -- seems like it was hidden behind posters for an atm -- but those were the doors to the machine. we took out about $30 just to see if our bankcard would work; not sure since it wasn't listed on the signs. it was fine. we bought food: rice, chicken breasts, oil, the kind of milk that doesn't have to be refrigerated, lots of stuff. packed it into a backpack and got into a rickshaw. explained to the driver where we needed to go, he got help from someone in understanding it, and set the price: 10 taka (about 15 cents). we were home quickly. talked to the manager of the apartment's dad about getting a ride for Matan to school tomorrow. there will be a rickshaw waiting at 8am (we hope).

I think we cooked some eggs and toast and I'm sure I fell asleep by 11am and slept until 1pm when I woke up to talk to Shaked on skype. groggy indeed since that was my deepest sleep in quite awhile. I seem to be doing that a few times a day and it's wearing me down. we messed around on the internet and didn't do much -- got an email from his school that our apartment is out of the range for the bus to pick him up and that I would have to be responsible for pick-up and drop-off. talked to my department head, so I know my phone works. could not meet with her on Sunday since I already have two things scheduled for then. so I'll probably go on Monday to the university.

we decided to go out again -- took a rickshaw this time to the shopping center and got there less exhausted (just the heat and the humidity, not the walking, though I must say between the 5 flights of stairs and lots of walking, I am getting lots of exercise). Matan watched me try to decide about a local garment (shalwar kameez) - the loose pants, tunic, and matching scarf. I found one I really liked but then understood that I would have to sew it myself. they probably just meant to take it to a tailor, but I didn't understand since they were talking about it being ready in a few days. I decided to wait this time. Matan did find 3 pairs of lighter weight pants at a nearby store and they will be shortened for him and ready in 2 days.

we explored the whole complex, found the pencil sharpener that he wanted (ok, not electrical, but mechanical and better than the little one he brought with him), and decided to eat. we were surprised that the menu at the little restaurant was identical to the one at our apartment -- I guess we know now where they're getting the food they said they could provide! prices are significantly lower if we go out ourselves.. we also went back to the grocery store and this time they had fresh milk so we got that and corn flakes. have to take out more money since it's not a good idea to pay with the VISA and deal with exchange rates (at least that's what I expect).
the rickshaw driver was not happy with 10 taka this time and we hadn't set the price in advance, which we'll know to do next time. still I told him that we'd taken that same route 2 other times yesterday, for that price, though I suspect he did not know any English, so it was not a good feeling in the end. he talked to our security guard for a few minutes, but the guard also knows very little English so I couldn't explain to him either. (later I thought about it -- not so much the price as not having much money on hand for the next day's outing to Matan's school. Also it was somewhat unnerving to feel like one gets a piece of knowledge -- the price -- and it can change so quickly).

that's about it. I fell asleep around 5pm. woke to an electrical outage - which was unusual since only one fan worked on the generator and no lights. we hadn't had any outages in the dark, so hadn't thought to set up candles and flashlights.

I did get back up by 7pm (another 2 hour deep sleep), but didn't have the energy to prepare food or even get organized for the next day. talked to people on skype. fell asleep. talked to people on skype. fell asleep.

hope I fall back asleep now at 3am. these nights make it really hard to remember that I will be able to handle most of the challenges. right now I don't' see how to even get to two meetings tomorrow, much less Kolkuta for a cello. or how to get to the University the next day, or what do I teach? sigh. sleep is probably the best thing I can do to get back that feeling that this will work out!

middle of the night in Dhaka

rainy outside. noon on Friday by my internal clock, midnight on Sat am here. wish we had something to eat other than peanut butter cups. why didn't I bring the peanut butter and some crackers?

landed on Friday afternoon - about 12 hours ago - after amazingly easy flights. The MN-Tokyo flight was long, but we had the gift of an upgrade to business class for the price of one mile (!) and the flight started with champagne. we were in the upstairs section where there were two small sections of about 10 pod-like chairs. We could sleep easily as they flattened out into pretty much beds. The flight from Tokyo to Bangkok was similar. In Bangkok we had to find our hotel shuttle, change some money, get a smoothie and then get to the nearby hotel. Air-conditioning, wireless and a shower made it a great place to be. Then back to the airport in the morning.

Day two of the trek started with a good, but very quick breakfast at the hotel, the shuttle driver coming to look for us, and an airport fee that was a surprise: $20 each that usually is included when one buys the ticket. So more money was exchanged. We hung out drinking coke and cold chocolate milk for nearly a half hour before we realized that we could get 20 minutes of internet time for just getting those drinks at the cafe! So we logged on and updated folks a bit.

The flight to Dhaka seemed like a trip to Disneyland. There were 2-3 kids in every row. I guess school is starting next week at more than one place, not just where Matan will be going. The expediter found us (yea! sign said Dr. Peleg and Matan) and got us through quickly and all of the luggage came. He got us out a back way avoiding many people. The ride to the apartment was swift since Fridays are not business days. Then we got here. It's a big place. I think it's been closed up (and with smokers) for awhile, but I assume that it will air out. There's one bedroom with air-conditioning and a bathtub in the attached bathroom! So far, I'm not there.

The wireless is good (the whole building's router is in one of our bedrooms!), but the electricity is unpredictable. So it's gone off about 4 times for a few minutes. I think a generator kicks in pretty quickly but only for part of the apartment (not air or wireless), so those breaks are longer. got to talk to Shaked at 3am/3pm on skype but the connection was miserable at 7am/7pm when I tried again.

Need to figure out how to get to places like the school orientation on Sunday (which overlaps with a meeting at the American center with my contact from the embassy) and the university. Also to take money out of the account -- and not via Visa or Mastercard. Some groceries would be really good, too. Or did I start with that idea? hmmm. maybe I'm hungry. Think I'm going to go take a shower and try to convince my body that night is a good time to sleep.