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.

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