Wednesday, September 30, 2009

posts in mind

maybe so I don't forget:
the maid is not working here anymore and how phoning and hanging up is a regular way of communicating here so one doesn't get billed;
risk analysis and parent meetings;
how much $10 buys at the grocery store and how I can hardly carry it all home;
teaching again and what students are like here;
studying Bangla again even though I didn't really pass the first month-long course;
reading a lot;

that should remind me. I'm open to suggestions, too.

the poem over my desk

was left there by the previous lecturer. I like it, though, so I kept it.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Back to school, both teaching and studying.

Monday, September 28, 2009

meeting more people

Appropriately enough on erev yom kippur, to find someone who is taking an online course on the Holocaust via Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. AND she's the librarian at Matan's school. What a pleasure! Her name was sent to me by my phd advisor who will be speaking with her on a panel in June (at the conference we'd gone to in Hawaii. It's in England this year, not quite on my way home timing-wise).

We are invited to dinner this week at her home and will continue our conversation there. AND she's offered to help us with the laundry since she has both washing machine and drier, maid and driver. We'll see how this option works!

Other than that, life in Dhaka is back to normal -- more people using less electricity meant 3 load shedding episodes yesterday at the apartment. It's also sunny and hot, so the air-conditioners are being used more. Back to school tomorrow. Still have papers to grade and the revision to finish.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Leonard Cohen in Israel

Since you're probably as tired of reading about laundry as I am writing about it, have a look at this article on the concert last week. I'm so glad we got to his concert in MN or I'd really be wishing to have been in Ramat Gan.

Internet is back at home after 5 days of being out (the landlord was on vacation -- his dad doesn't do internet fixing). Sunshine is back, with the downside that the apartment was probably 90 degrees last night. Drumming (Durga Puja) is now going on until 1am and starting up again at 6am, but that holiday ends tomorrow.

Probably shouldn't read blogs of people who have drivers and travel widely, especially if I know who they are. Feeling like the Fulbright program expects us to be smart people and figure out how to manage living somewhere new. And not feeling like I have any time or energy to do the things that I supposedly came here to do.

Listening to Leonard Cohen probably doesn't remedy this situation, but it does remind me that tonight starts Yom Kippur. Zom kal and gmar hatima tova.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

glorious sunshine

I feel like a sunflower twisting and bending towards that glow.

Yesterday I started on skype at the American club very early in the day. Met a friend for breakfast and she took me out to see local places: handicrafts, a large store I'd only heard about, pointed out a book store that was just tucked down a side street from my university, the perfect tour for me. We had lunch and the pad thai looked like what I was expecting. We made plans to go to a tailor today with the fabric we bought yesterday.

Then I came back to the American club to finish yesterday's blog entry with the pictures that wouldn't load earlier. And I stayed and talked to other people on skype. Eventually Matan came over after his flag football, we had dinner here, and his morning ride person came in with her family. It was nice to actually chat with her -- I had only met her that first week and we've talked just when there were delays in rides (or once when the school told me Matan wasn't there and I had seen him walk down the street to where she picks him up. The school was wrong, but by then I'd already called Melissa to check that she'd taken him). Again last night, she generously offered to take us home so we wouldn't be going by rickshaw after dark. Her husband is the general manager of the Radisson so she's also going to send us a list of cabs to call.

Being out after dark is still a novelty for us.

Daylight savings time was supposed to end this week -- according to yesterday's paper, October 1. Today's paper said, oops, not so fast. Still under discussion! Reminds me of Israel's debates on the subject, but usually there it's thrashed out a few months in advance. Who knew that it was such a hot topic? Back to that sunshine!

This morning (Saturday) I decided to try the parallel aqua aerobics group that meets at the American club. Most of the same people, just a preference for being outdoors. I'll join them for breakfast, too, next time. So, it's a nice sunny morning -- you should have seen me bouncing around with a noodle!

Friday, September 25, 2009

next up -- drums for Durga Puja

Duga Puja started last night and I was wondering how one went about finding any of the 172 mandaps (worship pavillions) in Dhaka. Shouldn't have worried - by 6pm there were drums (and kazoos!) starting up just outside my window. The pictures show the distance - about one building length down the street from our building. However, we have not yet figured out how to access the neighborhood behind us. There is a long wall through all of our neighborhood and then a river, so we might be able to get in where a road crosses the river. We'll see.

I've gotten used to the mellow chanting from the mosques. The drums greeted the sunrise this morning. Don't know what to expect for the rest of the holiday which goes through Monday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Cutting a paper from 30 pages to 15 to turn in next week. Pretty messy since I have to take out the sections that refer to documents not in the public domain. Interestingly enough, a copy of the manuscript that I used for my dissertation, and that the family took back its permission to work with, has been found in an archive in Cincinnati. So does their withdrawal of permission not matter anymore? Not something I'm dealing with at the moment, but food for thought. I think it means that the sister who donated the manuscript to this other archive (it's a microfilm) didn't trust her brother to make the manuscript public. Correctly so, I'd say.

Otherwise, reading The Well-Crafted Sentence by Nora Bacon and The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang. Thinking about my next attempt at comp I online. I liked the WCS for its practical approach to better sentences especially recognizing audience and purpose. The Late Homecomer is Century's common book text this year. I thought about writing a paper on the commmon book project, using all three examples, but I'm back to revising the earlier paper on memoir. Next week I'll be back to teaching and grading, but I'm enjoying the time to think about writing and course crafting at the moment.

Lots of families with little kids here at the American Club. I'm here for the internet this morning and then meeting Lisa for lunch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

clogged, or maybe waterlogged?

Just feeling like my sensors are not wide open. So missing an earthquake? Apparently two in the last two days!

Then I got this amazing blog on my google alerts and I wish I was so involved and knowlegable and then I realize that this person is a news bureau chief so obviously she's well connected. Definitely worth reading for a more in-depth picture of Dhaka.

No internet at home today (speaking of my connections, or lack thereof), so I'm at the American club. Didn't mean to stay so long, but as it's raining, again, I'm just sitting still. Grocery shopping can wait.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

some days are challenging

I'm going to assume that I will not spend 10 months focused on laundry. Otherwise I think this will be one interesting, but of questionable merit, sabbatical.

Woke up to more rain. It's hard to go out and see the sights when it doesn't stop raining for more than an hour or so. While I know I won't melt (not so sweet as that), it's just not really appealing to be out in a rickshaw. But I also question whether re-reading all of Harry Potter, except for the missing #2, is what this journey is all about.

Eid feels like a big party that everyone is celebrating, but we're not invited. I don't know my colleagues well enough yet to be expecting lots of invitations. I must admit I got annoyed with the landlord's kids ringing the doorbell 3-4 times yesterday looking for Eid-money (baksheesh? gifts? they were trying any word that might convey the message!). And while the landlord sent an email wishing everyone a good Eid, a good Duga Puja and a Merry Christmas (!), I apparently deliberately felt left out of what was meant to be all-encompassing goodwill. So, they couldn't invite us down for treats? :-)

I promised Matan to put together the finances and see if we can get a car and driver. Having cobbled together coverage for about 40% of our needs, now it seems like overkill to get a car. If we add in a taxi for Matan's trips home after school activities, we've got about 80% coverage at about 30% of the cost of a car. So financially, it's probably not the right thing. However, I'm getting really tired of lugging food and water by rickshaw, so maybe those numbers should be weighted in some formula!

The pictures? My two bucket laundry system on the back porch. The maid is coming about once a week (it's hard to justify taking off work to go home just to be there when the maid is) and we don't have enough clothes to let it pile up for a week. Nor is there drying space for all of the clothes if we did leave them for her. We really have to take advantage of the dry days (hours). So, yes, my latest aerobic and muscle-toning workouts have involved tasks that make me remember fondly my mother's washing machine in the basement in Waunakee that had a mechanical set of double rollers that squeezed the water out far more efficiently than I've been able to. Looking for a washing machine this week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

taking advantage of days off

Great picture of the crowds leaving by boat, but it didn't show up -- go see it here. I'm assuming the moon was sighted and that all of the commotion outside is indeed Eid! There are loud celebrations going in every mosque and I think we have mosques in every direction.

Other news links, and I've been saving them, is that apparently 5 million out of 12 million residents have left Dhaka for the week. Hasn't been a load shedding (electrical outage) for a few days. It's not quite as hot either, though I think that's not a function of fewer people!

As for not finding Jewish families to celebrate Rosh Hashana, there seems to be some question about how many Jewish families there really are here. The article advocates religious pluralism as possible in Bangladesh, but recoginizes the serious discrimination especially of the Hindu minority.

I woke up this morning thinking I should have rented a car for this week off, even if we weren't leaving the city with all the crowds. But when I met with the rental agency, my mind was thinking about the long-term rental (which I'm really debating), and didn't think about just taking advantage of this week. So I'm again frustrated about my not-very-creative thinking. We've had a quiet vacation and maybe that's what I needed to get the brain re-activated and/or re-adjusted.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

for the lack of a cord

Matan's cello did not work well last week. He stopped trying to tune it. Said the bridge was moving. We were waiting to see what happened when his teacher came to the first lesson.

Then the teacher said, let's start after the holidays, and it was such a letdown. When I explained that all practice was on hold until he checked the cello, he did come over that evening. Said Matan was right to stop since there was a problem with the cord. Little threads had been stripped and it was slipping, soon to pop. The cord holds the tailpiece to the endpin. In addition, if the piece inside the cello falls (it's usually held in place by the tension of the strings and the bridge), then there's nothing the teacher could do to help with the repair. So he put all of the pieces back together, tight enough to maintain pressure on the soundpost, loose enough to not strip the last threads in the cord.

I started to email with Matan's teacher in the States -- how do we solve this? Don't know why it didn't occur to me to just order it from Cellos2Go, where we order things from in the States. Sometimes I feel as though I have blocks in my brain. That I am so far out of my element that it doesn't occur to me to do things the way I would in the States. Paypal works fine from here; the internet doesn't care where I'm ordering a part from! Anyway, with a little help from my friends, my brain kicked in and the part is ordered. Takes awhile to get here and I'm tempted to order two -- one via diplomatic pouch and the other express mail. Not sure I've ever seen a mail delivery in Dhaka. We get notices from Matan's school by special delivery to the door.

So the cello practicing is still on hold.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Not having constant internet access has certainly helped me read more in the last month (note to self?). I read Frankenstein and Jasmine this week - no connection, just books I brought.

This morning I read the book reviews in the NYT and decided I wanted to read most of the books. Of course, reviewing both Margaret Atwood and Margaret Drabble contributed to my interest.

Yesterday in Dhaka's Daily Star there was a review of a book by Shazia Omar called Like a Diamond in the Sky. In the interview she says that Bangladesh has a 70% tax on imported books. I hadn't looked for bookstores yet, but apparently that's another reason people travel to India. Omar mentioned a website for a writers' group called Writers' Block (reminded me of Century!).

I think I'm going to have to find a good library since I've started reading some of the anthologies I brought with me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana tova!

Modified holiday celebrations here -- found the apples and honey, not so much the challah and kneidelach. Actually last night I brought home take-away Iftar food (all of the local shops have stands with great food made for breaking the fast) and at least one of the items looked like kneidelach. However, it's got a yohgurt based sauce and it's pretty spicy, so it's only a slight similarity.

Didn't find families to celebrate with - maybe I should have started looking earlier!

The picture of Matan is in a modified pujabi (punjabi?) -- he didn't like it knee-length, so I cut it off and sewed to the length he prefers.

Matan and I are both off school for the Eid holiday until Wednesday, and then I'm off another week after that as we bridge to Durga Puja, the Hindu holiday. Of course, it's conveniently off for all of Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur, as well! Who knew?

sometimes even when you have a ride home, you get wet

Yesterday, the car from the university took me through most of the flooded streets at 4pm. Until we got to a block (a long block) from our apartment -- then it was time to get out and walk. I hiked my pants up to my knees and held the computer bag high so it wouldn't get too splashed. Good thing I have two pairs of sandals so one can dry out while the other is being worn.

By the time Matan came home at 6pm, the streets were clear.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

home internet access

I've gotten to the point that the internet working at home is a pleasant surprise. Occasional. Nice when it happens. Not something to get frustrated about.

Work access is good, but this morning, I didn't have my pictures of yesterday's flooded streets here with me (actually the camera is, but the cable for downloading isn't here). Also, at my office, I tend to be pretty busy with work.

So I can go to the American club where I've figured out the internet wireless connection (sounds simple, but it took me quite awhile). I spent a very nice Tuesday morning and early afternoon there this week. Didn't mean to stay quite so long, but since it was pouring and there was skype, I stayed for quite awhile.

I'll try to catch up later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

my first day of school

It was nice to be in the classroom and meeting new people. The first class is one I've taught before -- even to the Garrison Keillor article on how he writes -- same discussion of his images and with added plus of telling them what Minnesota and Lake Waubegon are. Second class is new to me, but they seem even more interested in the material.

There was a general strike today from 6-12noon about gas drilling rights, but there seemed to be little impact on the school. Many students came, less in the class before noon, more in the later class.

AND I had a ride home! It was raining but I was inside a car! I'll have rides from the university 3 afternoons a week! It's hard to describe how much I appreciated the gentle and dry ride.

Then I had to go back out in the rain to get water, toilet paper, milk, eggs, etc., about as much as I could carry. Maluah for supper tonight. Ok, paratha.


Half-day general strike called from 6am to noon. Not sure whether to expect students to show up for the first day of class or not.

These strikes have a reputation for being violent in Dhaka, but there hasn't been one since 2006. Matan's school guide says that school is held unless we hear otherwise. The American embassy sent a warning yesterday but it was pretty mild and suggested that we just avoid certain areas where the strikers were going to be protesting.

My ride didn't come in the morning and the streets were pretty much deserted. We had Bangla class as usual and by 10am traffic seemed pretty much normal. The dept coordinator says that the students are probably going to be in class.

Notes from the online version of the newspaper (our paper version delivered this morning did not even have it as headline news):

Monday, September 14, 2009 Picketers ransack several vehicles
Star Online Report

Picketers ransacked several vehicles at Shahbagh and Paltan areas during their half-day hartal that started at 6:00 this morning.

They also set fire to several copies of the daily Prothom Alo and the daily Amader Somoy claiming that the newspapers gave misleading information about the hartal programme.

Apart from Shahbagh and Paltan areas, the entire traffic movement across the city was almost normal.

Huge contingent of forces from different law enforcing and intelligent agencies were deployed at different strategic points of the city including Paltan, Dainik Bangla, Zero Point, National Press Club, Bijoynagar and Shahbagh areas.

not sleeping

I had been getting better at sleeping through the night, but the last couple of nights, I've been up again at 3 and 4. Not because of calls to prayer (I think). Not sure if it's the heat (and I tried another night in the air-conditioning and don't like that either!) or just ready to start teaching. I'll start today so that may help. We have 2 classes before the end of Ramadan and then a 10 day break for holidays. Matan has just the 3 days of the Eid holiday off, so we're not going away.

When we come back, I understand things will be calmer -- from the traffic to the students. I am certainly looking forward to lunches again! Not that I'm fasting, but food is served underneath these curtains, and I would rather not eat than go hang out in a tiny street tent around a hot fire. Yesterday was actually productive in that I came home after class (to be home when the maid came) and before I went to work, I had lunch at home. Made staying at work until 5pm far more reasonable. Of course, I ended up with more hours in rickshaws and CNGs on the road.

Have a meeting on Tuesday with the company that Parvez is using for the long-term car rental. Not sure at all what I think about this option. I'll go hear how it works.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

belated birthdays and early greetings

Yesterday was an easy day. I woke up early, well rested, and met with classmates at the American club to study for our Bangla exam. The carrot cake made me think that I should have found that place in time for my birthday!

Here's a picture of another birthday celebrated early -- just before we left the States, Shaked's 18th. It's at Paint Your Plate, and we've been doing that for the kids' birthdays for many years. She took her new mug, bowl and plates, with her to college.

And one early birthday wish to Angela: many happy returns of the day, and, as we say in Hebrew, ad mea ve-esrim -- to 120!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

the living room flooded

Bangladesh has water. Sometimes I don't go out, if I have a choice, because it's so wet outside.

Today I was home after class pretty early and since it was a beautiful day, I did a few buckets full of wash. Got those jeans done. Of course, you know where this is going. Within two hours the rain was pouring down. I decided we didn't need any errands done today.

Within three hours I could see that the rain was coming in through the screen on the balconey (it doesn't usually), so I closed the glass door.

Within four hours, I went into the living room and the water was deep enough to need some serious mopping. I guess the balconey's drain is clogged, or the end point is overflowing, or something, but the water came in even through the closed door.

Good thing the cello was in Matan's room. I do not want to know how waterproof the case is.

Added note: kind of makes me feel like I've got nothing to complain about when the next news item I open says:

Flash flood inundates about 200 villages in Bangladesh 2009-09-10 15:11:03 Print

DHAKA, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Some 200 Bangladeshi villages were inundated by flash flood triggered by heavy downpour over the last five days in three sub districts of the Khulna district, about 180 km southwest from capital Dhaka, leaving over 300,000 people marooned, local private news agency UNB reported on Thursday.

A Golden Age

I got caught up in one of the books I'd sent but hadn't read yet: A Golden Age by Tahmina Anam. An interesting story about one family's experience in the 1971 war for independence in Bangladesh. Disturbing in many ways, but fascinating in the details, some of which I'm recognizing. She lived in Dhaka for only a few years, but returned for family visits often. An article on her background can be found here.

An article she wrote for the NYT on Bangladesh can be found here. Especially interesting in terms of global warming and the impact a slight change in temperature can have in the most vulnerable places.

Another article about being away and thoughts of returning.

So that's what's been keeping me busy other than Bangla lessons, going to work, and the usual of cooking and wash. Looking forward to the weekend.

just the cement

People carry piles of bricks on trays on their heads, so I should not have been surprised to see trays of cement being carried up three flights. This is a series just of the guy with a tray of cement. You can see him coming up the steps, getting to the floor that they're working on and dumping his tray full of cement. Repeat about 1000 times.
(again, look at the bottom picture to see shot #1, he's coming up the steps, then middle, then top. I'll get this right eventually!).

building Bangla style

I've been taking pictures of the apartment building across the street as the next floor has been built. Not sure if the pictures will load in order, or how many I'll get into a single entry, but I'm sure you'll figure out the progression. It's all done by hand, from building the scaffolding out of bamboo, to laying down a wooden plank floor, to bringing up the iron rods for reinforcement that are criss-crossed and tied, to lugging the buckets of cement up to the third floor.
(OK, the pictures are in backwards timewise. so read from the bottom up. they took forever to load, not going to try it again!)
You can click on the pictures to see greater detail.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

when only 5% of the people have cars

according to yesterday's paper, in Dhaka, car ownership is only found among 5% of the people. so we realize just how much we have. I'd like to think that we could manage with better public transportation, but we may be looking at cars and drivers.

the unrelenting need here overwhelms. on a daily basis, as I walk, people attach themselves to me. sometimes it's beggars and we've really been warned not to give to them, so many are connected to rackets, and espcially not to take out wallets in public as we go. but some folks have asked for jobs, for visas, for me to take them home. even Matan has been asked if he could provide work for someone.

the maid is here (I'm working on lesson plans at home) and in the first 10 minutes, she asked for an Eid bonus, for my new outfit, for help for her brother's kidney problems. all the while she's sitting, her back hurts and it's Ramadan, and I feel cruel hoping that the sheets will nonetheless get washed.

we're going to try "take two" on the taxi tonight at 8pm. this time, we're going out to supper between the end of wall-climbing and the beginning of badminton and I'm going to wait with Matan at the school so if there are any problems, he won't be by himself. I'm also in touch with a couple of taxi and car rental places. we do have to find a solution.

Monday, September 7, 2009

department meeting

Very small department compared to what I'm used to, maybe 8 faculty members. I have no linguistics background or I would have MA thesis advisees as they divided them up today. Otherwise, talk about a conference on the Caribbean (sp?) that the department is hosting in October, a university journal focusing on the English and Humanities Department in its Dec volume, and could I have an article done by the end of the month on autobiography? Mostly polishing syllabi and photocopying. Copyright law is pretty much not recognized here. Books on the shelves in the library are photocopied.

Still so hot and humid. Coming home after two half hours in rickshaws leaves me fried. That's when I take advantage of the air-conditioned room.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


This is a common theme of mine. I seem to go easily from being convinced that most anything is possible, to not quite sure how to write a syllabus. I'm pretty sure that I know how to write the syllabus, and have taught a parallel course many times. So, I'm not sure why I'm stuck on it. I've been home for 4 hours and have not yet written any new words on the page.

I managed to miss talking to Nitzan -- he's on the road for Labor Day vacation. I miss him. It's very hard not to see him every day. It's been a long time since we lived on different continents.

Finding out Matan has missed a few assignments in another class, I feel like I've dropped the ball there. I don't probe him quite enough and he usually does manage his homework (eventually), but I think I need to insist on more detailed information.

I think I've got the cello lessons set up to start this week.

I don't have a driver for evenings yet and am not quite sure how to solve this. Maybe it will be taxis.

So far behind in Bangla after only 2 weeks!


if the biggest issue is swim goggles...

then things are settling down! A quiet weekend with all of the electricity, hot water and internet that we needed (hmmm, I guess that means we're used to only one computer connecting to the internet in the apartment). In addition, we were invited out Saturday night to Iftar and it was fun to go to someone's home.

Friday was pretty low-key. All I did was bring the paperwork to the American Club and get that membership taken care of. And then I went swimmming at Matan's school. Saw him playing flag football on the field outside the pool. We miscommunicated though about leaving together to find dinner (maybe at the A&W?!), so he thought I left and he went home. I was reading across from the pool, rather than in the rotunda where we usually meet.

So Friday night we stayed in and I started re-reading the last Harry Potter. Should have known that would take up Saturday, if I started it! Saturday was rainy and I didn't feel like taking two rickshaws to aquatic aerobics espcially after I swam Friday. Our only mission for the day was swim goggles! This has been a particularly goofy learning curve and we are now on goggles #5 and 6. We brought from the States but they were broken from the start. I bought a pair that was too small and we bought a pair in Kolkata. Matan's gym lock was cut since he didn't understand that he can't leave it locked; everything has to go home everyday. So that Kolkata pair might be in the lost and found, and he'll check there, but meanwhile, no spare points to lose on not having goggles today (Sunday), so we went to find another pair. This time I got a pair for me, too.

Also Saturday, Matan joined me at the American club and got his own membership card. It's more like a country club in terms of spacious, grassy layout, than what he was expecting it to look like (maybe Shoreview's community center). Hope he finds it a good place to hang out with the high school kids. Considering our apartment is out-of-district, we are actually very close to both the school and the American club, so the main reason some folks don't join -- the transportation time -- is really not an issue for us. It is a bit pricey, and if we eat a lot of meals there (in dollars), it could become a budget issue, but so far, we've been pretty frugal and this seems important to Matan.

Still no cello lessons, but he is playing. The cello does not stay tuned well in the humidity and that is frustrating, but I think it's a solid instrument and he's getting some beautiful sounds from it.

Last night Amanda from the Fulbright students came over so that Parvez's driver could pick us all up here. She's moving further south in Dhaka soon, so we won't be living so close by or seeing each other at Bangla classes every day. Parvez came for one semester with his wife and two kids. They homeschool so the kids are continuing pretty much what they'd be doing in Florida in many ways. They do have relatives here and in Kolkata, so it's somewhat a long visit for them. Parvez explained the food, the prayers, the different ways of interpreting customs. It was a pleasure to be invited to share with them.

Started the week off with not getting my homework done. I'm not a very good example for Matan and he wasn't exactly saying he'd finished his. I guess getting out the books Sat morning at least reminded him that he'd need goggles, so we did accomplish something.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I think I'm going back to sleep instead of going to 9am water aerobics. I swam yesterday. Will probably go to the pool today at the American club when Matan gets his card (he didn't come with me yesterday when I got mine).

Some days are like that.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

weekend is here!

Quiet day: school, work, grocery shopping, home, and yes, Thursday is the end of the week.

Woke up to pouring rain at 6am, but by 7am there was a double rainbow out in front. The CNG was waiting to take me to school. Comparing notes there about joining the American club, long-term car rentals, other issues.

Stopped on the way home and brought great vegetable noodle dish at the mall. The whole first floor is set up with take-away food stalls for the meal at the end of the day. Also brought home about 10 - 15 liters of water and other liquids so I won't have to think about it tomorrow or the next day!

Matan stayed at school for chess club and got home before 6pm. We're going to make General Tsao's chicken for supper.

Looking forward to the weekend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"I will give you meaning"

I love this phrase that my Bangla teacher says every day after we read a passage (phonetically, we don't know the alphabet yet), but before we've gone over the vocabulary.

We're working on meaning here in so many ways. We don't know the meanings of the words on many of the signs. People say that everything is in English, too, but that's not true.

Yesterday was both very good and very awful. The good: I went to class, I came home and worked well on syllabi and course materials, the maid did all of the wash (!), I paid the landlord for a multitude of expenses (that we will avoid in the future) and talked to him about how this lease is really not good for us. He's not listening. But at least I convinced him that the toilet had to be fixed -- it cannot be blocked up from Saturday until Tuesday without him considering it urgent. He likes to mess with the internet, not so much with what he calls "sanitary issues."

Then I went to my aquatic aerobics at Matan's school. Took 3 rickshaws and walked through the traffic jams. No point in sitting in the sun for those segments. What a pleasure the pool was in the middle of the afternoon. I think I need to get over there for some of the open swims, but just starting with this twice-a-week class.

Saw Matan while I was there and signed a form for wall-climbing that he was going to. Then he was staying for badminton until 8pm. I had called the cab company so that he was going to have a ride home (kind of expensive in Bangali terms at 500 taka; I went back and forth by rickshaw for less than 100). At 8:15, Matan calls to say no one came. I call the company and they promise someone will be there in 10 minutes. This goes back and forth until 8:45 and at 9:00, Matan gets home. I'm pacing downstairs wishing I had the vocabulary to explain to the guard what's going on. He keeps offering me a chair.

It's clear that the driver was the company owner and had come from his own Iftar (breaking of the fast each evening during Ramadan). He was dressed up in white and very apologetic. Matan just wanted to get upstairs and I should have understood that. Instead I talked to the cab company owner since we had not yet met face-to-face and I wanted to resolve possible future trips. Wasn't the right time.

Matan was truly upset. Unhappy, frustrated, probably scared, not sure what his options were. I was so discouraged. I am not used to not being able to just zoom over and pick him up if he needs a ride. (yes, there are moments when I think about those three cars with one driver at home in MN!). He calmed down and had some supper and went to bed.

I had nightmares about parking garages and not finding where I'd left the car, finding a washing machine parked there instead, calling home (to the kibbutz?) to find out which car I was supposed to be finding... When I told him my dream as we were riding in the CNG to his morning pickup spot, he said I worry too much. I don't think so. While we currently don't need rides at 5 and 6pm when he finishes the other days, it's going to become a real issue as soon as daylight savings time ends (I suspect).

Today I asked a lot of vocabulary words about worrying, out late, concern -- pretty good if I got to this point without needing those words! Otherwise, a ordinary day: school, work, stopped at a store on the way home (those classmates of mine know lots about shopping in Dhaka!) and a nap in an air-conditioned room before the electricity went out.

AND our first Iftar invitation from my Fulbright friend. He'll send a car to get us on Saturday night and will return us as well. I'm looking forward to meeting his family and sharing the holiday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I hadn't ever really taken part in PTA functions when the kids were little, but I'm needing to be in touch with other parents to figure out how to take care of a teenager in Dhaka. So I signed up to be the parent representative for 10th grade even if I don't know any of the parents or the kids. They didn't have anyone else for that grade.

The first meeting was Monday at 3pm. After my 2-hour journey by gridlock on Sunday, I decided to walk from my university to the school. I knew it could be done in 45 minutes, though 2-3 in the afternoon is not ideal walking time. Even with an air-conditioned pause in a mall looking for Bangla clothes (none in my size), I still got to the school pretty pink.

The meeting was interesting. Most of the kids seem to have sports or other activities, but there are some problems with off-school parties being held after closing hours at local restaurants. Since most of the kids have drivers, they seem to have pretty flexible curfews. Matan hasn't been asking about parties, but he has mentioned more than once that he'd like to belong to the American club. We could do that, I do have an invitation as a Fulbrighter. But since it costs $60/month, I was trying to understand when he thought he'd take advantage of the facilities. He's at school until 6pm most days of the week, and 8pm one night. Maybe it is the weekends - we have been pretty much at loose ends by Saturday night.

The best part of the meeting was at the end when one of the moms couldn't believe that all of the things that the embassy provides (like drivers!) are just not available to the Fulbright folks. And for the most part, I think the other Fulbrighters either have relatives here or even ongoing research relationships with their universities. So maybe it isn't a widespread issue. I'll just be happy if she calls and Matan gets invited over for some x-box or other familiar weekend activity. Maybe they'd even bring him home?!

We had a lot of energy last night -- he's trying some new activities (like speech/debate, badminton and climbing wall, and continuing with math team and chess club. Haven't heard back from the cello teacher. Matan played last night. It was a sound from home, here, and I hope it will help him to enjoy this year.

waiting for cello boarding pass

trying to get the pictures I mentioned actually uploaded. this is in the Kolkata airport, 5:30 am.