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.


  1. When we were in Poland I had almost the same experience (taxi not picking up - panicing - kid tired/afraid). Jonathan was around 12 years old, he had a "late" Basket-ball practice (he finished at 7) and I couldn't pick him up (Uri was probably travelling and not in Poland). I think my car was in the garage (changing tyres). We lived approx. a 25 minutes drive from school but it usually took 1 to 1 1/2 hour to go to school during the busy hours (or when it was bad weather). This evening the weather was terrible (snowstorm, I think). I had called the taxi company earlier that day to have them pick up Jonathan at 7. At 7.15 Jonathan calls and tells me there is no taxi (and they are closing the school and he has to wait outside). I start calling the taxi company but I can't get through - its busy. I am calling and calling about 10-15 minutes until I get through but then "noone speaks english" "they don't understand". I try with my poor polish but ...Now, I am close to panicking - Jonathan alone waiting outside, the weather is terrible, and NO TAXI. Then I am calling another taxi company (we never used them because they really didn't know any English) and suprisingly with some german (I don't speak german but whatever works...) they will send a taxi. I am calling back to Jonathan talking to him on the mobile until the taxi arrives approx. at 8 a o'clock. Then because of the bad weather he wasn't home until closer to 9. And until he was home...I know the feeling you had. I remember both of us being upset/tired/afraid. So vulnerable.
    I really enjoy reading your blogg. Kisses to both of you.

  2. Hi Kris, sounds like you continue to have challenging days; hope as time passes, your plumbing and internet work better than they have been:)
    love and prayers,

  3. kris, even if he doesn't seem to listen, I'm glad you told your landlord how bad this lease is for you! Beyond that, it's outrageous that Fullbright scholars are left without the support they need. We send you hugs every day, Judith