Wednesday, April 28, 2010

looking for the keys by the street light?

old joke about someone looking for keys by the street light. someone asks him where he lost the keys. well, maybe not by the street light, but at least there's light there.

so, bingo. I finally asked the right person about finding a home for the cello. I can ask for a month, but if it's the wrong people, uh, no takers. today at the pool, I asked someone who grew up here, who has many local friends, and she sent out a text to 10 people and before we left the pool, 3 people said yes. so now we'll have to figure out how to give the cello to one of them.

like asking about getting a new retainer. I kept asking people who recommended orthos in Bangkok and Singapore and we weren't going there. finally asked someone local, not ex-pat, and got an address down the street from Matan's school.

I guess it's healthy to keep learning not to look for the keys where you'd like them to be.


more short notes:

* I had been feeling well for nearly two weeks. Not so well this morning.

* nice evening at the club last night -- mostly teachers from Matan's school at a buffet at the pool.

* construction work continues at the apartment: building the 6th floor above us. This week: no hot water, no washing machine, and coming home to -- surprise, surprise -- pipes in the dining room, all the upper closets in Matan's room opened up (hmmm, maybe the bat was disturbed?), balcony screen door left open (hmmm, so let's invite the bats in?), back door left open. not happy here.

* cello saga - looks like we have answers from all of the shipping components. it's do-able. still wouldn't mind finding a home for it here and just letting it go.

* especially since Matan's orchestra teacher placed him in the lower orchestra. he didn't wait for the audition tape that he said Matan could send. discouraging to me. I guess it's a logical consequence and Matan seems more understanding of it than I am.

* bike/car accident last night -- no one hurt. cars and bikes, ok, too. I was two minutes behind him as I came home from the club by rickshaw. he'd passed me on his bike. and then, up ahead, the traffic jam was him, a car, and a crowd starting to form. we've been warned (many times) not to hang around, but just to get out of there in case of an accident. so Matan hit the car when the car stopped suddenly, and then as Matan was biking around the stopped car, the car hit him. yes. so that pissed Matan off. when I got there, I checked to see that Matan was ok, and told him to stop trying to get the driver to get out of the car, and go home. I talked to the driver who just said Matan hit him first. my rickshaw driver (who knows me and Matan) was telling me, driver is bad man, and basically, I should do what I told Matan to do: get out of there. you don't want the crowd to start deciding about some street justice. that driver had no reason to get out of the car, and in fact every reason to drive away as fast as he could. so I'm a bit shaky here.

* what else? grading, tax forms for Shaked's financial aid, syllabus for the summer at Century and now at BRAC, too.

think I should go back to bed and start this day over in a couple of hours. hope the construction people don't start ringing the doorbell.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

short notes

* sunrises have been beautiful lately. love my east window, even if it's 5:30am when the light streams in.

* will be teaching for 2 weeks in May since my colleague who is replacing me for one of the classes is very sick and on leave until June. not going to be full-time, just going in twice a week for 2 hours.

* we had a bat last night that got hit by the fan in the dining room. I thought it was a giant bug and sprayed it. poor thing limped to the kitchen and I pushed it out onto the balconey with the broom. it died in Matan's lunchbox which was full of water and bleach since it had come home with very very old banana in it.

* still no final decision on the cello shipping. after 20+ emails from Singapore Air we have a price and an agreement appended to Shaked's ticket LA-Dhaka. now we need an answer from our airline from Dhaka to Chicago. they've been promising an answer since last week. Case has to be sent from MN to LA very very soon, if it's going to go.

* If anyone in Dhaka wants a cello, please let me know! I've tried my contacts and haven't found any takers.

* Shaked will be here soon! Looking forward to showing her many sights, and discovering new things that I haven't had time for yet.

That's about all for today. Cheers!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

six weekends left in Bangladesh

that doesn't seem like much time left at all. better figure out everything I want to do -- while Shaked's here, before she gets here.

I think the last time I counted how many weeks were left, there were about 40. hmmmm.

Friday, April 23, 2010

cello cello

One of the more difficult aspects for me is the setback that cello playing has been for Matan. I think he's learned that music is a very social activity for him. This week we've been working on his re-enrollment (re-registration in the school district he's been in since first grade!). Tons of forms. I pleaded for mercy and got it reduced to 5 pages. But getting him back into the symphony orchestra is not simple. He will be auditioning from here in about two weeks. We'll upload a video or send it by email. His cello teacher here stopped coming in January. no notice. said we'd talk. never called back or answered emails. sigh. so Matan's progress has been limited.

In addition, we've had this nagging issue of what do we do with this cello now that we have it? When we bought it in India, we got a seat for it on the plane since that was a pretty inexpensive option for travel. That will not be true going to MN! We have a flight case in MN that, if all goes well, will be coming with Shaked in May. But that is not yet final. If I thought that we'd find someone to buy it or adopt it here, I'd be fine with leaving it here. But so far, no one's been interested (not even the teacher: he didn't respond to that email either). There have been moments when I thought we'll just take it carry-on and see how far we get with it, but after we couldn't even carry-on an umbrella in Nepal, I suspect the cello would stick out a bit more.

So I've been talking to the airlines. Our travel agent took the measurements of the case and came back to me and said, no, it can't go on a plane. what's a cello? (so how exactly did you investigate without knowing what this even is?!).

I went on directly to our airline (dang it, the electricity just went out and the laundry was almost done. now it will take another hour, at least. so much for getting up early and getting it done). The airline we're flying on from here took the measurements and said they'd get back to me. Didn't hear from them for 10 days so I called them back. They said, looks like you can take it on, no oversize fee if it's one of your 2 bags, just let me double check at one of the other locations it will have to pass through. Then he asked, by the way, how is it getting here? I said Singapore Air, and he said, so, how did they handle it?

Well, Singapore Air and I have been corresponding for awhile. first they said talk to the airport, but that's not really Shaked's priority in LA these days. So I kept emailing and they finally answered - what are the dimensions? I repeated the dimensions. The next day, will it have a cello in it? A curious question, I thought, but you know what, for that segment, no. The next day, what does it weigh? I write to MN and get a weight and send it on to them. No word today.

So the only answer we currently have is MN-LA by Fed Ex, around $50. LA-Dhaka -- still looking into it (probably just a oversize bag fee, if anything). Dhaka -- Chicago, here's hoping he was right yesterday and it's good to go. No fee. But since there was that one NO at the beginning, I have to have exact answers (with email letters printed out!) before we set the case in motion from MN. It's way too expensive to lose it at some random check-in clerk who decides it would not be ok today.

(as for the wash, the electricity is out again, but meanwhile the landlord's father said he needs the water supply for the construction work that's going on overhead. so not only did the load get stopped midway through [women's work, I can hear him...] but the pounding on the construction makes me want to be somewhere else all day. so I finished that load by hand, dang, it would have to be sheets and towels, and no wash for the next two days). such is life.

when classes are over

we teachers can go out to lunch at the same time. and so we did quite a few days this week!

of course, some of us went a little further afield, and didn't quite make it back after lunch. but I did grade. I love outdoor swimming pools. I admit, now that I'm done teaching, I intend to spend most of May at this pool. it's got wifi and I've got work to do online for classes that open in early June, so I think this will be perfect. not to mention cold drinks delivered to the table next to me. hmmmm. and it's less than a 10 minute rickshaw ride from our apartment.

I've invited my colleagues to join me, but there seem to be some cultural qualms - one asked me if there are men present (uh, yes) and another wondered if Bengalis would be allowed in (definitely yes). so maybe tomorrow Ruhksana will bring her daughter to swim and have lunch with me there before her daughter's French lesson nearby. Still haven't convinced anyone to bring a swimsuit to work and join me for a long lunch there on a school day. I suppose I'm a very bad influence.

Monday, April 19, 2010

track meet

His body has really changed shape and size this year. I'm so proud of him for trying out so many new things: volleyball, badminton, wall-climbing, track! As much as they are used to high school boys' bodies changing rapidly, I think his wrestling coaches are going to be taken aback when they see him in June!

playing hooky at the pool

when I feel great, I can do anything. I was falling asleep grading at school today, so I packed up and went to the pool. after a few laps, I continued with the grading. after a few more laps and lunch, I got even more grading done. I had the pool to myself from 1:30 until 4:30. amazing. even took a short nap. and brought home carrot cake for dessert tonight. a very nice day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

end of term: 301

Nine students in this Research Methodology class. Sabreena is the TA (she's sitting in the top picture). what a great class. I think that the response papers were key: but they did the readings, thought about the questions and we didn't have a lot of quizzes. Their papers are due this week and I think they'll be fine.

end of term: 201

We had 18 folks in this class (parallels the 1022 at Century) - a composition from literature class. The ones who did well in this class are really ready for 301 next term. We read Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street, along with Anne Bradstreet's poetry, Mary Oliver's poetry, and short stories by Alice Walker and Hisaye Yamamoto. Very different from their primarily British focus.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nepal, continued

Got back to Kathmandu, not only in time for the seder, but to have pizza on the way back to the hotel. And to get Matan some new running shoes. Not easy to find size 45. However, since he's on the track team this year (!), I think he should have good shoes.

sorry about the fuzzy pictures - you get the idea, we dressed up for the seder.

There were probably 700-800 people at the seder. The enthusiasm was high, while young trekkers were certainly the majority, there were lots of tourists, too, and the food was surprising (vegetables and fish and matzoh). We kept watching the kitchen to see if they were going to bring kneidelach... at our table - Gil, who was born in Israel but moved with her family to the US when she was 9. she did medical school in Beer Sheva and is now volunteering in Nepal for a month. Also a couple from Eilat who have been all over the world. Moved to Eilat in 1964 -- I can hardly imagine how many people would have been there then. And two guys from Nepal who knew the couple's son -- from when he had come to Nepal many years ago.

Next morning we got on the bus to Pokhara. This ride usually takes about 7 hours. Unfortunately there were some gas containers that needed to be reloaded on a truck (?) and the road was backed-up for hours with only one lane going through at a time. we sort of dozed in the sun on the bus. got to the breakfast stop at noon after being on the bus since 7am. the last time we did that bus ride, that stop came by 9am. Then the afternoon got darker and cloudier and it rained most of the rest of the way with a spectacular hail storm as we entered Pokhara at about 5pm.

We didn't seem to have much of a view from our hotel room, the lake was on the other side of the building. But in the morning, when I opened the curtains, there were the mountains. By the end of the week, I would just check at sunrise, without getting out of bed, to see if there was a good view!


Good food. This was probably the second night? I'm thinking spinach/mushroom lasagne. The first night we didn't take pictures, but the momos were too spicy to eat. We have pretty high spice tolerances, and we'd gotten cheese/potato ones, not something usually very spicy! We didn't want to leave a whole plate, so we took them with us.

The next day we rented motorbikes. Matan got one on his own for two days, while I rented one with a driver/guide for two hours. I did try driving it when we were way out of town, but I didn't get the hang of it enough to have fun with it.

So I saw waterfalls and a wedding (the red clothes). Went through a Tibetan refugee camp, but the carpet workshop was closed.

This is my guide.

We didn't go paragliding. The second picture isn't very clear, but there's a paragliding traffic jam up above!

Rice paddies.

This is our hotel from the side. Up above are all of the white towels hanging out to dry.

Didn't see much of this kid when he had the cycle. That's ok, he was really happy to be out on his own.

Views from just outside our room, on the balconey. Very nice part of the lake.

The last night we were in Pokhara, we went to a restaurant. Wish I'd taken a picture of that -- it was like parents' visiting day at summer camp. Of the four tables next to us, all were speaking in Hebrew. It looked like "mom and dad come to visit the kids who are out trekking and over break they could meet up in Nepal". There were two other tables in the restaurant that were not close enough to hear, but this was 20 out of 25 people in the place spoke Hebrew!

We left Pokhhara on Saturday, had an easy trip back to Kathmandu and an upgrade to a room with a bathtub waiting for us at the hotel. We went out with Rhoman who I met in Dhaka in Bangla classes. He is working with a mission in Nepal (and playing soccer) and occasionally going back and forth to Bangladesh.

Nepal nightlife. Closes down pretty early, actually.

The last morning I went to the "monkey" temple, not far from our hotel (about a half hour walk if you don't get lost, I took a cab since I was not feeling so great).

Take a deep breath!

I saw more dogs than monkeys, but I've heard there are many monkeys there and that they're pretty aggressive!

About midway up, looking up.

About midway up, looking down.

Mantras that get spun, one after another, as a prayer.

Very old statues.


And that was the end. Internet site said the flight wasn't going to leave until 5pm, but the airport insisted it was leaving as scheduled at 2pm. Get to the airport at noon and they say, no, no point in going in since there's no check-in now since the flight has been delayed. What, we're going to go back to the city? We kind of insist on going in to the airport, Matan finds some electricity for his computer science homework, and I keep reading A House for Mr. Biswas. Got to Dhaka by 6:30pm and to the apartment, unbelievably, by 7:30pm. The heat and humidity managed to surprise me.

tent hospital

Went to the clinic near BRAC today and, on the way out, as I was hit with the steam heat outside, I saw the tent that is housing so many of the people who are very sick, mostly from the deteriorating water supplies. Over one thousand people admitted yesterday. Rows and rows and rows of cots. Seems impossible to imagine getting well in that heat.

I'm getting more tests done. Meanwhile this is now the fourth course of antibiotics in 2010. drinking lots of gatorade since I know that's got clean water in it, imported. My department head said she was shocked to hear that we weren't boiling our water, but our orientation last fall said that bottled water was fine. I think there's a problem here if I'm not getting this "obvious" information. Maybe the embassy could update? maybe the landlord could inquire? maybe the host department could check up? maybe it's all mine to figure out? I probably need to be talking more to other people finding out how things are done in their homes, sharing what I'm doing. I think Matan's school is probably my main source of information, so I wonder how others are getting it. I just hope we get the water filter this weekend.

not a lot of weekend plans. probably a good thing. oh well.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

hardly unique

So I'm in good company with this stomach sickness... water shortage is acute right now.

But look: solar power! Still the conclusions seem to drift back to natural gas which is just inadequate. Only 45% of the people have access to electricity. And the rest of us get about 60-70% coverage.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nepal in the spring

This visit to Nepal was longer and we had some ideas about what we wanted. We were both kind of stomach sick as we left Dhaka and were going to take it easy, if necessary. We didn't get the hotel we wanted, the Ganesh Himal, but knew to ask for rooms next door, if they couldn't accommodate us for all of the nights we'd be in Kathmandu. So we had access to its wonderful gardens, tv room, books, internet, and the people who take good care of the tourists. I spent much of Saturday reading in the garden (Lev Grossman's The Magicians, just a random book I picked up from the hotel's bookcase). So we stayed in the hotel next door for two nights -- it really was a cheaper option at $8/night, but by the end, we would have preferred to pay the other hotel its $14/night to have more hot water and electricity, and just nicer rooms!

(view from Ganesh Himal garden toward the hotel we were staying in)

(view from Ganesh Himal garden toward the GH hotel)

(one more direction from the garden)

Meanwhile we were figuring out where we wanted to go. We decided on a short visit to Nagarkot -- if the skies are clear, the views are fabulous -- all the way to Everest. We got a car with a driver to take us to a wonderful point way high up in the hills. Went through villages and forests to the top.

We saw the sunset and had dinner in a nearly empty restaurant. Matan said I shouldn't have told the Israelis "hag samaeh" (happy holiday), if they came this far to get away from everything. But if there are only 4 tables of people, I just hear the Hebrew. I didn't pull up a chair and join them!

View from our balcony towards the central part of the hotel.

Sunrise didn't yield the mountain peaks, but beautiful nonetheless. Come back in November, they said.

The way home had some problems with Maoist strikes shutting down the city entrances for 3 hours. Our driver would run ahead and say "tourists! tourists" to clear the road so he could get through the barricades. Seemed to be about equal numbers of strikers and riot-gear wearing police officers. One barricade wouldn't let us through. They had an ice cream stand set up, so I'm wondering if they were more serious or less? So we went around to another entrance. Got to see more of the city this way. We did need to get back to the city for the Passover seder, but we still had time.

(to be continued)