Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The 4th World

Sitting in the dark, illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen as I remove staples, punch holes, and attach labels to 500 sheets of paper to make lovely binders for tomorrow. Why can't every Tuesday night be like this?

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Room

I've just done an emergency evacuation of my former digs, out of a desire to not impose my presence on other people. Now I have my own space! My new little room comes equipped with a four-poster twin bed with a mosquito net and hot red sheets, and... that's it. Nothing else. I can has dresser? Perhaps a bedside table?

Currently living out of my suitcase. Roughing it! Ha! Ha! Ha! Darn, I think I lost my ID card while moving... how will they identify my carcass when it floats along the muddy waters of the street?

Oh yeah -- monsoon season has finally begun, and we get huge erratic downpours. I shared R's inaugural rickshaw ride after lunch today. The rickshaws just hang a sack over the seating area to protect their passengers from the rain. It works! Very impressed.

Argh, my bathroom light just blew out. Now must learn new Ninja Skill: showering in complete darkness. Results of attempts to be posted tomorrow.

I Glitter Like a Butterfly

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sea World

I may be incapacitated from unintended bacteria ingestion by the time I publish this post.

Today was all about confusion. The morning began with Z running around "polling" people about whether they wanted to go to New Market or to Sea World, and somehow ended up with almost everyone agreeing on Sea World (I had said "New Sea World" as a joke, and she put me down for Sea World. Clearly, an unbiased poll.).

M and I decided to have pedicures at Alvira's in the meantime. Excellent service, and I got a 10% discount for my combination pedicure and foot massage! This is because I am a member of this most wonderful beauty salon. Alvira (or her manager, whatever, the top lady who's always on the phone) gave me a big hug when she saw me. I shall come more often, especially since they also serve delicious coffee.

We got back and waited for A to come down. Funny thing -- I kept trying to call her and got a busy signal, when the whole time she was talking to S, who was right beside me. Ha! Ha! Anyway, off we went, with 2 adults and 2 kiddies.

More confusion when we got there. The big sign said "Foy's Lake." We said, "No, we want Sea World." Driver Nur said, "Inside." So we went inside (Tk350 entrance fee), and tried to decipher the map of the theme park, written completely in Bangla. Little F understood the diagram faster than we did, and led us up the hill and to the boating area. The boat ride to Sea World, on a hand-cranked tub that I will generously call "rusty death-bucket," took about 10 minutes, and on the way we saw various wildlife, such as a cow, some goats, and a baboon. There were also people doing their laundry.

Z was all set to hurl herself into the pool as soon as we spotted it, but the guy on watch gestured us toward the dressing room. Out of necessity, I had to wear a mommy swimsuit, but that was okay because I have a mommy figure. For good measure, I also put on a tank top on top of my bathing top. Anyway, we got some inner tubes and were herded into the "wave pool," where semi-huge waves crashed into us and there was even some House music! But then it rained and they had to shut the whole thing down because electrocuted swimmers do not look good on the brochure.

Other people were then directed towards this little gazebo where they got a shower and more techno music. As most of the people there were fairly young (teenagers up to my age), they went nuts and happily danced. Meanwhile, our group was led to the slides.

Let me tell you about these slides. They're good slides, proper for a resort, plastic and with running water. Now let me tell you about the "water" that waits for you after you hurtle at speed down the slides. First, the water is green. Second, it's about two feet high. I only went down a couple of slides before I became a wimp and decided that, in fact, I did not want a leg or spine injury today.

But the best slide was the one which had two steep inclines, and DID NOT END IN WATER. This slide ended in a LONG RUG laid down on a slightly upturned platform, where a man awaited, cross-legged. Presumably he would catch you, or give you first aid. (Or your last rites.) But in fact, I did not die, and had a great time at that slide! I only went once, though.

Anyway, my main reason for going to Sea World was to do some laps, since the treadmill upstairs is broken (booooo). So after the rug-slide, I went back to the now-deserted wave pool, bounced to the chest-deep part, and did some strokes to get to the other side. I attracted several male watchers. I assume this is because I was wearing actual swimming clothing, as opposed to all the other women, who were swimming in their shalwar kameez. There really is no end to the uses for these outfits. I bet they'd go into space wearing them, too...

Anyway, now I am home and scrubbed clean of the various organisms that call the Sea World swimming water their home. Will I be in top form tomorrow? We shall see...

Persuasion

I'd heard that Persuasion is one of Jane Austen's best novels, so I snapped it up when http://www.free-ebooks.net/ offered it. The heroine, Anne Elliott, has a life complicated by a vain father, cold eldest sister, annoying younger sister, AND! she lived with regret because she had turned down her The One -- Captain Wentworth -- because her dear friend Lady Russell didn't think it was a good match (the Elliotts were too highly bred to consort with the lower social classes). This novel was published in 1818, and Austen describes the prevailing attitudes of the upper class at the time with her usual good humor and earnest prose.

At the heart, Persuasion is an examination of the constancy and steadfastness of human hearts, both men's and women's. Anne was influenced by Lady Russell into not marrying the person she was madly in love with, and she would only see him again eight years later, when his resentment over her rejection had had time to fester and make him act coldly towards her. Austent throws other obstacles in the lovers' way, such as a pretty young woman besotted with Captain Wentworth, and Mr. Elliott, Anne's handsome and gentlemanly cousin (BAAARRRRFFF *cough* inbreeding *cough*), professing interest in her. I'd had enough experience with Austen to expect the ending -- of COURSE Elliott turned out to be a tool, and whatserface ended up marrying someone else -- but was still kilig [SPOILER ALERT] at the way Captain Wentworth finally confessed to Anne that he remained faithful to her.

(ZOMG. Please may I have an English captain, and please may he have Alan Rickman's voice? Or I can just have Alan Rickman. I'm not picky.)

Anyway, Austen crafts a fine love story, one more mature because the central characters are older (in their twenties), and understand love AND loss. *sniff* We can't all have happy endings like Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth, but then again, that's what fiction is for: to remind us that the imagination is where dreams really come true.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another Friday!

Today we found out that one could fit 4 women in a CNG. Normal-sized women, I might add. (And then the CNG broke down; an unconnected occurrence I'm sure.)

At the grocery store today, I weighed myself and suffered a crushing blow to my self-esteem (this also happens when I look into the mirror). How did I get so chunky? Could it be:

Today's lunch at Tava, consisting of sweet lassi, butter naan, omelette pad thai, fish, and vegetables in yogurt?





Tonight's potluck dinner, including bagoong chicken, baked eggplant, spaghetti, pizza, fancy rice, potato stew, potato fritters, and green beans?








This incredibly rich and delectable brownie shaped like a cake?







No, no, it can't be any of these. It must be muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat. Yes, that's it. Muscle. From... sitting in the office... yes, I'm sure of it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mamma Mia in Chittagong

Breakfast consisted of the usual: coffee from the magical nespresso machine, fresh fruit (mango and pineapple), yogurt (Tk100 each!!!), and oatmeal. I'm switching to cereal because sometimes the power goes out, and I can't microwave my oatmeal. The stovetop doesn't work too well, either -- it's pretty much set to instant flambe.

There had been a big to-do about the "musical event" at the Chittagong Club, which would host a Dhaka band performing Mamma Mia. I predicted that it would be the greatest experience of my life. We got 2 vans to take us there. The flyer said 8 pm, and although we got there around 8:10, the tables weren't even set up. Obviously. We went outside to lounge on the patio, and I got to use the fabulous dome-ceilinged bathroom where a lady held a towel for me to wipe my hands. Such excellent service. I anticipate being called upon to do this at the office on Sunday.

We were provided with wine at the table. Clever people that we are, me, M, and R strategically placed two children and a cheap date at our table, so as to have less competition for the wine. It worked out beautifully.



The show started, and at first I thought it was just like karaoke, with two girls trying to out-bellow each other. One lady was called Lovely, and the other was Fantasia, and they both wanted a man. Both were good singers. The show was interactive: Fantasia went into the audience and hauled out J, who obligingly went onstage to shake her groove thang to "Dancing Queen." Not to be outdone, Z also ran onstage and danced. Little F wanted to dance too, but he's a boy. We let him take his turn for the next song, with Z as his partner. Z then proudly announced that she had been onstage more than anybody.

Dinner, which was meant to be served with the show, became available at 10:30 pm. I thought of it as a midnight snack and just got a deep fried egg and some rice. SO GOOD. We all had to go outside the auditorium and eat in the hallway.

Anyway, the night ended with "Thriller," and a nice little AUW chain on the dance floor, which by the way was sprinkled with sand. Go figure. I was outta there as soon as they announced "Now for the DJ" and started playing techno. Ugh, that is so, like, 1999.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday! Almost there!

Quick recap of today: work work work, lunch at King's. Today I selected my favorite, Chicken Rice (pictured left). Funny thing -- they gave me back my 100 taka note because it was a "duplicate" -- a counterfeit note! They could tell by the paper! Then they ignored my attempts to tell them that they had, in fact, given me this very note yesterday. So I just exchanged it for another 100 taka bill. Meh. Anything for my lovely chicken rice. And the soup didn't rival the ocean for saltiness today!!!

Then more work. Isn't it funny that just when one is getting ready to finish up, there will always be a frantic phone call about "urgent" materials that need to be gathered "right NOW," from three different people at three different locations? Great. Anyway, obviously the heavens read my impatience and hurled a Buddhist parade in my path as I was heading home. Video will be up on YouTube eventually.

And then I got home and all was well, for I got to share in P's awesome margarita mix!!! Here's the recipe:

1/3 freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 Grand Marnier
1/3 tequila
= AWESOMENESS!!! Look how happy I am!!!

Anyway, I wrapped up the evening by visiting the kitty, who finally decided to like me, and allowed me to photograph it. I have A LOT of pictures of this kitty, and the videos I will post to YouTube, but here are my favorite pictures:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Train station + dinner

Yesterday I served as one-woman welcoming committee for a faculty family coming in. I happened to be in my bright red and yellow outfit, so EVERYONE stared at me at the train station. (Must work on Unobtrusive Blending In Ninja Skill, perhaps by not wearing loud clothing?) The train, naturally, was late, but fortunately the family was extremely easy to spot once they arrived -- I just had to push through to the center of the enormous crowd that gathered as soon as they got into the terminal.

My reward was food! I got a lovely dinner cooked by one of our dear helpers, Rokeya, and she made a feast for 9 people: okra, shrimp curry, spicy chicken in clear broth (paksiw?), rice of course, some chapati, a little green salad, and later on there was some more chicken curry, and my favorite: DAHL!!! Yum yum. We even got some lukewarm white wine. The power went out for a bit after dinner, and apparently the "automatic" generator consisted of the guards downstairs flipping the switch... if and when they notice that the power's out. But the cool thing is I used my cell phone flash light!!! Here's what the little darling looks like:

It's not a very strong flashlight, but isn't it cool? Nokia is so clever to have a mobile with a built-in flashlight to sell to countries with insufficient power supplies!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Solaris

I love Solaris. I read it during my 2-day trip to Bangladesh. This Polish sci-fi novel takes place on a space station located above and dedicated to the study of the planet Solaris, which is covered with an "ocean" that appears to be a massive conscious entity. The scientists on the station find themselves being "studied" by the ocean -- but who can tell what the motives are of this particular alien? Perhaps it was taking revenge on them for using high levels of energy to test it, or perhaps it was mindlessly pulling out their repressed memories for no reason whatsoever. The point is that it's an alien, and we can't understand it, and we don't even understand ourselves.

Lem points out that people don't go out into space to look for aliens; we venture into space to look for mirrors, for ourselves. This novel was written in the sixties, and so at the very start of the space age Lem captured the theme of human self-preoccupation.

The other thing amazing about this novel is the absolutely fantastical depictions of the constructs that the ocean creates, and the designations that pioneering scientists have made for the observable ones. On this note, Lem also describes the infighting among scientific circles almost along religious lines, like schisms forming among churches. There would be leaders who would define a certain school of thought, which would be published, and then others would come and prove it wrong, and there would be another school of thought, and so on.

The main plot centers on the psychologist, Kelvin, whose dead-by-suicide ex-lover appears to him on the space station. [SPOILER ALERT] He eventually comes to understand that this construct is not the original, but he loves her anyway, despite her inhuman tendencies (superhuman strength, physical inability to remain apart from him, and almost limitless regenerative capabilities). I found her sympathetic as a character because she cares for him, but then she was specifically made to, and she realizes this and is horrified by it. She also reacts to his horror at her existence, and in the end [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT] works with another scientist to end her pseudo-life. Or is it actual life? After all, she was developing a personality...

As a final point in my review -- the author mentions the incredible amount of data and raw material accumulated throughout the years of studying the ocean, and still its nature and purpose remain unclear. Just like us. So in the end, we will always find a mirror in space.

Btw - here is what Lem has to say about his own novel, as a reaction to the latest film version (from Hollywood): http://english.lem.pl/index.php/arround-lem/adaptations/soderbergh/147-the-solaris-station

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sickus Interruptus

Had to go home today due to being thrown out of office for violent sneezing during staff meeting. Back at the apartment, had conversation about, shall we say, differing standards of professionalism across cultures. I myself have been yelled at for being unprofessional, so now I know what unprofessionalism is! It's ME! Excellent.

As I told my dear eldest sister, whose goal was to be Housewife and is now an Operations Head: "Gusto ko lang maging housewife..."

In other exciting news: the apartment building now has a cat, adopted by the resident 9-year-old upstairs. It came in a sack this morning (the cat, not the child). It looks to be 6 months old -- an adolescent male Bengal housecat. (I have no idea what a Bengal housecat looks like, but here is my reasoning: we are near the Bay of Bengal > it is a cat > it is in the house > therefore it is a Bengal housecat.) I have been tasked with "taming" it, although I have gotten rusty with Sheba "Furry Limp Noodle" Santa Maria as my only challenge at home. I probably won't survive trying to cut the nails of this one. Pictures to follow when it stops cowering under the bed.

Now I must get back to my salabat, which is really just giant pieces of chopped-up ginger, and hot water. Hopefully will get better soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Phoenix Harvest

(Note: pictured here is book 1; the cover is the same as for book 5.)

The fifth book in Han Suyin's autobiography, Phoenix Harvest, presents China's Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a well-educated, well-traveled doctor who had access to people in positions of power. (Although political power in 1966-79 was never a guarantee, a fact that Han Suyin documents well.)

The book is peopled with intelligentsia and cut-up bits of their suffering; Han Suyin discloses their abuse at the hands of rogue Red Guards piecemeal, as they themselves would not reveal much to her until well after the tumult had died down.

The author's devotion to China is evident throughout the book, and her deep love for Chou Enlai (or Zhou Enlai). In the book is a powerful description of the silent gathering of people to watch the "little ambulance" that took Chou's body to be cremated. She also described the hundreds of thousands of white paper flowers made by children to hang on the trees near the memorial, making the trees look like they had just had a snowfall.

I particularly enjoyed Han Suyin's delight at the minority populations near the desert. Her illustrations of the views and the peoples are vivid and inviting. She also talks about Imelda Marcos' visit to China, and how all of a sudden the ladies were doing their hair just like Imelda. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Towards the end of the book, Madame Mao and the Gang of Four get more page time, and this section really highlights the self-censorship and mass delusion that the author had been observing in other people since the beginning of the book. In any case, the Dragon Lady and her cohorts are arrested, and Han Suyin becomes hopeful, and ends her book on a note about love.

Btw, Han Suyin became famous as a writer after she wrote A Many-Splendored Thing, which is "a Eurasian love story (her own)." Now I am torn between reading the book and watching the film, because the poster to the right, which is for the film version, promises lots and lots of extreme cheesiness. I can just imagine the lines... "Oh darling wouldn't it be wonderful if we were married..." "But we are! Or did you mean to each other?" (lines shamelessly stolen from Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes)

Next book: The Long Day Wanes by Anthony Burgess (writer of A Clockwork Orange), which apparently contains every Asian stereotype ever. Yesssss.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More flowers for Mama

Our academic building has a rooftop terrace, and confirmed that Bangladesh has a bunch of flowers just like the Philippines!
The yellow ones look like gumamela and the pink ones look like bouganvilla.

The best housewives?

A number of Bangladeshi have reacted to my saying I'm Filipino by proclaiming, "Philippines! Fee-lee-peens make the the best housewives!" When I asked them where they heard that, they said they read it in a magazine.

Well done, my people. Well, my married women people, at least. Although I'm not sure how to take this coming from a society where the women need to be covered neck to toe and rarely step outside the home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recipe: Paul's Chicken Soup

Paul made some chicken noodle soup last night. The chickens here in Bangladesh are tasty, if tiny. Also! They are extremely fresh, since you get to go to market, select a chicken for slaughter, watch its head chopped off and its skin pulled off (instead of plucking the feathers, which is a lengthier process).

Here are the steps for Paul's Chicken Noodle Soup :

1. Cut up the chicken and throw away the innards
2. Brown chicken with some garlic and ginger
3. Separately cook some egg noodles
4. Add water and soy sauce and some oyster sauce to the chicken
5. Add shiitake mushrooms
6. Add greens
7. Add cooked noodles
8. Eat

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Running... OUTSIDE!!! and my inaugural rickshaw ride

Last night the intrepid Jill invited me to go running with her in a "field nearby." After dressing appropriately (no legs or upper arms visible), we got into a rickshaw. My first time!!!

It was a little like flirting with death, as we zoomed along the streets with our faces and upper bodies open to the wind and this poor man in front of us pedaling away. (Btw - Jill is blonde and built like a Viking goddess.) To the right is a picture I took from the Bengali Student Association Rickshaw Project (http://umrickshaws.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html), as I amazingly still do not have a picture of these three-wheeled instruments of potential grievous bodily harm. I kid, I kid. The wind is quite refreshing when you ride on one of these guys.

So we got to the field, and the good thing is that the grass is cut. The bad thing is the presence of goats, and goat poo, which I had to dodge as I did laps. It took about 200 steps to jog around the part of the field we chose.

Jill and I had agreed to do 30 minutes, but within half that time we had attracted a bunch of street kids, who were first content to try to block one of us, then the other. Then they discovered the bamboo poles on the ground, and attempted to use those to make an obstacle course for us. I ignored them and ran past, but at one point I had to stop and fiddle with my iPhone (on my armband), and they all ran over and I did a little demonstration before booking it to Jill and telling her we had to go because it was getting dark.

(Here's the rest of the field, and Jill about to leave the frame)

We attracted some more people -- this time grown men -- as we left the field. They hung around as we debated whether or not to cross the street to get a CNG. They followed us when we crossed the street. They followed us some more when we got annoyed and started walking up the street. They followed us right up to the moment we clambered into a rickshaw.

"I don't mind the kids," said my Viking companion, "but the grown men are a different story."

All in all: a nice run, but I could've done without the posse.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Final outfit

Here's my final shalwar kameez. It made me look like a frog. People didn't think it looked good on me -- I could tell by their up-and-down glance and subsequent diplomatic silence. By contrast, today, a bunch of people have told me I look good in my outfit -- the black and white one that Mama said looked like "pamburol." (Our counselor commented, "Mothers do that. They say such things.").

It was decided recently that I am "Miss Pan-Asia," since apparently I could pass for any Asian. Just now one of my colleagues here at the office was telling me that the Bangladeshi staff were hesitating about me because they couldn't figure out whether or not I was Bangladeshi. And then a student told me I look Cambodian. Ha! Ha! Ha! The generic Asian-ness of my Filipino features makes me the ideal ninja super infiltrator agent!!! Hire me now, governments of the world!!! Please find my resume below:

RESUME
N----- S----- S---- M----

Education: B.A. at Middlebury, M.A. at Harvard, M.R.S. at Miss Kitty Meow Meow's School for Proper Young Women, O.M.G. at Cambridgeside Galeria, M.B.A. at Institute for Super-secret Ninja Assassins (expected 2012)

Work Experience: Multimedia Assistant at Middlebury College, Development Intern at AUWSF, Part-time worker at The Street Corner (evening shift), Minion at AUWSF, Minion at AUW, Ninja Apprentice (Special Class) with Miss Nori at Miss Nori's Ninja Academy

Interests: Cats, world domination

Hobbies: TBD

References: Available upon request

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Dignity of a Woman

The Dignity of a Woman (Josei no hinkaku) is touted as a bestseller in Japan. The author, Mariko Bando, writes earnestly and humbly about how to behave in your private life, in social situations such as parties and events, and in the workplace.

A lot of what she writes is about common courtesy -- saying "Thank you" whenever appropriate, or not putting on makeup in the train (a habit of young Japanese girls that I aggressively stared at during my time in Kyoto) -- and the funny bits in the books are when she goes over the top. For example, the author writes that we should hand-write thank you notes. Okay, a little quaint, but fine. Then she recommends keeping beautiful cards in our purse so we could whip them out any time and compose a message of gratitude. Er?

She also suggests putting a little makeup on when we're home alone, in case company stops by and *gasp* sees what you really look like!!! Oh, the humanity! And you must also be dignified even when you think no one's watching you, just like in the Pillow Book where this girl chowed down on some rice straight out of the serving bucket and her stalker, excuse me, admirer saw her and was so grossed out that he left her forever. Or how about the author's opinion that unrequited, one-sided love is "the most thrilling." (Now we know how the Japanese developed such a highly tuned stalker mindset: ancient literature!)

Anyway, there was one passage that made me stop and think. The author says something to the effect that admitting you have faults and asking someone to accept you as you are is "presumptuous." Ms. Bando is saying that we should always work towards improving ourselves. I agree. Now excuse me, I must go powder my nose before delicately eating some rice from my rice bowl in preparation for hand-writing thank you cards to everyone who was nice to me.

Hot hot Saturday

Super hot. Day started with child banging on my door while I was in shower. Thank goodness had foresight to lock door beforehand. Anyway, received red shirt so we matched (must remember to give back shirt -- apparently it's a loan).

Went to our students' Open House too early, so headed out again and did a little shopping. Then back to the Open House, where there was a play/musical about something.

Ate too much at the fair -- was told retroactively that was in fact supporting their cause.

Highlight of the day: popping up behind Annie as she was talking to Alam the shop owner, at which point Alam said to Annie: "Is this your daughter?" Annie is 1 year older than me. She vows never to wear a sari again. I rather think it's the childishness, excuse me, childlike innocence, that I radiate.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday!

Woke up, gchatted, worked out, and off to lunch! Here's a little video of my very first CNG ride:

We went to lunch at an awesomely delicious place -- can't recall the name, but it's right above Khulshi mart. We started with a hilarious mini-game of musical tables because the first room was too hot, and then musical chairs because I didn't like having the A/C on PLUS the fan right at my back -- felt like a JLo video with my hair all over the place.

As I am trying to defeat my lactose intolerance, I ordered lassi, which is apparently pronounced "lachi" here. We did family style, so we all had paneer pakora, chicken karai, shrimp and veggies, and 2 helpings of butter naan. Everything was delicious. Yum yum.

Then we popped by the Khulshi guest house for a bit (nice rooms!), where the then-academic team were in labor over the Access Academy for a loooong painful time last year. Mama, here is a slideshow of the plants they have here (very similar to ours back home!):



Then back across the street -- we're all getting the hang of it -- to Khulshi mart for groceries. I bought some clothes pins (sapin) because I've now started using the clothesline on the rooftop, and the wind is so strong that my clothes would get blown off.

Then we went back home and had homemade pizza! The dough was made from scratch using an internet recipe, flattened by means of a vodka bottle, and then placed on a pan so we could each put our own toppings on it. Our topping ingredients: tomato paste, mozzarella, parmesan, pineapple, baby corn (ick), mushrooms, and olives.

I also got a special drink (the others had vodka, eewwww). Mine is rum, and some orange liqueur, and pomegranate juice or something (the carton sad "Blood"). I've decided I'm a beer person, especially after I went back downstairs and was given Grand Marnier and it was so gross. GIVE ME SAM NOW!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday night! The weekend has come!

Today's outfit is not so mommylike so I took a couple pictures against the backdrop of my white, white room. Currently being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Took a walk outside today and noted where all the snack stores were in case of emergency. Hopefully will be unnecessary, as Paul is here now and he's been told I'm their adopted daughter.

I will combat my lactose intolerance by drinking lassi. Already my stomach and butt are raging against me. But I will persevere...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Altercation + the market

Today's outfit was especially mommylike so I "forgot" to take a photo.

The exciting part of today was when we went to lunch and watched a fight occur right in the middle of a really busy roundabout! This rickshaw-wallah had smacked into the back of this guy's car, and they both got out to look at the damage. Then the punching started! I only got one punch on video, though.



No rickshaw-wallahs were seriously harmed in the taking of this film.

Then we had to cross that damned road. I though the trick would be to have someone in bright pink lead the way, but Annie was squealing too much, so Hoon Eng boldly led the way, in yellow a la Cory Aquino. We elicited an even higher amount of honking than usual (drivers here honk their horns every 2 seconds).

Anyway, after a grueling day at work, where I fulfilled my daily quota of 1 annoying meeting and 1 weeping student (not at the same time), we went to market. We first stopped at the hilltop estate of a lady we knew from last year, and her place was a freaking jungle. I wish I'd taken a picture of everyone's bright shalwar kameez peeking through the lush greens -- it would've been a beautiful shot.

She had a white cat in her home, which we knew was domesticated because her fur was clean and lustrous, she wasn't skittish, and she allowed Zelda to pick her up without a fuss. In fact, she was passed out in Zelda's arms. We clamored for one of her kittens (well, Zelda wanted the cat itself) and Shaheena (hilltop estate lady) promised to look into it.

Then -- the market! Nurse Summer has all the pictures. It was HUGE. Of course, all the sellers were men, and they weren't shy about gathering in a crowd to stare at us. Mama and Mark, remember where you always went to get arowana? The place was like that, only 1000 times bigger. The funniest part was when Zelda announced that she needed to go to the bathroom and everyone went, "Ooof," with uh-oh looks on their faces. Zelda ended up going to a nearby hotel.

I didn't buy anything but the others got fruits and veggies. Then we went home and I went on the treadmill and ate some dinner (like a combo tinola + arroz caldo) and passed out.

Tomorrow's Thursday! Last day of work! Woo woo!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Office: Moving Around

The current office is in fact a modified apartment building, with 9 floors (I think -- must check) and a rooftop. The academic offices are in the 3rd and 4th floors, the health center on the 7th, and classrooms everywhere else. We're tight on space with all the new staff moving in. So today I had to leave my lovely temporary office spot -- with my own bathroom! -- to be in the open space outside. A symbol of my minion forever status, of course, and I took it in stride.

PS - All bathrooms here have bidets! Yey!

Monday, June 8, 2009

First full day at office!

4:15 am wake-up call by mosque.

8:00 am ready to face the day

... in a borrowed office until 5:00 pm.

Monday: morning of FAIL

On Monday I overslept and was late for a scheduled daily call, which I did make but had to cut short because I had to get ready for work. Fail one.

I finally popped out of my room and Hoon Eng offered me some grilled pork to make a breakfast sandwich. She also kindly let me make a cup of coffee, made from her nespresso machine. While trying to operate the damn thing, I accidentally dropped a whole mini-cup of unused coffee into the nespresso trash bin -- Hoon Eng had to help me fish it out. Fail two.

Anyway, so I was enjoying my breakfast of delicious strong coffee and grilled pork and fried egg sandwich, when I decided that my coffee wasn't hot enough (I'd added milk) nor was it sweet enough (there's SUGAR here!!! Not that high-fructose corn syrup crap). So I took my coffee cup, went into the kitchen, grabbed the empty jam bottle we're using to store... and since the lid wasn't on tightly, I dropped the bottle on the counter, where it spilled some sugar, smashed into my coffee cup and broke its handle off and spilled all my coffee, then proceeded to fall on the floor and spill sugar EVERYWHERE. Mega-fail!!!

Hoon Eng rushed in and asked if I was okay, which I was. As I told her, thank God she bought a broom the other day.

So quite aside from oversleeping and initially almost losing my coffee, I spent Monday morning having ended up losing my coffee and sweeping sugar and broken glass bits off the floor. I made the 8:15 am van, though!

THEN, in the office, I grabbed the remote for the airconditioner, turned to point it at the a/c unit, and it flew out of my hand, scattering the batteries and the battery cover all over the floor. Final fail!!!

Monday is the second work day here, but still... the Menace of Monday remains...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

This Land is Their Land

Just finished reading a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called This Land is Their Land. It's about the economic disparities in the US, in areas like healthcare, higher education, quality of life, etc. It's an easy read because she divides each section into tiny 2-3 page chunks. Her writing is acerbic and hilarious.

I was chuckling throughout the thing, but my favorite parts have to be her mock-ranting about "unemployed" children in America, who have this strange notion that they are entitled to care, and her cry for pet insurance for children (as pet insurance is better in some cases than human health insurance).

I encourage you all to read it. It made me briefly consider staying here in Bangladesh rather than returning to the States.

Next up: The Dignity of a Woman, by Mariko Bando. Sounds promising, as there is a section entitled, "Avoid Getting Fat." We all know chubbiness detracts from your dignity as a woman!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Meet the teachers -- party in Panchlaish



Tonight we had a little potluck on the roof. It was funny because I was napping and Hoon Eng knocked on my door at exactly 7:30 pm, saying that the party was at 7:30. I knew nothing would be ready yet, but I went up with her anyway, and sure enough, the lights were off, the tables and chairs weren't set up, and no one was there.

Anyway, eventually people streamed in with delicious stuff. There was bruschetta, sushi, Chinese chicken, fried eggplant, funky carrots, bean salad, and on the right is this thing where you poke a hole in the "shell" and stuff it with a mixture composed of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, etc, and then smear it with spicy tamarind sauce. The there are jello shots in the ice cube trays, and homemade chocolate cake.

I ate too much and am now hyper. It's 12:42 am. AAAAHHHHH

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Early morning

Panchlaish has a roof gym. We have a rowing machine and a treadmill. Every morning I get up around 6 and use both.
Here's the view from the balcony: