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Showing posts from June, 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?

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

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…


I'd heard that Persuasion is one of Jane Austen's best novels, so I snapped it up when 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 …

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.

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…

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 shar…

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...…


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 amazin…

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 Lim…

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 t…

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.

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

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 (, 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…

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 Middlebur…

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…

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.


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…

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...

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 las…

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!

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 i…

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!!!

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

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: