Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Enzo!

Do you remember this little guy? Today he turns two.

He's pretty busy these days tackling his sister and throwing dinosaurs but, luckily for me he hasn't lost his snuggling skills. We're not marking the occasion very well since he's home alone with me and Lena. I tried to sing Happy Birthday to him but got shut down. He wanted "Twinkle Twinkle" instead. I did give him some brownies with banana. I think he appreciated that at least.

We also want to send birthday wishes to Enzo's special birthday buddy. Happy Birthday Chaka!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Keep Them Busy

Bryce, Titus and Maggie left yesterday afternoon for their big trip to the Sundarbans. Maggie was lucky to get to go despite last minute change of plans. So now it's just me and these little crazies for the next week or so. Here they are getting some energy out on the treadmills. Didn't last nearly long enough.
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Terri Bazaar

Saturday night, right about when the babies go to bed, Summer decided we should go visit Terri Bazaar. It's a market about town with a reputation for amazing fabric, killer accessories, and cheap prices. Summer and I went with Carol, the most famous math mom in Chittagong, out into the dark and drizzling rain.

I'm constantly impressed with the dazzling bling on the clothes around here. I am a pebble among gems. Maria continues to be disappointed in my faded t-shirts (even though most of them were made in B-desh!). Once when I wore dangly earrings she told me shyly that they were very beautiful. The truth is that I would really like to wear irridescent colors, beaded bangles, embroidered mirrors, and rhinestone studded sandals. So, we went out to see what we could find.

The Bazaar didn't disappoint. We were dropped off down a long alleyway bordered by piles of soot and garbage that the rain had turned into black mud. The smell of stale urine drifted in and out on the breeze. In many ways it was a typical Chittagong side street. But the dark night sky was brilliantly illuminated by the shining fabrics and gold threaded ribbons displayed in the shops lining the street. Even when the power went out the street glowed, almost arrogantly, as if it knew just how beautiful it was.

I had a great time. I loved it all, including stepping in the mud and being grazed by passing rickshaws. The picture doesn't do it justice (of course) but hopefully the saris and ribbons I bought will be just as brilliant in the days to come.

Friday, May 21, 2010


This last week we spent our mornings "sightseeing". Thanks to Summer we were able to go without Enzo and Lena! Next week Bryce and Titus are hoping to see some tigers in the wild when they visit The Sundarbans. Maggie is looking forward to her performance in the Elementary School Closing Program. The littleuns and I are looking forward to some cool rainy weather brought on by Laila. Here are some glimpses of last week:
Titus swimming with some kids in the Bay of Bengal. The water was warmer than than the oppressive muggy air. Titus was sweating when he came out.

Ladies at the garment factory making some shorts for K-Mart.

A peek into the Catholic School where the children from the orphanage attend. Such beautiful grounds and gardens. The staff were caring and attentive. It was painted cheerful bright colors. But, it was still hard to leave those little babies behind.

Bryce with a couple stacks of life rings recovered at the shipbreaking yards. We didn't get to see them in action but we did a bit of shopping. Bought an old spyglass.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof

My rating: 5 of 5 stars A very important message and call to action. I so appreciate the women who shared their stories and the authors' efforts to make a difference in a world needing change. There might have been some inaccuracies and inconsistencies, and I can't make a blanket statement agreeing with the book as a whole, but I'm so glad I read it and highly recommend it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Garment Factory Tour

By Titus:

Today we visited a garment factory. It wasn't anything like I expected. I thought it was going to be by open street not an alleyway! I thought it would look fancy not beat up!

Inside was a different story. First, we walked up a flight and 1/4. Then, we got to the main floor. Accidentally, we went the wrong way. First we had to see the manager. So we went in his office and talked a while. Finally he agreed to give us a tour.

We went to the working area. I can't remember the name of the first area but I think it's where they put, store and check the clothes they make. The second area must have been really boring because I can't remember what it was. The third was a stitching and sewing and a little cutting. This was also the floor where the doctor was.

The next floor was about the same just no doctor. Then we had a snack and left.

By Maggie:

Today I visited a garment factory. When I was there I was really surprised to see so many sewing machines. All the sewing machines looked different. Some were big, others were small. But all women worked on them.

Today I also visited a beach. At the beginning I got a little wet. But even though there were people watching I played on the rocks and sat on the rocks.

Even the car ride was fun because I sat and sat and sat and it was fun because I was sleepy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Coconut Harvester

We live on the third floor. Apartment 3D if you're ever in the neighborhood and feel like visiting.

It's actually the fourth floor since the ground floor doesn't count around here. That puts our view right at the frond level of a full grown coconut palm.

For the past few moths we have been watching some coconuts ripen on the trees outside our kitchen window. The other morning I heard some rustling outside the window. When I looked outside I saw this guy crouched in the tree. Just your friendly neighborhood coconut harvester and palm tree pruner. He climbed up and down with the help of a rope (and possibly some invisible limbs).

He was happy to let me take his picture because Enzo was with me, waving, and being uncharacteristically friendly. I think Enzo was very impressed. A new standard has been set for climbing skills.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Labour Suite

Yesterday we finally made it to the maternity hospital. It is a private hospital and therefore fairly nice. We had to spend a little bit of time explaining why we were there and that we only wanted to see how things were done there. They were a little reluctant to let us in but finally called the Chief Medical Officer to meet us and give us a tour if she approved.

Dr. Rosie, wearing a white coat over her shalwar kameez, was soft spoken and efficient. We started in the induction room. A white walled room extending from the cement hallway with six metal framed beds. The beds were all full, some with two women together. They all laid obediently on their sides facing us. Nurses in white gowns and peaked caps were about, checking their IV bags and cutting fruit onto a metal plate in the corner.

Behind us a doorway was cut through the wall. The opening was covered by hanging fabric. When it was pulled back we could observe the delivery room. Three high beds were pushed against the wall. All were occupied and the tiny woman in the center bed was calling out in a voice universally acknowledged to herald birth. A nurse stood at her feet calmly setting instruments on a tray.

Just past the delivery room doorway was a wide door with a steep ramp leading down to the Operating Theatre. The anaesthesiologist was nearby and explained that he was preparing for his third C-Section that day. The lucky woman stood behind him near the table draped in a blue gown.

We saw the C-Section recovery room next and got only a small peek of the nursery (sweet little baby heads laying in wooden cots). Women with natural deliveries might stay for up to 24 hours but usually go straight home.

This entire labour suite could fit inside my apartment easily. And, amazingly, they do 700-800 births per month (they said perhaps 200 of them are cesareans).

As we asked questions and observed the quiet business of women around us involved in one of the most significant experiences of their lives I marveled at it all.

The building was old. There were chunks of cement missing from walls. There weren't doors or even curtains between the beds. And there was a significant absence of equipment (my ears and heart strained to hear the quickly skipping beats of an electronically monitored fetal heart rate). But, it was clean. The staff were efficient and pleasant. And I was comforted by the distinct impression that these women would be safely delivered and on their way home, happy with babies in arms.

And really, isn't that what it's all about?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ridin' Around in My CNG

Bryce, Titus and Maggie took me out to dinner the other night for Mother's Day. We decided to go to a new restaurant (very worth it) that was across town so the first step was cramming into a CNG together and enduring the hot and dusty fume filled 20 minute ride. Bryce snapped some shots of the trip.

It reminded me that I never posted on here the Warden's Message (from the US Embassy here) from late March.

Recently a U.S. Embassy employee was injured during a purse snatching while riding in a Rickshaw. An unknown subject leaned out of a window of a passing vehicle and grabbed the employee’s purse. The employee was pulled violently off the rickshaw and dragged, sustaining multiple abrasions. The incident occurred in the diplomatic zone in the early evening.

The recent incident involving rickshaw use is a reminder that one is exposed to special risks whenever riding on a rickshaw. To minimize exposure to accidents and crimes of opportunity, each passenger should carefully evaluate the situation when making a decision to use a rickshaw. Factors might include the expected route, time of day, traffic congestion, condition of the rickshaw and assessment of the rickshaw driver. It is strongly recommended that handbags, knapsacks and the like not be carried while riding on a rickshaw. For security reasons, the Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens avoid riding in taxis, buses, and engine-powered rickshaws (CNGs).

Of course if you take away rickshaws, CNGs, buses, and taxis there really isn't any way for us to get around since we don't have our own car and driver. We decided to keep risking it. But I always try to make friends with the drivers by paying them way more than necessary. It's like insurance, right? And besides, I'm no good at bargaining.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Life can be complicated and unforgiving. It is full of suprises and sometimes switchbacks that catch us off guard and, in my case at least, throw us off balance. Lately I've had plenty of time and opportunity to appreciate how the things that trip me up pale in light of the challenges of others.

I have never faced the kind of struggle that meets so many women of the world on a daily basis. Extreme poverty, hunger. Violence or threat of violence. Lack of education, lack of choice. Prostitution and trafficking.

Essentially, I have experienced a near fairy tale life all this time without really realizing it. I have spent most of my life surrounded by strong capable women and supportive men. People around me have always assumed I could do the things I wanted to do, and I basked (and sometimes succeeded) in their encouragement.

On Mother's Day, which always feels like a celebration of all women to me, I want to thank and recognize the amazing women in my life. Those who have, by example and practice, shown me the value of education, love, play, and opportunity. My life has been blessed by you.

I hope and pray, on a daily basis, that I can do the same for others. For my children, for you, and for women around the world.

Thank you!

The Birthday Recap

Maggie's birthday celebration lasted several days: Toys and a special outfit to school on her birthday. Swimming at the Peninsula Hotel in the afternoon. Dinner and playing at Sugar Bun. An entire banana split to herself! Yesterday we finished things off with a party with friends. Anzeli and Maria outdid themselves with a feast for lunch so while the kids watched a movie projected on the wall we got to chat and eat with some friends and neighbors. A great day all in all. Happy Birthday Maggie

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Maggie wanted to blog about her birthday

Today was my 8th birthday! I feel so different now. And I'm excited because I'm finally going to go to Disneyland in Hong Kong.

Love, Maggie

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Zoo Trip


Bryce and a colleague made plans to go to the zoo today (Saturday). They are part of a summer program for students to learn active observation skills through bird watching and identification. The zoo has birds so they thought it might be a good place to start.

When I realized that I was going to be stuck at home on a weekend morning doing the same thing I do every other day of the week I did the unthinkable and invited myself along! Two academics on a work related outing wouldn’t mind the company of a bored mother and four busy kids, right?

The zoo is about what you would expect from the second biggest city in Bangladesh. Animals lounged in the shade or paced their concrete floor in repetitive unhurried motion. We were separated from the animals by a thick wire mesh and, for the more dangerous animals (lions and tigers and bears - oh my), there were some bamboo fences lashed with wire.

In all reality we could have touched most of the animals if we had wanted to. But, we didn't really want to. They smelled strongly of urine and didn't have much to do besides roll around in dust all day.

Titus and Maggie made use of the bird watching binoculars to get some close up views. Their comments on the animals centered on a dismal theme.

"The alligator is dead. No wonder... he doesn't have any water."

"The monkey is dead. Oh, no he's not. I can see him breathing. He must be dying."

"Aren't snakes supposed to move. It must be dead too."

"The birds are the only lively thing in this zoo. No wonder Papa wants his students to watch them.

Unfortunately, Lena didn't seem to be able to see most of the animals. In her defense, they were mostly very still, away from us observers, and hidden in shade. She spent most of her time wondering why I wouldn't let go of her hand and let her try to climb the fence by the Asiatic Black Bear Cage.

Enzo was definitely the most impressed. Maybe he's the most settled culturally because the wonder in his eyes seeing a bear prowl around just a few feet away was identical that of the tiny Bangladeshis around us.

We went to the zoo to observe the animals but with inevitable irony we ended up being observed ourselves. We were followed the whole time we were there and any time we stopped the crowd grew and cell phone cameras started clicking. Children and adults all watched us with unembarrassed persistence. I felt like we should be behind a cage with a label (Wild Americans, very rare).

I might have lost my cool once when a father with two kids tried to take some sneaky shots of me and the babies from behind. "No!" I said, rather loudly. "We're not animals at the zoo. Take pictures of the animals." He was very apologetic. I feel bad I wasn't more cool.

The entire tour cost 15 Taka (about 20 cents). It was worth every penny. At least we can say we saw a Bengal Tiger while we were in Bangladesh.

(note: picture is not mine. Our camera is still non-functioning and none of the animals had anything green near them).