Thursday, December 20, 2007

Welcome to my bedroom (scandalous!)

Okay, it’s midnight thirty and I’m sitting in my apartment ignoring the fact that I’m flying to Thailand today and packing would be most beneficial. Details really. As I told a friend today, I have several hours of not-packing I need to do before I can start packing.

To help clarify, not-packing activities include:
*Organizing the paperwork, passports and making (yes mistakenly) 4 reservations for the same night
*Calling Daddy and promising him I’ll be safe and smart and letting him know my plan
*Writing in my blog
*Relocating my computer and speakers to my “bar” area and away from the kitchen table.
*Making a Bhat- Dollar exchange rate chart
*Eating chocolate
*Generally staring off into space
*attacking mosquitoes as they attack me (My visiting friends who traveled for two and a half weeks through India and Bangladesh said my apartment was the worst place for mosquitoes in all their travels. It really is bad. :(

Well, you get the idea. I think the blog is just a much nicer forum for pictures than bitty attachments you have to download to see properly.

It’s really hard to capture the whole room from one vantage point. I have a large wall unit/ armoire thingy that I’m omitting (not much I could change about it really)

Please note… ugly curtain rods that don’t work are replace buy really pretty ones. Old nasty green loaner curtains replaced by white curtains, ugly bedposts for mosquito net replaced with hanging frame, balcony has plants.

I have to admit that my bedroom is my favorite room… but funny, I don’t spend much time in it. Maybe I should get a chair? All I really have in it is the built-in wall unit and my bed. I have a nice piece of kabalistic artwork I picked up in Tzfat and got framed here that is waiting to be hung. ( - click on the center piece that is Hebrew letters in rainbow colors in a circle- Ain Ode Milvado) I also want to get a long table built that would be under it… we’ll see how that goes. Everything is a process. I think by the time I finally get moderately settled into this humongous it will be time to downsize and see if I can fit into a smaller one.

Okay, so we’re quickly moving past midnight thirty to 0100. I still have lots of packing, feeding and other stuff to do. Sleep would be nice too.

I hope you all are well. Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarak and Happy New Year. Make some nice goals you can forget in a week. J

Activism Anyone?

Okay, I must admit that when I heard people on the radio saying that they only donate to animal rights organizations, I felt a little bit of ... well... anger would be too strong a word... maybe I had some misgivings? Why? Well, I love animals as much as the rest... furry ones, scaly ones, feathery ones, hard-to-identify ones, will-eat-you-if you-get-to-close ones... I mean, diversity is great, save the planet, don't let humans make thousands of species extinct by destroying their natural habitats, give me a nice protest sign with a trite saying and (if I don't have anything else on the agenda) I'll be there to wave my sign,
save the planet and make friends with the precious spider who is so venomous that if he bits me I die. Okay I get it. So why the misgivings to people who donate exclusively to save the rare bird, bug, bear, etc organizations? Well, because there are loads and loads of people who are dying in government condoned mass murders (Sudan) government attacking peaceful demonstrators (monks in Burma/ Myanmar) or just people who Momma Earth likes to push to the limit with floods and cyclones and such (Bangladesh). I mean; I could go on and on and on... When it comes done to save the animals or save the people- I'm with the people. I know... they're not so nice and fuzzy and cute and don't look good on t-shirts and aren’t indefensible and innocent. People can be horrible and awful and mean and usually why they have it so bad is well... other people. But again, human beings versus panda bears... well, the pandas are cute, but humans win hands down. I donate to organizations that do disaster relief, sustainable development and deal with human rights issues. The brown spotted owl, totally cute, totally deserves a place on this earth and I’m still more focused on the millions of refugees and internally displaced peoples.

However (okay, you knew there was a 'but' coming) ...once again Bangladesh has stirred up my emotions and caused me to reevaluate my priorities and well, at least be thankful for all those money-donating-animal-lovers world wide. (And before you think I'm too sentimental, I still totally kill all non human things in my apartment- ants, roaches, mosquitoes, bats- in my space, there goners. well almost all... I'm okay with the geckos)

A few days ago I went on a road trip to the Indian boarder to pick up my rather adventurous friends who had traveled through Bangladesh (on a bus) and into the Darjeeling region on India and around. While we (my driver and myself) were waiting for them at our rendezvous point in Rajshahi, he decided he would treat me to a visit to the zoo.

At the zoo, there were the required lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) birds and monkeys, a rather large snake and some kiddy rides. What struck me about this zoo was that the animals were in smallish cages made totally of concrete and metal and the visitors could walk right up too the cages and stick their fingers in, feed peanuts to the monkeys and taunt the large cats. (Yes, all this happened)

I was particularly sympathetic to the singleton Bengal tiger who paced back and forth incessantly and the two black bears in separate, far-away cages who sat bobbing their heads, one with tongue lolling and looking like the epitome of insanity due to boredom and lack of socialization. I was incensed at the people who got joy at throwing peanuts to the monkeys and watching them scramble for them. I wanted to yell "knock it off!" to the guy hissing at some of the large cats, trying successfully to get a rise out of them. And I also stood there staring at the cageless crows thinking, Damn! You got it made! Lucky you’re not much to look at. All the while I was trying to seem to enjoy this sad promenade between concrete and wire because my driver was quite happy he could treat me to something so wonderful as a visit to the zoo. (Given it was only 7 taka (10 cents) each) but still, it's a gesture... also I found it kind of sad it was only 7 taka each because I was wondering how they fed all these animals and maybe that explains way the monkeys were reaching with such determination through the bars to get a few peanuts)

Now, before you get tempted to be all condescending to countries like Bangladesh and assume that of course my little jaunt through the zoo would be depressing and horrid in all the ways seeing big beautiful animals driven to insanity in small concrete cages can be, I would like to ask if anyone has ventured to walk through our own National Zoo in Washington DC? It too has its fair share of concrete, wire and pitifully green-lacking cages and pathetic (although probably better fed) animals. Yes, it has a cute baby panda, but some parts of it also make me want to scream and break the animals free from their concrete monotony.

So, is there any zoo I would deem meaningful, worthwhile and in my non-expert expert opinion, has redeemable qualities that would justify the relocation of animals from their natural niches into one that makes it convenient for curious humans to stare at them?

Yes; The San Diego (California) zoo and Wild Animal Park. Open space, social groupings mixed animals in natural habitat spaces with space to run and eat real grass (or what have you) and drink from a 'stream'. - plus a rather successful breading program for endangered species.

So, a little conciseness to end my ramblings: I have a new found respect for the people who put their goodwill and money for the humane treatment of animals. Also, I would argue that being able to care for the needs of animals might bring us one step closer to being able to care about other humans.

I would really like to put my video clips of the lolly-gagging black bear and the pacing tiger but that's just way more than I can handle at the moment. Alas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bengali Photo Torture

I just got back from the first wedding reception for a co-worker. (The first is hosted by the bride's family and the second is hosted by the groom's family.) The wedding itself had already happened and so had the Bengali version of the bachelor and bachelorette party (which involves the bride and groom being covered with turmeric.)

I am now officially renaming the "Bengali wedding reception" as the "Bengali photo torture". The Chinese have their water torture, we have some pretty messed up people who worked in Abu Ghraib, and the Bengalis, well, they have their cameras. Now don't go dismissing this as some joke, I am utterly serious when I say torture. 'But cameras don't cause pain!' you protest and I would argue that I'm a pretty big fan of water on most days but it can be torturous just the same, thank you Chinese.

Now please, look at this picture. Yes, you notice little ol' me in the right hand corner and a rather dolled up couple in the middle and another coworker to the right. You might think, aw, what a nice photograph. Yes- but there must have been *thousands* of them- just with different people in the side chairs and maybe standing behind the newly weds. They must sit there, as photogenicly as possible- for hours on end without a break. They're not allowed to get up! And tomorrow night they'll do it all over again!

Okay, now, lets admit that having to sit still for photos for hours on end without repose is a perfectly rotten way to spend your first 2 days being married. Now, please take a closer look at Maheruk. She has a rather heavy chain with a thick golden charm going from her nose to her ear. When I sat beside her she told me it was horribly painful and she didn't want to wear it. Apparently there is only so far a bride may go to trump customs. She already ex-nayed the super bright red sari and opted for, what I would say, is a perfectly charming cream sari. (She told me earlier that she was not going to be "that bride"- meaning the one in bright red with gold from head to toe and pounds of make up. I think there was only so far the families would let her go to break the mold.) Honestly, if someone hadn't said, "There's Maheruk" I would never have recognized her.

I was particularly impressed with the henna on her hands. I went up to take pictures. I think this amused her, but she complied. She asked me what side I wanted and i said BOTH! So I share with you. Yes, Yes, you're welcome.

So, in case you're ever invited to a wedding reception in Bangladesh, let me give you the protocol, quick and dirty.
1) Arrive 1.5- 2 hours late.
2) Go to the bride and groom and get your fill of the photo op.
3) Gawk at all the gorgeous textiles
4) Go eat
5) Immediately after eating, leave. Go home. That's it. End of story.

(Apparently people in know have informed my that yesterday's part of the wedding is much more interesting and involves dancing. But unfortunately, I am not in the know. )

Now, I know at least some of you were wondering how well I could pull off a sari. I have to say that my jewelry is not nearly flashy enough and even the tailor looked a bit disappointed that my shoes didn't match the sari perfectly. Alas. But I let you all judge for yourselves. And if you don't like it, remember what your mother told you. "If you don't have something nice to say keep your trap shut." She might have said it nicer, but that's why she's your mother and I'm not.

So now I need to pack and get ready to go. It's winter break and I have 3 weeks vacation (you can hate me later- save it up from when I get paid to fly to Bangkok and present at the NESA conference and then earn Masters credits at the same time- or when I have two whole months for summer break) My friends who have been tooling around India are heading back and I’m going to meet them at a Bangladeshi boarder town where we'll chill for a bit before heading back to Dhaka. After that they'll head home for Christmas and I'll head to Thailand for some great Shul and some Scuba. (Which yes has been suggested as a title for my maybe some day to be written memoirs- Shul and Scuba)

So- enjoy the pictures and commentary and I wish you all a Merry Christmas (Dec 25) and an Eid Mudbarak (Dec 20, 21) and a Happy New Year. (I've already wished you all Hag Sameach so don't feel like I'm leaving a group out- just that that party has passed and I'm not one to look back.

Now Go! Make some great memories and please write and tell me about them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Apartment renovations

After many many many many unsuccessful attempts to upload apartment photos to snapfish and after much prodding (sometime very necessary motivation) I have decided that apartment renovation photos would be best shared on a blog. (This very one in fact)

So- Let's travel back in time to August 1, 2007 and my arrival to Dhaka Bangladesh, my super star transport from the airport to my very own apartment.

Yes- the woman before me convinced Mr. Zaman that her dirty walls were so beautiful that they didn't need to repaint white. Un huh,

Please notice the absolutely ridiculous size of the apartment. Do not be confused- this is not a two lane bowling alley (although it may as well be) nor is it a bed room, living room or anything else- it is a giant random space in the middle of my apartment. I was really distraught about what to do with such a large, undefined and utterly un-homey and not cozy space.

Then I decided that I wanted a wall. And since I live in Bangladesh, I should get exactly what I want. So, a wall I got.

Well, once I had my wall, I couldn't really decide what to do with it. I originally thought to put title on top and have hanging plants at different levels above it to create a full "wall". But then the issue came that none of my indoor plants were surviving and they were all moved about to the balconies and also that the hangings plants would be way too high for Mushida to water.

It stayed in it's random half-wall in the middle of the room state for a number of months. An in that time a lot of people said... wow... this would make a really good bar! So, early December I got my act together, went and haggled for some lights that I liked and got a co worker to come over with her wood-man and translate what I wanted. I also got a nice pillow pile for the other side. :) So, VOILA!!

For all of you have been wondering about my apartment... here's a little piece of it. :)