Thursday, October 30, 2008

As the Hair Grows

Halloween in Dhaka. One wouldn't think it, but it's BIG. Halloween here is a multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-religious week-long celebration culminating in the school's Halloween Carnival. It's a huge event, everyone comes, completely decked out. There are fundraiser booths and tons of activities. (This year I'm supervising both the South Asian Club's Henna Booth and the 7th grade guess-the-number-of-candies-in-the-jar booth) Last year; however, I had a more dramatic presence at the carnival. I was one of various teachers and administrators (about 10% of the faculty) who volunteered to shave our heads if ample funds were raised. And I was the only woman.

To put this in context: Here in Dhaka, it was only recently that women could cut their hair shoulder-length. Of course, I live and work in an expat bubble, but I still have to walk on the streets. Also, a public shaving is quite dramatic. The students I taught (especially the 11 year-olds) were quite shocked at the idea. (In fact, the girls starting petting my hair as a pre-mourning activity.) I spent a bit of time explaining that the primary reason I was shaving my head was to donate my hair to Beautiful Lengths. My colleagues told me that I was crazy- brave, but crazy. (And afterwards they couldn't get over the apparently beautiful shape of my head. They're still talking about it. Who knew?) One colleague said my hair was my best feature. (When I told my dad this, he responded that my heart and my willingness to give were my best features. Points for Dad.) For my critics who stared at me in disbelief, I simply said, "It grows." And so it does. Below is documentation of a year in the life of my hair- From pre-cut to present.

Of the experience, I would call it empowering. It became a didactic message- one of giving, self-sacrifice and breaking gender norms. I hope that my students, especially my teen and pre-teen girls, saw that a woman's strength and personality is more than her hair, or any other adornment. And, probably to the dismay of a couple of parents, I hear I've been inspirational; a trend-setter if you will. One of the high school girls is going to shave her head tomorrow at the carnival and donate her hair. As a teacher, one never does quite know the impact that we make on the students at our school. I'd like to think that mine is a powerful and positive one.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I am supposed to be finalizing my grades. While digging through the piles, I came upon the reflections I had my students write after an "off-topic" discussion we had about the nature of war. (This was spurred by the "pearl of the day"- a quotation that is part of the daily bulletin that is read out loud to the students daily) It was one of those "teachable moments" that make me love my job. And reading my students reflections, I'm so glad we had that discussion. (This was with my 7th grade class- so 12 year olds, give or take.)

So, I got them all thinking about the nature of war, peace, the global economy (they asked)- and they did wonderful, thoughtful reflections. So were do I go from here?

I'm planning a special day before winter break class. We'll watch the youtube clip above, listen to Sarah Kay's poem. (I know I've already posted it before, but I'm seriously addicted)

I'm also planning on showing clips of Joyeux Noël (I'm downloading it from itunes as I type). Not only is it in French (so totally relevant) one of my student's grandfather's was actually in the trenches that day and was there for the Christmas Truce. And of course, continue discussing and ask the students talk to their parents and write a reflection.

***Ah**** I love my job.

Now back to the grading... *sigh*

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


For our end of term break I went on a fabulous cruise with Guide Tours through the Sundarbans. It is a fascinating ecosystem in the brackish waters and silty, ever-changing land that is the delta of 5 major rivers, including the Ganges. The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. (and of course, being in Bangladesh, is endangered... but the Bangladeshi government is trying to protect it... and seems to be doing better with its section of the forest than the Indian government) It's also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The water acts as an amazing mirror- as you'll see in the photos. But actually, the water seems to be diluted land- and is filled with rich silt (and all those ashes/ bodies being dumped in the Ganges and other rives in India, Nepal and Burma/ Myanmar.. mm. swimming with the dead... actually, not that bad) and is swirls of brownness. the land is dehydrated water- squishy, liquidy silty stuff that surprisingly holds together with the help of fascinating trees that slowly change the water silt into arable land for other plants- no small trick since the water and land is constantly receiving salt from the Bay of Bengal.

I had a lovely 4 day cruise- of relaxation, exploration and more relaxation. It was amazing to see this luscious , beautiful and diverse land. It was amazing to get our of dirty Dhaka, and see the land that is Bangladesh. People are forbidden to live in this nature reserve (I mean who would want to live in slit that is constantly moving and be tiger food?- but a good many people try anyway because land (even the kind that sporadically disappears) is a commodity here in Bangladesh.

I'm inspired- I'm going to try to use my 3 day weekends to get to some other corners of Bangladesh.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Glitter Ball Returns

Tomorrow night (my birthday) I will perform at the outrageous sparkling Glitter Party- a charity costume ball that is the event of the year. Everything is super secret (what costumes we'll wear, our theme, our skit.) And is just a great time for our inner kid to come out and play- but armed with the benefit (financial resources, freedom) of being an adult.

Here's the skit I was apart of last year. We reenacted Steve Irwin's death- Truly tasteless at an Aussie hosted event- but incredibly well received and goes with the evening. (The Aussie High Commissioner loved it.) I was the koala.

Last year's group was comprised of mostly teachers, our elementary school principal and the superintendent. This year I changed groups- mostly parents and some other childless ex-pats- and hopefully we'll win the grand prize! (Of course, which will be donated to charity). Ahh... Partying with a cause. I love it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Elections are coming... are you ready??

VOTE!!! (unless you disagree with me, then don't vote) no really, VOTE!!!

I voted!! Have you?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What I did last summer

As long before promised (I did not forget!) a clip of my derrière on Israeli television. (I would have preferred a face shot, but hey, I was just there to work.)

For the past two summers I have had the privilege to work with an organization in Israel called Livnot U'Lehibanot And, not only did my rear-end make Israeli TV (did you find me? I'm happy to say that they filmed that before I ripped a giant hole precisely in the derrière of those pants) the year before I made it into print media (with all my clothing intact, no less)

Of course, this really isn't about me making Israeli news (as cool as that may be) it's about me doing my very small part to make a difference. It's about tzedakah (which means righteousness or justice in Hebrew and is a perfect thought for this time of year- Rosh Hashanah/ Jewish New Year's) and giving what one is able to give. I just went through the photos- which will hopefully upload in this century- and I have such a sense of pride and accomplishment- not a personal pride or personal accomplishment- but the pride of how well our group- Livnot 203- worked together with the Livnot staff and how much we accomplished- and how much joy we had while doing it. There is truly a beauty that comes from physical labor and creating with your hands- and doing so in a group for the benefit of others- well, let's just say I feel honored to have become a part of Livnot and the wonderful work that they do- that WE do.

And I really do hope to continue to be able to go back and continue to do good works- And I will shamelessly ask you all to contribute! (Since the organization runs solely on donations, and the American dollar is down in relationship to the Israeli shekel- every bit counts and every bit helps- especially right now!)