Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Welcome to Bangladesh--Idiot! Part 2

I feel like I should explain my "Idiot!" part of the title.  I feel like I was an idiot coming here. Not that I was an idiot TO COME here. On the flipside--I had no idea of the level of poverty of Bangladesh and especially Dhaka, the capital in which we live. I am not sure the area that we live in should be billed as a Diplomatic Enclave.  It is definitely an "area" where I feel safe and there are so called checkpoints, but....

There is a separation, I suppose, but not really.  This might seem like a whiney point, but it is kind of a big deal when it is your first post.  Most seasoned foreign service people look at us with pity when we tell them this our first post and "no, we haven't worked for an NGO or done the peace corps."  They say, sympathetically that, "it only gets better," or "the next one will be nothing".

We are living in many of the same conditions that are prevalent in this country, yet can go to our nice apartments with electricity, internet, and running water.  When you walk outside you are confronted with all that is Dhaka. I have not done peace corps like many of my husband's USAID collegues.  I did live on a farm and grow vegetables (shoveled sh*t) and cut flowers to sell, and most of the time did it with horses and mules instead of a tractor, so I thought I was prepared.  Not so much. We had infrastucture. By infrastructure I mean, gravel roads that sometimes flooded and washed out, two lane highways that sometimes washed out, bridges that disappeared.  People weren't pooping and peeing directly in the gutters and we didn't use human and untreated animal waste to fertilize our crops. 

Even though our road collapsed occasionally it was functional most of the time. Here there are roads in the city and there are no rules of the roads.  None.  Did I mention we haven't even gotten to the rainy season!

We are here in the dry season, which I was surprised by because it brings mosquitoes because there are open nasty gutters along every sort of sidewalk you walk down.  It brings cold weather, that the people here are not prepared for at all.  No rain to move the water, either, thus the mosquitoes.  There really are no proper sidewalks.  I am constantly worried that we will get hit by a car, rickshaw, bicycle, motorcycle, taxi, or step on a dead animal.  I am not kidding.  I wish I could show you a picture of the dead rats or other random dead things I almost stepped on.

I am surrounded by wonderfully happy-seeming people.  This includes everyone.  Locals, expats, you name it.  Even the dogs wag their tails next to the dude sorting trash because he is happy he might get a scrap. 
This is a picture of a woman that wanted a picture with Isobel and her friend.
My kids are rockstars and if you don't know it you better move here.  Hollis (curly blonde not in the picture because he is not cool about pictures) is the one that they target because it is mostly men that are out and about, and maybe there is a cultural thing about accosting girls.  Isobel gets it sometimes, but the men have to feel comfortable enough to say in front of me that "she is pretty and her skin is like honey".  This was said by a very well-meaning man that we will interact with again.  He was super sweet and his intentions are "golden".  You have to understand, here and in India, there is a huge emphasis on light skin.  There are products and treatments that you can have done in salons and commercials promoting such things.  It sounds weird to us, yeah, but....but....we use tanning beds for our white hineys in the U.S. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Welcome to Bangladesh--Idiot! Part 1

So...I am finally getting around to writing my blog post after three weeks of being in Dhaka.  It took at bit to get to the point that I could admit that I was so far away from my loved ones and in a totally shocking place that yes, last time I checked is still on Earth.

Our trip here was very interesting and I should probably start there and maybe I will not feel like I have written to much after that tale to say what we have experienced in the last three weeks. Three weeks, really?  That's all.  It seems like months since I have left the U.S.  Call it culture shock or jetlag or suvivalism, but I feel like I have been here for much much longer than three weeks.

We had issues getting out of country.  Mainly they involved visas and people that are not really knowledgeable of travelling to or through certain countries, namely India.  Noone could tell us if we needed a visa and when it became apparent in the final hour that there was a chance we could get stuck in India without visas that would take at least 2 weeks to get, we went into survival mode.  No, we are not going that route and if you didn't tell us we needed visas when that was a possibility, we will fly a different route.  We had no home and were not staying in a hotel for 2 weeks to wait.  The eventual plan was not to go through Dehli, but go from D.C. to Japan (13 hours) for a quick switch, then to Bangkok (6 hours), sleep for 5 hours and fly to Dhaka (2.5 hours). 

We did it.  I got over my flying thing b/c security and making sure your bags weigh right and having children to keep happy kind of took precedence.  Dying in a plane crash was not on the radar. 

The kids were amazing flyers and did great.  Only Isobel melted down on the Japan to Bangkok trip because she was overtired and could not get comfortable.  This was about 8 am U.S. time and she had maybe had an hour nap the whole night. 

The flight included a drunk guy that had cussed at the flight attendant because she would not serve anymore because he was waayyyy drunk.  She came back with other flight attendants and who I presume was an air marshall.  He got handcuffed for a bit and passed out.  Then later I noticed him stumbling around.  He had to have brought his own hooch on because I am pretty sure I only was offered two drinks the first flight.  Then, of course he showed up on our flight to Japan, still stumbling but happy to pass out and sitting right behind me.  I then commented to Andy, "Wow, there sure have been a lot of single dudes on the plane to Bangkok."  He said, "Duh."  Oh yeah, that is something I hadn't really thought of...yuck! 

We arrived in Bangkok safely and went to the closest possible hotel, the Novotel that had a shuttle.  We were spoiled for sure, which was perfect because I couldn't have done anything for myself at that point, let alone my kids.  The carried our bags, got us to the room and showed up at 1am local time with room service.  All we could do was shower, eat and pass out.

This is our only photo of Japan.  Yes, were were there, really~

Then we woke up early to catch our flight to Dhaka.....oh the supense. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The calm before the storm...maybe

This move is very different from the last one when we had to unload so many pets, belongings and all that you acquire from having a farm for 10 years.  I love you awesome friends that took in our sweet pets! Now we are moving out of a 3 bedroom apartment and don't need to take any furniture with us or figure out what to do with pets.  Our new digs in Dhaka will be furnished so that means that when the movers come, they will take all of our furniture and put it in storage and then we are left so sort the rest into 3 "piles".  We will have one set of belongings we will take on the plane with us, which will include all our essential documents and some bedding and clothing.  The second set of materials will be a UAB (unaccompanied air baggage) of which we can take up to 700 lbs. that way. The third set is our HHE (household effects) which includes anything else and we can take up to 7000 lbs., I believe.  We will be lucky to get 500 lbs. in our HHE.  The UAB arrives about 2-3 weeks after we arrive and the HHE arrives 2-3 months after we arrive at post. 

I am definitely more laid back about this move and actually looking forward to a road trip for a week and a half where we will live out of a car with our luggage and get to visit family and friends in the Midwest. I think this life will suit us because DH and I get antsy when we are doing the same thing in the same place for too long.  I like living "light".  It really helps you to realize you are not what your belongings are.  We essentially started over here a year ago--new place, friends, furniture, toys and are just as joyful as ever.  I know that with the world being so connected now more than it has been before that we will be taken care of and find what we need.  I am so grateful for our amazing friends that we have made here and hate to say "goodbye", but we know that new friends are waiting for us (literally) and we will make even more when we move.  

I have been making the silly obligatory trips to costco and amazon.com to "stock up" on stuff, but really we would do just fine if I didn't have my Kissmyface soap and Toms of Maine toothpaste and deoderant. We can also get things shipped to a US address that will be sent over to us every two weeks, but I hear you can't get liquids sent to you.  Not a big deal.  We will manage.  And I am honestly thinking we might manage better over there.  Help is inexpensive--by help I mean "help".  Like a maid, cook, nanny, driver, etc.  Yes I am going to get a maid and a cook (hopefully the same person) so I can still work my teaching job that I have and give someone a safe place to work with a decent salary.  Don't think I'll hire a nanny since the kids will be in school and I don't want to share when the are home.  They will go to an awesome international school and make friends from all over the world, too.

I cannot help (there's that word again) but think that DH's and my experiences living w/o electricity or running water for a year each and running an organic vegetable and flower farm has prepared us in some way for living abroad in a poverty stricken country.  I cannot imagine the extent of the poverty, and we will be living quite well by even most American standards in an area that is separated from the extreme poverty.  We will be able to come home to a cool house with fresh clean water and food, which may be the hardest thing because of the good ol' Catholic guilt.  DH is in development work, so I am hopeful that his work and all the similar work that others do will have a lasting impact on the wellbeing and survival of the people of Bangladesh.  I have said this before, and I will say it again "we needed to live in a third world country to be able to live like we are middle class".  We have never wanted for anything thanks to being born to parents that were able to and did all they could to be sure we had what we needed, and often times wanted.  But it is tough these days to have two parents working (and in the past farming, too) to be able to make ends meet, and it shouldn't be that way in the U.S. or anywhere else.  We have graduate degrees for goodness sake.  We are different only because of our luck in being born where we were to whom we were when we were and we were able to get credit.

On a completely separate, materialistic note....DH took our daughter to get her first pair of Chucks and I couldn't be more proud.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

One Month and then the Big Big Plane Ride

I just went back and read my last post from April!  I haven't blogged since then since we have been living a VERY regular suburban life and loving it!  We have been living in an apartment in NOVA (Northern Virginia for those of you not in the "know").  I laugh because I had never thought of NOVA before a year ago!  It is definitely its own culture.  I love it for many reasons and laugh at myself for living here for many other reasons.  Here are the reasons I love it: 
  • access to AMAZING libraries, and I have access to at least two within 3 miles of my home.  I have completely rediscovered my love and passion for reading thanks to them.  My kids love it too, and it is such a change from the horrible library lady we had in Owensville, MO. Yep, I hope she gets her just desserts.  I grew up with an amazing library experience in Elmhurst and this lady ruined it for me and my kids in Missouri.
  • diverse population.  I go to the grocery store and am guaranteed to hear AT LEAST 3 different languages, one time I counted 5.
  • grocery stores.  I have within walking distance 3 grocery stores that carry anything and everything I can imagine.  I used to get excited when I went to the discount grocery in Rolla and scored some organic something or other.  I also have access to a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods within 15 minutes and now sometimes that seems too far, can you believe it?
  • schools.   I know this should be first, and technically it is, but I was thinking about me for a minute.  My daughter goes to an amazingly diverse public elementary and my son goes to another amazingly diverse Christian preschool where all the kids are loved and encouraged to play and learn.  My daughter's school is 30% ESL, so she has met friends from all over the world already. 
  • Museums and a great park district.  We have taken full advantage of many, and no where near all.  There is so much to do here.  We have made it to the Smithsonian Art, Natural History, American History, and Native American museums, and the kids have taken several wonderful classes with the Fairfax County Park District.  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parktakes/  Look at all the stuff they have to enjoy!  I also played volleyball with an awesome bunch of women that was not associated with the park district:  http://www.chantillyvolleyballclub.com/womens-league.html Can you find me?  I am in the Winter 2011 Champions picture!! 
  • no farm.  This will also be on the dislike list, but it has been like a vacation not having to tend to a greenhouse and a couple of acres of vegetables and flowers.
Here are a few things I am not so into:
  • it is expensive.  Very, very expensive.  I am looking forward to moving to Bangladesh so we won't have the killer rent that we have here.  Here is the cost of living analysis comparison (for someone making 50K) saying we lived in St. Louis, which we were 100 miles from and moving to this are is:  Equivalent income in the city you are moving to: $77424.50. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 54.85%. When I looked at the average home price it was 200K and here it is 670K.  It is nuts.  Most of the people where our daughter goes to public school live in apartments, townhomes, or got a great deal on a single family house.  The families at the preschool are a bit more upper crust, but still down to Earth, for the most part. I wish I had a camera in the minivan the first day I dropped my son off at preschool in my "ancient" 2001 Nissan Quest and followed the Land Rovers, BMW's, and Acuras into the lot! 
  • having a yard to send my kids out into.  For their own good and mine.  I miss their ability to run off and go into the pool while I was working around the yard, or playing with their pets, or digging in the dirt.  When my husband and I did play tennis the kids inevitibly found a mound of ants, or climbed a tree or hid in their fort of bushes, but it wasn't quite the same.  I have to say that our son learned to ride a bike a 3 years old thanks to the parking lot, though, so that is awesome!
  • Farming.  I do miss being able to grow my own food and provide it to others.  'nuff said.  I'll get too sad because we had a great farm.
  • Pets.  We didn't move any of our pets and I am so gracious that we had wonderful friends take them in even though they were not young at all.  They have the best life they could have and are not having to stay in apartments and get flown all over the place, so that is good, but still.  We all love a little cuddle from our furries.
Well, we are getting ready to move on in less than two weeks and get back to visit family in the Midwest.  I am hoping I'll be able to keep you all up to date more as the days pass.  We fly out at the end of this month and can't wait to see our friends on the "other side"!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I cannot teach in person.

I have just gotten back on my blogger page and started reading blogs after taking at least a month off and was inspired.  I read a blog from http://www.vodkamom.com/2011/04/mermaids-arent-only-in-neverland.html
I got to go play volleyball all night and come home and am not able to sleep and then her post got me thinking, brought a tear to my eye.  I have hardly been able to write a blog since I was really working hard writing an online science course.  I was associating the computer with work rather than pleasure or enjoyment.  I sent one semester's worth of a course in and met my deadlines and am working on 2nd semester at a more reasonable pace....it is time I dive back in.   I feel like I am in a confessional...thank you Catholisism.
I took my kids to mcdonalds on Monday and then to the park under the power lines.  Yes we have a really nice network of paths and parks, but they are located under power lines.  Also, our apartment is extremely close to one, and probably not the best for our health.
But I digress...they really really loved it.  I got some coupons from my sister to spoil them with, and she made sure it was cool to send them.  I am not a perfect mom, my kids know all about mickey d's.   I know it is even worse since I had this organic farm and such, but we don't live in a vaccuum. 
So we were going to mcdonald's, but it was also perfect timing for kids getting out of the high school right across the street from it.  I knew we were in for it when I saw a crossing guard there.  That is really good though, to make sure kids don't get hit by cars and that they drive a bit more carefully coming out of the parking lot. 
We got our order in at mcd's at just the right time before it got all crazy and busy.  And then I got in a huge hurry to get out of there.  All I remember is a girl in a short skirt and her thong hanging out the front without any acrobatics--no bending over picking up her science book or dropped change.  Just out and--OUT OF THE FRONT. Seriously???  This is o.k. with her parents and the school?  Obviously it was fine with the 5 boys she was hanging out with.  ugh.   
I decided right then and there I am no longer looking into teaching here.  I was really kind of considering it at least on a part time basis, but oh how that changed things.

And then I read that wonderful blog post today from a teacher that had a girl donate her coveted mermaid dolls to kids in Japan.  How do we get from that to thongs???? IN THE FRONT.
I know--not the same girls, not the same parents...but...but....Seriously, why can't we have a more empowered female culture here.  If we don't do something about it, someone else will.  What happened to all the work the women did in the past century?  I am sure they didn't work for that?  And those of you that know me, know I am by no means a prude.  I just think many of our girls have lost a sense of pride in themselves and their bodies.  They have so much more to offer the world.  They should take a lesson from the sweet kindergartener in vodkamom's blog.  If you get a chance, really read this post and all of the rest of her posts.  She is a kindergarten teacher with a seriously twisted, sweet sense of humor!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hollis is 4!

I cannot believe this little guy is 4 years old today. He is my second 8 pound bundle of love and is as happy and loving as the day he entered the world. We are so blessed to have him in our lives and he entertains us constantly. Happy birthday big man (but you will always be my baby).
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Updating--plus---we have our assignment!

I have been so uninspired to write a blog mainly because I feel like our life is kind of going along as normally as it could. I am also writing curriculum and it gets to be a drag so that I don't even want to write for enjoyment.   I will however update you all with what has been going on since the last post.

We had a very nice holiday here as a family and enjoyed not having to drive 6 hours to grandparent's houses for them.  We also missed them and the rest of our family members enormously, although it didn't really hit me (I mean really hit me and make me sad)  until after New Years for some reason.  Because we didn't have to drive anywhere, the kids were able to do the entire Christmas thing with the cookies and milk for Santa and we got to see them open their presents in their own home in pj's.  It was really sweet and will probably be a tradition for years to come while we are hours away by plane from our families.

Andy graduated from his training and they had their flag day.  Usually flag day is when they give you the flag of the country you are going to, but they had so many without confirmed appointments, that nearly everyone got an American flag!  Then the holidays hit, which meant noone was working or working at the same time others were working in order to make a decision of where to send everyone.  On Friday a couple of weeks ago, Andy surprised me with a bottle of wine and the kids with some root beer.  He found out where we are going through word of mouth--hardly the ceremonial revelation I was expecting. 

And we are going to........


We are very excited and understand that it is a tough post, but the International Schools there are excellent and our R & R that will happen twice a year will be in Sydney, Australia!  Our wonderful friends are also going there, as well, so it just keeps getting better and better!  I have a feeling we will also be making small trips to some of the weekend getaways that seem very affordable and look amazing! 

I will update with more as soon as I know more!

Wish us luck~