Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Deep Breaths

I have been meaning to write a post about our lovely trip home to the U.S. for our R & R and our stops in Istanbul and Sri Lanka, but those posts have been trumped by some horrible, terrible, sad events playing out in Egypt and Cairo.

I also quit my job, which is a whole 'nother story all together.  I'll hopefully come back to that at some point in the future.

Right now my heart is breaking in so many ways for the tragedies that have unfolded yesterday against fellow diplomatic families like ours.

I did not know or ever meet J. Christopher Stevens or the other Americans that have yet to be named as victims in the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Bengazi, nor the ones that are suffering in Cairo.  I can tell you this much, though.  When something like this happens, it makes you really think about what your family is doing, and that it could happen to any of us in the Foreign Service.  They are people just like us.

I am going to cut to the chase here.  First and foremost I do not condone, understand, nor make any excuses for the violence inflicted on the people at the U.S. Embassies.  That being said....I cannot believe (or maybe I can and that is even more sad) that a person would produce a film that does more than antagonize a fanatical movement in such a way that he puts us in more harm's way.  Sam Bacile, the director/writer/whatever of the film that was supposedly the reason behind these protests has gone into hiding.  Must be nice, jerkface.  Here you have men and women (and their families) doing such hard work trying to build relationships and restore trust and diplomatic ties in countries where it is so badly needed and you get to go into hiding. 

He has even been quoted as saying from his hiding place that the U.S. Embassies need better security.  That may be true, but what are you doing about it mister?  Are you testing it by putting out this film?  What a favor you have done for us.  Yes, freedom of speech...I am a huge proponent of that.  But someone acting so ignorantly and getting 5 million dollars in funding to create the film is beyond me. 

5 million dollars could do a lot to bring people together and teach them about each other's religions and tolerance, if not acceptance.  I do not in any way want to be associated with the fanatical Christian movement or Zionist movement that was responsible for the film that has been mentioned, nor do I think of the Muslims I meet and hang out with every day to have views similar to fanatical Muslims.  Bangladesh is about 90% Muslim and 9% Hindu and the rest are "others" according to this source.

While the sacrifices we/our spouses/families make are tremendous and seem to be dangerous at times, I am even more confident that our family is in the right place at the right time.  Right now my husband is on a field visit for three days (and I am home making sure kids are happy, healthy, seeing friends, and doing homework) assessing whether or not microfinancing for farmers would be good for them.  He is doing the work and I stand beside him and want nothing to do with the dude sitting in hiding in his bunker in California somewhere.  Good luck to you Sam will need it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Iz is 7! (almost)

Look at who is 7 tomorrow!  Isobel Grace is the person that made me a mother, Andy a father, and taught me what "love beyond words" really means.  Happy birthday to my smart, thoughtful, compassionate, outgoing, and beautiful daughter.  You are such an amazing big sister and your brother loves everything about you, even when you are mean! We cannot wait to celebrate the day with you!

 May you always find joy like this and know that you are so loved!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sri Lanka

I am really on a roll here, so rather than get ahead with some of my work, I am getting everyone somewhat caught up on what has been our lives here in Bangladesh.

One of the perks of the assignment here, is that you get to travel to countries and cities that would be a once in a lifetime experience.  For us, it is a wonderful thing to get to decide where to go for school holidays, stops on your way to your R & R, or for us especially in Bangladesh, for Eid holidays.  The "common" stops for people here in Dhaka are:  Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali, Kuala Lampur, Phuket, Singapore, and Hong Kong. 

Andy and the kids had off school around Easter and we took full advantage of it.  I had to work part of the time they were off, but since I teach online as long as I find a decent connection and some privacy, I can teach over my skype-like program that we use for our live classes.  We decided to go to Sri Lanka for the long holiday based: 1.on the recommendation of a friend, 2. on the direct flight, and 3. low price.  We were in no way disappointed, and in fact Sri Lanka surpassed all our expectations.  We had such a great time and found the perfect spot on the beach, that we are returning to that exact spot in August on our way back from R & R and for one of the Eid holidays that the kids and Andy are all off for.

When planning the trip, the goal was to get to the southern part of the country to the beach town of Unawatuna.  You have to fly into Colombo, which is about a good 3 hour drive from that beach.  I made the plans and used a lot of and to guide me.  This was the first time I actually planned out a trip, it used to consist of throwing stuff in bags and the car, and seeing how far we get, or staying at youth hostels the one time we went overseas pre-kids.  Planning was going great until I went to make reservations everywhere I had picked out and they were all booked for the first few days of our trip.  Come to find out there was a big cricket match between Sri Lanka and the U.K. and close to 8,000 people dubbed the Bamby Army were following their U.K. team so everything was getting booked.  Cricket over here is another thing all together.

I finally got a reservation at an historic hotel called the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo for the first night and had reserved two different cabanas and rooms for the remainder of our trip down on the beach. 
Galle Face Hotel.

Saltwater swimming pool at the hotel--very nice!

The ride down to Unawatuna was nice--wide open spaces, hills, mountains, water buffalo and egrets everywhere.  They just finished a new highway and we were lucky enough to get to take a shorter drive because of it.  I hear it used to take 5-6 hours to get down there.  Phew. 

So we arrived at the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my entire life.  I have been to Hawaii, California, SC, and Florida's beaches, but this blew them out of the water!  It is probably the equivalent of being on a caribbean beach, but I haven't had that experience.  By the way, we ran into one American the entire trip, and wouldn't you know, he grew up in the same neighborhood as my dad about 40 years later.  Crazy!  Most of the tourists here are from Europe. 

We were welcomed to the cabana we were staying at the first two nights with fresh mango and guava juice.  The place actually got some pretty negative reviews on tripadvisor, but we were pretty happy with our experience.  The four of us shared one small room in the cabana with a fan and a bathroom.  We were perfectly content.  We spent all of our time outside anyways, so as long as it was clean and suitable for kids, we liked it.  While exploring along the beach we met a man fishing, that we later became very good friends with and ended up staying at a place that he helps operate.  He and his partner are from the U.K. and have partnered with a local family that runs two cabanas on their property right on the beach.  After getting to know them and the local family, we decided to scrap the rest of our plans and stay at their place and it was awesome!  The family consisted of Pearly and her husband, Sunil and their three boys.  Sunil's family owned the property that they live on and built the cabanas on.  Sunil is a fisherman and Pearly worked for 17 years in a shoe factory before taking a leap and running the cabanas full time. She had a dream of having cabanas and she started it, but got stalled out when she ran out of money to finish building.  This is where our friend comes in and has helped by partnering with them and then he can come stay when he wants to, as well.  A great arrangement.  They are loving, joyful, caring people and we feel blessed to have met all of them.  We cannot wait to return in August! 

 Spotting a sea turtle!
 The sea turtle comes to the surface (see lump in distance)

The cabanas--lower with bunk beds and queen bed, top with queen bed.

There are so many things that we enjoyed besides meeting new friends and relaxing.  We went to a spice garden (above) and saw in person spice plants growing in their natural form.  One of the prettiest flowers there was the ballerina orchid (below).
After touring the spice gardens, we took a boat ride on Koggala Lake.  On the lake there are several islands.  One has a buddhist temple and monestary, another is called cinnamon island and has a family that has lived there for over 200 years growing and harvesting cinnamon. 

 Processing Cinnamon.
 Wife and daughter, so sweet.
Cinnamon growing off of plants that are over 100 years old.  New shoots are harvested each year off a main "trunk".

Some other fun things we did were stop at a turtle hatchery so we could all hold a baby sea turtle. 

We went to the historic mansion in Galle and saw insane amounts of antiques and beautiful gems.  Got our dead skin nibbled off by some fish at a foot spa.

Hand polishing gems.  Sri Lanka is home to mines for nearly every single type of precious gem.

He had his icecream and he was done.
Ate delicious food, drank Lion Beer and Arrack (alcohol from coconut water: drinks....

And Surfed!!!!

See you soon Pearly!

Until next time.....