Monday, March 26, 2012

Local Desh

In the past month, we've attended both our housekeeper's and our gardener's children's birthday. More cake baking and decorating opportunities. It's no secret that doing "local" activities here is a favorite of mine. I think the more you experience the true customs and daily life in a place, the more you understand and appreciate it. If I drove down some of the hairpin back alleys or walked in the dark stairwells we have recently been in on a vacation, it'd be dodgy, but doing it here now feels everyday and comfortable. We trust the person behind the wheel and the one waving us ahead with an inch to spare between the car and the buildings, and we enjoy when we arrive at our destination greeted by warm faces and hands helping to show us into their home.
We still aren't used to get togethers after 8PM. And we still feel uncomfortable being expected to take the best chairs in the house and being catered to eat before everyone else. I am learning to eat and drink slowly, as otherwise there will repeatedly be more thrust onto my plate with a smile. It's still hard to be a woman in a house and not help in the kitchen or clean up dishes. Continuously I tell our hosts that there homes are lovely and welcoming, though they continue to apologize for the heat or the small spaces. Their English is much better than my poor Bangla, but it's still sometimes not the heartiest of conversations. But even though the conversation may be light, the kids know no language barriers and play games together with giggles instead of words. Tonight, we were told how happy it made our hosts for us to be a guest in their home, how happy they were for us to bring our children and share a meal together... it made us happy too. As much as they are honored that we journey to their homes, they don't realize how honored we are to be invited.

Valentine's Day

Okay, so I'm a bit behind on some postings, but since it isn't quite Easter yet, then I'm in the clear. Huh?
I could count on one hand the number of times Chris & I have been out without the girls while in Dhaka. Well, not counting balls or other work functions.... balls are part of being a diplomat, right? 
For Valentine's Day, a friend organized a wonderful night at a local restaurant and invited a big group to join them. They told us the menu choices, price, location and when to show up. It was so fun just to show up and have no part of the organization :)
As it was a "school night", we didn't stay out too late, but enjoyed our time away, a nice meal, the company of good friends and a quick dip on the dance floor. After almost 20 Valentine's together, some on patrol, some on deployment, some on duty (are you seeing a one sided pattern here?), it was still wonderful to spend it with my favorite Valentine. And it was especially nice to spend it with him in person and celebrated on the real date of the occasion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rain, road work and girls

Today we awoke to condensation on the windows. The air was heavy with potential rain. Our bedrooms stay cold at night for good sleeping, while the dehumidifiers work their tails off to keep the moisture down. Every day, 2-3 times each day, we empty the full dehumidifier pails of water. If they fill before we get to them and turn off, you can immediately feel a difference in the air. A day cannot go by without them running, or we would live in damp growing mold or who knows what other yummy lab experiment.

Just this week the first rain of the season came... and it was delightful. Shortly after dinner, the sky darkened, the clouds rumbled and glorious rain fell and fell and fell. Lightning lit the sky and the thunder went on for over an hour. We were happy to be inside peering out, as we knew of several friends out meandering around in it on their way here or there. It was nice to wake to bright green leaves, freshly washed of their accumulated grime from the dry season. Each day now, you see more and more new leaves shooting out of the plants from their nice drink of rain.
(l) Ceiba getting her babies ready "for the airplane", (r) Ceiba and Hapsa (Mokta's granddaughter)
Ceiba is at school, loading up on the bus a few hours ago. She is getting so big. Her hair is long and sleek, her face is losing its baby-ness and her figure is lean and strong. She is such a vibrant and beautiful young girl. This week the buses are getting a work out, as many of the area streets are in disarray for repairs. The street divisions are trying to get sewer drains installed now before the big monsoon rains come, which will be any day. Why doesn't construction happen in December when it's dry and one has some wiggle room on the dates? For the same reason the American Club pool is under repairs in the middle of swimming season.... to irritate us. No, but because nothing in Bangladesh happens quickly, except for the rain itself. Planning, organizing and beginning a project take a painstakingly long amount of time. Such is life here, and while you get used to it, you never loose that huff when it happens. So huff I say at the road that is nearly impossible to drive on without hitting a rickshaw wallah, falling in a crevace of a hole, or getting to anyplace on time. And huff I say to the damn pool that is still unopened a month into swimming season, when we have a 4 year old (and family) that is dying for a daily swim. Huff huff huff.
...But we'll be in Bali soon enough for days and days of pool and beach. Hooray!
And as I type, a sweet little squishy dumplin is cruising around the floor, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling, sometimes sliding into a toy like it's the home plate stretch of the big game. She is the most scrumptious little nugget with a smile that can light up the night. It's funny how more relaxed of parents we are the second time around. The "she can't eat this until she is 1 year, she isn't allowed on her back until 6 months, she needs this or that or the other" mentality we tried to stick to raising Ceiba is out the window this go round. If it makes her happy, won't choke her or she eats it, no problem (to some degree). This morning I chunked up little pieces of moist pumpkin bread (my mom's old recipe that has become my signature now with my added topping, yum!) for Avocet to nibble on while playing before her morning nap. Her smiles and grunts at me were fun enough, but the every couple minute stagger over with her little bird mouth open for another bite was impossible not to smile at.  I want to eat her 24/7. Just so sweet!

A million pics of Avocet, now walking, crawling, trying to talk, waving bye and hi and just have a good ole' time every day. She is also playing soccer, and I do mean playing. If anyone holds her hands, she'll chase the soccer ball around the house and kick it (hard) with either foot. She just turned 9 months a few days ago, and continues to do new and exciting "tricks" every day.
 Not too exciting of a blog post, but a day in the life :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lullabies and love songs

I love the way people sing or hum when they are happy.

Several years ago, Chris and I took a cruise up the Sea of Cortez in Baja Mexico. We took an excursion from the boat to ride burros in the desert with a lovely Mexican man named Alejo. Each week, he and his family would bring the burros to the ship's side and then take a tour through the valley past villages, cacti and palms. He was in the rear of our group, and he sang the sweetest Spanish love songs as we rode out of the desert back toward the sea. I don't know how many times I turned to smile at him or just smiled to myself as we rode that day.

Our nephew (now 18 and about to graduate high school... wow) used to hum to himself when he was just a little guy. He was always so happy and would just hum away in contentment when he was playing or sitting or coloring. There are some memories and sounds which you lock away to cherish forever, and his sweet humming is one of mine.

Lately, I notice it even more, that there is music in the air at home. Our gardener sings on the roof or mopping the stairs. Our driver sings when he washes the car. Mrs. Mokta is often signing or humming over the dishwater in the kitchen. And they ALL sing to sweet little Miss Avocet during the day. Sometimes they see me, but many times they don't. I can do nothing but smile to hear it - them singing and her cooing back. It is nice to be in a happy home.

Chris heard a Bangla song he liked the other week when he was out with Ceiba. He wrote the name down from the clerk and asked our driver to buy the CD. And a week later, I picked up 4 local CDs. Now we have a nice bangla mix to play on our ipods or in the car. Everyone in the house loves the music. They all gave the "we're happy you love Bangla things" smile when they first heard us play them at home. Sometimes foreigners don't embrace local food/music/dress when they live here. The moments we do, it's especially meaningful to locals. They like that we like it here.

One particular song kept repeating the word "bhalo". I knew this word "bhalo", which means good. It's one of the about 20 Bangla words in my vocabulary. I turned to our driver, Bijoy, the other day and said "bhalo bhashi?". He looked at me a bit wide eyed, but said nothing. Hardly a second passed from my first word when I pointed to the radio and said "what does it mean? I know bhalo is good, so does bhalo bhashi mean very good?". He said it meant "I love you". Whoops!!! I started laughing and turned red. I profusely apologized. I said that he probably got a good laugh out of it and that I hoped he wouldn't tell his driver friends this funny story about my sounding crazy with this unknown outburst. Luckily, he has been with our family long enough to know I was just working on my grammar and not propositioning him. Eeek, maybe I should carry my guidebook along in the car or just start my questions a different way. I laughed for a few blocks.

I think I'll stick to listening to sweet songs and not embarrass myself talking about love songs to our driver.