Thursday, December 27, 2007

Checking out

We're off to Unawatuna, Sri Lanka by way of Bangkok. Finally some rest and relaxation! We'll take lots of pictures to share when we're back in Dhaka. Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Day in Dhaka

Christmas is a very social holiday and therefore, difficult to recreate without close family and friends. But, we did our best. Our kids have never seen snow, Santa, or Christmas lights. They understand very little of the cultural event we call Christmas. As an example, I give you Odin wearing our Christmas stockings as 'gloves'.



They did understand that Christmas Day is the day when we open some gifts. They both enjoyed their new toys- especially the tricycle!





It's tough to share new toys, isn't it?



We did some of the usual Christmas cooking- and eating.



Lily had her first mashed potatoes and loved them.




We had fun playing all day...







And we also got some work done, thanks to Odin.



Hope you all had a great holiday. We were thinking of and missing family and friends around the world.

You know you're a parent when...

... you spend Christmas Eve putting together kids' toys.

Tree of love


About 10 days before Christmas we brought in our tree. Most people say they 'put up' their tree, but we say 'brought in' because our tree lives in a pot outside. It's much bigger than it was last year!

We were unable to locate our beautiful wooden Christmas tree ornaments from Russia (given to us by Lacey) so we decided to make ornaments with pictures of family and friends. Here's are a few of them on our tree of love, hanging by dental floss.

Brishti


Our poor dog Brishti hasn't even made the blog yet! She's cute, but usually not as cute as kids- the competition is tough to beat. Anyway, it's about time we introduced our dog Brishti. Her name means rain in Bangla, but ironically, she does not like water. You can tell by her face here while she's getting a Christmas bath.

When we moved to Dhaka we adopted Brishti from friends who had rescued her and her brother as puppies from the street. She had been hit by a car and still has the scars on her paw to prove it. She an exceptionally intelligent dog (I guess that street dogs are bred to be smart- dumb ones don't usually last long enough to procreate). She's also usually exceptionally dirty which is why she's stays outside. But we brought her in the house and cleaned her up for the holidays.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lily's steps


Ok, this isn't a great picture of Lily, but it's the only one I have from this momentous week. She said her first words on Tuesday! 'Bye-bye', complete with appropriate hand gesturing. Absolutely adorable. She followed up with a 'hi' on Thursday, and last night I got her to try barking like a dog. This girl learns fast!

She'll be walking soon... There were reports of her taking a few unassisted steps at play group this week, but no repeat performance so far.

Eid ul Azha

Friday was the Muslim holiday Eid ul Azha. It's the second largest religious holiday of the year. To celebrate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God, they sacrifice animals (usually cows or goats here) and share the meat with family and the poor.

The week before Eid ul Azha, the streets of Dhaka become crowded with goats and cows being taken to market. Most people prefer to spend the holiday in their village homes, since sacrificing animals can be messy. However, there's plenty of sacrificing in Dhaka as well. The night before there were numerous cows tied up outside houses on our street. The clean them and put festive decorations on their heads and necks. Odin enjoyed visiting all the cows on our street.
Early on Eid, someone trained in proper religious sacrifice protocol comes to kill the animals in the street. The family then cuts the animal up for sharing the meat. Less fortunate people from nearby slum neighborhoods come to houses sacrificing for meat handouts. We like to call this phenomena 'meat trick-or-treat'.
Queuing up for meat on our street

Some children with their bags of meat on Eid


Being a vegetarian, I'm not crazy about this holiday. That morning the streets are covered in blood and the smell of dead animal lingers into the evening. However, this is one of the few times during the year that many people in Bangladesh eat meat- usually they cannot afford it. I guess that a little extra protein in their diets can't hurt.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My favorite security guard


Many of you will recognize this security guard from Halloween, even without his hat. He does a very good job of managing all traffic coming in and out of our driveway. And he's not afraid to use his whistle.

Victory Day


Yesterday Bangladeshis celebrated their independence from Pakistan in 1971- they call it Victory Day. In the week preceding Victory Day, intersections are bustling with hawkers selling Bangladesh flags in all shapes and sizes.

Independence day celebrations in a country where many people remember the war for independence are quite different than in a country like the US where independence was won many generations ago. The wounds of sacrifice are still raw and emotions run high as everyone over 40 years old remembers the atrocities that defined the Liberation War. Many of those who fought for Bangladesh's independence are now calling for the prosecution of what they call 'war criminals'- those persons still living in Bangladesh who participated in the systematic killing of intellectuals and academics who supported the liberation movement. As little as a year ago, some of these people were a part of the ruling government.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Goofy hair


Odin's hair is finally long enough to make silly hairstyles in the bathtub. He, he.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Grocery shopping

Wow, I'm really behind on the blogging...



Every weekend we make a trip to the US Commissary. That's where we buy most of our prepackaged foods. It's a small 5 isle establishment that carries most of the essentials. Here's Odin doing some shopping on the cereal isle.





Here are a few goodies from the commissary that we can't get anywhere else.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Birthday parties in Dhaka

We went to our friend Sam's 1st birthday party this weekend. The local snake charmer showed up, as he usually does when he hears of a festive occasion in the expatriate neighborhood. Odin did not like the snake charmer- at all.






He did, however, like the marching band that showed up about half an hour later. If any of you are interested in having them for your next garden party, just let me know and I'll see if I can book them for you. :)


Enjoying the show

Odin's got rhythm

video

My Lily

Here are a few recent pictures of my Lily. She has just sprouted her third tooth and weighs almost 18 pounds. I love, love, love my girl.

Practicing her new clapping skills




Odin loves her, too.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Party hat


As many of you know, when you pull a shirt over a kid's head, the shirt frequently gets caught about half way through. In our house, we call this 'shirt on the head' phenomena a party hat (in honor of one of our favorite bedtime stories, Go dog, go!).

First spaghetti


Lily had spaghetti for the first time tonight! It was a definite hit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Teeth brushing


Odin has always enjoyed brushing his teeth...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ghagra shak


This is a picture of some of our data collectors just before leaving for the field again last week. They'll be back tomorrow. For those of you interested in an update on our outbreak investigation...

We've determined that people became sick and died from toxic poisoning after eating seedlings of a local wild plant called ghagra shak. It's in the Xanthium genus and is known to cause similar symptoms and death in livestock who eat it. The plant is safe to eat when mature, however. We think that they're eating more of these plants this year because of inflation- the plants grow wild and are therefore free food. Also, the floods lasted longer than usual this year so the plans are younger than they usually would be this time of year. At least now we have a useful public health message which we hope will prevent future deaths- don't eat ghagra shak!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Grieving

We're grieving for all the cyclone victims in Bangladesh... the people who were washed away or buried under trees and buildings, as well as those who survived the storm just to die from hunger or water-borne disease in the following weeks. Articles in the paper quote local and international politicians who say that the loss of life and property is 'shocking'. Why is it shocking? Has there ever been a cyclone in Bangladesh which didn't cause tremendous amounts of death and suffering? Why are we shocked that the same thing happened again this time? What's really shocking is that we (the country of Bangladesh and the world) haven't figured out how to prevent these catastrophes in Bangladesh yet.

In all fairness, things have improved. During past cyclones hundreds of thousands of people have died- this time many estimate that the number dead will only be about 10,000. (Ok, the using 'only' and '10,000' in the same phrase doesn't make much sense, I know.) Since the last cyclone many shelters have been constructed, although not enough for everyone. And only those with TV and radio are aware when alerts are raised, leaving the poorest areas out of reach. In one tragic account, many locals in one area knew of the alert but refused to go. They evacuated coastal areas a few years back when the tsunami hit Asia only to find that no storm or tidal wave came. Many thought the government warnings were just 'crying wolf' again this time so they refused to leave their homes and belongings behind to seek shelter.

Relief groups and local and foreign governments are providing aid the best they know how. We can only give them our support and hope that those in need will find some peace in the days and weeks to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Taking care of babies


Since Lily was born, Odin's learned a lot about taking care of babies. He practices some of these care-giving activities with his 'baby'. Sometimes he puts the baby down for a nap, sometimes he rocks the baby, and sometimes he gives the baby 'my milk'. This was Odin breastfeeding his baby this afternoon. Too cute.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rock you like a hurricane

Ok, so when I wrote that Dhaka was just going to get some rain and heavy wind, I lied. It was the biggest storm I've seen in the four years that we've been here. I was up all night with Lily (she's not feeling well) and I had plenty of entertainment courtesy of mother nature. I've never been so happy to live in a big, sturdy, brick house.

The power was out in Dhaka for about 36 hours, which also shut down public water supplies. There are already reports of over 1000 dead in the southern districts which makes me confident that there will be at least another 1000 confirmed dead in the coming days. Between the heavy floods, the outrageous inflation, and now a hurricane, it's been a tough year for Bangladesh. For so many who live on the verge of disaster, it's been devastating.

Odin surveying the damage- flooding and broken branches on our roof



A flooded backyard


People from neighboring slums filling up water pots from our tank to take back to their hovels

Go girl, go!

video

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Slammed


The coast of Bangladesh is currently being slammed by Cyclone Sidr, shown here in a satellite photo from NASA. Past cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh. Hopefully most people have been evacuated or are in shelters and will be safe. In Dhaka we're experiencing heavy wind and rain but nothing too concerning.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The simple things


I love the fact that a plastic bowl full of spare bottle and sippy cup parts will entertain my kids long enough for me to reheat dinner.

Another creation


As I've mentioned before, Odin is a very busy person who likes to create machines. This was his creation this evening- a mixer. It is unclear exactly what this machine mixes (concrete? cake batter?), but it is obviously a complex process. Note that the bulldozer is not only connected to the apparatus in his hand, but also to the door.

A new year


Thank you to all my family and friends for the birthday wishes! The day was a good one filled with love, quality time with the kids, professional accomplishment, and of course, cake (designed by Eric and created my Mina, our housekeeper). I'm looking forward to my new year!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Bebelus!!!

Yes, it's Draga mea's birthday thus my attempt to create a post for the most incredible woman ever! Now that I've tried my hand at this blog thing, I'm even more impressed! She never ceases to amaze me and we love her so much. Happy Birthday Bebelus!!! From all of us! MMmmHHhhh!!!

Trying to get the kids together to do a little birthday blog was a little more of a challenge than I expected. It started rough.

I called in reinforcements which helped a bit, but we were lacking some emotion.
We were able to get the excitement level up but went a little too far!

In the end, we didn't get the shot I was hoping for but everyone was happy and looking forward to celebrating with mama! Happy Birthday!!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mystery continues...


This article was published today about one of the outbreaks we're investigating. Of course, the media has the numbers all wrong but the overall message is correct: there are more cases showing up and more deaths. We're still trying to figure it what's going on...

8 months

Today, Lily is 8 months old. In the past month she has sprouted two teeth, learned to crawl and pull up, and is practicing standing without support. She manages to stand for a few seconds at a time now and likes to share her excitement with high pitched squeals. She's growing up fast, a bit too fast for me.