Sunday, September 30, 2007

Construction site

The house across from the street from us was torn down about two years ago and they're now building a 5 storey apartment building on the lot. It's been a noisy two years. They often work day and night and large trucks dumping sand and gravel in the street (also a part of the construction area) usually arrive between 12 and 3 am. The monsoon season was a relief because during a down pour, all construction noise stopped. Now the rainy season is over and construction is as loud as ever.

Bamboo is used for scaffolding and not even shoes are required for construction workers in Bangladesh. Construction work is a tough job. But, there are perks. You'll notice the clothes hung out to dry- living in the unfinished building is part of the workers' compensation package.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


This is Odin hiding. Hiding is one of Odin's favorite games. The point of the game is to hide, and it sometimes upsets him to be 'found'. He just wants to be invisible for a while. I think we can all relate.

Mosquito bites

Here's little Lily this afternoon, looking cute and sweet. The mosquitoes like her, too. If you look closely, you can see a big red bite on her cheek.

No matter what we do, we still get bitten. She got this bite from a sneaky mosquito that found it's way into her net a couple nights ago. No one likes mosquitoes, but here they can transmit serious diseases. It's currently dengue season so we're trying to be extra vigilant!


This is our backyard. We're lucky to have one. Most expatriates living in Dhaka live in apartments now. And many of the houses don't really have a yard.

The kids and our dog, Brishti, spend quite a bit of time out here. As you can see, we have a swing set, newly acquired in June. We bought it from an expatriate family, who bought it from another expatriate family, who shipped it to Dhaka for their kids 8-10 years ago.

The dirt patches are where water collects during the monsoon and kills the grass. The monsoon is over now so the grass should be coming back this month. The bright, metal and green structure at the far end of the yard is our diesel generator. Odin reveres the generator.

Here are a couple of backyard action shots of the kids playing with their ayahs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cutest faces this week

Burning buses

This is a burning bus that I saw on my way to work yesterday. At first, I was afraid that I was about to be in the middle of a violent demonstration, considering that garmet workers had rioted in this neighborhood just the day before and burned a bus. However, this bus was burning because the gas tank had exploded. Luckily, no one was injured.

Wiry mess

Maintaining telephone service with a land line can be a challenge here. These are a few examples of why this is true! What a mess. These are telephone and television and internet cable lines, all attached to electrical poles. I'd hate to be the one getting the call, 'Yes, my phone is out. Can you send someone out to check the line?'

Cell phones work much better and have revolutionized communication, especially in remote areas of the country. Sometimes I wonder why we still have a land line. However, a few weeks back when students started staging violent protests, the government shut down all wireless phone networks for two days in an effort to thwart their plots. We were glad to have a land line then, no matter how poor the connection!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Road 5

In the US, roads have names and houses have numbers. In Dhaka, roads have numbers and houses have names. We live on Road 5 in Nahid Cottage. This is a picture of Road 5.

Here are the Nahid Cottage kids. I couldn't resist posting these!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not everyone thinks cartoons are funny

This was a story on the front page of our Daily Star newspaper this morning. I haven't seen the cartoon myself, but here's what I've heard:

A little background: In Bangladesh people have anywhere from 2 to 5 names. In the west, we usually have 1-2 given names and 1-2 family names. Here, all Muslim names are given names. Frequently, the first given name for males is Mohammad, after the name of the prophet who founded Islam. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam or Mohammad Jahangir Hossain, for example.
The incident: The cartoon reportedly depicted a man talking with a young boy. He asked the young boy, 'What is your father's name?, What is your mother's name?, What is your brother's name?', and so on. The answers all begin with 'Mohammad....'. When the man asks about the name of the boy's cat, the answer also starts with 'Mohammad'. Apparently, suggesting that a cat would be named after the prophet was offensive enough to get the cartoonist thrown in jail. We have also been advised by the US Embassy to avoid all mosques tomorrow because they're expecting protests.

Bangladesh is still struggling with issues like freedom of speech. Bangladeshis typically love satire- especially when it's aimed at politicians- but it's clear that religion is still a very touchy topic.

Highlights from our lives this week:

Lily suffered from viral conjunctivitis. There's a massive outbreak going on in Dhaka now.

Odin played at home most of the week, happy as a clam.

Eric is enjoying being back in a regular workout routine post-baby.

After a couple of sleepless nights with Lily, I'm looking forward to the weekend!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dhaka traffic

Here is a glimpse of traffic on my ride home. Traffic in Dhaka can get pretty ugly. When we lived here in the 80's there were often more cows than cars on the road in the suburbs. Not any more. But there is still diversity on the road. Cars, buses, bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws (called CNGs because they now run on compressed natural gas), motorcycles, bicycles, transport trucks, and the occasional tractor. Today it took about 40 minutes to go 10 miles.

There are a few rules to remember when driving in Dhaka:

1. Might is right.

2. Keep both eyes on the road and one hand on the horn at all times.

3. Green means go, yellow means nothing, and red means stop unless you're in a hurry.

4. Keep a safe distance from other moving vehicles to avoid collision. Six inches is enough.

5. There's no such thing as a 'lane'.

6. Therefore, there is no such thing as a 'turn lane'. You may turn in any direction from anywhere at any time.

If you can drive here, you can drive anywhere!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bedtime birthday shout-out

Happy Birthday Aunt Lori!

And in case you're wondering who finally won control of the birthday sign...

The hardest part about living in Dhaka is that our closest family and friends don't. We miss being around for birthdays and other celebrations. We missed a big one yesterday- my cousin Leisa's wedding! We were thinking of you Leisa and we heard that your wedding was beautiful. You make a lovely bride.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hangin' at the school

This afternoon we went to play at the school. By 'the school' I mean the American International School/Dhaka, aka AIS/D. This is the school where I studied for 6th and 7th grade. Of course, what was the whole school back then is just the middle school now. They have great facilities- three gyms, a workout room, a large sports field, a kiddie playground, and a 25 meter pool. Eric went for a swim while I played with the kids. The best part is that it's only 2 blocks from our house!

The first excitement was that the grounds keepers were cutting the grass on the field. Odin directed our attention to their work.

Mommy, they're cutting the grass!!

Next, we spent some time on the playground.

Two year olds are busy.

Then, we got a late monsoon downpour. That didn't hold Odin back. He was quite content to dig in the mud puddles. After about 15 minutes in the rain he decided he needed the 'umba-bewa'.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Westin

Today is Friday, the beginning of our weekend. Eric and I 'escaped' from Dhaka and parenthood for lunch at the new Westin hotel this afternoon. They began construction on the Westin about 10 years ago and it finally opened for business in July. With it's egg-shaped Mork from Ork chairs, it doesn't look like any other place in Dhaka. They have a coffee/sandwich shop downstairs in the lobby where we feasted on sandwiches made with yummy croissants, brown bread baguettes, fresh feta cheese, and cilantro pesto, to name just a few ingredients. This may not sound exciting to you, but for expats living in Dhaka it's big news. This is a picture of the lobby and my handsome, sweet, intelligent, long-legged, reluctant-subject husband enjoying his egg-shaped chair.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Every Thursday morning the kids go to play group. It's a chance for the toddlers and babies and ayahs (local nannies) to socialize while the parents are at work. This week, Odin and Lily hosted the event. Here's a picture of the kids enjoying some snacks. Odin is very good at sharing all his toys with the crowd. He just sat in the middle of the room and watched everyone else play for most of the morning. He seemed to enjoy being an observer.

This is Lily riding in the car this afternoon, on our way home from my office. And a couple of pictures of Odin chilling out in the play room and playing golf this evening.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bird flu and bureaucracy

The research group I work with was funded by the US government to conduct surveillance for H5N1 in poultry and humans in Bangladesh last year. Since then, we have made numerous attempts to work with the national livestock authorities on integrating our work into the national suveillance effort. They are challenging partners because of the real financial and political disincentives the government has to report outbreaks of bird flu.

Bangladesh identified it's first H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in March 2007. Since then, the urgency of forming a formal collaborative relationship between our organization and the government has intensified. We are currently building a diagnostic facility and collecting biological specimens from poultry and humans with respiratory disease. As soon as the lab is up and running we'll be finding bird flu. It's just a matter of time.

Our draft memorandum of understanding with the government was 'lost' at the ministry many times over the past 9 months. Today, at long last, we got it signed. The picture above documents the occasion. This is our team (I'm taking the picture) with the Director General for Livestock Services. I was the only woman in the room- maybe on the whole floor! There aren't many Bangladeshi women in the livestock sector.

It was a good day. Especially when I'm met by these faces at home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Odin and I usually eat scrambled eggs and an English muffin together for breakfast each morning. Actually, he just hovers in or around my lap as we share my breakfast. These are some of the faces I got out of him this morning at our breakfast ritual.

Half birthday

Lily was 6 months old yesterday! She's a big girl already. She's an accomplished sitter and is frustrated by the fact that she is still unable to feed herself with the spoon. She now weighs 16.5 pounds and is 26 inches long. She's very strong and was attempting to pull herself up to standing tonight. Staff from the day care at my office said, "Lily is strong- like a wrestler!". That's my girl. Here are some pictures of Miss Lillian on her half birthday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bucket bathing

After the recent catastrophic flooding here in Bangladesh, I felt that I needed to have more respect for water, especially clean water. I thought about what I could do to conserve water and decided to start bucket bathing instead of taking showers. I learned the art of bucket bathing in the Peace Corps and actually came to enjoy it. Plus, I can save thousands of gallons of water a year!

My boy Odin decided that he was going to take bucket showers, too. Of course, for him it's enough water for a full bath since he still fits in the bucket.

What about Lily and Eric? Well, Lily uses very little water in her bath at this stage anyway and Eric's showers probably use less water than my bucket bath. Plus he has that 'minimal bathing' policy in effect on weekends... :)

Welcome to the Dhaka Dispatch

Hello family and friends, welcome to the Dhaka Dispatch. In the four years since we moved to Dhaka, very few of you have made it here to visit. Let's face it, most of you will probably never get here. So, I've decided to start a blog as a way of including you in our daily lives. I'll cover the kids, my job, headlines from Bangladesh, and family news. I invite you to drop by every-so-often to see what we're up to.

With love from Emily, your Dispatch correspondent