Sunday, October 28, 2007

When doors open and close

The past few weeks the doors in our house have started opening and closing properly. Winter must be right around the corner!

Let me explain. All year long (except the few months of winter) Bangladesh is very hot and very humid. So humid in fact, that the doors in our house that open to the outside become swelled with water and don't open or close without considerable pushing or pulling. I'd forgotten what it was like to close this door without using my shoulder and hip!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween! Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. How can you go wrong with costumes, candy, and parties? Bangladeshis do not celebrate Halloween. However, the American community does what it can to create a Halloween experience for its kids. On the 31st the Embassy will host trick-or-treaters at their offices. Today there was a Halloween party at the American Club and afterwards the kids trick-or-treated through expat neighborhoods in a caravan. We decided that four hours of Halloween fun was too much for us. Instead we waiting for the other kids to come trick or treat at our house and then we joined them for a few houses on their route. Odin was a 'night guard' for Halloween. The Embassy employs security guards to keep watch over our houses at night. Odin thinks very highly of these 'night guards' and since he pretends to be a 'night guard' almost everyday, we thought it would make a good Halloween costume. Lily was a Christmas gift.

Odin, the night guard

Lily, the gift

Talking on the radio with the other guards

Having lunch and waiting for the trick-or-treaters

Odin and Mom

He wasn't so sure about my teeth.....

Dad with the kids


Odin posing with another 'night guard'

Welcome Annabelle!

My niece, Annabelle Kay, was born on Wednesday, October 24th weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces. Welcome to the world Annabelle! It's a better place because you're in it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I've gotten behind on blogging. For the past few days my brain has been occupied by data analysis from our meningo-encephalitis surveillance study. I enjoy being completely and totally intellectually engaged. It's a great grey matter workout. However, I haven't had much creative juice left in the evening for the blog. My apologies.

Some highlights from our week include: Lily cut her two first teeth! I got my overdue typhoid vaccine booster and a shorter than usual haircut. Odin has spent time everyday 'being bunny' and doing things that bunnies do, like hopping and 'pooping in the garden'. Still trying to decide what Lily will be for Halloween.

Here's a quote by Abraham Lincoln that caught my attention this week:

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail is a
leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg, doesn't make it a leg.
How true. And with that, I'll leave you with a promise to blog with a picture tomorrow.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the biggest religious festival for Hindus in Bengal (East Bengal is Bangladesh and West Bengal is in India). Bangladesh is known as a Muslim country but about 10% of it's citizens are Hindu. Multiply that by the 140 or so million people who live here and you have about 14 million Hindus in Bangladesh! Certainly a sizable minority.

Today is the last day of the Durga Puja festival. Durga is the goddess for whom the celebration is made. Puja means festival in Bangla. Clay statues of the goddess Durga are fashioned (similar to the one above, courtesy of Wikipedia) and painted and sunk in rivers and lakes. I apologize that my knowledge of the Durga isn't as good as it should be. Basically, she is the female goddess created by higher male deities from a collective female energy to fight demons. She's blessed with 10 hands to hold her various weapons. Durga Puja is a celebration of her victory over evil.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia, which does a much better job describing her than I do:

The Great Goddess is said to be exquisitely beautiful. Her form is blindingly bright, with three lotus-like eyes, ten powerful hands, lush hair with beautiful curls, a red-golden glow from her skin and a quarter moon on her forehead. She wears a shiny oceanic blue attire emitting fierce rays. Her ornaments were carved beautifully of gold, with ocean pearls and precious stones embedded in it. Her face was sculpted by Shiva, torso by Indra, breasts by Chandra (the moon), teeth by Brahma, bottom by the Earth, thighs and knees by Varuna (water), and her three eyes by Agni (fire). Each god also gave her their own most powerful weapons, Rudra's trident, Vishnu's discus, Indra's thunderbolt, Brahma's kamandal, Kuber's gada, etc. Himalayas gifted her a fierce whitish golden lion.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A hose and a bucket

Few things will entertain Odin for as long as a bucket, a hose, and some running water will.

Strictly prohibited

Eric and I had dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant called Le Saigon last night. Excellent food and interesting decor.

We took notice of this sign posted on the wall. Consumption of alcohol by Bangladeshi nationals is prohibited by law. Unless, of course, you can afford to become a member of a private club where alcohol is permitted. Like many places in the world, if you're rich enough, you can do most anything you want.

Alcohol consumption by foreigners is perfectly legal, however. We buy alcohol from the US commissary here. Local restaurants are happy to let expats BYOB. Last night, we enjoyed a couple of micro brewed beers with our Vietnamese cuisine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Got mail?

We receive mail through the US diplomatic pouch a couple of times a week. It's truly one of the greatest advantages to being and 'official' American here. Items purchased on the internet and packages sent by friends and family can be sent to our US address with ease. Then, the government ships them to us in Dhaka. It usually takes 2 weeks for mail to reach us.

Mail days are exciting, especially if we get something 'good', i.e. not bills or junk mail. Frequently, the mail delivery includes packages and packages usually contain something for Odin and Lily. Every night when Eric returns from work Odin asks with genuine interest, 'Mail? Got mail, Dada?'

Here's the aftermath from this week's package delivery...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taking Lily to work

ICDDR,B, the organization where I work, renovated their day care facilities about a year ago. The day care is now a safe, clean, and fun place for kids to be while their parents are at work. I must admit that the ability to bring my baby to work with me makes me a much, much happier mother and employee. Why should moms (or dads!) have to choose between seeing their kids during the day and working? This is true gender policy in practice.

Lily enjoys coming to the day care and playing with her baby friends. She's there for a few hours each afternoon, long enough for me to get two visits with her. There's also a toddler room, but Odin hasn't been interested in staying. When the alternative is having the whole house to himself (with his own backyard and toys) who would blame him?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hard to believe

It's hard to believe that these two might be the same size one day...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eid Mubarak

Today is Eid, the most important Muslim holiday. It is a time spent with families and giving gifts, especially to those who have less than you. It's a time to share what you have with others.

The city was especially quiet today and people on the streets visiting with family and friends were all dressed up in their new Eid clothes. All the shops are closed and many people are in their village 'homes'. Most people here identify their 'home' as a rural place where their families are from, even if they've spent their entire lives in the capital. This is a photo published in the Daily Star a couple of days back showing the trains crowded with people returning to their villages to celebrate Eid. Full cabins? No problem, you can travel on the roof.

Because this is the season for giving, Muslims who provide us with services often request an extra bit of money for the holidays. This includes our garbage man, my masseuse, and our local neighborhood beggars. This is one card we received last week...

The inside of the card reads....

It says, 'Eid bones' but we think what they really meant was 'Eid bonus, please'. The card is a nice gesture, and we're happy to give, but we think their campaign would be more successful next year if they sign the card. We have no idea who sent it!

Eid Mubarak everyone!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bangkok memories

I've been to Bangkok many, many times over the past 20 years. Not surprisingly, I have many Bangkok memories. Visiting Bangkok always evokes 'I remember when...' stories. Some of those stories, I'm almost proud to say, are too scandalous for this blog. None of the scandalous stories, however, are from this weekend. This trip was all about family fun and adventure.

These are the kids hanging out in the Dhaka airport before our departure. We had a 'brush with fame' at the gate. Recent Nobel Prize winner Muhammed Yunus was on our flight. I didn't have the heart to bother him with posing for a photo with my kids. Besides, I would have had to fight the crowd of others trying to shake his hand. In person, he was just as friendly and humble as his public persona suggests.

Waiting for the plane

Sibling love in the airport

It's a plane!

Bangkok, an Oriental city

So, what did we do in Bangkok? Shopping and food were on the list, as always. Even Lily enjoyed the fabulous cuisine.

Here she is making friends with the locals. Traveling with kids in Asia is so great- everyone loves kids!

We also took a trip to the dentist- Odin's first!

We visited the aquarium! This photo doesn't do this beautiful (and huge!) aquarium justice. I think we enjoyed it more than Odin...

We dined with friends at one of our favorite local restaurants, Cabbages and Condoms. The proceeds go to support an international organization that promotes condoms for family planning and sexual health. They unashamedly use condoms for decoration and the gift shop is filled with condom souvenirs. The ambiance is wonderful and the food simply delicious. Check out a recent review on the New York Times site:

Instead of breath mints, they offer leaving customers (you guessed it) condoms. I found it interesting that they offer both 'democrat' and 'republican' size. Just goes to show that US politics are a source of contention and satire around the world. Care to venture a guess at which size was bigger?....

Hanging out in the hotel room.

Our kids really are great travelers. Here's Odin, asleep on the road.

We had a great weekend, but are happy to be back in Dhaka. Home, sweet home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


We're off to Bangkok for a few days of rest and relaxation! We'll update you on our latest adventures when we return.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Working is playing

This age is all about copying behavior. Thus, Odin gets very excited about working on the 'ahmah-putah'. He enjoys finding letters and 'spelling' out names, but his favorite activity is looking at digital pictures of family and friends.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Diarrhea and the 2007 floods

I'm one of the editors for the Health and Science Bulletin, a quarterly publication which reports important research findings from ICDDR,B to public health practitioners in Bangladesh. An article I wrote about record breaking numbers of diarrhea patients at our (ICDDR,B's) Dhaka Hospital during the flooding in August is now published online in the September issue at:

Today's the day

Today, Lily crawled for the first time. She crawled right over to another baby at day care to steal his toy. Happily, I was there to witness it. I can't quite imagine what acquiring the ability to crawl is like. Maybe a similar feeling to getting your first driver's license?

She seems happy about her new skill. Odin has yet to realize what implications this might have for him. Our job of keeping her safe just became more complicated. But, playing with her will become a lot more fun. Congratulations Lily!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The radio

This is a radio we have to communicate in case of emergency. I can't tell you what we do with it or when we do it (that would, I'm told, be a security breach). You never know how many 'would be' terrorists are reading my blog. People here are very serious about security. However, I can tell you that Odin has been enchanted by this radio for as long as he's been able to feel enchantment. He's allowed to play with it as long as he doesn't turn it on.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


In Bangladesh, the weekend is on Friday and Saturday. Therefore, we celebrate 'Thank God It's Thursday', TGIT.

We went to a little party after work today. Kids and parents all together. We really don't have many friends without kids these days. It's too difficult to keep up with them.

Here are a few pictures of us enjoying ourselves...

Lily with Mama

Odin and Catherine playing in the toy basket

In this picture there are no children, so I'll call us Emily and Eric.

Ok, a baby, a beer, a toddler around your legs. Yep, this is how we look at parties these days.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Odin's world

Since I started the blog I've been taking more pictures. Odin has noticed and desperately wanted to get in on the action. We have an old, inexpensive, simple digital camera that we gave to Odin to take pictures with a few days ago. He has taken about 200 pictures in the past two days.

These are some of his best photos, with a little editing help from mom. Not bad for a 2 year old! He definitely gets poses and faces that I can't.

And finally, a self-portrait.

Monday, October 1, 2007


As many of you probably know, we're in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. This is a month of religious celebration and self-sacrifice. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This means that they don't consume anything- no food, no water, no cigarettes, no gum. Many don't brush their teeth during daylight hours. In order not to tempt those fasting, most food stalls (like the one pictured above) will hide behind sheets during the day. I can only imagine that this kind of fasting requires a great deal of religious commitment. The idea of fasting during Ramadan is to experience first-hand what it is to be thirsty and hungry so that you can sympathize with those less fortunate and appreciate what you have. It's an admirable goal. The sick, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children are exempt from fasting. The prevalence of undernutrition in Bangladesh is high, and although the malnourished would be considered sick in most places in the world, here it's the norm so these people also fast.

Ramadan is a month full of religious contemplation. It is not, however, a particularly productive month. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is the sheer lack of food and water all day. Most businesses and government offices close by 3 pm. I have found that by noon, most people who fast have very little brain power left. The second reason is because sleep schedules are also interrupted- those who fast during the day eat at night.

The closer it gets to sunset, people become increasingly more desperate to get home and break their fast. The fast is broken with a special meal called Iftar, consumed at sunset. It's a festive occasion where family and friends gather together. This meal typically consists of sweets and puffed rice. Shortly thereafter, comes a large evening meal. Then, most families will awaken at about 3 or 4 am to eat another large meal before sunrise. Certainly a challenging schedule for the family cooks.

The month of Ramadan culminates in the holiday called Eid-el-Fitr, a 2-3 day long celebration with a focus on family and gift giving, especially to family members who are less fortunate. Therefore, Ramadan is also the busiest shopping month of the year here, similar to the Christmas shopping season in the US.