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


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!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


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.

Ball season

When most people use the phrase 'ball season' there is another word that precedes it, like 'basket' or 'base' or 'foot'. However, in Dhaka, the phrase 'ball season' stands alone. Between November and February, various organizations hold formal balls to raise money for charitable causes and give the expats a reason to dress up.

Last night we went to the Marine Ball, the first of the season. This event is held each year around the world, anywhere there are US Marines, to celebrate their birthday on November 10th. We heard stirring speeches about patriotic warriors, dined on fine cuisine, and danced the night away. That is, until midnight when the magic faded and we turned back into tired parents. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

To the field

For those of you who don't know, part of my job is to investigate outbreaks of infectious disease. My team works closely with the government to identify outbreaks, to determine the cause of the disease, and to figure out what put people at risk for the disease. This is a busy week for us. Today we sent three outbreak investigation teams to the field. We're investigating one outbreak (13 cases and 8 deaths) which appears to be some kind of toxic poisoning, one outbreak of encephalitis in children (13 hospitalized and 4 deaths), and one outbreak of pneumonia in children (120 hospitalized and 10 deaths). When we go to the field we make a 'case' definition, based on the presenting symptoms of patients in the outbreak, make a line list of everyone who might be a case, collect information about when they became ill and the symptoms they've experienced, ask questions about exposures which may have led to disease, perform clinical evaluations, and collect biological samples. We also give 'messages' to patient care givers and health care workers about how to prevent further spread of infection. Often these message are very general because we frequently don't know what's causing the illness.

The health advisor (equivalent to the health minister in this care taker government) called our offices today to formally request that we participate in the investigations. Of course, we were already involved with our government colleagues. This kind of interest is sure to bring a spotlight to the work we're doing... it's going to be a busy weekend. Hopefully, I'll have some interesting pictures to share with you this weekend.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

No time for food

Lily has started to appreciate some of the solid fare we serve her. Her primary complaint at mealtimes is that eating usually requires that she stop practicing her locomotive skills, which are currently her top developmental priority. The is a picture of one protest this week- 'I do not have time for your silly food!' she cried.

Friday, November 2, 2007


The longer I know Odin, the more convinced I am that he has inherited his father's engineering brain. He enjoys playing with his toys, but he likes to 'make' other complicated machines out of regular household items even more. This is what he made on Thursday. He connected a makeshift hand mixer (we made this at his insistence - he was devastated when we told him he couldn't use the real one) to a water pitcher to make a 'water pump'.

A night out

Eric and I shared a fine dining experience last night at the Radisson Hotel. The food was expensive, especially for Dhaka, but delicious! It was a lovely evening. My husband was as handsome as ever. But, I did catch him wearing these black athletic socks with his dress shoes. He has admitted that he struggles with sock choice every morning...

Baby swing

Lily loves to swing! This was taken in our backyard.