Tuesday, August 30, 2011

These Days Are Cow Days

After a long day of meetings Dr. L took me to a nearby field so I could practice driving a motorcycle. The day's goal was learning how to stop fast and how to make quick turns. I learned with cows as my obstacles. Cows dotted the field and boys played soccer around them. I would approach a cow really fast and then stop short, saving its life. It never blinked. Or I would pick one and do circles around it. It wasn’t fazed.

Today for lunch Dr L, Muzi, Ian and I walked to the local butcher. (Below) The butcher is a few feet away from our house, and cows, goats, and chicken hang skinned, swaying in the heat and flies. Dr. L found his cow and slid his hand between the meat finding the filet mignon. He brought a knife with him and cut the filet off. People don’t differentiate cuts of meat here and the good cuts are often left unnoticed. Dr. L prepared our filet with a soy, chile marinade. We were each served a small sliver. Never have I ever tasted meat so delicious and flavorful.

Later I took a break from reading papers to go to the corner store to see if they had a nail clipper. Which they did. Coming back from the store, I was walking over a bridge, and a man holding onto to a cow with rope lost control. The cow started to walk fast toward me! People started screaming and men grabbed onto the rope to stop the cow. And I was saved. Good story, right?

I went up to the roof for the sunset. It is unreal. The sky bursts into flames and making the rooftops pink. I shared a mango with Ian and let the golden flesh cover my face and hands, matching the sunset, eating with my whole heart. I feel sinful with pleasure. There were no cows.

A picture of our filet with a blanc rue and chopped apples. A thank you. From left to right is our typical Bengali fare:

Rice, jarred chutney, chicken, daal, cucumber, fried vegetables.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dr. L's visit

Dr. L is here and my days are packed. I asked him for some more work. And now I work from 8am to 7pm. It’s completely exhausting but exciting. I am now working on four projects: The turtle project, writing a manuscript on low birth weight, a maternal mortality project and am working with Jiva on a schedule write up on excel.

There are now 7 of us living in the Rangpur house. We eat together, work together and play

together. We took our Iftar (breaking of the fast) on the roof. Gin and a sunset. Dr. L points

everything out to us and we see it for the first time. The vast rice fields and how they were

planted each seed at a time and the brilliance of the clouds before a monsoon rain.

We went to the market tonight. The power was out in all Rangpur and the stalls were lit with candles. The smells are more intense when you can’t see what’s around you. The fires smell different, either chalky or spicy. You smell cow dung, and food, and sweat, and dirt and rain. Dr. L stops us at stalls and has us taste and smell the mustard oil being made, a pinch fresh tobacco, large sacks of brown sugar. We ducked into a square in the wall and ate fresh biyriani with mutton. I later got a bit sick from it, but so worth it.

Things I purchased tonight:

-A statue of my favorite poet: Rabindranath Tagore (famous poet in Bangladesh and India)

-A Giants hat with a baseball logo on it and the words hockey printed on its rim.

-One of those sweet headphone microphone set ups so I can practice my Spanish Rosetta stone without licking my computer

-A Dolce and Gabanna Wallet complete with garbage bag material insides

At night we all go into the conference room and put a pirated movie on the projector. Sometimes we pop fresh popcorn or eat lemon crepes.

I apologize for the infrequent updates. It’s hard to update when you’re living it.

Asalam Walaikum,


P.s. I changed some names of organizations and people so I don’t get sued.

Friday, August 26, 2011

September on Jessore Road

Interesting poem. I feel it portrays what I felt in my last entry. Allen Ginsberg the American Beat Poet went to Bangladesh before it became West and East Bangladesh. This is a poem of his experience.

Millions of babies watching the skies

Bellies swollen, with big round eyes
On Jessore Road--long bamboo huts
No place to shit but sand channel ruts

Millions of fathers in rain
Millions of mothers in pain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of sisters nowhere to go

One Million aunts are dying for bread
One Million uncles lamenting the dead
Grandfather millions homeless and sad
Grandmother millions silently mad

Millions of daughters walk in the mud
Millions of children wash in the flood
A Million girls vomit & groan
Millions of families hopeless alone

Millions of souls nineteen seventy one
homeless on Jessore road under grey sun
A million are dead, the million who can
Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan

Taxi September along Jessore Road
Oxcart skeletons drag charcoal load
past watery fields thru rain flood ruts
Dung cakes on treetrunks, plastic-roof huts

Wet processions Families walk
Stunted boys big heads don't talk
Look bony skulls and silent round eyes
Starving black angels in human disguise

Mother squats weeping and points to her sons
Standing thin legged like elderly nuns
small bodied hands to their mouths in prayer
Five months small food since they settled there

on one floor mat with small empty pot
Father lifts up his hands at their lot
Tears come to their mother's eye
Pain makes mother Maya cry

Two children together in palmroof shade
Stare at me no word is said
Rice ration, lentils one time a week
Milk powder for war weary infants meek

No vegetable money or work for the man
Rice lasts four days eat while they can
Then children starve three days in a row
and vomit their next food unless they eat slow.

On Jessore road Mother wept at my knees
Bengali tongue cried mister Please
Identity card torn up on the floor
Husband still waits at the camp office door

Baby at play I was washing the flood
Now they won't give us any more food
The pieces are here in my celluloid purse
Innocent baby play our death curse

Two policemen surrounded by thousands of boys
Crowded waiting their daily bread joys
Carry big whistles and long bamboo sticks
to whack them in line They play hungry tricks

Breaking the line and jumping in front
Into the circle sneaks one skinny runt
Two brothers dance forward on the mud stage
The guards blow their whistles and chase them in rage

Why are these infants massed in this place
Laughing in play and pushing for space
Why do they wait here so cheerful and dread?
Why this is the House where they give children bread

The man in the bread door Cries and comes out
Thousands of boys and girls Take up his shout
Is it joy? is it prayer? "No more bread today"
Thousands of Children at once scream "Hooray!"

Run home to tents where elders await
Messenger children with bread from the state
No bread more today! and and no place to squat
Painful baby, sick shit he has got.

Malnutrition skulls thousands for months
Dysentery drains bowels all at once
Nurse shows disease card Enterostrep
Suspension is wanting or else chlorostrep

Refugee camps in hospital shacks
Newborn lay naked on mother's thin laps
Monkeysized week old Rheumatic babe eye
Gastoenteritis Blood Poison thousands must die

September Jessore Road rickshaw
50,000 souls in one camp I saw
Rows of bamboo huts in the flood
Open drains, and wet families waiting for food

Border trucks flooded, food can’t get past,
American Angel machine please come fast!
Where is Ambassador Bunker today?
Are his Helios machine gunning children at play?

Where are the helicopters of U.S. AID?
Smuggling dope in Bangkok's green shade.
Where is America's Air Force of Light?
Bombing North Laos all day and all night?

Where are the President's Armies of Gold?
Billionaire Navies merciful Bold?
Bringing us medicine food and relief?
Napalming North Vietnnam and causing more grief?

Where are our tears? Who weeps for the pain?
Where can these families go in the rain?
Jessore Road's children close their big eyes
Where will we sleep when Our Father dies?

Whom shall we pray to for rice and for care?
Who can bring bread to this shit flood foul'd lair?
Millions of children alone in the rain!
Millions of children weeping in pain!

Ring O ye tongues of the world for their woe
Ring out ye voices for Love we don't know
Ring out ye bells of electrical pain
Ring in the conscious of America brain

How many children are we who are lost
Whose are these daughters we see turn to ghost?
What are our souls that we have lost care?
Ring out ye musics and weep if you dare--

Cries in the mud by the thatch'd house sand drain
Sleeps in huge pipes in the wet shit-field rain
waits by the pump well, Woe to the world!
whose children still starve in their mother's arms curled.

Is this what I did to myself in the past?
What shall I do Sunil Poet I asked?
Move on and leave them without any coins?
What should I care for the love of my loins?

What should we care for our cities and cars?
What shall we buy with our Food Stamps on Mars?
How many millions sit down in New York
and sup this night's table on bone and roast pork?

How many millions of beer cans are tossed
in Oceans of Mother? How much does She cost?
Cigar gasoline and asphalt car dreams
Stinking the world and dimming star beams--

Finish the war in your breast with a sigh
Come taste the tears in your own Human eye
Pity us millions of phantoms you see
Starved in Samsara on planet TV

How many millions of children die more
before our Good Mothers perceive the Great Lord?
How many good fathers pay tax to rebuild
Armed forces that boast the children they've killed?

How many souls walk through Maya in pain
How many babes in illusory pain?
How many families hollow eyed lost?
How many grandmothers turning to ghost?

How many loves who never get bread?
How many Aunts with holes in their head?
How many sisters skulls on the ground?
How many grandfathers make no more sound?

How many fathers in woe
How many sons nowhere to go?
How many daughters nothing to eat?
How many uncles with swollen sick feet?

Millions of babies in pain
Millions of mothers in rain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of children nowhere to go

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Day in the Field

Yesterday I went into the field with my translator, Zia. Our driver had a television next to the steering wheel and kept glancing from the road to watch the Bollywood scene. We followed one of the field workers who was on his motorcycle. We carried with us maps of the houses and ponds. I had carefully selected which houses I wanted to use in my study and today we were going to the houses to make sure they

1) Had electricity

2) Had a child or more under three years

3) That child could walk or crawl

4) To see if there was a body of water near the house.

The 4th question was laughable. Between the wells, lakes, rice paddies, and ditches there is little room for land. The car and motorcycle parked and we followed the field worker off the road deep into the rice paddies. Rice paddies are divided by little slivers of dry land, often which are soft and give way into the muddy water. I looked like a Jackson Pollack painting.

After about a ten minute walk we would reach the household. Houses were arranged into clusters around a central area. The central area was where the cows were tied up, where the chickens roamed around and where the stray dogs would lie and try to ignore their parasites. You have to look down when you walk because there were massive piles of cow poop everywhere.

Babies were EVERYWHERE. I would ask Zia to ask the adult with them who the baby belong to and often the person didn’t know. Get these babies leashes or playpens or Oprah! Something!

I was followed around by an entire village. They like me because I am so goddamn friendly. I laugh and smile and repeat that I am from the US and I am 22 over and over. I try to look at the girls and forcibly give them courage and confidence with eye contact. I try to make my smile tell them that they are beautiful. It all sounds so storybook and trite but if you were there you would want to adopt every single one of them. They are starving. Their fathers are nearby and will roughly grab them (and only them not the boys) by the arm or hit them over the head if they are misbehaving. These girls are the only thing that matters in this world. This is the work I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

An old man standing near a hut had a goiter half the size of his head. An old woman with no teeth and all business came up to me (translated by Zia) and asked if I was married. After three hours we confirmed three clusters (with four houses each) for our study. We have a total of 18. And this is all before I even start the project.

This is going to take a while.

Asalam Walaikum,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Restaurants and Hair Brushes

The food here can get kind of old. Literally (the same food is recycled meal after meal) and metaphorically. Rice, lentils, cucumbers and chicken. Sometimes a blessed mango but even those will soon be out of season. I brought a stash of cheez itz and chewy bars. Every few days I sneak into my drawer, crinkle the wrapper open, and devour the deliciously familiar and artificial treat. I shared a chewy bar with Ian because he gave me Scotch.

The other night, in an act of rebellion, Bubul, Ian and I said “forget the cook’s food. Let’s go out to eat!” And we went to the only restaurant in Rangpur and Gaibandha. After our meal, we went shopping across the street. After about 15 minutes of shopping Ian noticed the waiter from the restaurant following us. “Did we leave too big of a tip? Is he now after us for more?” We tried to lose him but he was persistent. We got into an auto to go home and he came running after us. I cringed expecting the worst. And he pulls out…our leftovers. Not able to shout out at us in English he followed us doofuses around for 20 minutes as we tried to lose him. The only restaurant in Rangpur and Gaibandha. Great.

Remember that little girl who I gave the hair supplies to? Her father stopped me in the hall today and told me that she cannot stop brushing her hair. She keeps saying “Madame gave me these brushes as a gift. This is a gift from Madame for me.”

I could die.

The whole family together on an auto:

Monday, August 22, 2011

IRB Submitted!

My Institutional Review Board (IRB) Submission is in! This means, once they approve it, I can start my project! I am so excited. This is what I’m here for. I’ve protected these turtles across the seas to get them here safely and now I can finally see if they work.

Right now I’m editing forms needed for Jiva. All of these forms, have thousands of little boxes, numbers, letters ALL DONE ON MICROSOFT WORD. Tiny little boxes slightly off from tiny other little boxes slightly off from tiny other little letters tiny tiny numbers like jagged teeth on an ant.
Moved one up too much and now down too much…
The Mountain Goats (a band) are keeping me sane.

More importantly I saw this in the bathroom the today:

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I do not think there is anything more humbling to a situation than being on all fours throwing up into a toilet bowl. All night long. I was all “fuck Bangladesh and its stupid crows and stupid heat and stupidnesssssROLF and its stupid garbage and stupid rice and stupid mosquitoesssROLF.”

I made the long and bumpy and swervy and hot and 2 hour journey from Rangpur to Gaibandha because I had a scheduled meeting for my presentation of my project to Jiva. I was a fucking trooper. Got through my whole presentation *BAM BOOM* answered questions like a pro, and THEN ran to the bathroom.

Now I am nursing myself grape Gatorade and trying to keep down some rice.

In other news, I am looking for a puzzle. A 1,000 piece puzzle. I figure, I’ve already got the bad back, the weak stomach, the crosswords, the books, the tea, the cabinet of medicine, the knitting, I might as well round out my old age with a nice large puzzle. I’ll keep you posted on my search.

Asalam Walaikum,
Saturday, August 20, 2011

I have invented a game called Electric Tennis of Death.

Objective: To kill more mosquitoes than your partner or alternatively to kill enough to win against the Universe


1. You may swing the racquet like a bat, racquet, but never as a Frisbee

2. You are awarded a point per death, extra points if you can make yourself a mosquito belt with your kills

3. 10 extra points every time you touch the racquet and electrocute yourself

Strategy: Be really tall so you can reach up to the ceiling lights where they like to hang out

If you do not have the electric racquet you can try the same thing with a PVC pipe and some sticky paper.