Sunday, October 30, 2011


Today I fell off my motorcycle. I am fine.

I was following a member of my team and she turned quickly to the left off the main road. I was just about to follow and I saw another motorcycle creep up on my left, a rickshaw head straightt toward me and a bus to my right. I panicked, turned too hard, and fell off my motorcycle.

I tried to fall as far from my bike as possible and luckily the bike did not fall on me. Nor did anyone run over me or crash into me. I have scraped and road burn on my feet and they are a bit swollen. My knee is scraped up and also a bit swollen.

But I am fine. I was wearing a helmet and driving slowly and I am fine.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The beautiful beautiful package my mom sent me!! Tea, Chips, Dip, Slim Jims, Wheat Thins, Chocolate Biscotti, 4 magazines, jelly beans, two bags of starbucks coffee, skittles, ginger cookies, propel and altoids!!!!!!! I almost cried when I opened it.

The package my Aunt Lenore sent me! Granola bars, cliff bars, pasta, gnocci, boxes of licorice, graham crackers, pesto, tomato sauce, nutella and macaroni and cheese!!!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You'll Want to Join My Team When the Frogs Start Coming Down

If you can’t beat them, join them. Or some saying that more appropriately fits my situation.

I’m spinning my position. My project hasn’t started but that doesn’t mean I have to sit around pulling my hair out waiting for it. I like my curls. I’ve decided to fill my time by continuing my goal to become a completely sustainable person come the apocalypse. I have:

Started to learn CSS and am making a new jiva website.

Wrote a song on the guitar and am writing the lyrics now.

Learning how to stitch pretty patterns in clothing

Teaching myself Spanish

For the song on the guitar I am going to make pile (see picture) to attach to my ankle for percussion. After work I went to the market to search. After crossing over some railway tracks I

saw a man crouched behind his blanket display of razors, mirrors, watches and little bells used to attach to cows necks! I picked up the little bells and started shaking them next to my ear. I tried combinations of bells again picking them up to my ear. It was getting dark and a crowd was forming around me. Men would reach over and pick up the bells I put down, bringing them up to their ear to shake, and then setting them down with a bewildered “I don’t get it” face.

The shop owner did get that I wanted what we had to sell and drove a hard price. We bargained a bit and he wrapped up my bells in plastic. Now dark, I ran over the train tracks, grabbed a rickshaw and head home to sew my bells onto a piece of fabric.

At dinner I got a fish bone stuck in my throat. It was scary and hurt a lot. The Bengalis at the table gave me rice to swallow whole to force the bone down.

Asalam Walaikum,


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Waiting in Bangladesh

It has been three months since I arrived in Bangladesh and the IRB still hasn’t approved my project. I’m trying to be strong. I realize that this is the reality of research. I realize that my situation is comfortable and I’m learning a lot regardless. But it’s hard.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chinese Embassy

I went to the Chinese embassy in Dhaka to get my visa to go to Beijing in January to be in Muzi’s wedding. The embassy doors were closed and a long line of Bengali people wait in the heat and flies until a guard called on a single person at a time to enter. It was very emerald city. An hour later I got in and the surly Chinese person looked at my documents and said “the website has the wrong application. Fill out this application.” And shoved my papers back at me. Then another hour later of waiting and I made it to the front of the line. This time another chinese man told me that my visa would only be good for 3 months. Not 3 months in the country, but 3 months starting today, when I would get my visa. Meaning it would expire before I go to China. So I have to go back.

As I left the embassy I saw a tall handsome guy with a New Zealand accent. He had long hair tied back into a bun, large headphones propped around his neck, and a Big Lebowski t-shirt. “Nice shirt,” I said, coyly flipping my orna over my shoulder.

“Thanks, but it’s not helping me get this visa,” he said.

Tee hee. Teee hee. TEEE HEEE. TEEE HEEEEEE. I think I batted my eyes so hard eyelashes fell off.

I’m so desperate for flirting in this Muslim country that I find myself winking at my stuffed turtle.

The girls and I have gotten into a delicious routine together. Breakfast together, coffee inhaling, leave for the office at 8:50. Work until 6:30, go home. We gather in Muzi’s room and do P90X. The world’s best workout video. Then dinner together, talking with tea and back upstairs to watch something mind numbing like sex and the city. I think I’m falling in love.

Asalam Walaikum,


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dhaka Part II

The next few days in Dhaka passed deliriously with plates of good food, naps and shopping.

At one point, I was in the back seat of a car. My driver rushed around to open the door for me. I walked into the hotel with shopping bags lining my arms and a doorman took them for me to my room. I shooed him away with a limp hand, lit up, and called Bethany at the club for an afternoon spritzer. Or something like that.

The shopping was amazing. I felt like a villager visiting the big city for supplies. Which I guess is true…We went to 2 grocery stores. I stocked up on soups, pasta, pickles, tuna, Gatorade packets, olive oil and even some Parmesan cheese! Oh and boxes and boxes of herbal tea. (If you’ve ever been to my house and have seen my tea collection you’ll feel me.)

I went to two shops that sold handmade Bengali crafts. Beautiful pieces, pillows, and hand stitched tapestries with scenes from the village for such little money. Where I’ll be shopping for me friends/family presents for sure. For now, I purchased a few items to make me happy. A pillow, candle, face cream, pretty skirt, and of course, a stuffed turtle.

I was an addict at the movie store. The movies are all perfect quality and less than $1 each. I loaded up. Bought the entire PLANET EARTH CDS for only $3!!!! And a ton of wild life National Geo shows. PLUS tons of movies and I’m starting Psych (the tv show) upon recommendation.

Then I found it. My haven heaven. North End Roasters in the Industrial part of Dhaka. Their sign points down at you from 4 stories up. You climb some dirty little stairs with dirty little men smoking dirty little cigarettes. And then. AND THEN. You are in a coffee shop straight out of the Park Slope.

Blonde mothers gather on a couch with their children bouncing on their lap. They’re in a “play group.” A man tests his trillion dollar espresso machine and teaches the Bengali staff to take the temperature before serving the cappuccinos. The couple, from America, decided to open the café after missing coffee in Dhaka. The woman is a pastry chef and the husband is a barista from America. I ate a cinnamon bun that treated me better than a man. I bought an Ethiopian washed bag of coffee and a bag of decaf and lounged in working for three hours.

(above, eating a cinnamon bun in North End Roasters)

I ate sushi.

I had a fried pomfret with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. The simplicity of cooking I craved. Not weighed down with spices that would have me pooping for the next hour. Just simple food. It tasted like nothing with a side of air. I think my tongue has turned Bengali.

I said goodbye to Dr. L. When he left 2 months ago I felt my throat clench. “Take me with you! Don’t leave in this country where no one knows my name or why I’ve came!” This time I was all “ok bye, nice trip, don’t get too cold and wet in Baltimore.”

I think I’m settling in.

Asalam Walaikum,


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Long and Winding Road

I never update enough when Dr. L visits. Too many things happen in too short of a time. Guy is a whirlwind of ridiculous serendipity. Not sure if he creates it or we’re all more aware of it when he’s around.

A group of us planned to go to Dhaka for some meetings and good times. It takes 10 hours by car to get there so we decided to take a plane. Dr. L had meeting until the last possible minute. The plane left at 5pm, the airport was 45 minutes away and we left at 4:30. Not allowing for enough time to get to the airport let alone go through security.

Bishu, our driver, got in the driver’s seat and stepped on the ignition. He didn’t lift it once. We sped through towns and highways weaving in between semis and rickshaws. Nehlee and I held on to each other for dear life, sheltering our eyes from the road ahead in each other’s curls. We got there and ran in to see the airplane on the tar mat ready to go. Dr. L put on his serious business jacket and ran out to stop the plane. It couldn’t be stopped no matter how important the jacket. We watched as the propellers turned and it flew away.

Ok no problem, let’s take the car. So we pile into the car, in the dark, making our way to Dhaka. At around 9pm, the car’s battery starts beeping. “No problem,” Dr. L said. But it was a problem. Slowly the car inched forward and the girls in the back inched toward the edge of patience. Dr. L surprised us all by pulling into a palace disguised as a hotel. 5 star suite hidden in Bogra. We’ll stay here for the night while the car is fixed.

We walk into the hotel with palatial ceilings and staff members oozing with bows and willingness to answer whims. We went into the restaurant and ordered ($12 a can) Heinekens. Oh my bloody goodness. Heineken!! AHHH. Never has a crappy beer tasted so good. We also ordered chicken masala, plates of naan, fried fish, shrimp oh my gosh everything. And retired plumpy and happy to our handsome rooms for the night.

In the morning the car was fixed and we continued our bumpy journey. We stopped for lunch at Bella Italia. A restaurant run by a Bangladeshi who studied in Rome, on the side of a road, in the middle of nowhere. Pinocchio and Michelangelo dominated the walls and it smelled like, I swear, a Brooklyn pizza parlor. We ordered two pies: an eggplant vegetable pie and an anchovy pie. I had two napkins: one to wipe my mouth and one to wipe my tears.

We finally got to the hotel, did a few hours of work, and head out to a Szechuan restaurant to have hot pot. Hot pot, is a ying yang of good and evil. White soup on the one side and a boilng red soup on the other. We cooked greens, fish,

mutton, mushrooms, and dumplings in the boiling pot. My face was red from the steam and spice.

Happiness, for me, comes on a plate.

Asalam Walaikum,


Friday, October 14, 2011


Dr L is visiting and 3 more women are coming to join Muzi and I in Bangladesh! It’s like a public health sorority party estrogen bath happy good times. We eat, and talk, and work out together, and eat and talk and all work passionately all day. The three of them are extremely beautiful and smart.

Today Megan and I went into the field to witness a mother verbal autopsy interview. It was so interesting. The woman had extremely high blood pressure, renal failure and was swollen with water for about a month. Finally she went to the doctor who referred her immediately to a hospital in Rangpur. She took a bus the hour and a half drive and died the next day in the hospital of heart failure.

I’m glad we’re here doing what we’re doing but it is so daunting. And all I keep thinking is, maternal mortality is rare. 46 children die EVERY day in this country from drowning. 46. I really hope these little turtles work.

Poor baby couldn't stop crying during one of it's checkups:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


We lost a staff member today. She spent 10 years of service with Jiva working to provide better maternal and infant care. She died at a hospital during childbirth from loss of blood during a c-section. There are no government Ob-Gyns in Gaibandha. The irony is devastating.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


At the end of today’s meeting, Dr. S stood up and asked the only woman senior officer, Kum, to wrap up the meeting because “the meeting had not heard from a woman.”

I stood up and clapped.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cabin Fever

I’m getting eaten by mosquitoes and the ants don’t want to play. My kindle is broken, my friends have nothing to say. I’m sick of TV I’m sick of computer games. Every day around here is exactly the same. My eyes will bleed if I read another paper, doing more work is no safer. My lungs hurt from harmonica, my arm hurts from crosswords. Staying in Gaibandha is for the birds.

My patience is climbing and I’m sick of rhyming.

Please give me an idea of what to do because I do not have a clue.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Turtle Training Session

Today I held a training session. I made and printed out packets, made a schedule neatly organized into time segments and had all of my notes. Last night I couldn’t sleep. I’m not a teacher. How am I going to stand in front of these men and women, who are all over 30, and have them listen to this big haired 22 year old just out of grad school? That’s bad enough, now add the huge communication barrier. Is all they’re going to hear “waa waa waa waa turtle”?

I woke up in the morning dizzy from lack of sleep. Laid out all the packets, cleared off the white boards for fresh notes, tied my curls back into a serious bun, and waited for my team. I arranged for us to have tea and biscuits at 11am, lunch at 1pm and more tea and biscuits brought to us at 3pm. I brought my miniature French press with me to the meeting. I made everyone some precious American coffee as gesture of peace and bribery. They all sipped the bitter delicious drink and I’m sure all their lips puckered at the difference from their sweet and milky cha tea.

But let me tell you. Once I started, I started. It began by me slowly pacing and asking questions to the audience. Then it accelerated. Soon I was a cup of coffee short from jumping on the table having them ripping out pages from their textbook and having them call me Captain. I was on fire. At one point I was on the floor acting out what it would be like for a little child to drown in a bucket.

A little kid came in and we demonstrated what the turtle is like on him. He liked it so much he kept trying to steal it back when we took it off!

And the best part was they were really learning! They were answering all of my questions correctly! So rewarding. At one point, I swear to you, I almost started crying. I was so happy that I was good at this and this was really happening. Fuck yes I can do this! I AM doing this!

At the end of the meeting at around 3pm, I held a session wrap up and quizzed everyone from the meeting on topics we went over. They got almost everything right.

As soon as the Bangladesh IRB has approved this project, we got this.

Asalam Walaikum,


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Durga Puja

Tonight was Durga Puja. The hindu celebration of the 10 armed goddess Durga. Our cleaner’s name is Lovely and she invited Muzi and I to celebrate the festival at her house. I think Lovely is my favorite person in Bangladesh. She is always smiling and hugging us telling us that we are her sisters. An amazing woman. Her house was simple with tin walls and a bamboo roof. It was colorful and warm. All of the women in the nearby households were related to Lovely and we all piled onto the bed to braid one another’s hair and talk our women talk (it needs no translation.) Lovely set out a table and chairs for us and a beautiful meal of fish, chicken, rice, cucumbers and vegetables. We ate and ate and then stretched out on the bed and watched the younger girls practice dancing like the Bollywood stars on TV. They were a rambunctious lot and it made me miss my sister and her friends.

At night we walked to the nearby temple which was adorned in Christmas lights and puja offerings of flowers. It seemed like the entire town was there and they all gathered around us clapping their hands for us to dance. A hot drum beat started and a large circle formed around us. I could only demurely refuse their clapping twice before I jumped into the circle
letting my hips sway and hands feather about. I didn’t care about the men watching or the women cheering or the heat or being so far away from my friends and family. The drum beat was fresh and my feet were stomping. My hair came out of its bun and I let go.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A day in photos

Woke up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy. Went downstairs for breakfast of some super fly peanut butter on toast. Then Muzi decided she was going to cook today! So we asked Jahangir (the cook) to bring us to the market so she could pick out her needed items.

Muzi found a fish in the fish market larger than her head! Please examine for proof.

The fish market smelled awful. The floor was slick with blood and scales making a thick mud. Men squatted with their fish selection and butchered the fish right there for you. The fish was fresh, fresh, fresh.

A man bent over scaling a fish with a blunt, rusty hatchet. I found scales in my hair when I took a shower later.

The chicken section. Men sat on cages of clucking packed chicken. You pointed to your clucker in the cage and a man reached his hand into the hole and brought out your chicken to be weighed. You can see our lunch on the scale. I nearly fainted in here. The smell was overwhelming and we were surrounded by men ripping off chicken skin feathers and all. The thought of lying in the blood and feathers kept me standing.

Meat section! We only bought chicken so we didn't linger. It was delightfully horrific to walk through there and see de-skinned goat and cow faces staring at you upside down.

Muzi making a delicious delicious meal of heavenly mushrooms (she brought them dried from china) with our fresh chicken, chili, ginger, soy sauce, and mushroom broth. And another dish with more mushrooms (from China), sauteed cucumber, garlic and egg.

After our long week we really really wanted a beer. So we cracked open a $3 bottle of dusty 0% alcohol beer and enjoyed the sunset.

Asalam Walaikum,