Monthly Archives: November 2010


Thankfully, I am procrastinating on the blog, rather than on that larger project that looms over my head every day, the boiling lava-pit of doom that is the dissertation.

However, I don’t want you to think we’ve all died, so… if you want to see photos of the boat trip we took on Friday to recover from Thanksgiving, check out the Monestel Family’s post.

And, if you’d like to see some photos from the day before, in which we hosted Thanksgiving for 11 people, our friend at Becoming Bangladesh was kind enough to post them.

We’ve eaten more pie in the last few days than I have in the rest of 2010, including a remarkable raspberry pie and a heavenly blueberry pie. My own contributions to pie-dom were cherry with a crumble top and traditional pumpkin. I’m thinking that pie might have to become a more regular part of my life.

Our HHE (boat shipment) is scheduled to arrive in enough time before Christmas that we’ll be able to put up a tree and host a party, but we did not have any wrapping paper to send gifts home in. If you get a box, don’t open it until Christmas!

The theme of the FS Roundup this week is “I’ve never eaten that before” and will be hosted at I’m not sure I’ll come up with any good Bangladesh food stories, but I’ll try and dig up some memories of other interesting food times, if I can think of them.

…Cowtown, or, Eid al-Adha

We live in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Dhaka, and our neighbors tend to ‘do it right’ when it comes to holidays and celebrations. And, doing it right in relation to the Eid of Sacrifice means buying the biggest most pristine bull available and sacrificing it in the street to the accompaniment of a small band in front of all your relatives smiling faces.

Yesterday I took a tour of a small part of our neighborhood and here are a few of the cows that will be dead by tonight. There also a few goats, and if you were in another area, you might get a sheep or camel.

Eid al-Adha comes at the end of the month of pilgrimage and is both a commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice and a day of almsgiving, with 1/3 of the animal being given to the poor, 1/3 to the immediate family and 1/3 to relatives, neighbors and friends.

We’re not sharing in any of the feastings this weekend, however, nor did we buy our own goat. However, a neighbor a couple of streets away who also lives in an apartment bought a goat for themselves. Rather than let it eat the plants along the side of the road during the day, they put it up on their 3rd floor balcony, where it bleated piteously between eating their houseplants as I walked by.

…Marine Balls

with the governor of Oregon

I promised you photos of the Marine Ball and here we are, all dressed up. I apologize for the picture quality, but these are compressed images. Mr. A is wearing the tux we had done earlier this year and which he was smart enough to pack in the air freight. I, however, had to have something made here, which is pretty common in the Foreign Service, but I didn’t have much time to do it in. The typical method is to bring in a picture to have the tailor/dressmaker copy, but I didn’t have any fashion magazines or a printer for my computer. Plus all the dresses I found seemed too fussy and complicated to copy easily. I drew my dress freehand (complete with darts, zippers, and stitch-marks, thanks to my sewing experience and a year of living with a fashion design student). The fabric I found at Sopora Silk. I was worried we’d all end up with the same fabrics because everyone shops at that store for fabric, but most people opted for a solid fabric with embroidery or other embellishment custom-made at the tailor’s.

The tailor, Shaheen, is also the guy everyone goes to, and he did a reasonably good job, particularly given the short turn-around time.

The cake, always cut first with a sword and presented to the guest of honor, the eldest and the youngest Marines before dinner.

The middle-stage of the dress, when I was getting fitted, was very amusingly sized, but it was all fixed for the final product. There was only a single odd seam that bugged me. Shaheen is also a character himself, a bit like Seinfeld’s soupnazi, and is expensive for Dhaka. But, he’s really convenient, and generally successful at achieving your vision for a dress.

The ball itself was a cross between a wedding and a prom, i.e. a ceremony followed by food and dancing. The DJ played lots of hits from the 1970s and on, but I missed hearing some of the classic dance music of the Big Band and Swing eras,

The art shot. (my spiffy evening purse)

and there weren’t many slow songs either. I know I’m a bit of an outlier in preferring those dances though. The food was lovely, and they even had real sushi!The Marine Ball is a tradition at every post, slightly different from the Marine Balls at the big Marine Bases, but with elements that are universal across all the festivities.  We can expect many years of these balls in the future.


For some other experiences of Marine Balls in the Foreign Service:

The real purpose of the Marine Ball

Marine Ball 2010

U.S. Marine Corps Ball Manila 2010

November Again



There’s a “hartal” scheduled for tomorrow, and that means staying in the local neighborhood. Staying here might be a problem if I’d ever been out of the diplomatic area, but since I am limited to where my feet can take me, I think it won’t restrict my movement too much! The traffic alone would keep me within the dip area even if we did have a car.

What’s a hartal? It’s a general strike, usually called by one political party to protest the actions of the other. There was also one earlier in the Fall to protest the low wages paid to garment workers (at the time, about $25 per month, now raised to $43 with the implementation of the new minimum wage on Oct 31). There have been other hartals in Dhaka to protest the government’s attempt to claim eminent domain, to protest election results, and the like.

The hartal was one of the techniques used during the independence movement in India, however it’s roots as a peaceful resistance have evolved into a slightly more violent activity in some areas, with strikers engaging in window smashing and demonstrative bonfires.

In downtown Oakland, California last week, a similar demonstration against a judicial decision resulted in several injuries and many arrests. I am assuming the same kind of thing happens in the local hartals, but I won’t be heading to the ‘hotspots’ of Dhaka’s political scene to find out. Apparently one of the big places for such demonstrations is the area around the campus of Dhaka University. That’s one reason I didn’t look there for a job! Don’t expect any photos from me, but I’ll let you know if life under hartal is different from the day-to-day.


There seem to be two perspectives on Dhaka. (1) That it’s a dull place at best, and frustrating at worst. Or, (2), that it’s a great place for families with close knit community. Most people I talk to share both perspectives when they talk to me about their time here. I’ve already experienced both ends of the spectrum of opinion myself, so I understand why this duality exists. (For the benefit of my friends in EaST, “Yes, Dhaka is Janus-faced.”)

However, when speaking to newbies or future posters, regardless of your current opinion on Dhaka, or how you despair about the dearth of Western movie theaters and ice skating rinks, you always mention one thing… The tennis lessons at the American Club. They’re cheap! They’re sporty! It’s the best tennis court in Bangladesh!

One of the marker-instructors tossing balls during a lesson

And it’s the last one that really is the clincher. Because, as the nicest court in

Bangladesh, it’s got a lot of draw for the local aspiring international tennis players who are otherwise not eligible for membership in the American Club. So… how do they get court time? By working as “markers,” instructors, coaches and ballboys.

They changed the balls today, so they’re all fresh and new.

So, I’m now taking private tennis lessons, at the club. (Doesn’t that sound terribly posh?) Twice a week, even.

I’m not very good yet, though that depends somewhat on whether I am practicing form or power during my lesson. I also look like a moron because I haven’t had any lessons in stance yet, just in swinging and following-through.

However, at the astounding rate of $3 including court-time, instructor, ball-boy and all the tennis balls you could ever need, I think I’ll start looking better soon. Some of the instructors are better than others, at teaching, but they’re all great at tennis.

Tennis not your thing? The American club also has a workout room, basketball court, squash court, dance floor, and pool (of course!).

Some of the Americans are also quite good at tennis, so on the weekends, during the prime times, it can be fun to sit up over the courts and watch the lessons or games. They even set up a little area on the side of the action where you can have drinks delivered to you in a shaded chair while you watch. It’s just like Wimbledon, but hotter. Much much much hotter.


I find myself looking back through these posts, and realizing that I haven’t said much about the local culture, architecture or amenities. Mainly that is because I do not have any good pictures of such things to share with you, however,

I will attempt to go out and start collecting some, so you can see a little more about this strange double life of dusty, muddy streets, widespread poverty, and the shock on everyone’s face to see me walking around on one hand and the normalcy created within the American community as an island of home-life on the other.


While we were unpacking our first shipment last week, my housekeeper and I had fun guessing what some of the things might be before we unwrapped them. The laundry basket was pretty easy, but the skis and small “trinkets” were not. It’s like Christmas or a birthday, you’ve probably done it too.

At one point, we picked up two brown paper wrapped items that looked pretty similar to each other, though one was slightly heavier. As we unrolled the huge amount of paper surrounding them, I uncovered a small rug, and she uncovered a giant penguin, and began laughing… “it’s… it’s…. it’s…. a…” At that moment I would have learned one of the possibly least useful words in Bangla, but I didn’t catch it. (It sounded like the word Kamala. But, Komola is orange, so I am not sure. When Mr. A and I tried to look it up in the online translation dictionaries later, they had no ideas, as if penguin is not a real word.)

It was a great moment, and somewhat giddy, as we giggled about the huge plastic penguin bedecked in mardi gras beads amidst the piles of paper and packaging.

…Craft fairs and Raffles

Yesterday I had planned to meet up with a fellow blogger (Becoming Bangladesh) and show her the delights of the American Club, since she’s not a member, but like many in the last week, she’s recovering from something and couldn’t make it. We rescheduled, but it left me with a great big empty afternoon of possibility.

We decided to head to the Dhaka American Women’s Club’s annual Christmas charity bazaar. It was much bigger than we’d anticipated it being, with food vendors, a real Santa, a bounce house, raffles and other craziness. We were lucky enough, in fact, to be the winners of a Nando’s gift certificate (a favorite restaurant, though we’ve not been to a Dhaka branch yet).

We capped off the afternoon with dinner at Sura, a Korean restaurant that lived up to its reputation as one of the best restaurants in Dhaka. Yum. Spicy! Tons of food! Fast service! Ambiance! We had dinner with our future neighbors, who’d we’d known back in language training in DC. They’re currently in temporary digs until their apartment is finished, but soon we’ll have some neighbors to share the Wii fun with.

Earlier this week, we’ve had a whirlwind of social events, poker night, a “tea” at the DCM’s, an ice cream date, skype-dates… its been nice to be so busy, the first few weeks here were rather quiet.

Nothing too fascinating in this update, but expect the photos from the upcoming Ball next weekend! We’re also planning some interior painting and a little mini-break out of Dhaka.

…Google Reader Bundles

It took a few days, but I have discovered a solution to the lost blogregator, Google Reader Bundles. I now have a feed of the 322 Foreign Service blogs that I could find. (admittedly, I borrowed a few feed streams from others to get to 322, I didn’t scout them all out on my own!) I can read them via the Google Reader application, which sorts the feeds by date or title, and makes them all searchable for when you’re trying to find something you read several weeks back.

If you’re interested in having the same 322 feeds in one fell swoop, I can email my bundle to you, drop me a comment or an email via my profile.

…the Blogregator

So, I woke up this morning and found that the foreign service blogregator had been taken down over night and would be down for at least a month, possibly more, because the main admin is busy volunteering at the site of the Haitian earthquake and doesn’t have the time or resources to maintain it.

How am I going to get my daily fix of FS blog news? Am I going to have to create an RSS stream of my own to keep up? There are so many blogs out there I don’t know the names of!