Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Eid Mubarak!

Last Tuesday, I woke up to the sound of pounding from below.  The steady beat went on, and I hid under my covers trying to go back to sleep.  The day before, the residential streets of Dhaka were filled with a variety of animals, cows, goats...even camels.  People were buying these animals from markets...not as pets, but to sacrifice for Eid.  This particular Eid signifies Ibrahim sacrificing his son Ismael to Allah.  For those Christian readers, this is the story of when Abraham sacrifices Issac to God.  Anyway, the morning of Eid, people all over the Muslim world kill the animal that they have bought.  One third of the meat goes to family, another third to relatives, and the other third to the poor. 

There are specific rules as to how to divide the meat as well as what can and cannot be eaten.  As you can probably imagine, the city becomes pretty bloody after this mass sacrifice.  Being a vegetarian, I tried my best to hide from all of the bloodshed, but it was much harder than I thought it would be.  The water that ran down the streets were bright red with blood, and the animals that crowded the road were no longer.  By the afternoon, there were carts of cow skins on their way to leather factories and street children with bags in their hand looking for people to give them meat.  The image reminded me of American children with their Halloween bags, asking for candy.  But oh, what a different story.  

Most offices were closed for three days, right in the middle of the week.  But that didn't even seem to matter, because most Bangladeshis took the whole week off, if not more, to go back to their home villages to visit family.  The streets, for once, were not congested, and we could move from one part of the city to another in less than 30 minutes...something that is definitely not possible during other times of the year.  

Many people took pride in how much their animal cost...I heard that some animals even had their price hung from t
heir neck.  Although Ibrahim sacrificed his own son to show his love for Allah, modern day Muslims just go and buy an animal the day before, an animal that they have no attachment to, and have fun killing it on the day of Eid.  My opinion, but it seemed to be a wide-spread feeling.  Many of these cows are imported from India, crossing illegal borders from a country where killing cows is seen as sinful.  

But everyone seems to enjoy it, even though most of the meaning has been lost.  I guess that happens with many holidays...like Christmas and Easter.  I did enjoy the lack of traffic, however.  

Here are some pictures (those who can not stand the sight of blood...you might want to pass):

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm here I'm here

Ok, I am SO sorry for not blogging earlier.  I know I said every Sunday, but I've been so busy!!  But people have been wondering if I am still alive, and yes, I am.  I am here.  

So, there has been lots of things that have happened since my last post.  There are so many that I will just write a little bit for each thing that I want to write about.  And on Sunday I will post pictures of my life here in Dhaka.

In the apartment, I kept on hearing things coming from the air conditioner mounted in the wall.  I was sure that there were just insects that have been procreating inside of it and the unit just hadn't been cleaned in a long time.  I didn't really care that much because I knew they couldn't really get around, but it was still kind of weird.  So, I got it checked out, and a guy came and cleaned it out one day while I was out of the house.  That night, as I was falling asleep to an episode of The Office (my nightly ritual), I thought I saw something flying around in the room.  But I figured it was just a shadow of a bird outside, so I didn't really worry so much about it.  But then the thing kept on flying around, and I realized that it was actually inside the room...and when I did, I ran outside into the hallway and into Kristin's room.  The two of us were too scared to investigate the situation, so I ended up sleeping with her for the rest of the night.  The next day, I didn't see anything in the room...so I figured the thing was gone or that I made it up in my head.  However, that night as I was about to brush my teeth, I saw a small mass on the floor of the bathroom that didn't seem like an insect, but perhaps that of a tiny bat.  I ended up sleeping with Kristin again, too scared to be sleeping in the same room as a bat-like creature.  The next morning, our maid had a good look at it, captured it, and let it fly outside.  She used some word to describe it...but I didn't understand it.  After talking to my parents and to some people here, I figured out that it was indeed a small bat creature.  Except that here, no one really fears bats.  Weird, I think.  So apparently, a bat family was living inside my air conditioning, and when they came to clean it out, they all flew out except for one.  So now Kristin and I are getting out post-exposure rabies vaccinations, just in case.  2 down, 3 more to go.  Funnnnn.

I had my first Thanksgiving away from home this year.  The Saturday before the actual day, we had a makeshift Thanksgiving which turned out to be pretty good.  No turkey here though, only chicken.  And it didn't even matter, since I am not eating meat anymore.  But all of the food I could eat was pretty good.  You can check out pictures on facebook if you able to.  On the real Thanksgiving, I woke up to the news of the hostage situation in India.  I knew that there were awful people in this world, but I don't even know how to describe these actions.  I feel like not enough people were talking about it; I feel like it will be forgotten soon.  Which it shouldn't.  I hated the fact that it was still going on for so long and nothing really could be done about it.  That as I was going through my day, there were people stuck inside those hotels not knowing if they were going to make it out alive.  I think being kept hostage is one of my biggest nightmares, and as I sat later on in the week at the lobby of the Westin hotel to eat gelato, I found myself looking for exits closest to me...just in case.  I feel so bad for all of those people affected by those events, and am still not able to comprehend how human beings are capable of such evil.  I just don't get it.  Anyway, we were invited to go eat at the house of the American Center's director, Amy, which was absolutely lovely.  I ate so much and did not pace myself very well.  I also felt really sick that day, which made it worse.  I came home to rest, and later, went over to Reaz's for a mini Office marathon and dinner.  

Since last time, both Marci and Hans have left to go back to the States.  It's weird not to have them around anymore, and I think about the others that will come and go during my stay here.  I feel like the kid in camp who has to stay for the whole summer while others come for maybe two weeks and then return home.  I organized a early birthday party for Hans at El Toro, which is probably the only Mexican restaurant in Dhaka.  It wasn't too bad.  We had goodbye nights for both of them; watching our little group of friends quickly dwindle was not pleasant.  But we will see who comes in the weeks and months ahead of us.  

I have finally moved into my last and final apartment (I hope).  It is a great apartment right down the street from Reaz, and I really like it the best out of all the places I have lived since I moved to Bangladesh.  It's so weird that I of all people, a person who has been living in the same house since birth, who has absolutely no idea of moving really, would move four separate times in less than four months.  It's kind of crazy, really.  But whatever...I am happy where I am and couldn't ask for a better place.  Maybe I'll take pictures of it to share.  

I've also gone on some adventures as well.  Last weekend, Lea Ann, Kristin, and I made it to the Liberation War Museum.  It was pretty informative, but also pretty rough to think about how it wasn't very far removed from us.  I mean, I remember going to the Holocaust Museum on our 8th grade field trip...which of course was very scarring, but it still seemed  a little removed and distant.  But with this museum, it was crazy because I have been hearing stories my entire life about this period of time...and to think that they were a part of it all...it's just weird.  That distance was no longer there.  Anyway, another day Reaz and I decided to go down to Dhanmondi just to be as he says, "with the people".  What ended up happening was several hours of us walking around being lost.  But that's what adventures are all about, right?  We met up with the rest of the gang who decided to go there as well and ate at Mango Cafe and later shop at Aarong, BRAC's famous fair-trade store.  

So I have been to the engagement party, wedding, and reception of a couple that I had never met before.  The groom is my uncle's wife's cousin; I had met his sister once before.  I brought Kristin along for the engagement party, and everyone loved her!  It was pretty hilarious watching the photographers and video camera crew following her around as if she were the main event.  And all of the little kids wanted to dance with her.  It was a pretty fun night.  The wedding, which was held at 2:00 in the morning on a work night, was very interesting, as I followed the groom with the rest of the wedding party, while he was being led around on a horse.  I made it until about 1:30, when my uncle then decided to take me home because it was getting too late.  Which it was.  So i didn't get to see the actual ceremony, but oh well.  I did get to follow around a horse for about 2 miles in the middle of the night.  

On December 1st, Sara and I led a quick presentation/discussion at the American Center for World AIDS Day.  It was fine, but it made me sad because this was the first year in a long time that I didn't prepare something huge for the event.  As most of my college friends know,  I used to spend Thanksgiving break making thousands of red ribbons and passed them out to students throughout the week that I marked as World AIDS Week as school, along with condoms and educational pamphlets.  I set up panels and worked with other organizations to plan events for the week.  And this year, the year that I am supposed to be studying this epidemic in depth, all I did was have a little presentation.  At least I did something, right?  

Well there is some good news.  I have started working at ICDDR,B.  I have my own desk; it's great!  It does mean that I wake up at 6:30 in the morning and don't come back until 6:30 in the evening...but I don't care.  I like it a lot.  On Thursday though, I couldn't find a CNG that would go to Gulshan, so I ended up walking back with my heavy backpack.  I was so tired, but I stopped into the small supermarket close to us to buy some chocolate, Pringles, and a Coke.  Mmm, confort food.  I then came home, ate, and fell asleep by 7:00.  And didn't wake up until 8:00 the next morning.  It was the best sleep ever.  

So I guess that's it for now, really.  I am sorry again for being so MIA earlier.  I will put pictures up as soon as possible.