Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Tree Grows In Dhaka

You may recall that back in September we bought some plants. In fact, we bought more than we had probably needed but we were happy with our purchases nonetheless. The multitude of plants brought a nice lively feel to our new apartment. Ever since day one we have had a hard time keeping the plants alive though. We aren’t exactly green thumbs. The first casualty was the plant whose name we never knew. Sam wrote a hard hitting expose (comment) about the plant's death on this blog last year. As the year progressed more plants perished despite (and possibly as a result of) our best efforts. In fact, Taborok always had suggestions on how to keep them alive and was always telling Jon he watered them too much. Jon took no heed however.

Christmas brought us a new opportunity to buy a plant so we got a small Christmas tree and decorated it. As the new year came and passed our plant population continued to decrease. Many of the plants that were kept outside got infested with Mealy bugs. These are disgusting little pests that form cottony balls to protect themselves from being cleaned off. The lime tree was hit especially hard by this pest. They destroyed the lime harvest (well that and the harsh chemical treatment Jon used on it). Jon fought a valiant battle against these pests. He saved the lime tree from near death by meticulously rubbing every square inch of the tree with rubbing alcohol (which is what some gardening websites recommended). Finally after several hours of pruning and cleaning with his bloodied hands (from the thorns) the mealy bug threat was defeated. Unfortunately, the victory was a bit hollow, as the chemical warfare had left the fruit of the lime tree inedible. In the end, the only plants that remained were the lime tree and Christmas tree and neither of them were in great shape. Jon slowly nursed them back to health.

After finally nurturing them back to (semi)health we had to make the emergency trip back to the US for Jon’s sister’s funeral. Of course we were too distraught to be thinking ‘who will take care of our plants while were in the US?' Previously when we traveled we would take them to the roof and the building guard would take care of them for us, but this time, we left in such a hurry we didn't make such accomodations. After returning from the US, Jon was sure that his plants would be dead. Miraculously, although they had gone weeks without water (or TLC) they were still alive! (No, Sam didn't do much for them even though she got back a week earlier than Jon. Only in a moment of weakness while missing Jon did she give them some water and put some coffee grounds in the lime tree pot. She wrote these plants off long ago..) Upon Jon's return they looked pretty pathetic, but after watering them for a few days and making sure they got plenty of sun they both started showing new growth. Now the two remaining plants are doing fine. Although they may not be as full and fruit bearing as they were before, they continue to show new signs of growth. These two plants have shown amazing resilience! They refuse to give up. Hopefully, we can one day eat a lime from the lime tree and we can literally enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Here are some photos of the glorious first day of our new plants and a picture of the lime tree today. It may not look like much, but the little guy’s got a lot of heart. Keep on fightin’ little lime tree!

Above are the limes that were on the lime tree when we bought it. These were mosty eaten by birds before we got to harvest them. The lime tree now:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Somewhat Simple Summer Days

Well, we have reached the end of an era. For the past year we have always had a full supply of Changi airport candies in our candy bowl (thanks to the enormous bag of candies the immigration guys gave Atticus while Sam was escorted though the airport by an armed policeman). It has been an ever-present reminder of our glorious and adventure-filled 18 hours in the Singapore airport. Today, we have only one left. How we will miss you Changi candy.

We’ve been filling the days of Summer vacation with keeping things fairly low key so far. Sam has finished up teaching her classes (a post on that experience will follow soon!) and we have been hosting a guest researcher here in our apartment for the last week. She is a fellow graduate student and doing some work on NGOs here in Dhaka. It is nice to have someone to share Dhaka with, and Atticus has really enjoyed learning about her home country Poland. Next week we are all going to make a vegetarian version of a traditional Polish meal together, which Atticus and Sam are especially excited for .

A nice thing about guests is that it gets you to re-visit the places you may have been forgetting. For example, since our guest had never had never eaten phushka (delicious Indian street snacks), we made a lunch trip over to get some from a little restaurant we hadn’t been to in a while. It is also across the street from Club Gelato, which is always fun! We ordered up a smorgasbord of delicious snacks and had fun remembering the delicious Dhaba phushka.

Of course, sometimes our guest leaves the house, and Atticus and Jon immediately lose their shirts and start with the rowdy fun. We had a Thursday afternoon dance party (afternoon dance parties are another long standing, but recently forgotten, tradition of Sam and Atticus actually)and Jon and Atticus worked on their air guitar moves. Jon also taught Atticus to skank, since Atticus has been into the ska lately.

Below is Sam’s favorite picture of the afternoon though, because A) Jon is concentrating so hard on his air guitar that he even has his tongue out and B) Atticus has crossed into angry punk rock mode in the background.

Other time fillers have included listening to Atticus sing off-key to the ipod while he wears headphones and staring wistfully out onto the horizon. At least this photo proves Jon does occasionally wear a shirt at home.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Getting Crafty!

(Alternative Title: Folkin' Awesome!)

Bangladesh has a very distinct style of folk art and we really enjoy it. As an artistic style, it overlaps with the style of painting on rickshaws, which we also like. A while ago we got some little cheap wooden stools to use as end tables and our plan was to paint them up folk-style.

The plan was really a rip-off of some furniture we saw at a shop geared toward foreigners. They were basic wooden tables decorated with rickshaw style art and they were charging an enormous price for them. We figured we could probably do just as well on the paint job and could manage it for about a tenth of what the fancy shop was charging. So that was the plan.

A few months ago, Jon went over to where you can buy cheap un-treated wood to get some end tables and a few other furniture items we needed. We never really got around to painting the stools though, so they have just been sitting around in raw form.

Just this past Friday we needed a few other table type things around the house. We think the realization that we’ve been here almost a year and that we’ve still got 6 months motivated us to finally get a few things we were putting off. We also have a visitor coming to stay with us, so we needed to get a few household matters together. Anyway, desperate for activities to fill the summer vacation hours, we took a family trip back over the raw-wood furniture area off a large road near Atticus’ school neighborhood .

It is a fun place to go actually, and everyone there always seems happy and generally surprised to help us. This isn’t high end stuff (it is the same place Taborok and his neighbors get furniture) but it is basic good wooden furniture and super cheap. (The stools were 150 taka each which is just a little over two US dollars!). We needed a table or desk for Atticus’ room and a little table next to our kitchen for that junk you always need a little table next to the kitchen for, and a couple more chairs.

It was especially fun this trip because in addition to excited helpful people, there were KITTENS! Little, adorable, only a few weeks old kittens just running around the furniture. Sam and Atticus immediately lost all focus on the furniture buying. Sam was delighted to get to pick one up (it was so tiny!) and everyone seemed to enjoy seeing our excitement over the kittens. The shopkeeper offered to give us one, but we couldn’t take it. It would be impractical and we are only here for a half a year more. (Not to mention that Sam has vowed to never own another cat.)
So we found our furniture and bought it. All in all, we got a desk, a table, and 2 chairs for about 16 US dollars. Not bad. We rode home on a rickshaw behind the rickshaw cart delivering our new bargains and discussed how we should really do our project of painting those stools.
So, we got home and decided to get our craft project going. Jon ran out and got our paint supplies. He got some spray paint to cover the wood for a base. Jon still has all his old skillz with a spray can and got them coated in no time.
Once the base was dry, it was time to get painting. We set up a makeshift studio in the corner and went to town. Atticus helped on some stripes here and there and Jon and Sam ended up each kind of designing their own table (we know, we know - we are all about collaboration, but the timing worked better this way). Anyway, Jon went for a more rickshaw art style, and based his flowery bench on the free-spirited painting style we see all around. He really captured a lot of the types of flowwers rickshaws are adorned with. Sam went for a more traditional Bangladeshi folk style and painted a pretty classically folk styled bird motif on hers. It was more like the art from Bengali revivalism, and which is found on the cultural programs and performance backgrounds here.

They turned out GREAT! We love them... so much that we took a bunch of pictures and are posting them for you to see. It was a fun little project and our benches did end up costing a fraction of the price and equally awesome. Hooray for DIY!

Here we are painting- we didn't want our clothes to get paint on them, which is the official response for why Jon and Atticus have so few clothes on in these pictures.

The finished products are below, with detail shots! Pretty great, huh?

Of course the crappy thing about DIY is the cleanup, but with enough turpentine fumes in the air, even that can be kind of fun.