Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween (The Sequel)

Today was the Halloween party at Atticus' school. In the afternoon they had a little event for the parents to attend that included a few songs and an outdoor carnival. In fact, this year was much more well put together than last year – but that isn’t really saying a lot. There did seem to be some organization and actual planning this round though- which is a improvement from many other French school events. There were, of course though, still plenty of just weird things. Jon ad Sam are always happy for these potluck type events though, because one of the French parents (we assume) always makes the most ridiculously delicious crepes. There are definitely some nice perks of attending a school full of Europeans!

So, when we arrived all the parents were brought into a dark lobby lit by jack-o-lanterns and the kids were all in costume waiting and making spooky noises. A few kids recited some poems and then they all sang a song. It was a wonderfully short program. Can you spot Atticus in the pictures below?

He’s hardly visible because his costume is so fantastic. So here’s a quiz for you.
 Is Atticus dressed as:
     A) A Zapatista
     B) A member of a Black Bloc
     C) A ninja

The answer is a C, but honestly, this outfit has potential in many other situations. We also like how completely and totally DIY our costume was. It is just black sweats and t-shit (hey, if ninjas lived in the tropics they would’ve worn short sleeves too!), an old piece of black fabric (off the b-day pirate flag actually!) for a belt, and the bottoms of Sam’s black sweatpants that she cut into shorts – Atticus has saved these for months with this express purpose in mind. Jon sewed them up into a mask and it worked great! Total investment: 200 taka (less than 3 dollars) and he has a black t-shirt he can wear again and sweats we’ll probably have to argue about wearing publicly repeatedly.(Sweatsuits are not for public people- they are for home on a cold evening or bedtime – the only guy who needs to be wearing sweats in public is Rocky Balboa, and honestly, his time passed a while ago too.)

So anyway, he was a damned cute little ninja/anarchist and we didn’t break the bank on a costume.

After the song show we all went out back to the school yard and there were various activities. There was “The Nasty Chaudron” which actually, guys, was a little too nasty. We don’t think we’d even want the candy out of that. 

There was also a game where kids ate donuts off of a string. Brilliant! Expect this at any event we ever host!

There was also “Scary Fishing.” What was scary? We have no idea. Atticus loved it though.

Then there were the many piñatas. They had apparently made them a little too thick (and the sticks a little too thin) so each kid took turns whacking it for ten whacks, and it was really mostly an exercise in futility since they were way to hard to crack. Eventually they figured out how to get them to break though and honestly the hitting of the piñata is the most fun, so the kids were happy to cheer each other on as they whacked away. We don’t know why they looked like planets. One of the many mysteries that always come with EFID events.

We call this picture "Another World is Possible." It really is an inspiring picture.

There was also some dancing, delicious treats, and general fun times. It was nice watching Atticus in his element – he’s become really comfortable there and seems to really flutter to and from different social circles easily. We don't know what to say about this picture though.


So, as we were leaving, we are told to sit and watch the show. What show? Oh, you know, the weird random all-in-french show that the middle school girls are performing in the exit pathway. Nobody really knew it was happening, people were walking though it on the way out – it was the complete mess in terms of organization that we’ve come to expect from the French school. Here’s a picture of the play in progress, and the surrounding confusion.

But all in all, it was a fun time. Here are few more pictures from the day.  What the hell is up with that witch though??!

Happy Halloween everybody!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Feed Me Seymour!

Food prices are really high in Dhaka. It has become a problem (actually it has been a problem for a long time, but it has been particularly bad lately) even for us. The rate of inflation here is pretty dramatic and we have watched food prices (and other prices) steadily increase over the last year and a half. It is easy to notice with goods that you buy regularly- a dozen eggs a year ago cost 65 taka; today it costs 95 taka. That’s a pretty huge increase – almost 50% in one year. Wages certainly have not increased that much.

In fact, we were doing the math and figured we probably spend as much on food here in Dhaka as we did in Boston, which is pretty unbelievable. We don’t really buy a lot of imported or fancy pre-made stuff and eat fairly cheap in general, but food has just gotten absurdly priced here. 1 kilo of the cheapest rice is 25-28 taka, which doesn’t seem like much, but consider that the new minimum wage instituted by the government (which hasn’t even been enforced yet and which most people make far below) is 3000 taka month – that is 100 taka a day. So, ¼ of a day’s salary for a kilo of rice- that’s really expensive. It also isn’t a meal- you have to add even more taka for oil, veggies, lentils, fish, meat, or whatever to make a complete meal. It is hard to survive in this city for a lot of families right now, and just seems like it is getting harder.

We’re obviously nowhere near the dire straights that so much of the population here is in, but as we’re winding down to the end of our own living stipend as well, the food prices are hitting us too. For the next and last month and a half of our stay, we’re trying to really keep our budget together and be careful about grocery spending. We’ve been reminded that the more fresh vegetables we eat, the cheaper we eat (what a switch from the US where produce is so expensive!) and the more local we eat, the cheaper we eat. These are great added benefits of eating cheap, and we don’t mind one bit. (On the down side, there is however a much increased food preparation time with preparing fresh ingredients, and any skimping on that means someone will probably get diarrhea for the night or even a few days so we have to be vigilant. It really isn’t that hard to stay motivated on that though…).

Anyhow, for point of illustration, we thought we’d share a comparative of what 380 taka (about 5-6 US dollars, depending on the exchange rate) can get you. Here is illustration A:

On one hand, you have a fairly hefty collection of long beans, bean sprouts, cauliflower, capsicum (green pepper), some limes and some potatoes. Lots of options as well – you could maybe even get a couple meals out of this if you add a few eggs one day and rice another. So for about 400 taka you could maybe get one or two meals. It is also all mostly locally produced- so you’ve given farmers work and contributed to the local economy.

Or, for the same amount of money, you could buy this, illustration B:

Yep, 2 liters of skim milk. 190 taka each. (Although, we love that this is Harvey Milk!) You’d have to add quite a bit to get a meal out of this. It is also shipped over from Australia, so you’ve polluted the environment and done very little for the local economy.

So, truth be told, there is some local milk available. It is weird though, and full cream, which means Sam will be lying on the floor in a fetal position for two hours after eating it (OK, maybe not so dramatic, but still, lactose and Sam aren’t friends). Also, to really drive home the cost of imports, consider that for the same 400 taka, you couldn’t even get ONE bag of Tostitos tortilla chips. Those cost almost 500 taka a bag (um, yes, that is over $7 US!).

The point is that food is expensive, but buying locally and freshly are some great benefits of cheapness. As prices continue to rise though, we see the options for the vast majority of the city getting smaller and smaller. There is a real food problem here, and in a land of such abundance agriculturally, that is inexcusable. If the government won’t voluntarily step up and do something about the populations access to food, then the people will demand it – and rightfully so.

Anyway, we have to go wash some vegetables…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Sam and Atticus recently stumbled upon a new time eater on the internet.  It is a little movie making site and it is easy, fun, and bizarre enough to keep us entertained for ridiculous amounts of time. Following the debut of Sam and Atticus’ first amazing creation (oh, of course you can see it by clicking  HERE ), we have been brainstorming for all sorts of new dialogues and scenarios for our little friends to depict and it has gotten us thinking about dialogue in general.

Sometimes we look back and have to just stop and laugh at the conversations we have had here. As we have worked through (and continue to work through) different levels of linguistic ability, we end up having conversations that are less content driven than ones we would have in our mother tongue. We thought we’d share a recent example. This occurred all in bangla, but we think the real flavor of it comes out in translation. We’ve tried to keep it a close translation to capture some of the clumsiness.

The scene: Jon is sitting on the rickshaw and Taborok is sitting on the bike seat as they sit in a ridiculous traffic jam. A rooster crows.

Jon: What is the word for that bird?
Taborok: A rooster
Jon: OK. Rooster. Roosters have red things on their heads.
Taborok: Yes. They do have red things on their heads.
Jon: Roosters are men birds.
Taborok: Yes. They are men birds.
Jon: Roosters crow. “Cock a doodle doo,” they say.
Taborok: Yes. They crow in the morning.
Jon: Chickens do not crow.
Taborok: No.
Jon: I think I have seen this bird before. What is the name of this type of bird again?
Taborok: Rooster.
Jon: Right. Rooster. I have seen this rooster before.
Taborok: Yes. He stays here.
Jon: Yes. That is his house. Do your parents have roosters?
Taborok: Oh yes. They have lots of birds.

At that point Sam was walking by and the conversation ended.

In english, the conversation is a bit, um….pathetic. But for Jon it was a great bangla excerise – lots of different constructions, new vocabulary, etc. So it was less about content, and more about language. Of course, later we were talking about it, and realized that for Taborok, it was in his mother tongue. So it was about as exciting as it was for you to read it in English. Poor Taborok. Actually, we think he loves being our unofficial bangla teacher and now that we’ve considered the level of inane conversation he has to suffer through daily, we appreciate him even more.

Anyhow, the dialogue was pretty good we thought. Maybe we’ll make this one into a movie….

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ok Ok We Need to Post SOMETHING!

It isn't that we have't been doing anything - actually we've been fairly busy lately. It isn't that we haven't taken any pictures either - Sam took over 150 pictures just the other day. It isn't even that we haven't been making our usual witty commentaries and having laughably awkward cultural interactions. We do that almost constantly.

The fact is we've been so riddled with indecision over which blog post to do next that we just keep putting it off. And putting it off. And putting it off.

So, in hopes of getting our gears moving forward, here's a quick couple of shots Sam took from the archives of Bangla Academy that turned out kind of interesting. (Well, to her at least).

But most of the 150 pictures are just like this one below- old newspapers. The guy on the bed in the comic represents the Muslim League. It really is quite historically interesting, but we'll spare you.

So, hopefully this will hold you over until the tides of indecision recede!