Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Notes from Bangladesh: typhoon holiday

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

We got off-season rates at Cox’s Bazar on the Bay of Bengal. It was a wonderful time to be there. Every day we had stretches of sun parenthesized by downpours and impressive winds.

Boats in the Bay of Bengal

Sunken bridge

In the bay

Food ranged from the sublime to the grotesque. The grotesque included the high-carb ‘free’ breakfast at our hotel—flatbreads, Chinese noodles, curried vegetables, dals with beef or mutton, chicken curries, oatmeal, sweet rice puddings, omelettes, boiled eggs, croissants—where families and honeymooners fueled up for the day’s activities.

The sublime included the best grilled fish I’ve ever tasted at a hole-in-the-jungle eco-restaurant that we got to by hiring an electric baby-taxi to drive us up the coast past army teams repairing washed-out roads. The most exotic, and by far the least expensive, was a dining hall where families, labourers, businessmen, and ladies with their friends filled benches at tables on either side of a corridor that allowed waiters to whiz up and down delivering delicious fish curries, bhotas, vegetables, rice, pickles, and much else and where the three of us could eat splendidly and take home doggie bags for an equally splendid evening meal for just over $5.00.

The best grilled fish I’ve ever tasted

On a hotel-arranged tour of beauty spots, little boys with prehensile feet carried Isha up a gully to see a waterfall and across a channel over a decorative bridge.

Carrying Isha up a gully

Next week after a Vancouver visit, I’ll be heading back to drought-ravaged Ottawa, where Danjuma tells me he has plenty of peppers ready to garnish Italian sausage.

Notes from Bangladesh: Elephant shakedown

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Patrick is in Bangladesh, taking the philosophical view.

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Picture from the Internet, not taken by Patrick.

Picture from the Internet, not taken by Patrick.

 
Yesterday I was waiting in a long, slow-moving queue for a government service. The queue was an everyday affair, so small tea stands and coconut carts had set up parallel to the shuffling crowd. After I had been there an hour or so an elephant came along with a mahout and passenger astride. The elephant stopped at a stand, ate some of the discarded coconuts shells, rose on his hind legs, waved his trunk around, and shouted. It was clear there was mayhem on his mind. Every merchant understood the drill. Very quickly and with obvious trepidation, each approached proprietor held out a ten taka note (about ten cents), which the elephant took with his trunk and passed up to the mahout. The apparent alternative was to have the stand’s product consumed, dispersed, or destroyed.

The whole operation was enormously entertaining for the people in the queue, was carried out efficiently, and took very little time. A model for the rest of us.
 
Kuda habis (take care),
P

Notes from Bangladesh: Change of season and culinary implications

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

My father is back in Dhaka, the cricket pitches are wet, the goats amuse and the food is good.

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Dear Family and Friends,
 
It rained this morning in Lalmatia. The sky was dark and it was going to rain when the marketers (Beli and Lippy) set out for the bazaar in a rickshaw. Everyone was laughing. We are now at the beginning of Asharh, the first month of the two month “monsoon season.” Isha and I were watching cricket from the rooftop when the first large droplets began to fall and the boys scattered. Rain was shooting in through open windows when we got back to our flat.
 
Within an hour, the big boys were carrying pallets of sand onto the field to fill the puddles. The smaller boys were swimming in larger puddles beyond the cricket-playing areas; or they were building canals, dams, and drainage systems to the ditches around the park. The windows in our flat were open again. Isha and I were following a goat around on the cricket pitch, watching it eat the seed-tops off the grass. The marketers were buying vegetables and fish that hadn’t looked so fresh for months. There is nothing subtle or gradual about this change of seasons, and it feels good to everyone.
 
Fish

The pictures speak for themselves. Some shrimp was curried for lunch and two of the fish were fried. Most of the fish will be prepared and frozen for use over the next week or two. The second tiniest fish will be individually cleaned with the heads reserved for a bhota (a paste for kneading into your rice), one of the three or four or five dishes served up at every meal.
 
Water lily stems

The water lily is at the top of a rolled up two or three metre stalk, which is the part we eat. There are at least three types of, including sweet potato leaves, greens in the big white bag; several varieties of cucumbers for cooking or eating fresh; tendrils that hang down from lattices supporting gourds, cooked as a vegetable; and an impressive pile of what is sold in Canada as ‘bitter melon.’ There is a bag of achi (roasted and coarsely ground red rice) and a bag of attah (the wheat flour used for making roti, fresh flat bread, for breakfast). And there are guavas, three varieties of mangoes, and a large clutch of lychees. There was going to be a jack fruit, but the load was too heavy for an additional fruit about half the size of Isha. That will have to come tomorrow.
 
Seasonal best wishes!
P

Moving Day: from Ottawa and Jamalpur to Dhaka

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A letter from my father in Bangladesh; possibly the first of many as he settles into a new, bi-continental lifestyle.

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Dear All,

I arrived in Dhaka on August 22nd. Beli and thirteen month old Isha arrived at my guest house two days later. Most of the following week was getting to know Isha and vice versa, and looking for a flat. Both endeavours were successful. Isha is a total delight and seems to think I’m okay. We celebrated Eid ul-Fitr together on the 31st with Beli cooking in the guest house kitchen, then B&I returned to Jamulpur (eight hours by bus) to prepare for the shift to Dhaka. Beli has just called to say they are returning tomorrow. The household goods have already arrived. (See below.) If it sounds like we are in the process of forming a family unit, that’s what it feels like, too.

The flat is brand new, 1450 square feet, 7th floor, tile floors throughout, three bathrooms and a servant’s bathroom and will be serviced by an elevator as soon as the electricity is fully installed. For now, it is like a mini Grouse Grind (Vancouver torture climb, for those not in the know), eight or ten times a day.

At 11:30 Sunday night, Beli’s brother-in-law, Abul Khair, phoned from the border of Lalmatia. Would I take a rickshaw to where he was waiting with the truck and lead them to my flat?

I found Abul Khair, the truck, and driver and we bumped our way back to the flat. Labourers arrived shortly after — contracted through tough negotiations earlier in the evening. The labourers carried the contents of the truck up seven flights of stairs, mostly on their heads. Chairs, tables, beds, china, pots and pans, fridge, and a huge steel box containing curtains, table mats, and a great deal of stuff yet to be uncovered — the contents of the house I had left nearly three years ago. When the truck was empty, Khair and I found a couple of mattresses and slept.

The next day was like opening a summer camp left mostly unattended for two or three years. After depositing the goods in her village eight hours north of Dhaka, Beli traveled her own small odyssey through a marriage, the birth of a baby, and divorce. The goods didn’t follow her through most of this but they did weather three monsoons. Everything in the steel box is pristine. A mahogany table, a glass-topped rattan table that I use as a desk, a bed, two comfortable rattan chairs, and six dining table chairs are very much fit for service. China doesn’t deteriorate and cook-ware has been in use since Beli returned to Jamalpur ten months ago.

Yesterday, the electrician from the guest house installed fans and lights, repaired the surge-protector for the fridge, then helped me buy and install a new ‘chula’ (two-burner cooker) and gas canister. Khair, who had had a hand in the packing and knew where most things were, did most of the unpacking — taking a break every once in a while to make the flat clean and tidy. This morning while I went out to buy take-out breakfast, Khair sorted out the curtains, which we put up after breakfast.

My office projects from the front of the flat, with four large windows on three sides allowing a nearly constant breeze and light and the reflection of cumulus clouds on my glass-topped desk. This afternoon a technician will install wireless throughout the house. Tomorrow I will probably go out and buy a printer; then CEP, South Asia branch, will be fully operational.

I will be returning to Ottawa towards the end of September, and then back to Dhaka for a month or so in January. Note that I now have room for guests (not luxury) in both cities and time to spend with them.

PICTURES: Each picture showcases a different dress. Each sewed by Alison. There are seven in all, and they all went to Jamalpur for the baby parade.

Love,
Pat

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It’s been a while…

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I seem to have stopped blogging, don’t I. Lots of it is because I’m on Twitter now, and once I’ve gotten a thought out in 140 characters, it no longer feels worth the effort to develop it in a proper post.

Biggest news since my last post: my mother died. She was 66. It was unexpected. She was less than 20 years older than me and I expected her to be active into her nineties, as her mother still is. I didn’t blog about that because her death affected so many people so intensely that I would have been blogging other people’s stories, not just mine. It didn’t feel right.

This is the picture I have on my work computer as wallpaper:
Vivian and Alison

You can still buy tea towels.

My goodness this has been an exciting week!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

First my friend tweets that he thinks he may be dying,* then I hear that someone else has skin cancer,** then… Mark wins round trip tickets for two to Paris. And he invites me to go with him!
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* He’s now in the ICU but appears to be making a full and speedy recovery.
** Which is expected to be fully and speedily recovered from, but still.