Sunday, May 10, 2015

Riverside Adventures

This time of the year the weather can turn so suddenly.  Twice last month we set out for relaxing river outings with plans to walk along the sandy shore of the Padma (a branch of the Ganges), then hire a boatman to take us out for a sunset cruise.  The first was with the all the Morningstar teachers.  As we arrived at the river, gale-force winds began blowing, followed by violent thunderstorms and rain.  We took cover in a small snack shop where it seemed that the tin roof would blow off at any time. We waited out the storm in the pitch black as the electricity was off.  Needless to say, the boat-ride didn't happen.

The next outing was a week later when a friend visited from Dhaka. 
We were excited to show her Rajshahi's best attraction.  Again, the plan was to walk along the river and then take a boat while the sun set over the water.

 We ladies found a place to put out our mat and watch the kids play, the over-loaded boats go by, and 
enjoy the moment.

Before long, the wind began blowing sand into our faces and sent us scurrying to beat the rain.
Maybe, just maybe, we'll try again next week.
When the conditions are right, it really is a magical experience!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Village Wedding

Elias (on the right in the photo below) is the guard at our apartment building--a fun, gentle man from a village outside of our city.  We were invited to his oldest daughter's wedding this week.  Elias has three daughters.  In this country where the bride's family pays a dowry,  it can be a huge burden  and expense for the father of the bride.

We were greeted by family and neighbors of the bride at his simple but lovely bari.
As is the custom here, most of the men and boys ate first.  In this culture you barely talk while having a meal.  You just eat.  Most of the visiting is done before eating.

We women were ushered into one of the mud-walled houses to visit while waiting for our turn to eat.  My landlady, on the left, in her beautifully appliqu├ęd burka and scarf.

No matter what country,  little girls love dressing up for weddings!

Being an arranged marriage, the bride and groom hardly know each other at all.

After eating and picture taking,  we take our leave---wishing all the best for the young newlyweds!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Children at Play

The students of Morningstar Children's Center don't have fancy toys, but like all children,  they love to play.  Here are a few of the ways they enjoy passing time when not in school…

Painting each others' hands and nails.

Homemade wagon

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Sights

Come with me for a morning walk around my neighborhood and I'll show you what winter in Bangladesh looks like…

The mornings are quite foggy and some days the fog never quite goes away. It can get down into the 50s (F) so everyone tries their best to bundle up.
                           Even the goats get an extra layer.  Some look quite stylish!

 During the mornings and evenings, those who live in the roadside slum huddle around a small fire to stay warm.  Winters can be quite hard on the poor.

This fire is cooking 'kejur rosh' (date palm juice, tapped from the tree), to make into syrup or cakes of brown sugar called 'gur'.  In my opinion,  it's as good as the maple sugar we get in Maine.  

Women use this date palm sugar to make 'pitas'--a favorite winter breakfast.  Many set up a roadside business.
Venture to the outside of the city and you'll see these wonderful brightly colored mustard fields in full bloom.  They smell wonderful too!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Two Birds

Jan caught this shot one morning of our parakeet (His name is 'Birdie') communing with another bird from the wild who had flown up to the veranda
Bangladesh poetry often uses the 'caged bird' image. Most notably, the poet / philosopher named Lalon for whom the caged bird was an image of the soul imprisoned in the body. In his songs he would ask the questions of when the caged bird would be set free and where would he fly to.

 Rabindranath Tagore wrote a song- a dialogue between a caged bird and a bird of the wild. Written below is my translation. Birdie and his friend may indeed have been holding this discourse when the picture was taken. 
Caged bird lived in a cage of gold
Forest bird in forest nest
One day they met; Hear now their thoughts-
What sort of life each one held best.
Forest bird said, “Caged Bird Friend.
Let us in the forest meet.”
Caged bird said, “Enter friend
my cage of sole retreat
Forest bird said, “No,
I will not be chained earthbound.”
Caged bird said, “And what-
Shall I just fly around?”
Forest bird sat outside singing
All the songs he knew.
Caged bird sang his learn-ed songs-
Each in their tongue, the two.
Forest bird said, “Caged bird friend,
Sing tunes from forest pages!”
Caged bird said, “Forest Friend,
I’ll teach you songs of cages.”
Forest bird said, “No,
Learn learn-ed songs? I beg your pardon!”
Caged bird said, “And what!
Shall I sing wild songs from the garden?”
Forest bird said, “See how rich blue sky
Beckons without border?”
Caged bird said, “My four square cage
Has such symmetric order!”
Forest bird said, “Fly to the clouds
See yourself set free.”
Caged bird said, “Tie thyself down
To safe security.”
Forest bird said, “No!
How can you fly in there?”
Caged bird said, And what?
In the clouds, is there a chair?”
Fondness grew between the two
But they remained apart
Beaks through bars desired touch
Eyes, each other’s, sought.
Unable to be understood or
understand the other’s heart.
Feathers flapping, two lone and lone
Called out, “Come nigh!”
I cannot shut myself in jail,”
the forest bird did cry.
The caged bird said, “See, alas,
I have no strength to fly.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kids' Day Out

We decided it's about time for a fun day out for our Morningstar kids. After all, most schools were on summer vacation (known locally as the 'mango-eating holiday').  We decided to take just the older class (ages 8-12) on this first trip.    We would take them to the zoo.

They all arrived at the school ON TIME (funny how they managed to do that for once!) all dressed in their finest.  We packed all 16 of us into two 'auto-rickshaws'--a motorized 3-wheeled scooter with passenger seats and a roof.   They rarely get to ride in these so that was enough to get them smiling!
There's actually not much to see at our zoo....the Bengal tiger has died and the lone lion looks like he's on his way out as well....but that didn't stop these kids from having a great time.
They marveled at the owl...

Giggled on the swing (first time for most of them)...
Bonded with their teachers...
and with each other.

They marveled at mushrooms
and monkeys

(and 12-year old Bulbuli learned the hard way why we told them "DON'T put your finger in the cage!"). 

By the end they we were all hot, tired, and hungry...
but still smiling. Special day out indeed!  Can't wait to do it two weeks...with the 4-7 year olds.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


A six day trek to the top of the world or at least within sight of the top- one of the perks of living in Asia.
There were seven of us, ages ranging from 25 to 70 and the ‘over 60 crowd’ outnumbered the young whippersnappers. (Jan is still in the young whippersnapper group, being well under 60.)    

The first day was grueling: an 1150 meter ascent which was to take 3-4 hours. We had a late start as we had to get our trekking permits and take an hour long bus ride out of Katmandu. We traveled uphill from 11:30 to 7:00 arriving at our first village just before dusk. We learned that we would have to add 50-60% to the trek time found in the guidebook.

 The second day was only an 890 meters ascent in  altitude and 970 down. The trek was northbound towards the large mountains which we weren’t going to climb but the guidebook promised jaw dropping views of them on the third day. Unfortunately, the jaws did not drop because the clouds had. We only saw the hills we had been climbing.

 By the fourth day, we were actually getting used to the long uphill and sometimes downhill hikes. Our 70 year old Swedish grandmother, Karin, was our inspiration as she pressed on day after day. 
 Of course, none of us were a match for the Nepali people. These women with 50 pounds of wood piled in baskets suspended by harnesses on their foreheads, easily passed us up.  

The fifth day was a two part miracle. First, we arrived at our destination early even though we had added an extra leg to that day’s journey and arrived just before a huge downpour of cold rain. This was at the highest point in altitude where the temperatures were the coldest. First blessing: to get in before the rain. Second blessing: the rain of that afternoon cleared the skies so in the morning we woke up to the jaw dropping views that we had missed the day before. 

 The sixth day, the guidebook had us going down the mountain for the final leg. If you had asked us on the first day- that grueling uphill ascent- if we would like to add an extra day to the hike, I expect that we (at least the over 60 crowd) would have vetoed it with a resounding ‘NO!’ but by the final day, things had changed. The guidebook gave us an alternate route which pressed us on to another village before we descended to the valley on the final day.

 The most delightful part of that day was the lodge. Each lodge had a common room where the cooking and eating was done and this final lodge was no exception, except that the room on this last was simple elegance.  After our wonderful home cooked meal, a British lady and her daughter who were trekking the same route, taught us a new card game which was loads of fun.