The reason for my contentment is that this past Friday Son and my Mom arrived in Dhaka. It is truly pathetic how badly I missed Son for the past month while he was living it up at grandma's in Bulgaria. I honestly felt like a part of me, say, my lungs, was missing all this time. You see, I was one of them "modern" moms who importantly swore left and right that I'd send Son to a really nice boarding school overseas when the time comes because that is a great educational opportunity. Um, not so much my opinion right now. As far as I am currently concerned, Son might as well get home-schooled till he is about 30. Then we'll see, I might allow him to date. Having my Mom here has also been awesome--life feels truly complete somehow with my family around and my quite vast apartment is actually filled with people in every room.
So, what's new in Dhaka? Well:
1. The Diplomat discovered a SECOND disturbingly large cockroach in our bedroom and between killing it and going to find something to dispose it in, Fat Cat hungrily ate its remains. Up to the last whisker. What the hell?? This is the prissiest cat on the planet who would only eat ONE kind of soft canned food in the United States. What's next after the geckos and the roaches?? Another cat??
2. We spent last Saturday visiting various interesting cultural sites in Dhaka, along with a bunch of other colleagues from the American Embassy. We started the day staring at the Parliament building for some time. I admit, it is a breathtaking architectural achievement. Too sad we could not go inside.
Then we visited the Red Fort, some parts of Dhaka University and finally the Pink Palace. All beautiful and wondrous architecturally. The Pink Palace was our last stop and we got there by parking our tour bus next to a splendid and remarkably smelly trash container and walking a few minutes through the famed Indus street--an impossibly narrow street housing vendors of meat, flower garlands, bangles, drums, religious artifacts, coffee shops, fried fish, fried dough, fried lentils, quite a lot of other fried things actually, wonderfully fragrant biryani (a rice dish) dished out with the cook's bare hands, dates covered with flies and yet so enticing, fabrics and more fabrics and anything else that comes to mind. To top it all, rickshaws of various sizes and loads, men with impossible loads on their heads and a rather puzzling marching band consisting of several older men with drums, trumpets and clarinets were passing through the splendid mayhem of the street. So, try to imagine in the midst of all the noise, heat, humidity, flies and merchandise hanging from everywhere our large group of curious white folks taking pictures of everything and everybody, led by our brave tour guide who was wielding a picturesque umbrella at the front and you'll get the picture of our walk. We loved it.
3. Currently, Bangladeshi life is under the spell of Ramadan. At end of each day, at sundown (the exact time of which is announced daily), the Muslim faithful break their daily fast with a meal called Iftar. I was lucky enough to go to a great little restaurant in the Banani area of Dhaka called "Sajna" and partake in Iftar there (it is not common to go to a restaurant to enjoy the meal). It was fantastic and had every imaginable food group involved, including several types of meat and sweets. During Ramadan, the call for prayer from the mosques around the city has been particularly strong and poignant. There is a mosque a block away from where we live and I love listening to the prayer call's lulling voice every evening.
4. My Bangla has been improving steadily. I love shocking the store owners and street peddlers who lower down their crazy foreigner prices by at least 50 cents on the spot when I tell them sternly that I do not believe this item is worth that much. And then they don't budge.
5. My tennis game is getting along quite nicely. Or so I thought. The American Club which we frequent to play the sport has a few dedicated, hard-working and a tad bored men who work as coaches to the sports inept people like me or markers for good players like the Diplomat. Last week, after a particularly gruelling session of 30 min, just as I was feeling quite awesome about my backhand and was taking a well-deserved water break, one of the younger markers who was passing by told me that I was doing great (at which point I gloated) and then asked me if it was my first time. I might have cried a little bit on the inside.
Life is humming along nicely here in Dhaka. All except for the fact that my HHE has been hopelessly delayed and my "welcome kit" is truly inadequate. Thankfully, work is terrific as usual and I love going to it every day because no day is like any other. In my next post, I intend to elucidate all those new hopeful souls in the Foreign Service exactly what "welcome kit" is and just how inadequate it can be. As well as what realistic UAB and HHE timing is.