Friday, August 15, 2008

August Already

I've been back in Dhaka for five weeks now, and I've been keeping busy learning about infectious diseases and nutrition. A few more weeks of classes here (aging & reproductive health), and then project work full-time. I've finally ironed out my objectives, so hopefully it will go smoothly once I start. I have to find a couple research assistants, though, to help with translating. I hear that the selection process can be a daunting task...

Since returning, we've moved into our new home in the city. BRAC has a residential building in Niketon, not far from one of Dhaka's hubs (Gulshan 1). It's been nice to be so close to restaurants serving things other than rice. The noise and air pollution have been a bit of a change from Savar, though, and when we first moved in our room (I'm sharing with Vanesse) had a serious mold problem--luckily that now seems to be under control. The weather here is already starting to cool down, and I think the bulk of the rain seemed to have happened while I was at home. I'm looking forward to the cooler seasons--though I've adjusted somewhat to the climate here, my body seems to prefer a more temperate lifestyle.

I had a nasty run-in with the flu a few weeks ago, and was stuck in bed for a couple days. Sadly that meant missing fieldwork for a group assignment. The following weeks, though, gave me the opportunity to travel to Nilphamari, in the north of Bangladesh, fairly close to the Indian border. It was about an 8 hour drive from Dhaka, and with 11 other people in a van, the trip was certainly an adventure. It was a truly beautiful area--quiet and clean, and the people were even less accustomed to seeing foreigners than they are around here. Our assignment had us looking at the operation of a recently piloted integrated nutrition program in the area--really interesting, and it afforded me a lot of time to attract a large crowd of children to be entertained with the camera.

I also realized that I have photos still to share from a trip to an arsenic affected area. Again, mostly of children, because they are typically the only ones willing to be photographed. But, Sonargaon photos, too.

I'm also very happy to report that my Fulbright extension has been granted, so I will officially be able to stay through the end of the year. While I'm sure part of me (the part that eats) would like to go home sooner, I'm thrilled that I'll have the opportunity to stay a bit longer. Another experience like this might be hard to come by, so I'm going to try to take full advantage of it during the next 4-and-a-half months.

That being said, I'm now trying to figure out exactly what I will do after these 4-and-a-half months are over--the real challenge. Suggestions are welcome!

I hope to post a little more regularly for the remainder of my time, but I certainly can't promise anything, considering my track-record. I guess we'll see what happens...

[My new and ridiculously slow internet connection doesn't want to load photos now... will add them in soon!]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vermont Again

Home once more, and for 10 more days. It's such a joy to be back for a while--I had been missing family, and seeing everyone has been wonderful. I spent my first full day at home alone. I'm pretty certain that hasn't happened since I left home six months ago, and it was a very welcome change. Yesterday I went to the grocery store to stock up on ten days worth of food. I managed to find just about everything I've been craving, mostly involving cheese or chocolate. I also went with family to see the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's summer concert (it's held outside on the polo fields and there are fireworks at the end to the 1812 Overture)--we've gone almost every year for the last decade. It was a very relaxing evening.

Today I'm nursing a bit of a head cold--the same thing happened after I first arrived in Bangladesh, so perhaps it's just the 24 hours of travel not agreeing with me. The travel, on the whole, was not bad. I was even upgraded to first class on my flight from Dhaka to Bahrain. I had certainly never been in first class before, but for one with legs as long as mine, the extra space was highly appreciated! And the food was pretty spectacular, too, surprisingly enough. The other two flights had me back in economy class, as usual, and my trusty iPod met its sudden and tragic end between Bahrain and London. It has been running steadily for four years, so I suppose it was about time. Still, I shall miss it!

The house seems very quiet and empty without Gib, but being here is helping me to adjust to the change. We have a nice big picture of him in the living room, too, so that's here to keep me company.

Cold medicine and residual jet lag are making me drowsy now--it may be time for a brief nap. Hopefully more updates as my time here unfolds!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Homeward Bound

The last two weeks have been quite the whirlwind for me here in Savar. A very big and unexpected blow came with the news of Gib's passing away. I'm very thankful for my friends here, who were endlessly supportive. However, being so far away from home and family turned out to be more difficult than anticipated, so I--after a lot of deliberation--decided to go back to Vermont during my upcoming vacation. I'll be heading out of Dhaka on June 28th, and returning on July 11th. I'm planning on a quiet few days at home to recharge. (I'll probably also end up using that time to eat as much cheese as humanly possible.)

School has been going well, despite recent ups and downs. The course in Health Economics and Financing was really very interesting. We had two excellent professors come to teach that unit; a few years ago both were at LSHTM, but now one is at Hopkins and the other is working for the WHO. Earlier this week we started our final course before the vacation--Environment, Health, & Climate Change. Off to a bit of a slow start so far, but on Thursday we have a field visit planned to see some arsenic mitigation programs in action, so I'm quite excited about that. Hopefully it will prove fruitful--more about that on the weekend.

Lastly, I'll end with a video clip that our economics instructor showed us. It's from a website called Gapminder, and it's a short (and fairly dynamic) discussion about the population growth in Bangladesh. I wanted to embed the video here, but my internet connection is being rather painfully slow, so for now I'll just refer you to the link for "GapCast 5". If you have a couple minutes, I encourage you to take a look...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Welcoming the Rains

Bangladesh is seeing the start of its rainy season--after a very hot and humid couple of months, the change in weather is welcome. The days are still quite warm, but it usually rains at least once in the afternoon, evening, or night, and it makes the air pleasantly warm and breezy (if not cool).

In other news, we began a new course in Health Economics today. Sounds a bit dry, but the instructor is a very enthusiastic British gentleman and I must admit, he's making the subject fabulously interesting. I'm afraid that's about all the commentary I can offer on the class thus far, but I'm sure you'll also be able to find my concluding remarks here.

I've also recently had a new creature move into my room--I seem to be sharing my space now with a small, gray mouse. Not too threatening in appearance, but when he found he could get into my food drawer he had a field day. He also tried to make a home in--and successfully destroyed--some of my clothes. Over the weekend I purchased several air/water/mouse-proof containers, and my things are all safe now. I've not seen any sign of him for a couple days, so I'm hoping he has vacated. We shall see.

I'm sitting here trying desperately to think of other things to report so that I can put off my reading a bit longer, but sadly I'm not coming up with much. Life is progressing steadily and smoothly (despite slight interruptions by rodents and the like), but not too eventfully these days. So I'm afraid I'll cut this short for the time being, and hopefully I'll have more to discuss soon.

Also, in response to a request for donut pictures: I bought another on the weekend with every intention of photographing it. However, I was too excited about it later that evening to remember my plans--not until I had eaten about 5/6, anyway, and that would have made for a fairly uninspiring image. Maybe next time...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Donuts in Dhaka!

I am exceedingly happy to report that donuts DO exist in Dhaka. And good ones, at that! I went to a bakery called Cooper's a few weeks ago and tried their version (it was more like a bagel with frosting), but today, I found the real deal.

I was in Banani to collect my mail at the American Center (after it had been sitting there for about three months... and thanks once more to everyone who sent things!!), and so I stopped by a nearby bakery, King's Confectionery, for a quick lunch before returning to Savar. They had all kinds of lunch-like pastries, and they were quite good, and I also used the opportunity to get a couple donuts for the road. Now back in my room, I thought I would give them a try, and they are fabulous. I think I will forsake all other food now, and eat exclusively donuts until the end of December.

In other news, Health Systems Management has proved to be a highly interesting course, and our professor is wonderful. I think he may actually know everything. We have our final exam on Thursday morning, so he very generously gave us the day off to study. Now that I've had my donuts (and eaten them too), I think I'd better use what's left of the day more wisely... But this was too exciting of a happening not to be properly documented.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Frog

Today marks the official end of the 7 week Epidemiology-Biostats module. We spent three hours this evening taking a whopper of a final exam for stats, and now everyone is unwinding to the best of their abilities until our new module begins tomorrow morning. Health Systems Management is next, and I'm quite excited because this subject will be completely new for me.

Not really any other news. They've kept us extremely busy--so much so that I was feeling very guilty about neglecting both the camera and the blog. Tonight afforded me an opportunity, though, when Vanesse and I happened upon this frog (named Rashid, as you can see). He modeled for me for a while, and in the end I had a few pictures that I thought merited their own post.