Tuesday, December 14, 2010

White Love

White Group (from left to right) back row: Nusrat, Nazma, Rabia, Me, Ngoc, Anh, Aaliya, Yagel, Sumitra, Jesmin
front row: Israt, Jannatul, Pahima, Meher, Vinh

Time is flying! but when isn't it? It's the end of another 7 week course and subsequently the end of the semester. This time around I'm ready for a break and ready for the change that awaits us all next semester. Speaking of which...next semester we will all be teaching semester long courses instead of 7-week classes. I've spent the past few days not only grading and planning for our winter break vacation but also beginning to plan a semester-long course. I will still teach business leadership but will expand on the existing topics and emphasize self-leadership development.

In the spirit of Who Moved My Cheese here are the Writings on the Wall (with no editing) that the presentation groups created to inspire themselves and their classmates to practice leadership in regards to each specific topic from our course.

Ethics: “The more you’ll be ethical, the more you’ll take the world up.”
Psychodynamic: “Respect yourself and others to build a bridge of a good relationship.”
Transformational: “Transformational leadership is like a mountain, climb on it. If you succeed in climbing you can become a good leader.”
Culture: “If you don’t know anything about me you can’t make friendship with me.”
Women: “Never prefer to be the follower because of being a woman, other than make this fact as your straightness to be the leader for others.”
Our students really do say and write the cutest/funniest things all the time and it's hard to remember to write them down...I didn't do too great of a job recording cute sayings from the white group but here are two:

- "In first class I failed, second year I studied two classes and I became third position and then first position. Oh God! A big change!!" -- Rabia

- "I want my teacher to keep smiling because it rises the value of your face." -- Meher (in her first writing assignment where they had to tell me about themselves and their expectations of the teacher)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never Never Land

'Tis the season for Christmas markets, gluhwein, schneeballen, and shopping....in Europe! After two Christmases in Europe, I will be spending this one in Asia. Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of Christmas for me, cue the Christmas movies, cookies, and music but this year it's been a little harder to get into the spirit without the reminders...there are definitely no Christmas lights or gluhwein stands around Chittagong and certainly no snow! With the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes it feels more appropriate to think about having a picnic, with lots of OFF, on the Sea Beach in Chittagong. Despite all the reminiscing about my time spent in Germany I am looking forward to spending this holiday season traveling through Nepal and India. Even though Christmas night will be spent on an overnight train in India I have no doubt that it will be a memorable one. Anyway, after spending the past two years in Germany, Christmas Eve has become more important to me than the 25th....oh how I will miss Stille Nacht in the Partenkirchen Kirche this year :/

This reminscent post came after seeing many of my friends from Germany tagged in a note by a fellower GAPer. When I first arrived at ELR in January 2008 I heard quite a bit about this goodbye letter but nobody seemed to have a copy of it. Now she, Bethany, has posted her letter on facebook. Below is most of her Goodbye letter. I feel that it resounds with me even now that I'm in Bangladesh.

From Bethany, November 2007, taped to the back of every bathroom stall and above every urinal in the Abrams:

I have learned so much about myself and this place just in these last weeks, all things I wish I had grasped early on. I am passing my reflections on in hopes they will help you make the most of everyday here.

Look around, you are not the only one that has to leave their room to cook, do laundry, go to the bathroom, make a phone call or go online. You’re not the only one that has to wake up early, walk in the weather and put on an ugly uniform along with a fake smile. You are not the first overqualified person to scrape food into a slop bucket. This is a tiny price to pay for a humungous experience!

Never sell yourself or this experience short out of boredom or loneliness. You will not die if you are not the life of the party or the center of attention. You will not stop breathing if you don’t have someone to hold hands with in the hallway. The coolest person you could ever get to know out here is yourself.

Spend your time and money on the things that matter. Why get hammered every night in Garmisch when you can sip champagne in the south of France? Travel, travel, travel then travel some more!

We are not animals, better example; we are not 16 year old boys. For crying out loud go take a cold shower (alone). Go for a hike, read a book. Remember I got lucky; I ended up with “an amazing blessing I don’t even deserve” and not a terminal virus.

Develop an independent routine that forces you out of the Abrams. Frequent a coffee shop no one else goes to. Take a good book as a lunch date. Get an entertaining Deutsch lesson at the local theatre. There will be parties even your best friends forget to mention. It is better to know how to happily survive solitude then to have loneliness take you by surprise. You may otherwise end up eating the entire contents of your fridge, guzzling a 3 euro 2 liter bottle of wine and wake up on the kinderpath next to a pile of slugs with sheep poop in your hair…I’m just sayin.

Go outside everyday and take in a slow-mo 360 view of the Bavarian Alps. Trust me the goose bumps will never get old!

I hope you find the happy balance. I hope you never have to grow up and can stay in our Never Neverland forever…seriously though you are not really Peter Pan. Gravity does exist even at the Abrams and you cannot actually fly. Please stop sitting on second story windowsills it makes me nervous!

Bethany's letter reminds me to enjoy the day-to-day moments of anywhere I may be and that happiness isn't a destination but a daily ingredient of life. My time in Bangladesh is already passing too quickly and I know that these nine months will be just as integral as my time spent in Germany to my sense of identity on my quest to find direction in life.

Below are pictures of our AUW family Thanksgiving meal and 2 pictures from the past.

 Thanksgiving Dinner on the rooftop of Panclaish - How many times do you celebrate Thanksgiving on a rooftop?

 Our Thanksgiving buffet spread

Remembering the alps - the view from my bedroom window in the Abrams for 2 years!

Tallin, Estonia: One of the MANY Christmas Markets in Europe where I spent time enjoying caroling, gluhwein, cold weather, and Christmas trinkets

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photography Field Trip

November 26 and 27, 2010, Twenty-three students ventured the streets of Chittagong for our first photography field trip to the War Cemetery. There are 755 soldiers buried in the War Cemetery from the Indo-Burmese war front of World War II. The cemetery was very beautiful and provided lots of photo opportunities for the students. Below are a few photos I took during the field trips.

 Pahima, one of my current students and a member of the photography club, smelling a fragrant-less flower...but it still makes a cute picture :)

 One of our new friends hanging from a tree limb

 1st group of shutterbugs on the 26th

 A few of the students - they were so excited to finally learn how to take photos! Unfortunately none of them have cameras and the University didn't quite have enough so that each student could have her own camera for the day.

 In the shadows

On the 27th we came back to the University to find the basketball club practicing, so the photography girls tried their hand at basketball

Masooma snapping a photo

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


November 17, 2010: This was the day of the second Eid, Eid-al-Adha, the "Festival of Sacrifice." Our friend, Mamun, invited us to his village again to enjoy the festivities. Below are a few pictures from the day.

Cue the sacrificing. After the men have bathed and prayed at the mosque the sacrifices begin (around 10am at this point). Twenty five cows were sacrificed in Mamun's village this particular Eid day. Most of the men and children in the village help with the sacrificing -- either holding the cow down or later when they cut the meat. Above, the village travels from the first sacrificing to the next...slightly primal at this point but overall honorable sacrifices.

 The first of 5 sacrifices we saw that morning

At first, I wasn't completely sure about the necessity of this woman's job of watching over the meat until she left and the black crows came pecking at the meat...

The cow is sacrificed in one location and then carved open for meat, which is transferred to a location closer to the home (seen here). Then the family gathers around and begins to cut the meat and separate it into thirds - one third to eat that day, one third to save, and one third for the poor.

 Fresh coconuts from Mamun's sister!

Our beautiful saris!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where I spend my days

Life as a volunteer, teacher, adviser, and sometimes mother has been a great adventure the past three months. The days can be long as I usually take the 7:15am van to school and do not return home until the 7:30pm van returns to Khulshi. However, I have made my workspace more welcoming and motivating with a little help from my first group of students and several pictures of past adventures with great friends.

 My desk and bulletin board -- notice the 2 large posters that Orange group gave me as a "We Miss You" gesture

The other half of my space -- thank goodness it's not a cubicle!!
The poster from my 15 wonderful students in Orange group
Beautiful note from Saika, a Bangladeshi student in Orange group

A note from Aaraby, the crafter behind the gorgeous posters

Lost in Translation?!

My most recent assignment for my students required them to write a personal code of ethics. Of note, one of my students wrote the following three statements:

1. Break the rules.
2. Balance student and personal needs.
3. Harm others to protect yourself.

Perhaps I failed to teach the importance of ethics and what it means to be an ethical person....FAIL. *She did go on to explain her statements and say that she shouldn't break the rules and harming others should be stopped....who knows what happened with her statements...*

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Orange Love

Last week marked the end of our first 7-week seminar as Access Academy teachers at AUW. My first group was classified as the 'orange group' and they were amazing! It was really rewarding and exciting to see the personal and academic transformations that happened in those 7 weeks! I miss them already but I just started teaching a new group of women and have no doubt that they will continue to amaze and wow me just the same as orange did. Of course, orange will always be special in my heart, as my first class at AUW.

Part of their final class presentation for my business leadership seminar required them to create a "writing on the wall," like the characters in Who Moved My Cheese, as inspiration and motivation for the assigned leadership topic. Here's how my future business leaders summed up our past 7 weeks of business leadership topics:

- Leadership Ethics: We should behave more ethically in order to be successful.
- Psychodynamic Approach: People can succeed by practicing and improving themselves.
- Transformational Leadership: Transformational leadership takes you forward.
- Culture and Leadership: To be successful as international leaders, we should know and respect others' culture and values.
- Women and Leadership: Do better than men!

standing: Soghra, Raha, Nishat, Fariya, Raiyanna, Nipa, Me, Nisa, Hakima, Jaba, Saika
kneeling: Tien, Thuy, Aaraby, Nima, Phungja

 fun photo :)

I am so proud of them!!!

A few of my favorite quotes from my students: (of course they all say cute things but these are a few that I remembered to write down!)
-- "Ma'am, Bangladesh has taken all your weight" (this comment came after my students saw a picture of me at my college graduation, which was 5 months after I moved to Germany) -- Saika
-- "You will always be our special teacher since you were our first...this is my first time away from home and my friends and family and you were there."  -- Raha
-- "After seeing your glasses today, I know that if I need them one day I must find this pair." -- Saika
-- "We miss your homeworks ma'am" -- all of them! every time I see them now that I am not their teacher

Monday, October 25, 2010

Durga Puja in Dhaka

A quick photo journey through our Durga Puja celebrations in Dhaka, October 15-17, 2010. Overall it was a great weekend with lots of new adventures and great memories!!

 National Monument for Martyrs - made possible thanks to Karin's friend's mom, Moni

 one of the most beautiful, peaceful spaces and monuments I've seen. it reminded me a lot of the memorial to murdered jews in europe in berlin. peaceful. reflective. open for interpretation.

 mastering 3 people in a rickshaw...for 1.5 hours on our way to a Bangladeshi rock concert!!

 Bangladeshi rock concert at the Sheraton! (Karin knew the guy on the far left). we arrived just in time for the last 3 or 4 songs!!

 first bus ride in Bangladesh!! real safe?! :)

busy streets of Dhaka

 stuck in traffic...everyday life in Dhaka - we were lucky - according to the locals, traffic wasn't as bad as usual

fresh Fuchka from a street vendor

 we sat in bright red plastic chairs devouring our spicy fuchka....and then debated our price with the vendor -- 20 or 40 taka...29 or 58 cents! gotta love the bangladeshi prices and our new bangladeshi attitudes! beshi! (too much!)

 our first temple of the day!

 we received many offerings throughout the day - from rice and veggies to michti and of course, coconut milk

 rollercoaster meets ferris wheel meets death trap?! in bangladesh...yet another memory to add to my book, "That would never happen in the US" (you can't really tell from the picture but this 'ride' is held together with ropes!! and yes, I did ride on it!)

 Hindu Street! lots of people, lights, shops, food, and small temples

burning the midnight oil - Bangladesh, the city that never sleeps

where do you go when there's no more space? up!

 our last temple celebration - the mayor is in the lower left corner of this photo

 our Durga Puja bandit, including a few random kids

after mastering 3 people in a rickshaw you graduate to 3 adults and 3 kids...fun times until they ate lunch with us and wanted to go home with us...hmmm

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Real Bangladesh

On Friday, October 8, myself and 2 other WorldTeach volunteers as well as 2 Access Academy teachers ventured out to Halishahar to shop at the big Aarong - and by big, I mean 2 stories of fair trade shalwar kameez outfits, ornas, house decorations, and more!! Little did we know, that we would get to experience the "real Bangladesh." Last week it rained several days in a row but we didn't feel any of the effects in our part of town. Not only did the streets not show any signs of flooding but a van from AUW transports us to/from school everyday and we are able to stay sheltered throughout the day thanks to the catwalks between buildings. As we neared the Aarong in Halishahar, we were suddenly confined to a very small section of the road, closet to the barrier in the middle of the road due to massive flooding. When we saw the Aarong our CNG pulled up next to a small part of a sidewalk - the only place he could reach due to the massive puddles. As we walked along the sidewalk we quickly saw that we would not be able to reach the front door of Aarong without wading through the water....so we hiked up our pants and waded through the water to go shopping at what is considered a designer store in Bangladesh. Finally, the Bangladesh I expected to encounter on a day-to-day basis!

 The water was deep even at the edges of the road

Fearless Richshaw Driver...we contemplated paying him 100 taka to take us 10 feet from one break in the sidewalk to the other, so that we could reach Aarong safe and dry

 Jamie (left) and Kristen testing out the water - the door to Aarong is right there on the left...so close, yet so far away!!

This is the Bangladesh I was expecting upon arrival! It is monsoon season after all.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Teacher's Day

I have the best job in the whole world!! I love all my students! Two of my students made me cards for Teacher's Day :)

yes, that's a candy wrapper - Aaraby is sooo crafty!! 

 A card from Nima :) such beautiful drawings!