"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And where do you think my children have lived all their young years?

Never would it occur to me to carry anything on my head. It doesn't matter that I have also lived the past ten years (and counting) between Nigeria, India and now Bangladesh, where this is the normal way of carrying most anything. But for them, it is the most natural thing to do.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Buying plants

We entered our apartment one week after our shipment was scheduled to be delivered, and five weeks after we left the neighboring country of India. Almost one month later, and we're still camping.  As it turns out, the ship with our container did make it to the local port, but the person in charge of all the paperwork was much too busy drinking to have the time and/or clarity of mind to do this work. For the past three weeks, he's been telling us all sorts of tales about why the delivery of the container was delayed, when in fact, he hadn't even begun to work on the process. This, by the way, in a Muslim country where alcohol is forbidden. We are now told that it will be delivered next Thursday, but by now, I carefully avoid thinking about it too much as it only makes things worse. If it comes, great. If it doesn't come, we'll go on camping out and try to be reasonably gracious about it ... Hm ! In the meantime, we do our best to try and fill out the empty space so it feels a little less like a transition hall, and more like a home. I bought some cushions. This week-end, we went in search of plants.

There are several nurseries along the road, not far from where we live, and no sooner had we stopped that men approached us eagerly. Except that one of them was not a man at all, but a young 10 year old boy. At first, I thought he was the son of one of the sellers. But he seemed so earnest, he was so fast to run into the masses of plants to lift them out - including some pretty heavy ones -and show them to us, that I started to wonder. As it turned out, he works there all day, is paid 1500 Bangladesh Thaka per month for his work (that's about 21 US Dollars) and goes to school in the evenings.

When he saw my camera, he took a pose, and said: "camera action !"

In the meantime, a crowd of people had gathered on the road and the sidewalk. Some were rickshaw wallahs hoping we might need their services. The rest were just watching us, passing the time, always curious to observe foreigners as they go about their lives.

As it turned out, two of these rickshaw men were right to have waited patiently, because they carried each a big plant  for us, after carefully tying them to the sides of the rickshaw with a piece of cloth (not sure if I would call it an orna, which is is the equivalent of the Indian dupatta.)

Our car looked like a jungle, but at least, now, we have a few heart-warming touches of green in the apartment.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Virtual Tour for Kelly Starling Lyon's "One Million Men and Me"

A few weeks back, Kelly Starling Lyons sent me an email asking if I would like to participate in her virtual tour on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Million Man March (October 16) - which was the inspiration for her picture book, One Million Men and Me. I was thrilled, of course. Not only do I like Kelly and her writing, this also falls perfectly into my continuing commitment to bridge the world.

We had to overcome a few challenges : first, I needed to get the book, and as I'm told that postal services cannot be trusted, here, it meant asking a friend at UNICEF headquarters in New York to send it by the pouch, and hope it would get here on time... Which it did.  But when I opened the envelope, the book inside was wet and quite damaged. I had to very slowly peel off the pages glued together and set them under the fan to dry (my hair dryer is in the container, with the rest of our personal effects). The bottom of many of Peter Ambush's expressive illustrations had suffered, but at least, the text was complete.

I had also hoped to involve the library at the American International School of Dhaka, but it proved impossible - this I found out only a few days before my post was due. In the end, I invited our daughters' new friends, and we read the book together in our empty, very echoing apartment.

The group was composed of girls aged 6 to 10, all from mixed backgrounds (France, Haiti, Indonesia and the US), and kids who've all already lived in at least two countries, spanning several continents. We talked about the beautiful illustration on the cover, and the Million Man March. After I read the book, we looked at pictures of the March on the Internet, and also discussed the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, on August 28, 1963, the civil rights struggle, and Martin Luther King Junior's historical speech. It was the perfect end to an extremely gloomy, rainy day in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

When I asked the girls what they had preferred in the book, they all mentioned the illustration with the African princess. One of them also said : "the first page, when the cousin said that no girls can go, but her daddy took her anyway." And she nodded, as if to say : there.

One Million Men and Me takes us back to that magical day, allowing us to experience it through the eyes of young Nia. We feel her pride, and we feel her joy, as she shares this very special moment with her father. She will never forget it, and nor will all the girls who read the book, I bet.

Thank you, Kelly, for this opportunity to discover and share your (and Peter Ambush) very touching book about not only the day when "Black men made history," but also the beauty and importance of the special bond between father and daughter (two daddies attended the reading, by the way, and my husband took the pictures.)

Anyone who posts a comment, here, or on Kelly's Facebook page or her blog, will be entered in a drawing for one of three prizes - One Million Men and Me T-shirt, tote bag or signed poster. Kelly will announce the winners on the March anniversary, October 16.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

And how do children get to school and back home?

I am told that the government of Bangladesh has devised a plan to enroll the numerous local children in schools : there are classes from 7 am until 12 noon, and then from 12 until 5 PM. This means that at 12, every school day, the streets fill with boys and girls in uniforms, some heading home, others about to start their school day.

And how do they commute ?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New wall.

 I found the cable to download the pictures from my camera at the bottom of one of the bags I had not yet emptied. I can now show you our new wall.

When they first came to measure it, I asked if it was necessary to protect the floor. They just smiled, and said no. It was true.

First, they drew the the main lines on the wall, with pencils: the trees, the branches, a few animals.

Then, they started painting, using only small jars of paint and very thin brushes. See how the wrist supports the hand that paints, so the lines are even?

The young boy who was with them is the son of the man, above, and they assured me that he was 16 years old, even though he does not look a day older than 12.

And here is the wall.

I love looking at all the details, like these ladies drying a sari...

Friday, October 1, 2010

So, today, I grumble and whine.

Well, I can't download the pictures of my beautiful new wall from my camera, because somewhere between the hotel, the many bags, and the move to the new empty apartment, I seem to have lost or displaced the necessary cable. And so, today, I will rant.

My husband is in India. He had to go back there for some final debriefing. They have a big country meeting, and he will see his colleagues from Hyderabad, and those from Delhi and all over India, some of whom have become good friends.

Last night, at the dinner table, my daughters commented on the fact that it was not fair that he could go to India ; they also wanted to go, see their friends, familiar faces and places.

Brace yourselves, for here come the grumbling and whining. I know this is a new adventure, bla bla bla. I'm the first one to constantly clamor that we are so very lucky to have this kind of life - traveling the world, living in different countries, discovering and sampling new cultures, forever broadening our horizons.

But you know what? Some days, it's bloody difficulty. Especially at the beginning. Or rather, after the very beginning.

When we are no longer in the hotel, and having to learn the daily ways of our new host country.

When I discover that in order for me to do any kind of shopping, I basically need to give up half a day, and out of that half day, a good two hours (sometimes more) will be spent in the car, fighting maddening traffic jams.

When I start the day thinking that I need to work, but after an hour or two seating in the very uncomfortable forty-seventh-hand couch that we bought with the option of reselling it again as soon as we receive our personal effects, my back hurts like hell, and now, what do I do? The apartment is empty. Go out? Where? To get stuck in more traffic? And anyway, kids will be back in an hour or so, which means I don't even have time to go anywhere.

When I miss my friends back in Hyderabad.

And where is my husband, who is the person whom we are trailing? In India, working, yes, but he gets to see familiar faces, and to go back to a place that feels familiar, because that's where our home was for the past few years. Even at work, here, in Bangladesh, he's met up with colleagues, friends he already knew from New York, or elsewhere, people he's worked with before. He doesn't get to start all over in quite the same way.

Do we, expat, trailing spouses and children get any credit for this? We should.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Decorating our house with local art.

When I first arrived, an expat who's been living here for a while gave me a list of shops where I could find... this, and that. One drew my attention immediately because my friend mentioned that it had many local handicrafts. I think it's one of the first shops I visited, in fact. Here is what I saw as I went up the stairs of that small building.

The pictures were taken with my phone, and there wasn't much light, so they're not very good. Still, it gives an idea.

Inside the shop, which does, indeed, carry very pretty things made locally (name of the shop is JATRA which is a popular form of Bengali theatre) there was more of this beautiful art.

I bought a few pretty cups painted with the same kind of art, and as I was paying, found out that it is possible to hire the artists. It's just a matter of making an appointment, and giving your address. They then come to your home, office, school, whatever, and transform a boring wall into something brimming with life.

Three different styles are available, and the price is calculated according to how many square feet are painted.

As I type this post, I have three artists (two adults and one young boy whose age I wonder about) working right inside the apartment.

Before and After pictures to come in another post.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A visit to the slum

So, the title is bizarre. Are slums something to be visited ? Of course not. But this particular slum is located on the banks of the lake, just across the river from our hotel, and the stark contrast between our life, and the lives of the people and children living a few meters from us seems even more glaring when you have it under your nose on a daily basis.

Of course, we are used to the blue tents that pop up on all the constructions sites, in India, tents where entire families live for the duration of the work, until they move to another construction site. And of course, I am forever trying to highlight how lucky we are compared to all those who have nothing, or next to nothing. My children listen to me with that expression on their faces that's part baffled, part all-knowing-bored, so that I never quite know what they understand, and wether they even listen to me.

So when a few weeks ago (yes, we'd been here a week, or so) I received an email from a person involved with an NGO helping this particular slum, and inviting all who wanted to come and bring paper, crayons, pencils so they could organize a drawing contest, I thought this would be an opportunity to get a little closer and allow our daughters to maybe understand better what I mean with all this clumsy/sententious talk. Especially as we had seen these same children on the lake below, fetching rags and what not from the water aboard their little rafts.

I cannot say it was a success. The children were hot, bothered and maybe even a little scared by the intense proximity, the smells, etc, and they ended up leaving with their father, who knows all there is to know about slums, while I stayed a while longer, interacting with the children, and having a blast taking pictures, and showing them.

Bangles, conveniently hanging from the ceiling/roof.
At some stage, I was stuck in one room/shack with something like twelve kids. Each child had a piece of paper, and there were bags with crayons on the bed, but nobody dared touch them. We waited a bit, and as nothing happened, I suggested they take the bag of crayons, open it, and start their drawing. They were so eager to begin. 

All the children in that little room drew a house, local fruits..., and the national flag !

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shopping in a new country

The last update on my Facebook page goes : I miss Q Mart !!! Q Mart is the supermarket where we found pretty much everything we needed in terms of foods, cleaning supplies, etc, during our six years in India. It was our regular supermarket. I know. How more pathetic can it get, right? And yet...

When we arrived in Hyderabad, Q Mart was on the second floor of an ugly, small building, a little place crowded with dusty, overflowing shelves. But then, it moved across the street, and became this shiny, two floors, luminous supermarket where we found new surprises almost every week.

Adios India. Hello Bangladesh. On my first day alone, the driver took me to the places where expats do their grocery shopping. I looked around, was not overly impressed, but as we were staying at the hotel, and I was in my newcomer-eyes-wide-open-honeymoon phase, I didn't look too closely. There didn't seem to be much in terms of cheese, apart from the same old imported Cheddar, and some canned brie or camembert from Denmark, but, oh well. We'd survive.

Then, a couple of days ago, I realized that if we are to camp out in our almost empty apartment, we need cleaning supplies in order to scrub the place properly before, and once we move in. And so, here I am back at the supermarket, standing in the aisle, looking at bottles of pink, blue, green and yellow liquids with labels written in an alphabet I can't read, wondering how I will know which one is the floor cleaner, and where are the brushes, and I don't see the dishwashing sponges, and everything looks so foreign I feel a big lump in my throat. Of course, it's not a big deal.  I, the seasoned expat who's been there, done that, know that, and because I know it, I breath deeply and go in search of a basket. I can't find one, but they have small carts, the type that children love to push in supermarkets.

I take it back to the aisle, return to the row of shelves, grab a bottle at random, and unscrew the tap to smell the content. Well, yes, if I'm not going to know what I'm using, at least, it's got to smell good! A few people stare at me, probably wondering why I'm spending so much time in that aisle, and what on earth am I doing, anyway, sniffing all these bottles? I start filling the small cart, and each time I touch it, some sticky stuff remains on my fingers. I wipe it on my pants, thinking I will empty the jar of antibacterial gel as soon as I reach the car. Finally, I walk to the cashier, and honestly, I'm not feeling so hot, and that's when I see a separate shelf carrying the pink bottles of Lysol that I used in India ! I take one and feel like kissing it. It's like I just got reunited with a long lost friend.

Of course, I still have to find buckets, and a broom, and a mop...

I ended up visiting a couple more shops before I got everything I needed, and you understand, now, why I say that I miss Q Mart? Who wants to spend more than two hours shopping for cleaning supplies? Then again, once I know my way around a little better, I won't waste all that time, and by then, I'll know that I'm home - meaning a place where I've lived long enough to know where to find the barest necessities.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another kind of exploration

So, we are still waiting for shipment to arrive, still waiting for apartment to be cleaned, repainted, etc, but this may well happen before said shipment reaches us, and after a month at the hotel, the overall feeling is that time has come to move in already. Which means camping out for a couple of weeks, or so... We can do that, right?

And so, the wheels start spinning in my little, overcrowded head. What does a family of four need, absolutely, in order to camp out in a big, empty apartment for a few weeks?

- Mattresses. Fortunately, one of our new friends, here, offered to lend them to us. Check.
- Sheets, linen, pillows, towels. I brought them in one of our suitcases. Check.
- Plates, glasses, cutlery. As luck would have it, Bengladesh is a big exporter of all types of chinaware. So, this morning, I entered one of the dozens of shops you see all over town, and bought a set of Pierre Cardin plates (can't take the French out of me, entirely, ever, it seems, but what can I say? The plates were cute.) And some bowls. And glasses. All we need is forks, spoons, knives, a couple of pans, and we're all set. Check.
- We also need a table and four chairs. I can't possibly ask the kids to eat (although I bet they'd love the idea) or do their homework on the floor. And if they can, I'm the one who will not spend three weeks working on my translation (due in December, clock is ticking) while sitting on a tile floor. There again, no issue. Another new friend  (do I need to emphasize the importance of quickly establishing a network of expat friends when moving to a new country?) sent me to this market (picture left). It's on the second floor, she said. What she didn't tell me was that I would find a maze of hundreds of shops selling pretty much everything under the sun, and some more. As it turns out, we can buy a table and four chairs, and already agree on a reselling price, so that in two or three weeks times, when our shipment arrives, we can bring them back to the same shop, and get a slightly lower price for them. A bit like renting. Isn't that marvelously convenient?

Next on my list of necessities: cleaning supplies. This will be another post.

Monday, September 13, 2010

First exploration of Dhaka

Three and half weeks into the school year, and the kids have their first school break (8 days) for the long Muslim festival, Eid-ul-Fitre. It celebrates the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The last days before Eid, we saw what it supposed to be the worst in terms of traffic, in Dhaka. Or so we're told. We also saw the city empty itself as entire families returned to their villages. And so, the last few days were quite peaceful, and we took advantage of that to take a cruise along the Dhaleswari river (more about that in another post) and to go and visit the old Dhaka. So far, I had not seen much, except for the Gulshan area, the Baridhara embassy zone, a busy street in Banini, and the airport road.

Old Dhaka reminded us somewhat of Charminar, in Hyderabad. Small streets, cables running everywhere, and I mean, everywhere...

Cables, cables, and more cables. And to think that it works.
and all of a sudden, the remnants of what must have been a beautiful old house,

or a small mosque.

We also went to see the docks where a long line of ferries waited for the passengers they would transport back to their villages, and we watched all the action there. People coming and going, loading or unloading boats, carrying bundles or boxes on their heads, repairing sandals, selling pan, etc.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On basic social skills, and finding them lacking.

One of the obvious consequences of moving to a new place is that you meet new people, you create a whole network of acquaintances - some of which may eventually morph into friendships. This means going up to people you don't know, or maybe you saw them somewhere but have not been formally introduced, but in either cases, the simple fact that they look foreign - like you - means that you can, and often will, strike instant conversations with them.

This is a rather personal statement, but I never realized until now how socially handicapped I am. Or no, let me rephrase this. I was somewhat aware of the fact that my social skills are rather poor. I grew up in a small family unit, with parents who did not entertain at all. Our holidays were spent with my uncle and aunt who'd come from Spain to find work and a better life, and never had children. They spent their twenty + years in Paris with their heart still in Spain, saving money for the moment they could return to Spain, which is exactly what they did at the first given opportunity. Our vacations were mostly spent in Spain, with another aunt, a couple of cousins, and that's it. We didn't have friends over, and I may have gone to two birthday parties in all the years I spent in school. Then, as destiny would have it (but then, I probably pushed that destiny), I have spent the majority of my professional life working from home, and having limited day to day contact with the outside world. Yes, I travelled extensively. But with a backpack on, always on the move. And yes, I forged great, long lasting friendships along the way. I am not a misanthrope. Just a bit of a loner - definitely not a social animal (even though I married one.)

Anyway, to make a long story short, one of my resolutions with this new move is to try and be more social. I know I will always need a lot of silence, lots of time alone. This is who I am, and there is no changing that. But I also know that I sometimes suffer from being too isolated, and this is compounded by the fact that my work requires me to be at home, writing. I need to find a balance between the translating, the writing, and the need to get out a bit, see people, exercise, join in some social activity.

And where am I going with all this heart pouring? Well, I had a belated epiphany, yesterday. If I am to meet my new resolution, I'll need to be extremely focused, mindful, and most of all, I need to learn a few skills. How can a woman approaching fifty, someone who's lived in seven countries and counting, who speaks three languages fluently and can fend for herself in a few others, find it so difficult to juggle meeting and talking to two different, unknown people at the same time? How is it that this person can find herself in a group, and feel her mind literally freeze?

I was discussing this with my husband, yesterday, after we met a lady at one of the clubs in town (I will have to write a post about the club culture in Dhaka, by the way). She knew the couple we were sitting with, and joined us, and started talking with me, but did not acknowledge my husband. He thought she was being superior, maybe even racist. And I just know, deep in my bones, that she was shy, and not very skilled at meeting several people at once. Just a few hours before, I had made exactly the same mistake. I saw a lady that I ran into a few days ago, said hello and thanked her because she had given me the phone number of a taylor; I asked for her name, which I didn't know, but forgot to tell her mine, and totally ignored the lady who was sitting with her. I shudder in retrospect and wish I could turn the clock, but the fact is, I did not introduce myself to her, nor did I include her in the small conversation. Why? I forgot. I mean, I never even thought about it. It is as if the mere act of walking up to someone I don't know to strike up a conversation demands so much energy from me, I loose all ability to do anything else. If that makes any sense. And I'm writing this in case someone else out there suffers from the same kind of mental paralysis, and they happen to read this some day. I want them to know they are not alone.

That said, I firmly believe that we can all improve ourselves up until our very last breath. I also believe that once clearly aware of a problem, the work is half done. So, I hereby pronounce myself ready to dedicate myself to improving my social skills... Insh'Allah, as they say here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Unconsciously looking for something familiar... and finding it.

We signed our lease contract yesterday. It's official, we are no longer homeless. Of course, the apartment is yet to be emptied of its content, but the previous tenant has left, and it's a matter of days, two weeks at the most, before we move into our new home. Let us not dwell on the fact that our shipment has yet to leave Mumbai, and we may well have to camp out until our effects reach us. At least, we have a place.

The apartment on the floor below, identical, just slightly darker, was also rented at the same time, and we took the opportunity that workers were cleaning, painting, and polishing the floors to go and take measurements for curtains, blinds, and such. I took lots of pictures so I can start thinking about how I want to organize and decorate it, and I was standing on the balcony, looking at the small, narrow patch of green below when a thought struck me. For the third time, we will have a traveler's tree in our front garden. The two last times, in Nigeria, and in India, we lived in a private house, but what were the odds that we'd have a traveler's tree in an apartment building?

Call me crazy, but I consider it a sign of continuity. This is not, after all, just some old tropical tree. It's called a traveler's tree because its stem can be cut and offer water to the thirsty traveler. In our case, and as I admired our new companion (above), I started thinking that the traveler's tree is there to give us a sense of continuity, something familiar and comfortable to look at. And it's beautiful, too.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Robin Pascoe Online Lecture Series

It seems fitting that one of my first posts from our new country should be about Expat Expert Robin Pascoe, and the subject of expatriation.

Those who read my blog know that I'm a great fan of Robin. I was lucky to meet her when she toured India (link to interview) and loved her no-nonsense, practical, humorous and yet very empathetic approach to all the issues that expats encounter when moving and living abroad. Her whole philosophy comes down to a simple evidence : It is a privilege to live abroad. But it doesn't mean that there are no challenges, and these challenges need to be acknowledged and feelings about them need to be expressed. Without ever losing sight of the fact that is is a privilege to be living abroad. Et la boucle est bouclée, as we say in French. The cycle is complete.

Robin is now launching an online lecture series on her website. This is the next best thing after being able to attend her lectures live - which may no longer be an option, as I think she's decided to slow down on all the traveling. Besides, you can access it anytime from the comfort of your own home. It is an excellent introduction to her books, and the many themes and issues developed in them (marriage, identity problems, third culture kids, global nomads and the challenges they face, how we can best help them, repatriation, etc.) And the video medium offers the added bonus of seeing and hearing Robin talk about the things she knows so well, with that voice, and particular brand of wit that I like so much.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New country, new background, and first impressions.

The last two weeks were spent mostly in the Unicef car, fighting the grueling Dhaka traffic, and visiting big, empty spaces while trying to picture our furniture, and our lives in them. The process was rendered even more difficult by the fact that I fell madly in love with an apartment endowed with the most spectacular view (see picture), but, alas! one unredeemable flaw : they are building two apartment complexes on the next plot, and the construction will most likely last two years... Bye, bye, beautiful view ! Thing is, everything I saw after that felt like "yeah, bof !" But I've now come back to my senses, and settled for an apartment without a fantastic view, but offering other precious commodities : location, a minimum of greenery, space, generator backing, etc. We hope to move in by mid-September. Our shipment is due to arrive a few days later, same for the car. So, all in all, we hope to return to a regular routine by the end of September, and I'll then be able to go back to work, writing, blogging, etc. It will not be a moment too soon. All in all, we've been living out of our suitcases for almost three months, now.

My first impressions of Dhaka? It is interesting to be living in a predominantly Muslim country. In Nigeria, we were in the South-Eastern part, which is heavily Christian. As for Hyderabad, it used to be a state ruled by the Nizams, and the old city remains Muslim, but the vast majority of people are Hindus.

We arrived in Bangladesh during Ramadan, and right now, we're told that everything is geared up toward the upcoming Eid Festival - shops have shorter hours, and at the same time, businesses are open on days when they're usually closed (Fridays) because this is the time when people shop madly to give presents for Eid. Everything is a little slow because people are fasting. The other day, as we came out of one apartment, we saw a gathering of men seating on mats on the floor around small piles of food. It was all the building maintenance people, the drivers, etc, breaking the fast together - that first meal is called Iftar. We are also told that even though the poverty in Bangladesh is crushing, the begging at the moment is worse than usual, because of Ramadan. This is the time when people are supposed to give to the poor. Finally, the traffic is like nothing I've ever experienced before (except maybe Lagos, when we happened to go there). Hyderabad was bad at certain hours of the day, but overall, one got around. And it will get worse, as children are out of school at the moment. I'm not looking forward to that.

That's it for today. More to come, as we slowly settle in.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bye Bye, India

This is the last picture I took, on the way to the airport, on August 15. Six years almost to the day after I landed in India for the first time (we arrived on August 18, 2004.)

As you drive, you suddenly come upon all these statues waving at you. Perfect, right?

More to come, as I slowly settle into our new life in Bangladesh and also find my way back to this blog, which I have neglected lately.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Out of The Way! Out of The Way! Blog Tour

I'm so happy to host two very talented artists, Uma Krishnaswami the author, and Uma Krishnaswamy the illustrator, on the occasion of the blog tour for the release of their delightful picture book Out of the Way! Out of the Way, published by Tulika Books.

The book charmingly weaves together the stories of a tree and of a village road growing, and growing around each other, each making room for the other.

It was translated into eight Indian languages, and I was lucky to receive a copy in English, and another in Hindi. So, I thought I'd involve my daughter and her class. Look at them chanting "Out of the Way, Out of the Way," first in English, and then in Hindi.

(Special thanks to Miss Nuwaira and Miss Diya, and M. Chalasani, Principal of Indus International School of Hyderabad, for allowing the PP2 class to participate in the blog tour.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Motherhood Muse Blog Tour : A Challenge to Change the World

As mentioned yesterday, I'm hosting The Motherhood Muse, today, on the occasion of their blog tour.
I will pick a person's comment at random, and the lucky winner will receive one free subscription to the 2010 issues of the Motherhood Muse.

A Challenge to Change the World

Throughout my life I've been challenged to change the world, to make it a better place. The sister and brother living on the streets of Tijuana, begging me when I was seven years old to buy Chicle. The sea animals dying under the weight of oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Costa Rican boy running barefoot on sharp stones in the street to a home without electricity or hot water in the mountains as I walked along in my college
hiking boots. The Japanese grandmother picking up trash and passing me up the path on the way to the top of Mt. Fuji just a couple of years before I became a mother. And my two daughters, who babble at the cowbirds gobbling the birdseed outside and hug tree trunks while I unload groceries from the car.

Each person, every moment has spoken to me and inspires me to try harder to preserve our world (its nature, the cultures, the languages). We must cross borders, share what makes our cultures so diverse and our families so similar, and explore the land under our toes to make the world a better place.

The Motherhood 
Muse literary magazine aims to take on this challenge by publishing literature and art (in a digital, green format) to help individuals develop a more meaningful relationship with nature. We feature writing that explores the connections between motherhood, nature, childhood and cultures. Our writers come from every corner of the earth and so do our readers.

We often hear the phrase "Think global. Act local." As a mother I often connect with nature on a personal level but think about how this connection unites all mothers. My own footsteps into nature may be of a local realm, but as I write about motherhood
 and nature I find a deeper connection across the globe with all mothers.

We'd love to receive your thoughts in writing on how you connect with nature, cultures, and languages and what this means for you and women around the world. Please share your ideas in the comments and submit your writing to our magazine!

Thank you Katia for hosting us here today!

Kimberly Zook, Editor-in-Chief
The Motherhood

You're welcome, Kimberly. Good luck on this new and praise-worthy adventure...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Catching up

Life is funny. When I have too much to do, I still find time to do more. But as soon as my schedule becomes lighter, I catch myself doing less. I still haven't figured that one out.

Of course, the fact that I've been fighting a pretty bad throat, and then chest infection hasn't helped.

Anyway, May is around the corner, the heat in Hyderabad is now reaching its peak, and I'm busy trying to finish a first draft of what I hope will turn out to be my first completed "shitty first draft" of a novel, in true Anne Lamott fashion. If - no, scratch that - WHEN I type the words THE END on the manuscript, I intend to treat myself to something very special (haven't decided what yet, but I'll have to.) In the meantime, I'm now about to reach the crisis point somewhere around the third quarter of the novel.

My weekly posts on Haiti have also suffered from my being ill, but I have another problem. I'm running out of pictures.

My husband came back a few days ago, so exhausted he cannot even read a short story to his younger daughter without falling asleep in the middle on the book. Quite unfazed, the little one just let him sleep, and came to me with her book, so I could finish it, coughing or no coughing. She's not one to let exhaustion or illness get in the way of hearing a good story. My coughing so much allowed us to introduce a new ritual, though. I now read her one or two bedtime stories, and she reads me one so I can rest my voice - or what's left of it, these days. It is such a joy to see her slowly overcoming her shyness of words unknown and becoming more and more confident about her ability to decipher them.

Tomorrow, I'm hosting The Motherhood Muse, a digital literary magazine that comes out four times a year and publishes literature on motherhood, nature, children, cultures and more.

Kimberly Zook, Founding Editor and Publisher came across my blog, and sent me an email, asking if I'd like to participate in their blog tour to promote their second issue. I was immediately drawn to their mission statement of encouraging mother writers to rediscover and reconnect with nature through their bodies, minds and souls, but I knew for sure I wanted to participate when I read Kimberly's profile. Someone who lived "in a hut in a Costa Rican forest for a few years and journeyed through the back country in many places on Earth?"

So, please come back tomorrow so you can read about "A Challenge to Change the World." I will pick a person among those who leave a comment and the lucky winner will receive one free subscription to the 2010 issues of The Motherhood Muse.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Varanasi : So Long

Just a few more pictures out of the 478 I took, in six days. Just because...