"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

Monday, April 25, 2011

This blog is moving!

Accessing my blogger account has become almost impossible. First time I manage to get in in the past five days, and I don't even have all the features available. So, I created a new blog on WordPress. Please, join me there. The background and title of the blog might be different, but the content will still be about the things I'm passionate about : writing, our uprooted and globe-trotting life, expat issues, multicultural themes, bridging the world, traveling, mothering two TCKs - not necessarily in that order...

It make take a few days to go live, as I'm still playing/struggling around with the new format.

Thank you to all who read my posts, and offered their comments, over the past four years. I hope to see you over at the new blog.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On feeling far, far, far from Holi.

Today is Holi, in India, or rather for Hindus all over the world. If not for Facebook, and the friends from /in India whom I'm in touch with via this social media tool, the day would have gone without my having the slightest notion that a mere 45 minutes (lucky birds) away from where I live, people are happily throwing colored powders at each other, and by the end of the day, millions of men, women, and children in India, young and old, rich and poor, will look as if they all plunged into a gigantic tub of multicolored paints.

Here I am, and my older daughter is the one
drenched in paint, on the left.
Holi 2010
As I sat at the diplomatic warehouse where expatriates buy their liquor (unlawful in Bangladesh), waiting for the clerk there to enter the items in his computer, I noticed pictures of Hindu gods under the glass top of his desk. Dare I ask him whether he's Hindu ? He might have been siting at someone else's desk. But then, I saw a red thread wrapped around his wrist.
"Is this your desk?" I finally asked.
"Yes," he answered, looking up at me, clearly puzzled by my question.
"Are you Hindu?"
This time, he seemed astonished. "Yes, I am."
I gave him my brightest smile. "Happy Holi."
There was a long silence. "How do you know about Holi?" he asked after a few seconds. I'd had time to sign my cheque.
When I told him, he relaxed, visibly, and told me that they celebrated Holi yesterday, at some open area close to the airport. But his hair had no trace of colors, nor did his skin. Quite different from India, where you see people with purple, bright pink or green hair or patches of skin for up to two weeks, afterward.

My younger daughter with one of her friends - Holi 2010
Still, I felt happy to have connected with someone who knows about Holi. On the way back, I was caught in the usual traffic, and I was trying to think of ways we could celebrate Holi with the girls. But where? I don't imagine our landlord or the people working in our building, all Muslims, would like it if we started throwing colored powders at each other, my daughters and I, in the narrow patch of grass in front of our building. I was thinking I could welcome them each with powders in my hands, and spread some on their faces when they walk in, this afternoon. Or maybe we could hold a Holi session locked in a bathroom. Mm...

For a crash course in playing Holi, or just a walk down memory lane, here is the link to my post, last year.

HAPPY HOLI EVERYONE, whether you're in India or not...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Have bicycle, will ride it in the streets of Dhaka

 So, I was a blogger gone mute, these past few months. I'd like to think I'm slowly extricating myself from this dark spell, and one way to do that is to shed my own bit of spotlight over an event I participated in, this past Friday.

Yes, it involved bicycles. And women. And a movement launched by an active and passionate young Bangladeshi woman.

Arohi means "rider" in Bengali, but the Sanskrit root "Aarohana" means ascendance. And the goal of this young initiative is to give women more mobility by encouraging them to use bicycles as their means of transportation.

The objective of this first ride through the Dhanmondi neighborhood was to get a feel about how women on wheels are perceived, in Dhaka.

Dhaka is plagued with one of the worst traffic situations I have ever encountered. Lagos, Nigeria, was pretty bad, too, but Dhaka will really stretch anyone's patience to its extreme limits. Spending fifteen, twenty minutes in a spot, without moving an inch, is routine. And of course, it's not exactly safe. To give you an idea, our car got into an accident, only today. An auto-rickshaw towing another auto-rickshaw, the driver totally heedless of the fact that the machine attached to his was going right and left, bumped into our car, parked on the side of the street, of course tried to continue without stopping, and the second auto caught our fender and tore it from our vehicle. Routine.  

Encouraging people to use bicycles would seem like a great idea, and a good way to reduce the number of cars circulating, but also, maybe, to reduce the number of buses. I will have to write a post about the buses that transport people, in this city. There again, I had never see anything like that. Not in India. Not in Nigeria. Nowhere in my travels. It would also give women more independence. It's certainly an ambitious goal. 

We started the ride in a quiet area,  but the itinerary took us along some busy avenues, and across some chaotic intersections. We had to deal with the traffic, and that included swarms of rickshaws coming at us from every which way. At some stage, I thought I'd lost the group. I was stuck behind several rickshaws, with no way through. Thankfully, one of the riders in our group was wearing a bright red scarf, and I was able to spot it, and follow it from afar - and eventually, to catch up. 

I could give you some funny details about how a fellow rider suddenly caught up with me and said : "it looks like you have a flat tire." And indeed, the rear tire was flat. Thankfully, it was not punctured. Or how I realized, after a few uncomfortable minutes, that I had taken my daughter's bicycle instead of mine (they are the exact same model, but of course my daughter being smaller, the seat was lower). As the organizers had thought of involving a mechanic, the tire and seat situations were promptly resolved. 

We had a car riding along with us, several photographers, and even a young woman in a rickshaw carrying  her two-weeks-old daughter in a baby sling - the little darling slept peacefully through the whole ride, I may add.

Below are some pictures that may give an idea of the kind of bedlam we found ourselves in. Add the noise, the pollution, the frequent stops to allow the whole group to remain together (not an easy feat). This was no peaceful ride in the countryside. But I enjoyed it. And I hope to do it again.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One year since the earthquake in Haiti

Almost three months since my last post. I'm almost through with a deadline, and I know I must again carve the time to keep my blog alive, but the main reason I'm writing today is that it is the first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. One year, already.

My husband spent again almost three weeks there in December, called again by UNICEF to help curb the terrible cholera outbreak that's claimed some 3500 lives, so far. And my niece, yesterday, posted a bleak, heartbreaking status on her Facebook page, lamenting the fact that nothing has really been done in the past year. It's easy to be engulfed by feelings of despair when it comes to the reality of the situation, there. And she, a child of 13, is smack in the middle of it. She saw one of her school friends die of cholera, in class, a few weeks back. 

There are many articles in the press, today, some lashing out at the UN, others trying to look for the positive and shreds of hope in the middle of all the misery. Yes, it seems that very little was done. Yes, people are still living in horrendous conditions, under tents or tarpaulins. Yes, indeed, where is all the money that came pouring out in the days and weeks that followed the earthquake ? What happened to all the promises made by so many governments across the world ? And I'm not even going to mention the political crisis with the recent disastrous presidential elections. 

And yet, there are also countless stories of uplifting displays of courage. The work of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) since the earthquake, and during the ongoing cholera crisis - to point out only one - is nothing short of heroic. Everywhere, people are doing little or big things, helping out. 


In the mist of all the press, good and bad, today, I would like to highlight a statement by the UNICEF head executive, Tony Lake, published in the Miami Herald, and an uplifting story printed in the New York Times. The Marché en fer rising again from the rubble and singing its freshly-painted bright colors in the sky of Port-au-Prince could be such a symbol of hope for a new Haiti...