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It was a relatively quite week here in Asia. While our friends back home feasted on bbq and gathered together to watch fireworks we were busy sweating. Don’t you fret none, we had our own 4th of July celebration here but we had to wait until the 5th. It was a great party we hosted and we even got our hands on some hooch. Jordan has the misfortune of having the first sickness of the trip, therefore, delaying our celebration one day so he could partake. All I can say is thank you doctors at home for prescribing us a prophylactic dose of Ciprofloxacin as it kept Jordan from being flown to Dhaka to see the doctor. Therefore, I am reminded of a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon in naming this week’s theme; In sickness or in health, OR, A hooch a day keeps the doctor away.

As many of you have herd us complain about the lack of libations, hooch is well, hooch here. According to the all and mighty Miriam-Webster the definition is: Hooch (n) – slang: alcoholic liquor especially when inferior or illicitly made or obtained. What I can’t tell you is where we obtained this “wonderful” social lubricant, what I can tell you is that “wonderful” is to be said as dry and sarcastically as you can muster; preferably with a face indicating extreme disgust. Jordan and an unnamed party went off to the far reaches of downtown Jessore, to an alley comprising of about five shops. Within one of these shops was a legitimate speak-easy where you were invited back to explore a whole shelf of local spirits. You have your selection of Vodka, Whiskey, Gin, or Rum. All are made in Bangladesh with pride, ahemm ahemm. The rum was called Carew’s Rosa Rum and each of the forms of Carew’s come in the exact same 750 mL plastic bottle. Jordan opted for the rum as it paired best with our various fruits and sodas we have available to us (Pineapple, Coke, and Sprite). In addition to this fine batch of molasses derived ethanol he procured three beers. For all of my Svecia friends, these beers made BEAST taste like a Summer Shandy on a hot lake day. For the non-Svecia crowd, a cold 5% beer in a dry country on a 100 degree day never tasted so good. Jordan, Savaila, and I went back the next day to pick up a few more brewskies to have at our party and let me tell you Friday is like Sunday in a small Midwestern town, nothing is open. When some of the locals saw three Badeshi stop where the speakeasy was they came over to assist. Now let me preface before I continue, Alcohol is not illegal here for foreigners, for the devout 80% of the country however, it is, so what I am about to tell you is not as bad as it sounds but never the less I did feel a little scummy as we walked away. These two men recognized Jordan and said, “Ahh, you are back,” Jordan told them three beers, and gave them Tk 500. Off they went and returned in three minutes with a small bag with three ice cold beers (Beshi tanda beer) and off we went. I had the pleasure of stuffing them in my pack and had a mini air conditioner on my back on the way home.

For our Fourth of July dinner we had chicken tacos, Kraft mac & cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, chips, fruit salad and cookies. Man, what a feast. It cost us an arm and a leg in Bangla prices but we were able to throw the whole feast together for about Tk3,000 or $35 (including alcohol) for 8 people. We even had the pleasure of picking our chickens from the cage. We were fully expecting to take the chickens home alive but the nice men at the meat market went ahead and did the deed for us. I was fully prepared for this to be my last chicken meal but surprisingly watching the slaughter of my dinner wasn’t as scarring as I had expected. Thanks dad for preparing me for the running of the body with your stories from Aunt Triva’s farm when you were a kid. The kicking after the decapitation was odd, but didn’t last too long, and then once it had stopped the bird was skinned, dressed, and packaged in about 2 min. Talk about fresh meat. It wasn’t as delicious as expected, then again the idea of a perfectly cooked chicken here is a little on the dangerous side, I will opt for overcooked meat any day looking at the sanitation conditions. It’s really easy to not think about where you food comes from and how it’s treated. Looking at the chickens at market really makes me want to start eating cage free, organic chicken when I get home. Even though its way more costly, I think I have been swayed. Even though they are there for us to eat, it doesn’t mean their life should suck while they’re living. Food for thought, ha get it.

So as I had said before we had to delay our festivities a day. Jordan started feeling ill on Monday, by Tuesday he had a fever and was only awake to go to the bathroom and drink water. Due to the sanitation in this country life threatening diseases can strike in a matter of hours. Whenever someone starts to feel under the weather, we are supposed to let the boss know, if we aren’t better the next day we are flown to Dhaka to go to a proper hospital. They have hospitals here in town but they are not where you want to be if something goes wrong. They serve their purpose if you have the sniffles or need a prescription but this country has diseases that haven’t been in the US in almost 100 years. Jordan started his Ciprofloxacin right away and our mini-pharmacy I brought will helped lessen his symptoms. His fever broke Tuesday night, and the worst of the danger had passed. The next day the bosses got together and determined he didn’t need to go to Dhaka but the local hospital for some extra drugs would suffice. As a foreigner you are given preferential treatment wherever you go, this holds true in the hospitals too. As soon as he walked in the door he was ushered to a room where a doctor promptly attended him. There are no fancy culture labs or quick tests here, the doctors have an intuition that is quite efficient and strangely accurate at the same time. All Jordan had to do was stick out his tongue and the doctor said, “oh good, you’re ok, you just need some simple meds,” wrote a script for an anti-ulcer drug (antibiotic), more cipro, and a anti-protozoal in case it was Giardia or cryptosporidium. Within 24 hours he was back to his normal self. And in 36 hours was complaining about the fact he still had to eat rice and green banana mash with salt and sugar. I felt bad and decided he needed a little protein so I sneaked him some liver from my curry (I sure wasn’t going to eat it and neither did Jordan). So now he’s back to normal and done with his meds. Crisis averted.

So on a totally different note. The organic farming has movement! This week Savaila and I got wrist deep in 70 lbs of cow manure and made some awesomely stinky compost. We have to turn it every 3 days, and I may start turning it every other day as it’s kind of stinky and it shouldn’t be. In addition to making compost Savaila and I mapped out our organic plots this week. We had to talk to the landscape architect, Rajesh, and the original plan will have to be meshed with Rajesh’s, but it should work perfectly. The plots are next to the river and are the perfect area for what we want to do. Not only that, but the land is completely virgin so we will get to use a cow plow to till the soil! This coming weekend we have Panigram Aprenticship Experience (PAE) guests. These are people that come to stay at the resort and help do tasks while they are here. This weekend I am going to have them make compost, help prep a test plot, help till the field, and collect cow urine to make fertilizer with. I’m am totally looking forward to watching 8 people roam about a herd of cows all waiting for one to pee and then watching as they try to catch as much as they can in a bucket. Should make for quite a video. Kristin has put me in charge of coordinating with Huda various activities for the guests to do so I should be quite busy this coming weekend.

While sitting around after everyone had left the fifth of July celebration Nazmeen, Jordan, and I were solving the problems of Bangladesh. We were all able to really open up and voice our frustrations, concerns, and wants as it was just the three of us. Jordan was feeling a little underutilized and between Nazmeen and Jordan they were able to hash out a plan to make the English classes more efficient; I had hit a wall 30 minutes prior and was pulling a Bangla and staring at a wall. Jordan is going to take one of my assistants, Jeena, to a small village close by and document the daily life of the villagers. This village was set aside by the government for disadvantaged women, and the darn non-disclosure agreement we signed prohibits me from telling you its name, so I will be calling in Village X from now on as that is much easier to say and type. Jordan will be looking at what the people are doing and then be setting up simple lessons to teach the villagers the English translations of what they are doing. Most of these people are not literate so it will be mostly vocal teaching but it will be a great challenge. In addition to this he will be having some of the more advanced students meet him in different locations around the area so they can practice their conversational skills. While most of the students won’t be tour guides it will be immensely helpful for them to be able to express their culture.

In addition to the Village X project, that sounds like either an awesome band name or some diabolical secret plot, Jordan was able to go to a local elementary school this week and sit in on a few classes. The Principal of the school received him and they shared some bananas and sweet toast before he was able to see the classes. One of the students in Jordan’s English classes is a teacher at the school, maybe we can work an organic food lesson in one of these days; although, that will be quite a challenge. The kids seemed to be fascinated by this Badeshi that had come to visit their little classroom. It would be amazing to see what giving these kids some computers would do, the town does have four computers that anyone can use but just think of the potential.

On the food front this week we tried two new fruits and one returning dud fruit. A second chance was given to the Fozlie mango… this one was surprisingly good. Nice and tart with a bright yellow flesh and good citrus notes. So glad this one was better, that first one was just terrible. The new fruits were a local rarity, the Burmese grape (Baccaurea ramiflora), talk about a good find, it tastes like one of those baseball mitt ice creams from the ice cream man when you were a kid. It even has a little of the flavor of the stick in there. They are only around for about two weeks so I plan on eating a bunch while I can and at $1.50 for 2.2 lbs they are a steal. Who knows if I’ll ever have them again so I better eat up. A cool thing we noticed while eating them the seeds turn this awesome shade of blue or purple as you suck on them; almost the same shade as sour grape Jelly Belly’s. The other fruit we tried is Indian Persimmon (Diospyros peregrina), not so great. It had no flavor and let me tell you it was uglier than an ugly carnie at a back country fair. This fruit does have a saving grace though as it’s used extensively in Ayruvedic medicine (Indian herbal medicine). The fruit can be used to treat dysentery, cholera, cures excessive salvation (didn’t know that was a problem), and the stem and bark can be used as an antiprotozoal, antiviral, hypoglycemic. Additionally, the fruit can be rubbed on the bottom of boats and fishing nets to prevent rot. Kinda cool that this terribly tasting fruit actually has a purpose aside from a few groups that eat the leaves in Bangladesh and rural Bengal, India. On a really really cool note, the bark is traditionally used as a cure to Rinderpest. For those of you who don’t know, Rinderpest, or cattle plague, was a terrible disease that would kill 80-90% of cattle during an outbreak that would devastate cattle herds in Asia, Europe, and Africa. It is only the second disease to be eradicated by humans in all of history and that happened just two years ago. The bark of the Indian Persimmon was not responsible for the eradication of Rinderpest but it is cool to know there is a treatment out there that is natural. Yay humans.

Sunday was quite a day. Savaila and I were able to create the boarder of one of our plots and then remove half of the grass. We did this all with a shovel and a hoe, and the land is about 720 sq. feet. Now a sod cutter would have allowed the entire process to be done in 1 hr max, but they don’t even know such technology exists in the world. That paired with the fact they have no leather work gloves means Savaila got her second ever blister yesterday, I got six. The goal is to have one of the plots cleared by PAE this weekend (the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience) so that way they can help mark and clear the other plot. We have some other plans for the weekend but I’ll wait to tell you about them until next weeks, blog.

I was able to try some fish brain on Sunday. Savaila and I had lunch with two of the high ups in the company and we were served a bunch of really cool dishes, a slice of fish, eggplant, bamboo cooked with cinnamon, eggplant innards, and rice. Whenever we eat with Tapon and Moshur (the big wigs) we eat with our hands, I could request a fork but I would be odd man out; besides eating with your hands but it isn’t terrible. The fish head was served in this giant bowl and the big wigs offered it to me first saying it was a delicacy and I can eat anything that’s in it. I politly picked out some neck muscle that looked like the rest of the fish meat but then passed it off to everyone else. As the meal progessed I felt bad that I snubbed their delicacy so I started picking through looking for something gross that I could stomach down. I found what I think was the brain and squished off a sliver. It was this off purple/white/grey color. I showed everyone that I was trying a piece they all laughed and watched intently as I put it in my mouth. It wasn’t terrible, but the texture was kind of squishy and melt-in-you-mouth like. I told them all it wasn’t half bad but the texture was just disturbing. They all laughed.

I was finally able to reconnect with my family this week via Skype. They are in Wisconsin at our family’s summer house called Svecia, and the internet there can be as difficult to deal with as our internet here. For those of you who don’t know my family goes to northern Wisconsin every year to a giant house we all share with the same families year after year. I grew up with all of these people and they are kind of like a second set of family to me. Missing out on the annual vacation has been the hardest part for me while in Bangladesh, the first time I have missed this trip in 26 years. Generally, my family spends two weeks in July up there hanging out on the swimming pier, heading into town to our favorite Midwest small town haunts (St. Vinnie’s thrift store, Moose Jackson Café (only coffee in town worth drinking), Iron Mountain iron mine, etc.) and enjoying the slowdown that comes from surrounding yourself with good friends and low population density. It’s a world apart from what we are all used to, Florence County only has 3,000 people, and “town” is across the state line in Michigan and has maybe 10,000 on a good year. The house was started by seven Swedish families in 1927 and the rooms are generally passed down within families. My family is one of the few, now I’m going to test your recall here, Badeshi families that have ever been voted into the membership. My dad grew up in Chicago and was best friends with two guys who were original decedents when he was a kid and has been going every year since he was 11. Because we are all on vacation and there is upwards of 90 people during Fourth of July week we have two different cooks and a few waitresses from the local area and take our meals together at precisely 7:30-8:30a for breakfast, 12:00-1:00p for lunch (unless it’s Sunday then it’s a 12:30p start), and dinner from 6:00-6:29p (a traditional Svecia dinner is 29 min long, idk, it just is). We do all sorts of fun activities like a rocket boat race, a costume ball, bowling night, a golf tourney, and every Sunday we have church after breakfast where we all sing a few songs listen to a sermon.  I caught them at the perfect time right after Sunday breakfast before they went to church service. Now I am not a church kind of guy, normally I prefer to have my spiritual moments in the woods or by myself but I can appreciate a church service from time to time. Very rarely though do I have spiritual moments when I am in church, but going to church in Wisconsin via Skype was the most comforting church services I have ever experienced. One of the members, Donna, passed away last winter and the sermon was involved her and trusting god. I always enjoy church in Wisconsin, but this one touched my soul, so THANK YOU Tim Walker, you impact people even via phone. Never before have I felt the comfort that people talk about involving their church, but now I understand. That’s cool.

Anyway we have a very very busy week ahead. Wish us luck.

Until next week.

Clark


 


sandi gascon
07/14/2013 2:32pm

Grandpa Ray and I enjoyed your blog very much! I read it to him while he relaxed in his hospital bed. So glad Jordan is ok now and that you had a wonderful church experience. xoxoxo
Aunt Sandi

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