Monsoon, monsoon, monsoon. Ladies and gentleman the heat has broken for now and the monsoon is in full swing. The monsoon beat out circle of life and books as the theme this week, so all in all the week was gray. The monsoon before was intense periods of rain in the afternoon, however, in the last week that has been replaced with a persistent cover of gray clouds that yield a steady rain day and night.

Time for your science lesson everyone. Today’s topic is the MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation. This is a medium-term large-scale weather pattern that travels across the whole globe in a matter of 1-3 months. It is a cycle of enhanced and suppressed convection in the tropical atmosphere and is partially responsible for the frequency and intensity of rainfall. Currently we are in an area of enhanced convection in Bangladesh, however this should diminish in the next week or so.  The MJO moves eastward across the pacific at about 4-8 m/s so it’s a continually moving wave of influence. Typically the MJO weakens as it crosses the Pacific, sometimes regaining strength as it hits the Atlantic and then exploding again over the Indian Ocean. Often a strong MJO wave will precede the start of an El Nino by a few months. People in California, you know how they say El Nino years have a lot of rain, well the worst rain events that last multiple days at a time are the result of the MJO; and the MJO is suppressed during El Nino years so go figure that. Those pineapple express storms that funnel tropical moisture right at southern California are directly linked to this weather pattern. People on the east coast it affects you too; hurricane formation can be greatly influenced from an anomalous wave of MJO influence in the summer months. The more you know – bah bah bah baaaah.

As for how this stronger than normal MJO affects us here in Bangladesh, it’s just rainy. But with the rain comes cooler weather. It’s been quite comfortable the last few days at a balmy 80. I am not complaining in the least bit, but it does take 3 days for our clothes to dry now… oh well.

What pairs best with rain? Books. I was able to finish book three of Game of Thrones this week. Wow, just when I thought it was going to be a happy ending for once, there had to be a little plot twist; not that the plot twist was upsetting but it ruined the total happiness I was hoping for. Jordan was able to finish book five of GOT two weeks ago. This week he was able to get half way through his book Aztec only to find 33 pages were missing ¼ of the way through. Of course Aztec is part of another five book series, guess we know what he’ll be reading till Christmas.

The circle of life made itself quite well known this week. Friday morning we lost one of our cats to some unknown cause. Honey Bunny was never quite normal and always the weaker of the two kittens but she was cute none the less. Whenever she ran she would fishtail out of control and we often found her staring at a wall for a good five minutes. Then again the people do that here too. I can’t tell you how many times we have been walking down the road and find a person standing in the middle of a crowd staring off into space. Naturally a few people stop and look in the same direction and they too just start staring. Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe I should make a foil hat just in case.  Anyway, we had to get permission from the home owner (as Panigram rents the house we live in) to bury Honey Bunny. We held a little memorial for her as the rain came pouring down and we dug a hole. It was as nice a funeral as any cat had ever had at this house. At least we still have Pumpkin, our little Simba who has just started teething this week, yay.

We were able to go to an International Trade Fair this week with Naz, and we got all sorts of three-pieces for the quilt. It was a little overwhelming with all of the people, were talking huge numbers of people all crammed into a small area but it was really cool. They even had a Ferris wheel, you can be sure mom and dad we went nowhere near that death trap. It was literally a 20-foot high four-car rebar terror wheel. They packed six people into a car that should have fit four and some cars had 8 with children standing in the middle. It was amazing it didn’t fall apart. There was one International tent, for Pakistan none the less. We all got asked if we were Pakistani… we blankly stared (only for 5 seconds though as we wrapped our brains around the question). The Bangladeshi hate the Pakistani, mostly due to the war of 1971 but it’s this really odd lingering hatred that is present in some people from all ages of the population. One rickshaw driver even told Savaila to get out of his rickshaw and refused to take her “Dirty Pakistani money,” one day when he found out where she was from. It’s really strange, but it was good to see a tent for Pakistan there. Inside this tent was the most ridiculously priced clothing, they wanted Tk6,000 ($85) for a cotton three-piece, it should have been Tk800-1000 at most ($12-15). Oh well Pakistan at least you tried, it’s more than I can say for any other country that wasn’t there.

This week Jordan got to teach on his own. Last Wednesday, Nazmeen was summoned to Dhaka to work out the situation with her visa. Jordan was excited to take over the afternoon classes. Everything went great! In normal Bangla fashion Nazmeen’s visa was held up and all the officials were asking for bribes. A Panigram policy states that there will be no bribes paid for anything, this lead to a stay in Dhaka of almost a week before the situation could be settled and Naz became a legal worker once again. Jordan had the honor of leading his first full day of classes on his own. This turned out to be quite an adventure. The van left a half an hour late, leaving no time for the infamous table naps that are soo needed that early in the morning. It was a very stormy and rainy day and with these conditions we get to experience the lack of infrastructure in this country. NO POWER. The generator was turned on, but the generator only powers three fans and the projector. A dark and stormy day with no lights made it very hard to use the whiteboards and none of the students could see. To top it off, the lessons and video that were supposed to be used for the day, ended up being corrupted and would not play on the laptop. Hooray, a change of plans! Jordan ended up giving his M6 (highest level of fluency) classes the assignment of a presentation due on Sunday. “If I had $10 million dollars…” The M4s (earlier in the progression of classes) got to do a mixed review of everything that they have learned since we have arrived. All in all, after the morning issues of no power, no lights, no nap, and no lessons, Jordan was able to pull off a successful day of teaching on his own.

Now that we have been here for almost a month, we are starting to be recognized. The other day after the international festival we were in an easy bike on our way back and the guy sitting by me leans over and says you live in that blue house and work for Panigram, right? I had never seen this guy and was a little unnerved, but quickly I realized I do stick out like a sore thumb. His name is Regin and he applied for the English teacher position but didn’t get it because English wasn’t his first language. We now see him around town all over, usually with our friend Babu the soda vendor by the railroad tracks. Babu gives us a great deal on 1 liter of coke, Tk50 or about $0.75. Whenever, we pass by he waves at us, it’s nice to have people wave at you. It’s even more noticible in the small village we work in, on market days if we need help translating all we have to do is look around and someone will see us and come to our aid. I am really making progress on my Bangla, I’m nowhere near conversational but I am starting to string words, albeit with terrible grammer, but it helps a lot in terms of public relations. If there is time this week I’ll post a list of numbers, foods, and common phrases.

The girls and I found out that Rajesh, the landscape architect, was planning to have some organic farmland on the resort grounds. This is perfect for our organic farming project as it’s a highly controlled atmosphere that already has space reserved. I have a phone call with him on Tuesday to talk details. I am looking forward to talking to him, as the last week has had little movement in physical progress of the project. We have plans to start our quick compost Monday, keep your fingers crossed that our friend Sumon was able to coordinate 32 kg of cow manure and 16 kg of rice husk. Yup that’s right, 70 lbs of cow poo; and it all gets to be mixed by hand, Yay, more poo!!! I swear. Oh, speak of (you knew deep down it was coming), we have successfully avoided pit toilets until this week when Jordan tackled that problem at Union Council head on (ha, get the pun?). He said it wasn’t bad, but was glad it was a private pit toilet as opposed to the more common communal pit toilet room and that he was really glad there was T.P. available.

Wish us luck as this week we have a full schedule, cow poo,  land coordination, a soccer match in Chowgatcha (look it up its actually on a map!), 4th of July dinner (tacos, kraft mac & cheese, fruit salad, and something else) on the roof, guests at the resort, and a supposed hartal on Wednesday. Have a safe and happy fourth everyone. Miss you guys at Svecia, launch a bottle rocket for me, and good luck to everyone in the boat regatta. The Jessore Jet is bound to put up a fight, or fling poo... something that will leave a mark (hehe).


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