The one where everyone sweated

If there’s anything I’ve learned about Bangladeshi cooking at this point, it’s that it is not only delicious, it’s also usually pretty spicy.  Sometimes I have to literally pick out the chilies.

This week we made butter chicken using one of the spice packets that Nate bought at the Bangladeshi market.  It was good, although a bit spicier than I’d anticipated. During the course of eating dinner, we managed to use up all the kleenexes in the vicinity.

I was telling my officemate about the shit-ton of Bangladeshi spice mixes that we have at home, and she mentioned that she was going to make a curry but didn’t have any curry powder.  “No problem!” I said, “I’ll give bring you a spice mix to use!”

I brought her a spice packet from the box labelled “quorma,” and she made it that night for dinner. Later I got a text from her saying that the curry was “really good” and “really spicy.”

Uh-oh… how spicy is really spicy?  Then she said “I couldn’t eat it all, my mouth is on fire.”

Oops. I felt terrible.

Apparently her husband sat there eating dinner with sweat rolling down his face.

I apologized repeatedly, and she advised me to only use half the spice packet when we make the quorma, which is definitely advice I’ll be taking to heart.

Aladdin Restaurant and Market in Arlington

Just looking at the photos as I was inserting them into this post made me hungry, even though I finished eating a fairly large lunch a few minutes ago.

Anyways, last Friday Nate and his class went to a Bangladeshi market near the FSI, and he sent me a text message with this photo:



He asked if I wanted anything in particular, and I told him to just buy whatever looked good.

Apparently “whatever looked good” was pretty much everything.

We now have enough spice mixes to feed a small army, which is a good thing because that’s approximately how much Nate eats.  Most of the boxes contain two to four packets of spice mix and I can’t wait to use them all!

Well, after the Bangla class went to the market, they went to a Bangladeshi restaurant a few storefronts down called Aladdin Restaurant.  Nate brought back some shrimp curry for me, and it was SO good.  Oh my goodness.  If this is seriously what the food is like in Bangladesh, I’m going to be in such trouble.

Nate was also really excited because Aladdin has an all-you-can-eat lunch on Sundays for $10 per person.  Ten dollars!

We decided to check it out the first chance we got, and we were not disappointed.
photo 1 (2)

There was a fried leavened bread (I think it’s called porota), tandoori chicken, potato curry, daal, cauliflower curry, spicy eggs, goat curry, and rice. I tried some of everything, and loved it all.

Then I went back and had seconds of everything.  photo 2 (2)For dessert we had this stuff that was like cream of wheat made with lots of butter, sugar and sweet spices.  I would have eaten more, but at that point I was so full that it would have ended badly.

We are pretty lucky that our first post in the Foreign Service is someplace with amazing food.  Someplace with fresh produce year round, lots of spices, and flavorful food.  I love South Asian food, and I seriously can’t wait to get to Dhaka!

Surprise! Moving = change

A few mornings ago, I was lying in bed and there was a cool breeze coming in through the open windows, rustling the curtains.  I could hear the birds chirping, and Athena was lying on her back next to me, begging for belly rubs.  Nate had gotten up, and I could smell coffee brewing and bacon on the stove.  We didn’t have much planned for that particular day, other than grocery shopping and taking Athena for her usual walk around the neighborhood.

In that particular moment, I felt a little panicky as I realized that moving to Bangladesh means leaving our life as we know it.

How melodramatic of me, I know.  Also, duh.

Over time, I’ve realized the importance being able to appreciate a given situation for what it is.

Take my Peace Corps experience, for instance.  Never in my life had I been so bored/cold/dirty and had nothing to do on a regular basis. But I knew that never again in my entire life would I have that much time where I could just lay around, listen to audio books, knit scarves, and genuinely not have anything better to do, so I accepted it.

It was great!

Now, when weekends are jam-packed with errands, chores, and minimal relaxing, I think fondly of my lazy Peace Corps days.

Here in Alexandria, we have the relative quiet and safety of our neighborhood.  Our evening “family walks” around the neighborhood.  Being able to go to the grocery store and easily buy everything I need, and more, for the week.  Driving less than thirty minutes to beautiful parks and hiking areas.  Not having to rinse produce before I eat it (I know I should, but frankly I don’t care).

Athena in her happy place

Athena in her happy place

These are all things that are going to change when we move to Bangladesh.  They won’t disappear completely from our lives, but they will be different.

For instance, I’m sure we’ll find someplace outside of Dhaka where we can go for long off-leash walks with Athena on weekends. It won’t be near our house, but someplace has to exist somewhere. I’ll have new markets to explore and different kinds of produce to experiment with, all of which will be soaked in bleach, I assure you. We’ll get to know the other people in our apartment building and explore the restaurants and shops in our new neighborhood, or at least figure out where the American Club is.

It won’t be the same as our life here, but isn’t that why we joined the Foreign Service in the first place?





Life, lately

A few weeks ago Nate got his official “Welcome to Post” email from the embassy in Dhaka!  It’s the little things, like this and getting our diplomatic passports, that I clutch onto and get excited about, because sometimes seven months seems so fricking far away.

The housing pool in Dhaka is shifting from single family homes to newly constructed seismically safe apartments, so it’s highly unlikely that a) our housing will be ready when we arrive, and b) we’ll have a yard.  We didn’t really expect to have a yard anyways, since Dhaka is one of the most population-dense cities in the world.  Although I am hoping for a nice rooftop….

Luckily it looks like it will be easier to get Athena there than it would be for other posts.  I think we just need to send a letter from our vet to the embassy and then they arrange a pet import certificate.  How exactly we are going to get her there, on the other hand, is another story.  That’s what I’m truly nervous about.

I’ve started learning Bangla through Mango Languages.  It’s free to anyone with a library card, which is pretty cool.

So far I’ve learned a couple of key phrases (“Hello,” “What’s your name,” “My name is ….” etc).  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s more than I knew before.  I’ve also found that Bangla is hard.  It’s completely unlike any language I’ve ever learned.  The alphabet is a bunch of squigglies.

I completed Lesson 1 of Chapter 1 a few days ago, and I eagerly moved onto Lesson 2.  And as I was repeating phrases, I realized I didn’t remember half of what I’d learned in the previous lesson.  I know I’m being lazy and I just need to do a lesson a day and then practice with Nate.  I don’t need to be able to carry on complex conversations; I just need the basics.

In other news, Nate and I celebrated our fourth anniversary of our first wedding (yup, we had two weddings: one in the DC courthouse and then our reception was the following year) a few weeks ago by going for a seven-mile run and getting dinner at our favorite pizza place.  We’ll be moving around the time of the anniversary for our second wedding, which we treat as our actual anniversary, so we will either go big as we leave Alexandria or find a fancy place in Dhaka to celebrate!  Or maybe we’ll do both.

Yeah, we’ll probably do both.

Also, I’ve decided that running down King St in Alexandria when the weather is nice from the hours of 5:30-7:30 pm is completely impossible.  You might think this is because the rush hour traffic makes it tricky (which it does) or because there are just too many pedestrians on the sidewalk to be able to actually run in a straight line (which there are), but those things aren’t what make it unbearable.  It’s all the people sitting outside eating!

Running by huge plates of delicious smelling food is absolute torture.  Especially since I’m usually hungry.  It’s all I can do to not steal a slice of pizza off a table as I run by.

Oh, speaking of running, last weekend we ran the Freedom’s Run half marathon!  It was super fun, and I absolutely loved it.  The race started in Shepherdstown, WV, and ran along the C&O Canal and then through Antietam Battlefield.  It was really hilly, but I powered up all the hills and didn’t walk except for at the aid stations.  After the run they gave us pizza, bagels and free pints of Yuengling, which was pretty awesome.  Nate basically ate a whole pizza.  Next time we’re in the DC area around the time this race is run, we will be there!

What a beautiful morning for a race!

What a beautiful morning for a race!

Watch out, world

Look what Nate picked up yesterday!

dpThat’s right, we have our diplomatic passports!

I eagerly brought mine to work to show my colleagues, and what they were truly impressed with was how pissed off I managed to look in my photo.

I have a condition commonly called “resting bitch face” and the guy told me not smile, so it looks like a mug shot.  One coworker pointed out, while gulping for air, he was laughing so hard, that I’m even wearing an orange dress which resembles a prison jumpsuit.

Hey, at least my hair looks great!