The mosquitoes

There have been shit tons of mosquitoes in our apartment lately.  We never open the windows and we have a screen door, but they still manage to get in somehow.

We have a mosquito racket, which is a lovely device that looks like a tennis racket, but you press a button and the mesh part becomes electric.  So you swipe at a mosquito, there’s a satisfying snapping sound, and the mosquito is dead.  Electrocuted, I suppose.  They get no sympathy from me.

For some reason the mosquitoes seem to prefer our bedroom over all the other rooms.  Luckily we have a net over our bed and M’s sleeper, but sometimes they get under the net.  Those nights are the worst.

Before we go to bed every night, we shake all the bedding, curtains, and drapes, and that usually rouses the nasty buggers.  One of us stands there with the racket, waving it all over the room, while the other anxiously points at the mosquitoes, shrieking “There it is!  Get it!” (I should note that Nate doesn’t shriek.  That’s primarily me.)

But the mosquitoes are so darn fast, they can be almost invisible.  So there’s a lot of frantic racket waving, pointing and yelling.  It’s quite the sight, I’m sure.  You know the night has been a success when the smell of burnt mosquito lingers in the air.

Luckily these aren’t Aedes moquitoes, so they won’t give us dengue.  But they’re still annoying. Thank goodness M hasn’t figured out how to itch mosquito bites yet.

Haha, I just got up to get something from the bedroom, and I killed another mosquito.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m looking forward to the intolerably hot summer months just because it seemed like there weren’t as many mosquitoes then.

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Eight months in

Dude, we are one third done with our tour here!  A third!

The other day someone asked me what I thought of living here, and I said that I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it, which is pretty accurate at this point.

Before I left on OB medevac, I loved it.  I don’t anymore.  I’m hoping I’d be happier if they lift the walking restrictions, but who knows if that is ever going to happen. There are definite benefits to living here and I am in no way miserable, but I am also really looking forward to our next post, wherever it may be.

Athena had a small eye infection, but luckily we had some antibacterial eye ointment that we brought with us.  I’m really hoping she doesn’t get sick here or need any urgent medical care because I don’t know what we’d do.  I think the vet that helped Hootie would be our best bet.

It is currently “winter” in Bangladesh, which means that the temperatures in Dhaka are in the 70’s or 80’s during the day, and sometimes dip down into the 60’s at night.  Most Bangladeshis are wearing sweaters, scarves and jackets, and you’d think it was below freezing.  For the first time since we arrived, I finally feel comfortable outside in light-weight pants and a t-shirt.

The only problem is that now that we actually want to spend time outside, the air quality is terrible.  There’s a nearby tall apartment building, and when that building looks hazy from our house, I try to limit my time outdoors and I don’t take M outside at all. There are some days where you can almost taste the particulate matter in the air, and it sticks to the back of your throat.  It’s disgusting.

Those apartment buildings in the background are my air pollution barometer

Those apartment buildings in the background are my air pollution barometer

This sounds ridiculous, but I have been avoiding getting my hair cut here.  I like to keep my hair short, and I was worried that no one here would be able to cut it just right.  Considering that my general philosophy towards hair is “Who cares?  It will grow back,” this is particularly silly. A few days ago I got my hair cut by Andy at the Nordic Club and he did a great job!  And it was only 2000 taka (about $25), which is probably expensive for here, but it seemed like a bargain to me.

We experienced a small earthquake a few weeks ago; it was centered in northeast India and we felt the tremor here.  We woke up because Athena was freaking out, and within a minute everything started shaking.  M slept through it, and, aside from some crooked pictures on the walls, you wouldn’t even know it happened.  Thank god for seismically safe housing!

Nate and Athena also got stuck in the elevator recently.  That was scary.  I got a call from Nate telling me to go downstairs and tell the guards they were stuck in the elevator, and as I was rushing down the stairs with M in my arms, a guard and our driver Kalam were running up.  They pried the doors open, and Nate and Athena jumped down out of the elevator, which had apparently stopped after going up a few feet.  Nate was hurrying off to a reception, and I almost took M and Athena up alone, and that would have been a real disaster, especially since I usually don’t bring my phone with me when I go to the rooftop.

We are keeping busy and life is always eventful, sometimes in good ways, sometimes bad. Only 16 more months left to go!

Hootie is so owl-ish

So, remember how I mentioned the owls that fly around the field where we take Athena? A few days ago we were all at the field together, and I left to go get something from the car.  When I came back, Nate was pointing under a garbage can and motioning for me to speak quietly.

There was a small owl, maybe a ten inches tall, under the garbage can, and it wasn’t trying to fly away even though we were there with a squawking baby and a dog running around.  It looked like it was watching us and just trying to stay hidden.  The poor little owl was clearly injured.

See the small owl under the garbage can?

Trying to blend in with the garbage

When we got home, I asked on FaceBook what I should do about the injured owl, and someone mentioned that she’d talked to her vet, and if we could get the owl to him, he’d be able to help.  It was starting to get dark by that point, and we had no desire to try to extract a baby owl from the field when it’s enormous parents were flying overhead.

The next morning our driver, Kalam, and I went back to the field, equipped with a large old towel and a big cardboard box with ventilation holes poked in it.  The owl, who I have since named Hootie, saw us coming and tried to get away, but she could only fly about three feet.  Kalam tried to place the towel over her so he could pick her up, but Hootie wasn’t interested.

You know how it looks when you chase a chicken?  The chicken tries to fly, flapping it’s wings, doesn’t get far, and you dart around after it?  Maybe you’ve never chased a chicken, but that’s pretty much what happens. Anyways, that’s what it looked like as we (technically, Kalam) chased Hootie. Eventually he got the towel over her and he was able to gently pick her up and place her in the box.

The vet’s office is outside of the zone in which we are allowed to travel, so Kalam transported Hootie to the office and left her with some staff members until the vet was able to see her.  I talked to the vet that evening, and he said her wings were damaged, probably by boys throwing rocks at her.

The next day the vet called again and said they were letting Hootie go that evening.  She was not eating in captivity, and he felt that she had healed enough that she would be able to survive.  He said they could let her go at the university, where there is a forest and lots of green space, or that Kalam could pick her and we could let her go in the field, which is surrounded by apartment buildings.  I asked what would give her the best chance of survival, and he said he thought the forest at the university would be good for her.

Hopefully Hootie is learning how to fly and hunt like a good little owl should, and she will grow big and strong!

Athena afield

Even though we can’t take Athena for walks anymore, there is an enclosed field we are allowed to take her to.

This field is pretty big.  She has a fun time running around, rolling in the dirt, sniffing everything, and trying to eat the garbage.

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From time to time, feral cats wander into the field.  The first time Athena saw one of the cats, she stalked towards it, and then barreled at it at full speed. I watched as the cat saw her coming and stood it’s ground, and all I could think was “oh shit.” Not because I was worried Athena would try to kill the cat, but because of what the cat might do to Athena.

As she came close, the cat hissed and took a swipe at her, and Athena immediately backed off.  She’s “greeted” several other cats, and most of them don’t run when they see her coming, much to her chagrin.  I suppose if you’re going to survive the mean streets of Dhaka as a feral cat, you have to be able to hold off the all the stray dogs, and, since dogs like to chase, it’s better to not run.

Sometimes Nate takes Athena to the field in the evening after work, but apparently there are five or six massive owls that fly around the field when the sun goes down.  He said one of them gave a prey screech and then dive-bombed Athena.  Luckily the owl didn’t make contact.

There is also a stray dog in the field sometimes that Athena has become best friends with.  It’s another female, surprisingly, and they are two peas in a pod.  She’s the first dog that has played tug or chase with Athena since we got here.

Even though we can’t take her for walks, I think Athena probably gets more exercise in the field than she was getting before.  I’m still keeping my fingers (and toes, and just about everything else I can cross) crossed that they will lift the walking restriction in our neighborhood.  I really miss our family walks.  But at least Athena is still having fun!

The new normal

We’ve been back in Dhaka for over two months now, and things here are good.  We have wonderful friends that help us out when we need it, and we are incredibly lucky to have an adoring nanny (ayah) for our son, M.

M is a happy, healthy baby and he seems to have adjusted to life here as well as one could hope for a newborn.  He slept through the New Year’s firework explosions and the recent earthquake, and he usually doesn’t cry too much when we take him out (unless it’s to a restaurant for dinner, then all bets are off).

Athena has adjusted to having a baby brother, and she periodically checks on him and licks his feet.

Things changed a lot here in Dhaka while we were gone.  An Italian NGO worker was murdered right outside one of the supermarkets most expats shop at regularly, in the middle of the diplomatic enclave.  A few days later a Japanese man was killed in another part of Bangladesh.  There was a bombing in Old Dhaka, and another Italian was shot (but not killed, thankfully) in another region of the country.

So we came back to a Dhaka were we are not allowed to walk on the streets anymore, anywhere.  Movement throughout the city is heavily restricted and we can only be out during certain hours of the day.  There are police and guards everywhere.

That picture up there in the blog header?  I took that while I was strolling around on a Saturday afternoon.  That doesn’t/can’t happen anymore, and it really sucks.

Coming back was a difficult adjustment and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the situation gets better.  In the meantime, Athena has a dogwalker who takes her out in the mornings.  She’s generally happy to see him and every time he rings the door bell to drop her off he’s petting her, so I think that he treats her well.

I was looking through the draft folder of my blog posts, and I had started writing a few posts shortly after we got back in November, but they were all doom and gloom and I never hit “publish.”  I was in a bit of a funk after we got back, and I think I knew I was being unnecessarily negative.  I mean, life is what you make of it, right?

We are making the most of our time here, planning plenty of vacations, and snuggling a lot with M and Athena.  That said, I can not wait to see the bid list for our second post within the next few months.