A review of hiking Snake Canyon

Snake Canyon: one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman

Hiking Snake Canyon was not always something I wanted to do. I heard it involved jumping off of things, abseiling, and other crazy stuff. But then, I basically was like, “f*** it” and decided I shouldn’t let my fear of heights stop me from doing once-in-a-lifetime things. Plus, I was terrified of scuba diving and now it’s one of my favorite things to do. I decided I was going to hike Snake Canyon, goddamnit! That said, thinking about this hike literally kept me awake at night and gave me cold sweats.

The road to the wadi is easy to find

You have to use a guide for Snake Canyon, also called Wadi Bani Awf. Unless you are experienced at abseiling and have all the required equipment, this hike is dangerous and nearly impossible. We decided to go with twenty3extreme, the same company Nate used for the 7th Hole adventure. I highly recommend them; they were fantastic. We met our three guides at 7:30 am at the exit point for the hike, and the first thing they did was kit us up with harnesses, life jackets and helmets. Then we drove to the hike starting point, by the Bilad Sayt Audi football field.

View down the wadi towards the beginning of the hike

After hiking for about 15 minutes we reached the first abseil point, which was a six meter drop. This was a good chance to learn how abseiling works, and it was easier than I expected it to be. We slid and climbed down a number of other drops that would have normally scared the shit out of me and were far scarier than the abseils. With the abseils, I was strapped in and there was a safety mechanism to keep me from free falling. With some of those drops, I had to trust that there would be a rock someplace to cling to or step on that I just couldn’t see yet. And that’s scary.

We abseiled down the crevice in the upper left quadrant, and then down off the cliff in the middle of the photo, followed by quick fun slide down the wet rocks on our bums!

We eventually reached the second drop, an abseil of about 30 meters. That was followed immediately by another drop of eight meters, for the majority of which you have to just dangle and slowly lower yourself. After that it was more hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming.

I used to be wary of jumping off cliffs into water, but this hike cured me of that. Just plug your nose, bend your legs if you don’t know how deep it is, and go for distance! The guides did an awesome job of showing us how to use our arms and our backs to lower ourselves when we were between two boulders and there was no place for your feet to touch. Also, the harnesses had canvas butt covers, so no one was at risk of splitting their pants. It sounds silly, but with the amount of sliding that we did, all of us would have emerged with torn pants had this not been the case

Taken just before sliding off a cliff into that crevice

There was one point where we swam through a cave. Cool, right? Then I saw what looked like a floating natural raft of trash to my left. Turned out it was actually garbage, and the opening to the cave that we exited from was literally full of trash. Apparently when it rains all the water comes through this point, so all the garbage collects there. It had rained the weekend before.

Eventually we stopped for a quick snack break and heard thunder in the distance. Warning bells went off and we hiked out as fast as we could. We got back to the car, took off our kits, and the drivers piled into one car and immediately set off to pick up the other vehicles. The rest of us stayed behind in an area with higher ground. Snake Canyon is prone to flash-flooding and we did not want to be there when that happened.

Had we not been rushing to leave the canyon, I would have spent a lot of time photographing that amazing curved rock

Storm clouds rolling in at the exit of Snake Canyon

After we had waited about 30 minutes for the cars to come back it started pouring rain. We found a goat herder’s “shelter” of palm fronds tied together that blocked the rain a little bit, but as soon as we saw the cars coming back down the mountain, we ran to them and piled in as quickly as we could. The sooner we got out of there the better. The ground here is so dry, it doesn’t absorb rain. Water just runs off of it like you’d expect with pavement. So the dirt road didn’t become muddy at that point, it was just full of huge puddles. Luckily we were all in 4WD vehicles so we didn’t have any problems. But we definitely drove out of there as fast as we safely could.

Storm clouds over Wadi Bani Awf

Rain is such a novelty, people stop to watch the flooding

I’m really glad I had the chance to hike Snake Canyon, and we’re lucky we actually got to go on the trek. We’d planned to go back in March, but it got cancelled due to a lack of water in the canyon, and they replaced it with a Tiwi trek. That got cancelled due to impending rain. Luckily for us the weather was perfect during the hike, and the prior weekend’s rain meant that all the pools were full, clear, and beautiful. This hike will definitely go down as one of my Oman favorites. It was incredible.

Oh, one more thing: I met the guy who writes the blog Beyond the Route. He was tagging along with our trekking guides, helping them with our group. He is a super cool dude and if you haven’t looked at his blog, you should. He provides some of the clearest, most accurate background info on Oman and the culture that you’ll find written by a non-Omani on the internet.

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Where Peace Corps meets #MeToo

It’s Peace Corps week!  A few years ago. to commemorate Peace Corps week, I shared snippets of emails that I sent back to my friends and family while serving in Moldova, and today I’m writing about a part of my Peace Corps experience that I’ve never talked about publicly before. At this point it’s a secret I’m tired of keeping.

One night in December 2006 I took the evening rutiera (minibus) from Chisinau back to my village. The thing with this rutiera route was that it didn’t stop at my village: its route ended in the village next to mine, which was about a 10 minute walk away. I got off the rutiera around 10 pm and started walking briskly to my house. Two men came up behind me and I said hello. They said hello back, dragged me kicking and screaming into an field, made me take off all my clothes, and then they raped me. One of them kept raping me while the other went back to the village to grab some friends so that they could rape me too.

To make a long story short, I pressed charges immediately and all the men went to jail for six years. The truly disgusting part? I found out later that one of the rapists (who’s face I couldn’t see at the time) was a student of mine.

I was medically evacuated to Washington, DC a few weeks afterwards and they asked me if I wanted to go back to Moldova. I immediately said, “yes” because, come hell or high water, I was not going to let my rapists decide the course of my life. I had wanted to do Peace Corps so badly, and they were not going to take that away from me. I was placed at a different site with a lovely host family and fantastic counterparts. I was glad I went back, and I got to finish my Peace Corps service on my own terms.

Peace Corps (both the country office and headquarters) handled the rape as best they could, and I don’t fault them for anything. I was a woman walking by myself at night, something I assumed was safe BECAUSE IT SHOULD BE. I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You’ll notice that I didn’t title this blog post “My Peace Corps Story,” or something like that, because it isn’t. There is so much more to my Peace Corps experience than being raped, and it in no way defines that experience. In fact, I’d eagerly do Peace Corps again if given the chance. When I think back on Peace Corps, I remember meeting Nate, my awesome group of peer educators, my friends, how hard my counterparts really did try, the cold winters (and poopsicles in the outhouse), and how much I hated potatoes and dill. That right there is my Peace Corps story.

I’ve put a lot of time, energy and tears into processing being raped. I treat being a rape survivor kind of like how I would manage having a tail (yes, like the tail that a dog or cat has. Bear with me here; this is all metaphorical). Humans don’t have tails, but I do, and I used to be ashamed by it and try to keep it hidden. Hardly anyone knew about it, and sometimes its presence would make me really upset because I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I figured out how to keep it stuffed away, hidden from everyone. But, now, I don’t care that I have a tail. Some of the most amazing women I know also have tails. It doesn’t define who I am, but it is part of me. And I am not ashamed of who I am.

I am myself: I am a strong, fun, loving, interesting, bad-ass, experienced woman. I am also a wife, a mother, a friend, a public health professional, an athlete, a photographer, a tour guide, and a rape survivor. I am proud to be me.

Our visit to the Salmah Plateau

A few posts I talked about the logistics of visiting the Salmah Plateau, and this post is going to cover what we did and, of course, what went wrong.

We drove to the Salmah Plateau with our friends, who were driving their own 4WD vehicle, and we departed Muscat around 11:30. Once on the plateau, our first stop was  the Majlis Al Jinn cave, which we reached just before 1 pm. Majlis Al Jinn is the second largest known underground cave in the world (according to Wikipedia). Supposedly 5 jumbo jets can fit inside! It can only be accessed from above, and you have to go with a licensed tour operator. There are a number of access points for the cave, and when we threw a rock down one of the holes, it took nearly 10 seconds to hit the bottom. We made sure to stay very far away from the edge! Nate chatted with a Bangladeshi goat herder who was stunned by Nate’s Bengali abilities and showed us the different cave openings.

From here our plan was go drive to the beehive tombs and find a camping spot. We were using maps.me and at one point it had us turn right to drive down a washed-out road. If we’d stayed on the road we were on, it appeared that we would have gone pretty far out of the way and there was no easy way to get back to the tombs. We all stopped and compared routes, and this was also the route that Oman Off Road said to take. So we turned and followed the dubious-looking road down a steep hill, towards a dry wadi bed. There was a shepherdess with a large flock of goats in the middle of the road, and as we slowly approached the goats scattered and went literally running up the side of the wadi. The woman was super pissed off (who can blame her? I have no idea how or if she got her goats back) and picked up a large rock to throw at our car. Thankfully she didn’t actually hurl the rock at us, but we should have taken that as a sign to just turn around then and there.

Instead we proceeded towards the river bed, with high rock walls on either side. The “road” turned into deep gravel full of boulders, with steep sides and ditches that made the car swerve and sway like we were driving through thick sand. Eventually the road ahead was a field of boulders and we stopped, unable to go any further without probably breaking an axle. We were unable to turn around because the “drivable” path was so narrow, and Nate had to back out. We were travelling with friends in another vehicle, and they stopped before entering the wadi bed. Our friend, S, who grew up in Colorado, luckily had more experience navigating this kind of terrain than we did, and she kept a level head and guided Nate out. I stood on the side in the shade, holding M, hyperventilating and near tears. I was convinced we were either going to break an axle or hit the wadi rock-face, and that we’d need to get a ride out with our friends and abandon the car. Luckily it all went ok and with S’s guidance Nate was able to back out of the river bed. Our Jeep is “trail-rated,” which apparently means it can handle some serious shit and come out unscathed.

The sun sets early this time of year, around 5:30. By the time we got out of the wadi and back up the washed-out road it was nearly 3:30. We decided we’d keep driving for another hour towards the beehive tombs, at this point having no idea where to go since the route in Oman Off Road and in maps.me was impassable. Luckily, after driving for about 30 minutes, we found an awesome spot right by the beehive tombs, but in a somewhat sheltered area that wasn’t too windy. There was also a nice ravine that doubled as toilet facilities.

Before long we had our tents up and the campfire going. The kids ran around, playing nicely. There was surprisingly minimal rock throwing, given that the entire area was covered in them. We had popcorn, dried French sausage, steaks, vegetables, potatoes, and s’mores. And lots of adult beverages.

After the sun set it got cold fast. M insisted on wearing his short-sleeved pajamas (why I thought it was a good idea to give him that option, I don’t know) and around 6:30 am I woke up to find him lying in his pack-n-play, in fetal position, blue-lipped and shivering. Next time I’m only bringing the warm pajamas!

The next morning we were all chilly, but as soon as the sun crested the mountains, the temperature was much more comfortable. After we packed up camp, we spent about an hour exploring the plateau before starting the drive back down towards the coast. You can easily follow the route in Oman Off Road back down the mountain, and it took about two hours to go from the tombs to the beach, which included some stops to see the sites.

We pulled off on a dirt track towards some houses and goats, where the view of the canyon was supposedly amazing. We didn’t feel comfortable basically driving through these peoples’ backyard, so Nate parked and I walked toward the canyon. As I walked back to the car, I saw Nate and M, hand-in-hand with young Omani girls, walking around getting a tour of the family’s farm. A young lady who spoke perfect English was pointing out all the baby goats and sheep and that just about made M’s day. Afterwards they invited us to their house for khawa (Omani coffee) and dates, so we sat on the floor with them and learned more about their family and life on the plateau. The young lady goes to the university in Sur, where she is studying public administration, and she came back to visit her family for the long holiday weekend. They gave M candy and apples, while they fawned over his white-blonde hair and tried to get them to sit by him.

From here we started our descent down the mountain, which, on my part, involved a lot of swearing and squealing. Nate kept telling me to just close my eyes, but I said that if I’m going to die, I want to see it coming. I much prefer ascents over descents and I’m glad I wasn’t driving.

We stopped at Fins beach once we reached the coast, and it was so full of vehicles, tents and people I was absolutely shocked. Usually when you stop by that beach there’s a vehicle every 500 meters or so, but this was like how you’d expect a beach in the US to look on a holiday weekend. It was really refreshing to see everyone out having fun and enjoying the lovely beach over the long weekend. We saw an RV with a huge water tank on top. You know those people were in it for the long-haul.

We really enjoyed the Salmah Plateau, and I finally got to cross it off my Oman bucket-list! There are so many amazing places in this country, and every time we are out adventuring I pinch myself, I can’t believe how lucky we are.

It’s all worth it for this view!

Nakhal Fort and Al Thowarah Hot Springs, revisited

One of the first day trips we took out of Muscat last year when we arrived was a visit to Nakhal Fort and the Al Thowarah Hot Springs. I won’t say it was a disaster, but the drive took forever and it was so hot we didn’t want to leave the car.  Eventually the weather got cooler, and we decided it was time to revisit Nakhal (and now, six months later, I’m finally writing about it).

The fort is a lot of fun to explore, and, even after visiting Jabrin Castle, Bahla Fort and Nizwa Fort, it’s still my favorite. It’s so scenic with the date palm plantations and the Hajar Mountains, it’s practically impossible to take a bad photo. It’s also fun with little kids because there are fewer ledges, outcroppings and steep stairs than you’ll find at some of the other forts and castles around Oman. M loves running around and exploring, especially in the “children’s rooms” and on the rocky foundation on which the fort was built.

If you’re looking for lunch, there are some sandwich shops across from the fort and a biryani shop near the hot spring. You could also pack a lunch and there are some nice shaded tables and benches at the hot spring. The hot spring is a five-minute drive down a windy paved road through the date palm plantations.

There’s a nice big parking lot, but be careful: everything that is wet or damp, including parts of the parking lot, is very slippery. You can climb down the stairs into the spring, or you can take a dip in the soaking tub. I would strongly advise against wearing only a swimsuit; no one else does and you’d get stared at relentlessly. Instead wear clothes that you can get wet, similar to what you’d wear if you went to a wadi. I usually just roll up my pants and sit on a rock so that I don’t get wet past my legs. Also make sure you wear water shoes. If you tried to walk on those rocks barefoot you’d fall in no time.

There are little fish in the hot spring that will nibble on anything that is submerged. It feels weird, like little razors are skimming your feet, and tickles like mad but you get used to it after a while. If you’re lucky you’ll also see my favorite bird: the Indian Roller. They like the trees and the water, and they are stunningly beautiful in-flight.

Between the warm water and the animals (goats, cats, birds, fish, etc), kids and toddlers love it here. M eventually sits down in the neck-deep water and shrieks at the fish, tosses small rocks and has a great time. It’s a particularly pretty place in the late afternoon sun.

Whenever we have guests that want to do some adventuring on their own during the week while we’re at work, this is my first recommendation. It’s a beautiful little slice of Oman and it’s only as intense as you want it to be. If you’re jetlagged you can leave around noon, the drive is super-easy,  you can get lunch there once you arrive, the fort is open until 4, you’re at the hot spring at the prettiest time of day, and then you’re back at home or wherever you’re staying right around dinner time. Plus the fort only costs 500 baisa (about $1.25) per person and the hot spring is free!

Sri Lanka: The drive to Colombo (and Colombo)

Most of the rainy drive from Udawalawe to Colombo looked like this

We departed Udawalawe for Colombo around 11 am. Google maps said the drive
should take 4 hours. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

We stopped in Ratnapura to buy precious stones and get lunch. The
shopkeeper said if we wanted to drive the 100 kilometers to Colombo, we
needed to leave ASAP. I thought it would take maybe 90 minutes, but he said
it would take at least two and a half hours.

It took nearly 4 miserable hours.

Shopping for gems in Ratnapura

M and the durians

There was some interesting stuff to look at along the way, but mostly it was boring and I was very grateful we had a driver.

Cows crossing the street

One of the largest elephants I’ve ever seen

We finally reached Colombo around 6 pm, a solid 2 hours after expected. I think our 7 days of non-stop travelling and exploring caught up with us in Colombo, because we didn’t really feel like doing much. We bought some souvenirs and ate some really great pizza, and then it was time to head to the airport.

We had an awesome time in Sri Lanka, and we are already trying to plan a trip back. There’s so much to see and do, the food is amazing, and Sri Lankans are so friendly and hospitable!

Bat and Al Ayn Bronze Age Tombs

Al Ayn tombs

We first visited the 5,000 year old Bronze Age tombs at Al Ayn (in Oman, not UAE) several months ago. There’s another archeological site at Bat, maybe 30 minutes from Al Ayn, but when we first went we couldn’t find it. You might think that a UNESCO World Heritage site would have clear directions and labeling, but in Oman that’s not always the case.

We drove in the direction of the Bat Necropolis, thinking we’d see it from the road, and, as we bumped along an unending dirt road, we eventually gave up. We decided we’d go home, research the exact location, and come back knowing exactly where to go.

Remains of a tomb at Bat

Recently we had a chance to give the Bat Necropolis another shot, and this time we were successful! With the help of omantripper.com and precise GPS coordinates (23.274667,56.747666, in case you’re interested) we finally found it. If you use the GPS coordinates, you’ll drive along a paved road with the exact coordinates on the right. Before you reach the exact spot, you’ll notice a break in the fence with a dirt track leading into the site. Take the dirt track, which is most easily navigable with a high clearance vehicle, and you can drive around the Bat necropolis and explore. It’s a big area with rough dirt roads leading all over.

One of several tomb groupings at the Bat Necropolis

From the Bat Necropolis it’s about a 30 minute drive to the Al Ayn tombs, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Bat is more expansive than Al Ayn, but Al Ayn definitely wins for the “wow” factor. You can actually see the tombs from the road as you approach, perched on a ridge with a stunning mountain backdrop. It’s incredibly beautiful, especially in the late afternoon when the lighting is just right.

View of Al Ayn tombs from the road

Reaching the Al Ayn tombs is also a little tricky because, surprise, surprise, there are no signs. Each time we’ve gone, we see vehicles full of tourists stopped, not knowing where to go, and then they follow us in. To get to the tombs, turn to the left off the paved road onto a dirt track before you’ve gone past the tombs. Follow the dirt track up past the houses, and through the opening in the compound walls, where it looks like you’re driving into someone’s back yard. From here go down towards the wadi bed and turn right to drive up the wadi in the direction of the tombs. You’ll see a rough dirt track on an incline off to the left, which leads to a small parking lot. From here it’s a short walk uphill to the tombs.

Apparently the tombs at Bat and Al Ayn are some of the best-preserved Bronze Age tombs in the world. They were constructed 5,000 years ago, which makes them older than the Giza pyramids! It’s remarkable how well they’ve survived the passage of time, but I guess the environment in Oman facilitates that with little rain, climate change, or geological instability.

A note to tourists: please don’t climb on these structures. It may seem obvious, but judging by the number of people we saw climbing on tombs last time we went, apparently it’s not.

 

Adjusting to life in Muscat

Things are going well so far! Jet lag was more of a doozy this time around than expected and for several nights I couldn't fall asleep before 3 am. That sucked.

We love our housing and neighborhood. There is a grocery store, restaurants, and even a Starbucks within walking distance. The sidewalks are functional and it's easy to stroll around the neighborhood. Athena has two small yards that she can run around in!

One thing about our house that's taking some getting used to is the number of light switches. Between the first and second floors there are 63 light switches, and that's not counting the switches that provide power to appliances like the hot water heaters or the stove fan. These are all the light switches by the front door. Here we are lucky because half of them are labeled. Throughout most of the rest of the house there are no labels.

Thanks to our social sponsors, we found a good shawarma shop near a sandy beach. Last week we got shawarma and falafel sandwiches to go and ate dinner on the beach while M played in the surf. Well, technically I ate dinner while Nate kept M from drowning and then vice versa. The beach here is beautiful and the sun sets right over the water. I felt like I was on vacation. It's hard to believe we actually live here sometimes.
The restaurant scene here in general is pretty good. If you're used to paying D.C. prices, it's nothing out of the ordinary.

We don't have internet yet, so I'm blogging from my phone. I have no idea when we will actually get the internet set up. Luckily cellular data is relatively inexpensive, and that's really all I need. It would be nice to get the VPN set up so we can FaceTime with our families (Oman blocks all VOIP calls), but I know it will happen eventually.

Mostly it's the little things that I enjoy the most. I've missed hearing the call to prayer several times a day. We can't hear it inside our house but I always here it when we are out and about. I love stepping outside and smelling the salty sea air. It almost makes me forget how blazing hot it is. Almost. There are dumpsters everywhere for throwing garbage away and the streets are so clean. Muscat is definitely not a bad place to be.

Alright, my hands have fallen asleep from typing on my phone. We have planned for some fun stuff over the long Eid weekend and hopefully there will be more to come here soon. Preferably typed out on a computer.

News!

This past month has been pretty awesome.  We went on our first R&R, which was a much-needed and thoroughly enjoyed four-week break from Dhaka.  And we found out where we are headed for our next post: MUSCAT, OMAN!

The first time I heard of Muscat, I was like, “Isn’t that a kind of wine?”  I had no idea it was a capital city, much less the capital city of a country I didn’t even really know existed. Oman isn’t in the news very much and I’ve never really bragged about my Middle Eastern geographical knowledge.  Thank goodness for Google.

After spending a lot of time on the internet and talking to as many people as we could about our decision to rank Muscat highly on our bid list, we are really happy we got one of our top choices. Yes, Oman is a conservative country (but not as conservative as, for instance, Saudi Arabia) and it’s really hot for a lot of the year, but Muscat is right on the water, outdoor activities abound, there’s hardly any crime, and the climate is apparently perfect four months out of the year. And there are not tons of people and cars everywhere, we’ll be able to travel through the country, we could drive to Dubai, and there is hardly any air pollution!  We’ll be able to go camping on the beach, snorkeling, explore the dessert, and take Athena for walks outside again.  Even she’ll be able to go swimming in the Gulf. People other than our parents want to come and visit us!

I’m sure there will be challenges and difficulties that I can’t foresee.  God only knows there were/are plenty here in Dhaka.  But for now we are pretty fricking excited!

Almost a year in

I can’t believe we’ve been here almost a year.  What a time it has been.

The other day a good friend pointed out to me that I haven’t been blogging lately.  It’s hard to blog when things are “meh.” I wrote a post on our recent trip to Kuala Lumpur (which was so much fun) and then the pictures wouldn’t load onto WordPress, so I gave up on publishing it.  But things have been happening around here, and life goes on.

A few weeks ago there was a craft bazaar at the Canadian High Commission.  One of the vendors had this massive etched brass plate with elephants and stuff on it, and when I asked the price he quoted me something outrageous. So I asked where his shop was, figuring I could go see the plate there and maybe get a better price.  I went a few days ago, and there, again, was the plate.  I asked how much it cost, and the price did indeed come down significantly.  He told me it was 450 years old and from the Mughal era.  If that’s not a dubious claim, I don’t know what is.  It looks old, but not that old.  Who knows, maybe it’s new and they buried it in some dirt to make it look old. I told Nate it’s supposedly a Mughal plate, and he said that would make us archeological artifact smugglers if we bought it, assuming it is indeed that old.  I got the shopkeeper to come down to what I consider a reasonable price for a big metal plate with an interesting design of unknown age/origin, so we’ll see what happens.

The ayah has started giving me unsolicited directions on child-rearing.  We started feeding M solid foods when he turned six months old, and we’d been giving him purees for breakfast and dinner.  The other day, around noon, I was holding M with one hand and peeling a banana with the other.  M was lurching towards the banana, clearly very interesting.  The ayah saw this, and said, “You give him breakfast and dinner.  Why no lunch?”  So now M gets lunch too, which I suppose was bound to happen eventually anyway since most people do, in fact, eat lunch.  One night Nate and I came home around 7:30 and M was already in his pjs.  She said “He needs milk and then he goes to sleep.”  Yes m’am.

Our apartment is long and narrow, and all the windows on the long side border a single family home, the yard of which we can see into easily. One night we heard tons of barking and it turned out they’d gotten a dog.  A large, full-grown dalmatian, to be exact. During the day they chained it up to this covered area in the front yard, and the chain was maybe 4 feet long.  The dog barked like mad pretty much all day long, and Athena was in a perpetual tizzy.  They gave the dog food and water, and their gardener touched it with a long stick every time he went near it, but thankfully we never saw anyone be mean to the dog.  And he treated the stick like a toy/scratching pole.  Then after about four days of non-stop barking, everything was quiet and the dog was gone.  In fact, it now looks like the dog was never even there.  No chain, no water dish, nothing.  Who knows where the dog went, but Nate and I have decided that they had a weekend visitor that insisted on bringing their dog with them.  It’s the most reasonable and humane explanation we could think of.

Oh, one of my toenails fell off.  I’m almost 100% certain it’s because of a bad pedicure from La Femme. I’ve never lost a toenail before, even with marathon training, so this is uncharted territory.  I’m just glad it never got infected.  That’s Dhaka for you… even my toenails are like “What the fuck.”

Now I’m going to figure out how to finally get the pictures into the Kuala Lumpur post!

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.