Athena’s new bestie

The other day Nate pointed out to me that this blog is called “According to Athena,” and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all about Athena’s new friend.

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About a month ago Athena met a new dog in the field that we frequent and now they are best friends.  I mean, cuddling together, lazy wrestling, just wanting to be near each other best friends.  I actually haven’t seen her get along this well with another dog in years.  Not since her soul mate, Lincoln, moved away when we lived in Alexandria.

One day Athena’s friend followed us out of the field and to the car, and our driver asked what her name was.  I said, “I don’t know.  Brown Dog?”  So now we call her Brown Dog.

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The really surprising part is that Brown Dog is also a female.  Athena is an alpha female, and most of the females here pretty much hate her.  Little do they know she’s not exactly giving them any competition, if you know what I mean.

Lately Brown Dog has been in the field almost every day, and when Athena arrives, she prances around looking for her.  I feel like Athena’s life isn’t as fun as it used to be since we can’t take her for walks anymore, so it makes me happy to see Athena having a good time!

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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!

Two months in

I know I say this a lot, but time is flying by.  If the first two months of our tour here have gone by this quickly, I feel like if I blink for too long, we’ll already be packing up to leave.

We’re both busy with work and we’ve settled into our daily routines. I’ve figured out where my favorite places are to buy groceries, produce, pastries, jewelry, and handicrafts.  You know, all the important stuff.

We got a car on July 1, which has simultaneously made things a lot easier and been a huge pain in the butt.  It turns out when you buy a old SUV and drive it in pothole-riddled Dhaka, things break a lot.  I don’t know why that caught us by surprise, but there you go.  We’ve already had to replace a tire and we need to get the engine looked at.  And there was the time the car died in the DIT-2 parking lot.  Not in a parking space, but blocking traffic in the middle of the parking lot, around noon, on a hot day.  That wasn’t fun.

Really it hasn’t been that bad, I guess it just seems like it sometimes.  The ability to move around freely and go where we want outweighs the occasional car trouble.

The embassy was closed for four days for Eid festivities, and it was really nice to have a four-day weekend when you don’t celebrate the holiday that causes the time off.  We didn’t do any extravagant cooking, we had no guests, and almost everything in Dhaka was closed, so there was really nothing to do.  Most people leave Dhaka during Eid (expats go on vacation and lots of Bangladeshis go to their villages), so we were able to drive in minimal traffic and generally do nothing.  Plus it rained like crazy the entire four days, so that in itself was a great excuse to stay inside and watch Netflix all day.

Empty streets: an Eid miracle

Empty streets: an Eid miracle

Athena has made friends with lots of street dogs, and at this point she has established areas where she knows all the dogs and she doesn’t hesitate to go running up to them. We’ve given some of them names, like “black and brown dog” and “howly lady,” and some of them we refer to by the road that they live on. I’m trying to not let myself get too attached to any of her friends, and anytime I see one of them lying on the road I worry they’re not getting up.  But our neighborhood is probably one of the better neighborhoods to be a street dog.  Actually, the only dogs I’ve seen being abused are those that are out with their “dog walkers.”

Athena and her buddies

Athena and her buddies

Oh, our HHE is here!  That deserves it’s own blog post, but we’ve been busy trying to put things away, and wondering why we ever found it necessary to own so much stuff.  Our kitchen has massive cabinets that sadly do not contain enough shelves, so finding storage has been a challenge.  But, hey, at least all the kitchen stuff is actually in the kitchen, instead of being scattered in storage nooks and crannies in the study, dining room and living room! Our mentality has basically been that if we were able to find someplace for something in our house in Alexandria, we can certainly find space for it our much-larger apartment in Dhaka.

One of the most exciting things about our HHE arriving was the random consumables.  The pumpkin butter and huge chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s, real maple syrup from Wisconsin, and all of our spices have definitely made life a little better.  Given that we didn’t use even half of our HHE weight, I wish we’d stocked up more on consumables before we left, but now we know for next time.

If you live near a Trader Joe’s, please wander the aisles, savor all the goodies you could potentially buy, and know how lucky you are!

Two weeks in Dhaka

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for over two weeks already.  On one hand it feels like we just arrived; on the other hand, it seems like we’ve been here for months.

It’s really hitting home that we live here now.  We are making friends and developing social circles, and creating new routines. Most of our worldly belongings are in Dhaka or on their way here.  It’s kind of crazy.

Having our UAB here is huge.  Stuff is just stuff, but having our stuff here has really helped make our apartment feel like home.  I’ve missed my favorite wooden spoons and my mini-spatulas, and there’s nothing like curling up in bed under your own duvet and blankets in the same sheets you had in the States.  Just ask Athena.

A few nights ago we experienced late-night road traffic in Dhaka and it was harrowing.  Apparently the main road through Dhaka is closed off to big trucks during the day, and then at 10 pm the roads are opened up to everyone.  This meant the roads were filled with huge trucks carrying who-knows-what, sometimes with people on top of the trucks, and enormous buses bursting with people, hell-bent on getting where ever they’re going as fast as possible.  There was one bus that was right behind us, literally a foot away, blaring its horn.  I thought the bus was going to hit us for the hell of it. Eventually the bus passed us, and when a truck wouldn’t let the bus cut in front of it, the driver thrust a long metal rod out his window and waved it menacingly. What a three-ring circus.  I can’t imagine what traffic is like outside of Dhaka where drivers can actually pick up some speed.

Over the weekend we went to the consular section farewell party, and, wow, do they know how to party!  Americans and Bangladeshis were shaking it on the dance floor for hours, including the ambassador.  The party was hippie themed, but the DJ seemed to have his American music decades mixed up and he played 80’s dance tunes all night.  But, hey, who doesn’t love the 80’s?!

Our apartment has a little rooftop where we sometimes take Athena to run around and eat grass.  You can bolt lock the door from either the inside or the outside, and theoretically when you lock the door from one side it can’t lock from the other side because there is no one there to lock it.  Well, that’s apparently not true.  Somehow we got locked onto the roof.  Neither of us had a cell phone or anything. Nate tried leaning over the roof wall and yelling for the guard, but that didn’t work.  So then he yelled to the guy across the street who was also on his roof, who then yelled to the guard.  Eventually they both got the guard’s attention, but nothing happened.  Finally the guy who lives on the floor below the roof came home, and he came up and let us down.  Nate talked to the guard, and apparently he could tell something was wrong but he didn’t know what exactly, so he decided to ignore it.  Gee, thanks buddy.

Oh, and our apartment building has kittens!  About 10 days ago there were two dead kittens by the tree in front of our building, and we had a feeling they came from a liter nearby and just didn’t survive.  Life here isn’t easy for street animals.  Well, yesterday we noticed three little black and white kittens bouncing around in our compound parking area behind the generators.  They are really cute, and I’m glad to know that some of the kittens were able to survive.

Storm clouds rolling in over Dhaka

Storm clouds rolling in over Dhaka

Our adventures in walking Athena continue.  There are lots of nice parks with well-maintained walking paths, but dogs aren’t allowed.  So that sucks.  A few nights ago we were walking by the American School and two stray dogs came out from under a bus and started to approach Athena.  Nate tried to scare them away by kicking in their general direction, which usually intimidates the strays enough for them to leave you alone, but these two were undeterred.  These dogs seemed friendly and easy-going, and we let Athena meet them because we didn’t really have a choice since neither of us is heartless enough to actually kick a nice dog.  All went well, and she had fun strutting down the street with her stray dog posse, getting the occasional butt sniff.

It’s monsoon season here, and Nate and Athena got caught outside in their first monsoon.  Luckily they weren’t too far from home, and they came back only moderately soaked and bedraggled.

So, yeah, things are good here.  Maybe I still have my rose-tinted glasses on since we really only just arrived, but we are enjoying life here.  And no matter how hot it gets outside, at least we always have an air-conditioned apartment to return to!