Michael P

Christmas and Stuff
December 27, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: culture

I really didn’t know what to expect for Christmas.  I’m not a huge fan of all the Western Christmas tradition of gift giving and Santa and stuff like that.  So i was looking forward to a Christmas that didn’t involved cheesy Holiday music and endless ads for sales at local malls.  On Christmas Eve the Pastor Ayub came by with a cake for everyone at the center to eat.  I was given the honor of cutting the cake and i asked for plates and forks for everyone.  I was kind of confused why I was the only one that got a plate and fork but the Bangladeshi way of eating cake is just to plop it in your right hand and eat it right there.

img_2823The next morning i got up early to go to the PCB land.  It was a white christmas of sorts.  Not snowy, but it was really cold by Bangladeshi standards.  We piled into a Toyota HiAce and made the 1/2 hour trip.  After waiting around for a while we had a Christmas service that was pretty much like what i would expect in America, except for the fact that i was in Bangla.  I stood up and talked about what Christmas is like in America (with the aid of Pastor Ayub translating).  People looked pretty confused.

A while after the service ended we had one of the best meals i’ve had in Bangladesh thus far.  Amazing fish, dal, mutton, misty (sweets), curried vegetables, and of course, rice.

img_2859I’m always amazed that people can make such good food with a couple larges fires and some big aluminum pot things.


Instead of taking the HiAce back, i decided to take the bus back with the students.  We had a nice walk through the rural countryside, then took a loud, two stroke baby taxi, then a super crowded bus.


I moved out of the center on Christmas and into the a hotel that i’ll be staying at with my dad, uncle, and brother.  They’re arriving tonight at 9 pm.  I guess for Christmas i got a hot shower and consistent fast(er) internet.

Also, the election here is heating up.  I went for a walk yesterday and happened on a huge (2-3000 people) rally for the Bangladeshi National Party.  I’m almost as excited for the election here as i was for the election in America.  Bangladeshi has much more at stake than the US did.  Everything goes down on the 29th  and i’ll be explaining more about the election tomorrow.


Eid ul-Adha
December 9, 2008, 4:37 pm
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So today is Eid ul-Adha.  I woke up in anticipation, excited for the photographic opportunity.  Now, i have mixed feelings about the whole things.  I posted the non-gory pictures and there’s a gallery below that has really, really gory pictures.  you’ve been warned!

The whole reason behind Eid ul-Adha is that it commemorates the sacrifice that Ibrahim (Abraham for Jews and Christians) made when he sacrificed his son Ishmael.  Historically Judaism, Christianity, and Islam come from the same basic beginning.  They all believe that Ibrahim was called by God to be the chosen race.  The difference started when Isaac and Ishmael came onto the scene.  Christianity and Judaism believe that Isaac was the next in line for the chosen people and Islam believes that Ishmael was the next in line for the chosen people.  In the New Testament and the Torah, Abraham showed his devotion to God by getting ready to sacrifice his son Isaac.  But God intervened when he saw that Abraham was going to do it.  In the Quran, it’s the same exact story except that its Ishmael instead of Isaac.

A lot of people go back to spend time with their family for eid.  People take buses, trains, boats, cars…Its just a mass exodus from Dhaka.  Supposedly 60% of dhaka goes back to their village. Who knows if that’s true, but it is noticeably quieter.  Its quite nice.


This can’t be safe.  What would happen when (not if) the bus crashes?


yesterday the knife sharpeners were making a killing.  There were tons of these guys walking around and preparing for the slaughter.


One difficult part of getting a cow or goat and slaughtering it is that you have to get it back to your house somehow.  this guy decided to take a rickshaw because his goat was small, but if you have a cow that weighs thousands of pounds it can cause some problems.  Supposedly, seeing guys in lungis chasing a cow down the street is not uncommon.


Prayer at one of the many local mosques.



This a Muslim imam (religious leader).  you can either have an imam slaughter your animal for a fee of around 500 taka or just do it yourself.  The more devout people have the imam do it.  He has a special shaped knife for the job.  Also, after watching different people doing this, the imam is much better at finishing the job quickly than an average guy.




Here’s the view from my roof.  Pretty bloody


This huge cow was tied up to my building.  He took like 20 minutes get down on the ground.  During that 20 minutes i almost got killed as he got loose and started running around trying to run people over.


Here’s another Imam.  His white clothes got pretty messy.


After the animal is killed its butchered either in the street or in the garage of your building.  Then you distribute 1/3 to you family/relatives, some for the poor, and some for the mosque.


Today is like Halloween for the people that can’t afford to buy their own animal.  Hundreds of lower caste people run around with bags and ask for pieces of meat.  Its like trick or treating, but with raw meat.

Although i think there are better ways to show your devotion to your religion, i do think there are some pretty cool things about this holiday.  It’s a time when family comes together and enjoys eachothers company.  Because i’ve been away from my family for a while, i see how important that is.  Also, a big part of the holiday is giving to the poor.  Being that there’s an insane amount of people in this country that don’t get enough food, i think this holiday does a good job of doing that.  But on the other hand, i thinks its a waste to be killing thousands of animals unnecessarily and to a certain extent, it can kind of be a show of how much money you have.  Kind of a game of which family has the bigger cow.

the farm comes to dhaka
December 7, 2008, 8:53 pm
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There are two main holidays in Islam, Eid ul-Ftir and Eid ul-Adha.  A couple of months ago Muslims celebrated eid ul-Fitr.  it marked the end of ramadan and was marked by going to various family/friends houses to eat lots of food.  Eid ul-Adha is on tuesday and the huge increase in the number of livestock in Dhaka is very apparent.  There are thousands more goats and cows than usual


The reason for the extra livestock is because the main part of the holiday is that you sacrifice the animal.  People spend thousands of taka to buy these cows and goats.  Any statistic or number overheard in Bangladesh should be taken with a grain of salt, but I did hear that people can spend anywhere from 450,000 to 800,000 taka for a cow ($6,000-$11,500).  In a country where a lot of people are living way below the poverty line, that’s a ton of money.  Expect to see some extremely bloody picture on tuesday.


back to the center
November 12, 2008, 4:09 pm
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I moved back to the training center last night.  I already miss the conveniences of modern life like hot water, consistently running water, fast(er) internet, and air conditioning, but there is something familiar about my room at the center that i like.  As i predicted i’m getting less frustrated with the culture and i’m slowly noticing the things i like about Bangladesh again.  Not much else is new besides that.  I have some pictures i took on the way to the conference a few days ago.  the first is a partially butchered animal (cow or goat) hanging from the cage of the cng.  Not pictured is the liver and other organs.  there were two doctors in the car, so we spent some time figuring out what each organ was.


And here’s a picture of a protest right outside the airport.  Bangladesh has been under a caretaker government for the past few months and now they are slowling lifting the emergency bans as the Dec. 18th election approaches.  Now people are allowed to assemble and do political rallies and such.  A leader of a political party here returned from being in the US getting “medical treatment” and was returning to the country for the first time in a long while.  So there was lots of hooplah at the airport while we drove by.  The political scene should get much more active (possible much more violent) in the coming weeks as the election approaches.


culture frustrations
November 10, 2008, 9:37 pm
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for some reason i’ve been getting really, really frustrated with things in Bangladesh lately.  usually it’s the traffic, honking, and other things that makes me really angry.  Most Bangladeshis don’t speak english, but a lot know what how are you means.  often times people will test their english skills as i walk down the street and say how are you to me.  today i was in no mood for this.  A guy yelled “howareyou” at the top of his lungs as i walked past him and i had a hard time not yelling at him. After spending less than an hour trying to find a tour operator for a trip to southern bangladesh, i came back to the hotel room i’m staying in for the time being and slept for about 3 hours.  the only way to cure my culture shock/frustration seems to me removing myself from the culture and taking a break from interacting with people.

On another note, i got some laundry done at the hotel and they returned it in plastic wrap.  the shirts were pressed, folded, and pinned to cardboard then placed in plastic packaging.  even my boxers were in plastic wrapping.  my supervisor and i thought this was entertaining.  His undershirt and my 4 dollar shirt will never be treated so well.


November 8, 2008, 12:42 pm
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I’ve been at a conference about 1.5 hours north of Dhaka for the last two days.  Well, actually we are commuting to the conference everyday, which can be extremely irritating.  It’s really not that far, but we are usually stuck in annoying Bangladeshi traffic the entire time.  Last night we were stuck in traffic for a while because a car was trying to push a baby taxi down the road because it had broken down.  Instead of doing this on the side of the road they decided to stay in the middle and block traffic for everyone.  I decided to stay in dhaka today and regain my composure. I’ve been getting kind of irritated with bangladeshi culture over the last few days.

One positive thing is that i’ve noticed that i’ve really been missing traditional Bangladeshi food.  Because i’ve been staying at a hotel for the last few days i’ve been eating mostly indian food and kababs.  I’ve been really craving dal and rice.  So, i guess after about 2 months of being here i’ve finally gotten acustomed to eating the food.

Here’s some pictures from the conference. When the speakers were talking in Bangla i’d go around and take pictures of the kids and walk around.

rural doctor and bible school
November 3, 2008, 11:21 pm
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There are like 17 people visiting the pastor i work for right now.  All together we represent 7 different countries.  some are doing dental work throughout the country and some are just touring different churches and bible schools.  today i tagged along to visit a bible school and a rural doctor training center/medical facility.  I managed to get some pictures of the locals while we were going around the town.

And this baby needs some explaining.  It’s thought that if you put coal dust in a baby’s eyes then it will have good vision its entire life.  that makes absolutely no sense.  But, it makes it so many of the babies here look like they have eye liner on.