Michael P

vanning around bangladesh
November 5, 2008, 11:42 pm
Filed under: teaching, travel | Tags: , , ,

The last couple of days have been hectic.  My supervisor along with a ton of other people are here for various events.  There is a group of dentists here doing dental work, one group of mostly europeans here seeing the work that is being done by pastor ayub, and my supervisor is here with a smaller group also seeing the work that is being done here.

One of my students got to try out his translating skills for the first time yesterday.  Although most of us could tell that he was simplifying what he was saying, he still did a great job and was very smooth.  The person he was translating for is from the south and used a lot of southern idioms that the student didn’t quite understand.  I had to chip in during those.  But overall it was very encouraging for me to see his improvement and see him putting some of the english he’s learned from me to good use.  Sometimes i feel like i’m not getting through to the students here, but i could tell that sylus wouldn’t have been able to translate nearly as well (if at all) before i got here.


After vising the center we went back to Banani and had Korean food with everyone.  The dentists are a group of koreans-australians so they helped everyone out and ordered a bunch of various korean dishes to try.  It was fun to try new food that wasn’t bangladeshi.


Today we got up early and made our way to Magura.  I made the trek there a couple of weeks ago, but this time we visited a rural house church.  It was about 6 hours each way and included crossing the Padma river each time.


finally we made it back to Dhaka at about 10pm and had dinner at the hotel.  I’m surprised to say, i was cracing dal and rice all afternoon.  So, for dinner i had a big thing of rice, dal, and plane naan.  It was really good dal too, so i was happy.

I’m always astounded at how pretty rural bangladesh is.  Maybe it’s because i’m stuck in the city 75% of the time, but i think its hard to disagree with me that the scenery below is ugly.



rainy day means sleepy day
October 27, 2008, 7:30 pm
Filed under: culture, teaching | Tags: , , , ,

Because the weather is changing and learning how to do small talk is a valuable american speaking tool, i decided to teach my students some weather vocab and sayings.  because i don’t speak bangla, i try to talk about what the words i’m teaching would be in bangla.  for instance i started talking about sprinkling.  i made a sprinkling motion of sorts with my hands and the students started saying guri guri bishdy.  That is how you say sprinkling in bangla and it’s now my favorite bangla phrase.

Then at lunch Roshid said “rainy day means sleep day.”  because of my new blanket and the guri guri bishdy outside i decided to live by that saying for today.  Then at like 7 pm one of the teachers was being really really loud outside my room.  I woke up and got frustrated.  when i’m bored i get homesick and/or frustrated with the culture.  If i had decided to go out today and walk around i probably would have gotten mad at rickshaws and trash and gotten even more frustrated with life here.

Hopefully it isn’t guri guri bishdy tomorrow so i can go out and do stuff.

October 16, 2008, 7:59 pm
Filed under: teaching | Tags: , ,

I used the new mathematical english lesson approach when i taught on wednesday and it went pretty well.  I can tell people are getting it because they are asking more questions.  that might now make lots of sense, but before they would just stare at the board and say “yes” when asked if they understand, even though the didn’t.  But now they can compare it to bangla sentence structure and start to piece it together.

My aunt heard that i wanted to buy some picture dictionaries for my students to boost their vocabulary and she decided to help pay for them.  today i went to get them. my students will be happy to receive them on saturday.  One of the kids that works at the book stall was trying to rip me off again, but i haggled him down.

And, there is a new link on the links section, on the left.  It goes to a list of blog entries i’ve done over the past 3 weeks for my friend’s blog/group website.  it’s called partylyrainy.com.  My posts so far have only been about adjusting to bangladesh, but they are longer, more indepth, and thought out than what i write here.  You can navigate away from my page and see the other 5 writers’ articles.  They range from power ranger to the economy to paul o’neil.  I’ll be writing a new article every wednesday.

PCB land
October 13, 2008, 10:44 pm
Filed under: culture, food, teaching | Tags: , , , ,

On Saturday I decided that I wasn’t going to teach for the international school.  I came to Bangladesh to teach English for pastor ayub and I was told that I’d get to travel around the country a fair bit also.  If I was to teach for the international school I wouldn’t have any opportunity to travel.

Today proved that I made the right decision.  I went with pastor ayub to the “PCB land.”  It’s a plot of land that’s about a half hour north of uttara where he is planning on building a large vocational school, conference center, and bible college.  Right now it’s just a bunch of land that’s been filled in with dirt and has a bunch of different fruit trees and vegetables.  It was out in the country and it was so nice to get out of Dhaka.  Dhaka can be so noisy and dirty, but in the country all I could hear was kids laughing and livestock making noises.  Even though we were only 3km off the hustle and bustle of the main road, it felt like we were miles and miles away from the traffic of congested Bangladesh.

As usual, we were given snacks.  We were given this grapefruit like fruit that is slightly less tart.  I don’t like grapefruit because it’s too tart, so I enjoyed it.

Pastor ayub is planting as many plants on the land before they get all the money and permits together to build.  This way, he can sell the produce at markets and make some money to support having someone watching over the land.  Also this is kind of a way of committing himself to the land, and saying that he is going t be there for a while.  There was guava, papaya, apples, mangoes, bananas, squash, lemons, and tons of other fruits and vegetables.  In a year the land will look more like a jungle because of all the new plants.
After spending time at the land we made out way back to Uttara.  When I first got to Bangladesh I saw some guys playing a game on a square board with some sand on it.  I didn’t know what it was, but never figured it out.  When we were driving back to main road I saw some guys playing the game again, so I asked what they were doing.  Ayub had us get out so I could try the game.  I don’t remember what it’s called, but it’s like a B’deshi form of billiards with little checkers like pieces and larger checker that you use to flick the other pieces.  They use very small grains of sand to lubricate the board.

It was at a cha stand and there were at least 15 men sitting around smoking, chatting, and drinking cha.  I love cha stands.  I really can’t equate the social significance to anything in the states.  They are kind of like the social meeting place for all the men in the neighborhood and they are everywhere.

There are at least 4 within a 5 minute walk of my house.  We sat down and some random guys brought us water and little wafer crackers.  B’deshi hospitality is something that also makes the cha stand so great.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve been treated to crackers and tea by random strangers.  But this time I was given a super creamy milk drink.  It was really fresh, milked earlier in the day.  They heated it up and put a spoonful of sugar on top.  It was really good.  After finishing our cha and milk stuff we headed back to Uttara.

Before all of this I taught my center students. The first class went absolutely terribly.  I couldn’t figure out what I should teach, so when I started teaching, the lesson was too short and no one really knew what was going on.  After I taught my extremely short lesson a student of mine that doesn’t speak very good English came up and started teaching stuff.  Then I noticed how he was teaching and how everyone understood what he was doing.  When I learned Spanish i learned how to conjugate verbs and vocab and stuff, but the sentence structure wasn’t that different.  The sentence structure with spanish and english is close enough.  Bangla is way different than English, so teaching English like I was taught Spanish doesn’t work.  Bangladeshis learn English like it was a math problem.  Subject+auxiliary verb+verb+object.  So, during my second class of the day I taught like that and everyone understood what was going on and if they didn’t understand they could at least ask a question because they had a slight idea of what I was trying to say.

friday shave and broken CNGs
October 3, 2008, 7:17 pm
Filed under: culture, food, teaching | Tags: , , ,

Lately my students have been hinting telling me that i should shave. I’ve had a beard for most of the last year and half. Somewhere on the journey over here my beard trimmer attatchment broke so that it could only take off the beard completely. I got a shave when i first got to bangladesh but i had let it grow ever since. After a month my students started telling me “Sir, you should shave. You look no good.” then they would make a shaving motion with their hand across their face. I got a bad rap in malaysia for having a beard and i was told that i looked like i was apart of Hamas. So, today i decided to give in. I went down to the barber shop a few blocks away. After the shave (which wasn’t very good at all) they asked if i wanted a massage. usually its included with the shave. they massage your head and face. it felt prety good last time but this guy didn’t really have the touch. It was more like him scratching my head and pulling my hair out for 15 minutes. Eventually i told him i’d had enough and i asked him how much. he said 250, i can’t bargain in Bangla and i knew it was way too much. It should have been more like 90 taka and i could tell the guy hesitated when he named his price. I gave it to him anyways and walked out. I just bought shaving cream and a razor (for all of 210 taka!) that i’ll use instead of having my hair pulled from now on.

Later on i needed to get to church. I found a cng driving through my neighborhood and he said (motioned) he’s give me a ride and use the meter. I never ever get to use the meter when taking taxis or cngs here. They always name a ridiculously high price and i haggle them down like 50 taka. But it was too good to be true. Not only did the guy not know where he was going, but the cng broke down on the freeway. He tried cleaning the spark plug, but no luck. so i got out and walked on the side of the freeway until i found a taxi that would take me to where i wanted to go.

Because of the cng problem i was 20 minutes late to church. It wasn’t a big deal though. Afterwards i meet a woman that works for Wycliffe that is a “language guru.” I told her about my teaching situation and she more or less told me that i was doing it all wrong. because i’m not here for that long i shouldn’t be focusing on teaching grammar. I should be focusing on having the students memorize things. In america, students hate memorizing things. They always want to know why something works a certain way and they don’t just take in information to regurgitate it. But this seems to be the style of teaching in the east. She said that students would be more willing and learn better if they just memorized english sentences and words and didn’t focus on why a verb has a certain ending or why the word order is this way. So what she suggested i do is start making recordings of lessons that students can listen to with english and the bangla transtlation. this way, there wouldn’t be any guess work. So i just need to figure out how to get listening devices (tape or mp3 players) and find a blangla/english speaker to help me.

On a different note, because ramadan is no more, the street food of bangladesh has come out of hiding. As you have probably noticed i really enjoy eating new types of food, taking pictures of it, and explaining to you guys what its like. Now i have tons of new food that i need to try. All over the place guys have little 3 wheeled bike carts with various types of snacks and little roadside stands have opened up that sell various things. I haven’t gotten to try any lately, but i’m looking forward to it.

biryani saturdays
September 27, 2008, 11:57 am
Filed under: teaching

today i taught to my class of PCB staff members. As i wrote earlier, i had it all planned out and it went just as well as i was expecting. It was a pretty good feeling when the first person figured out what i was trying to get across to them, then explained it to the rest of the class. Then there was this “oooooooooooooohhhhhh” moment from the entire class where it all clicked and my roll as a teacher got much easier. Needless to say, this boosted my confidence as a teacher and makes me feel like i might actually (maybe) know what i’m doing. One example that i used that i liked was that my dad probably wasn’t building the new shed/guest cottage in the backyard at this very moment (it was like 12 am back home), but he is building it over the next few weekends. I used that to explain that the present continuous can be and ongoing action that hasn’t yet been completed yet. it’s weird to have to explain the english language to people that don’t find it logical. it might make complete sense to you and me, but it hard to step outside of your own understanding and break it down for someone who has no prior knowledge of the concept. i have a lot more respect for my spanish teachers in middle school and high school now.
After teaching i we all had biryani. I really like biryani. Its a slow cooked rice dish with lots of spices and usually meat. It’s not originally from bangladeshi, but i think its my favorite food that bangladeshi’s eat. The stuff we always get comes in a mini cardboard box and has some sort of cow joint on it. there isn’t much meat to be had, but the meed that is contained on the joint is very flavorfull. before eating i got in a discussion with one student about the food in america. He was amazed to hear that we didn’t eat rice everyday and that i had really never had daal before coming to bangladesh. I explained that we don’t have silverfish (the national fish of bangladesh) in america and you can’t import any bangladeshi fish into america. It was hard to explain to him that sometimes i have italian food, or mexican, etc. I did show him a burrito on google images and explained how i usually have at least one burrito per week. In the picture of the burrito he pointed out the rice inside. bangladeshi food seems to be more utilitarian. When he would talk about a food he would talk about how much protein it had compared to other and he seemed to treat it more like fuel. good lentils have more protein per kg than chicken or beef, for example. more on bangladeshi food

Grammar books and cheeseburgers
September 26, 2008, 4:10 pm
Filed under: teaching

today is friday, which means i go to church and speak english. Besides the going to church and speaking english part i was also excited to get some grammar books from a teacher that i met at that going away party that i went to last friday. I got books, as you can see above. They have all sorts of exercises and stuff like that. But to be honest, i don’t think i’ll get much use out of them. one problem that i’d been having is that i would not be able to explain the concept in a simple manner. I’ve been wanting to teach the present continuous (…ing words) to my PCB staff class. It’s tomorrow and i was hoping these books would help, they don’t really. But i did manage to find some really, really good websites that explained how to teach stuff and also had tons of exercies. its funny how 3 months ago the things that got me excited on the internet were new light bike parts and old russian cameras, now its the present continuous and different grammar websites. I have a whole lesson planned out for tomorrow. lately i’ve been just winging it, but i’m ready for tomorrow.
And the cheeseburger part… after church the youth pastor and his wife invited me to the canadian club with some other people. I had a big “canadian club” burger with bacon and cheese. It was amazing. It also came with french fries and pickle. i never realized how much i missed pickles. They only had huntz ketchup. I haven’t had heinz ketchup at all in asia. To be honest, its far superior to anything else. all the other stuff just doens’t taste the same. but besides the ketchup, the whole meal was a very nice departure from rice, daal, and all things curry.
Now, i’m loungin’ in my lungi making my grammar lesson.