Monday, December 10, 2012

Okay, no problem

Friday I ended up going into town (even though I wasn't going to, because I wanted a nice relaxing weekend before I head to Australia in 5 days), but there was a garment sale, 50 taka to get in and everything was 150 taka. I have a dearth* of casual hanging out clothes, which I was planning to rectify in Australia, but if I can get them for a lot cheaper here, might as well.

Light traffic. That's a CNG, the green thing. They're like
 three-wheelers with a cage.
Friday morning I woke up too early, because that's what I do, and decided to take a CNG into town so I could meet my library friend from another school. CNG's are officially my second favorite form of transportation (behind trains, of course).  We got to the sale early (it was supposed to start at 10 am), but they were already in full force at 9:40. Tons of people, crowded into a hot gym, sorting like madmen through stacks of H&M, Marks and Spencer, Lindex (a Swedish brand), and a bunch of other name brands that I can't remember.

First, you just grab anything you can find that might be even remotely your size. I'm plus sized, and was pleasantly surprised that I found a few things. Then you take your findings to a spot on the wall (it's best if you have friends, they can hold a spot for you and guard your stuff) and sort through everything. This is the best time to roam around, because you can get everyone's leavings after they've sorted. Finally, you take it to the register, they count the pieces, you pay (in cash, of course). I only got 9 pieces. And when I say only, let's compare that to my friends, who each got at least 25 (they were also buying presents, so it makes sense).
I bought a new scarf at Jatra, which is a fair trade store in Banani
It cost more than half of the clothes I bought in the
morning, but it was too pretty to pass up.

It was an experience. After lunch, we separated, I went to Nelo's for a mani/pedi/face threading and decided that I must always live in a country where I can get all three of those for under $15 (including tips). I may be addicted to pedicures. Then I took a rickshaw and did some shopping. The school now has a bus to take students places and transfer them back and forth from campus on the weekends. Normally it stays in town on Friday, but it needed to be back on campus on Saturday morning, so I rode back with them. Me, the driver, and a worker from the kitchen. I kept thinking it would be a good idea to pick up some passengers, get a little extra on the side (I'm sure I could sell seats for at least 300 taka, it's a nice, clean, new, air-conditioned bus), but decided against it.
The bus, on campus. I took this photo at 9:30 am, it's been this
foggy since last night. I love it.

No room for you inside the bus, okay, no problem.
The title of the blog comes from the driver, that's how he describes the Bangladesh people, especially their driving. There's a median blocking you from turning right (because we drive on the left here), okay no problem, we'll just go the wrong way down the road. You need to go straight, but there's a standstill of traffic, okay, no problem, we'll just inch through, going the wrong way.

I like that attitude. Okay, no problem.

*isn't dearth a great word, one of my favorites, next to exacerbate, alluvial, articulate, proverbial, incidental, villainous, and a whole bunch more. I could write a whole blog post about words I like.

Review: Attachments

This is not a YA novel, nor is it from the library. I was chatting on Gmail with a friend and she recommended this book. I 'm normally not one for chick lit (remember, relationships in books typically make me want to sing in technicolor?), but the recommendation comes from someone who has similar feelings. I'm so glad I picked it up. It was a perfect beach book. Not too much to handle, but enough that it kept you interested. Also, being the exact same age as the main characters, I can definitely relate to being single and wondering when your life is going to start. So, if you need a nice distraction, enjoy witty dialogue, with a nice side of wholesome romance, it would be a perfect book to buy (or download, which was my case).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: Mortal Engines

In the future, after a terrible war where nations destroyed themselves and the world around them, entire cities will outfit themselves with engines and treads , taking to the destroyed landscape to hunt one another. Tom, a lowly apprentice Historian in the grand city of London, happens upon a great secret, one that takes him from his home, sends him out onto the desolate earth, and perhaps joining forces with the Anti-Traction League. Tom is torn between the past he has been fed in London and the startling truths he learns in the outside world, can he reconcile the two?
Mortal Engines, by Phillip Reeve combines elements of steam punk, dystopia, and a good old fashioned adventure story. The world of the future is terrifying and all too realistic. The adventure is over too soon, with a great cliffhanger ending, leaving readers wanting to pick up the next book in the series. Fans of Scott Westerfeld's Behemoth and Veronica Wroth's Insurgent will feel at home in this future world and Kids over the age of 13 should be able to handle the death destruction that is encountered.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Inadvertently learning to swear in Bangla

My Mother would like me to clarify something, she says I am not like a three-year-old sometimes, as I claimed in this blog post, I am like a three-year-old all the time. Last week, when a student said something to the effect of "making duty," and I had to bite my tongue to hold back the giggles, I decided she might be right.

My favorite story from last week involves a sixth grade student, who we'll call Milton, whose family is from Bangladesh, but he grew up in New York. Milton's Bangla skills are pretty minimal, he spoke it at home, but is not the most fluent. Last week, a ninth grade student, who we'll call Obama (because he's the class president), came to me because Milton was inadvertently calling another student the Bangla equivalent of the F-word (the queen mother of all swearwords). Milton, who is really just the sweetest boy, had thought he was calling him a chicken. He was somewhat embarrassed, but mostly laughed it off. The bonus of the story is that I learned how to swear in Bangla learned how to identify when the students are using that particular curse word (which they call slang, actually). It's a win-win situation.

Also, my library got cushions last week.

The only appropriate way to place them in the reading corner is to throw them.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review: Call it Courage

Our sixth grade class was reading Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry and, since I was helping them with a PowerPoint project to go along with it, I decided to read along. I generally enjoyed the book, although the language is rather dated and it was difficult to visualize what the author was talking about at times.
Mafatu is afraid of the ocean, which is problematic considering he lives on an unnamed Polynesian island. Even more problematic is the fact that he is the son of the chief and his name means "Stout Heart". The time is coming when he should be learning to fish in open water, but his fear gets the better of him. One day, after hearing his friends mocking him in secret, he decides to prove them wrong, setting out alone on the open ocean, where he is thrashed by a great storm and shipwrecked on an island that may be inhabited by cannibals. Can Mafatu fend for himself and prove everyone wrong?
The greatest advantage of Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry, is that it is a fascinating peek into Polynesian life. This is also the greatest disadvantage, when we are left wondering what certain words mean, or are unable to imagine what certain activities are without any frame of reference. The writing is somewhat lyrical at times, making ample use of metaphors. Students in Grade 6 and above, who are not quite ready for My Side of the Mountain or Hatchet, will definitely enjoy this survival adventure.
Library Thing review here.

I meant to post this last week, but was ridiculously busy for some reason. I'm currently about halfway through Mortal Engines by  Philip Reeve. It's pretty much the definition of steampunk, which is good or bad, depending on your preference.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Seeing the sights

Last week was Thanksgiving. It's so weird how quickly time goes by. 

Every six weeks the students have a home visit, and we get a three day weekend. This happened to coincide with Thanksgiving (we're run by Canadians, so I'm fairly certain it wasn't planned that way). With the extra day off, a group of us decided to take two of the local teachers and visit some of the historic sights in Dhaka.

We started at Lalbagh Fort in Old Dhaka. Built by the invading Mughal empire, it  was a palace and walled fort for the visiting emperor. It had quite the extensive grounds that were very well taken care of.

This is the main palace, the sunken area in front fills with water
in the monsoon season and was used as a pool.

The main palace

Bridget wanted to demonstrate that you could bathe in the bathing pools

The burial place of a Mughal queen and her children.

 Then we went to the Mother Tongue monument, which commemorates when the Bengali people (who at the time were still East Pakistan) fought to preserve the use of the Bangla language, instead of Urdu. There was a protest there, but as our local guides told us, people just hold them there so they can get press, nothing usually comes of it.

We were going to go to the National Museum, but it was randomly closed. They aren't usually closed on Thursday, and it's not like they have an updated website with their hours listed.

We took lunch at the Star Bakery, which was just a local joint. It was delicious, fresh naan off the grill.

 We then drove northwest to Savar (which is where the horrifying garment factory fire was earlier this week) where the National Liberation Monument is.

Brick factories and power lines
We made a pit stop at a university on the way. It's home to 40,000 students and is a closed campus. Basically a whole city  within its walls.

Lovely grounds

I'm a huge fan of monumental statues. Seriously.

And when we got to the national monument I promptly left my camera in the car. Stupid. 

Imagine me standing in front of the following:
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This is representative of the seven hills in Bangladesh. I have yet to see any hills. We had a nice entourage following us around the entire time. It was rather disconcerting. I did buy a little squeaky dog from a vendor for 20 taka, totally worth it when you consider how much it annoyed everyone on the ride back (I'm a bit like a 3-year-old sometimes).

All in all, it was an incredible day. I was really glad we had a couple of locals to guide us through and show us the real Bangladesh.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Library Beautification

For a credit, the students are taking an after-school class called leadership and leisure studies. One of the classes offered in this first course (because heck if I want to put that off, I'd rather be stressed now because of it and then not have to do it later) is Library Beautification. The purpose of the class is two-fold:
one, to make the library more home-y and two, to give students the opportunity to make the library their own.
Working with the art teacher we're taking on a couple of things. We started with rearranging the shelves. Instead of just rows of shelves, we arranged the non-fiction section to wrap around a reading area and the fiction section to be separate. We also put shelves around the story area, with browsables* on them. For example, newspapers, magazines and, eventually, comic books.
The great thing is, this design was suggested by a couple of very ambitious students. We're talking students who took the whole first class to explain what they hoped for exactly.
The next project was creating labels for the non-fiction shelves. We used PowerPoint to basically create collages, so that students understand what those darn Dewey Decimal numbers mean. I'm in the process of getting these printed off and laminated.
While I'm working on labels, our art teacher is helping the other students paint a mural on the wall in the story area. It's a work in progress, but I'm excited for the students to take ownership of their library and contribute to it.
This week, my students chose a book to read and will write a review of it next week (really, they'll just fill out a form, to help teach them the basics of the review process). Then, over the course of the next couple of months, we'll display those reviews on top of the book return with recommendations for similar books.
I'm also really excited because I am getting floor cushions for the students to sit on, the head office called earlier this week to confirm the size I wanted, so it's definitely happening. Up next, I'm going to try to convince them that we need more couch-like seating. Currently we have plastic chairs and these oddly shaped suckers:
It's starting to come together, at least on the physical side, now I just need to get the older students (the 3-6th grades are here at every break, especially the younger ones) in here and reading more than just comic books and short non-fictions about smoking (seriously, the most checked out book in the library).
Best news this week, though, is that the temperature has dropped and it's now a nice 20 degrees Celsius every day. Perfect weather.
*is not a word, but should be.Chrome wants me to replace it with brow sables, as if those are words that go together.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

Having never read (only listened to) anything by James Patterson, I had no idea what I was getting into when choosing this book. I really like the premise. Daniel X is an alien, his parents were killed by The Prayer when he was three years old. He escaped (because he can change shapes, he became a tick and got away) and has since been hunting all the aliens on the Earth's Most Wanted Alien list until he's ready to face  The Prayer again. Daniel has many other special abilities, like being able to project things from his mind and they become real, or being able to shape change into anything (even an elephant).
Book cover courtesy of

However, there were three major problems with the execution.

First of all, why is there a new chapter every two pages? This has never made sense to me. Isn't a chapter supposed to be a whole chunk of story? Sure the book is almost 300 pages, but with half pages because of the chapter endings and headings I imagine it's really only about 200-250. It seems entirely unnecessary to have a chapter break in the middle of a character conversation. I understand, this is James Patterson's style. He even talks about it, briefly, in Time magazine, but it doesn't explain it, and it doesn't necessarily mean he uses it effectively. 

*Warning, if you want to read this book, the following two paragraphs might spoil it*

Second, it's one thing to kill a character in a YA novel, it's entirely another to have the main character shrink in size (i.e., a tick), enter a villain, and explode out of him from the inside. Seriously, this happened twice, once in the first 10 pages. I was thinking I could recommend this to Grade 6 and up (11+), but I really wonder if I would feel comfortable doing so. Yes, the violence is generally done in a joking manner, and is usually directed towards aliens who are dripping in some sort of slime, but it seems unnecessary and overdone.

Third, if I can predict, in detail, what will happen to a character and am right about it, then you need to work on your plotting. Daniel meets a girl, of course she's the alien he's hunting. It was so transparent to me I almost skipped the intervening chapters (there were probably 30 of them) until he figured it out. Instead I got several more chapters of the lead character, who is supposed to be a genius, completely missing out on obvious details. Also, plot holes abound, such as when Daniel talks about having a crush on his friend that he projected from his imagination.

Bottom line, a good premise that was somewhat disappointing.  I think the best term I could use to describe my feelings for this book is that it is decidedly meh. It could be better, it could be worse, it's just right there in the middle.

Library Thing Review:
Daniel X is just your typical teenager, he has friends, he goes to school, he gets in arguments with his parents, and he gets annoyed by his little sister, except that these people are all physical manifestations that he creates with his mind. When he was just three years old, his parents were killed by alien outlaw The Prayer, and ever since, Daniel has been tracking down each alien on the Earth's Most Wanted Alien list they left behind. Ergent Seth is #6 on the list, but with his plans to rule the world, with a hint of child labor, he might be more than Daniel X is capable of handling.
James Patterson, the much beloved author of the Adult Fiction series Alex Cross, makes his second foray into teen fiction with the Daniel X series. True to style, he keeps the tone light and quippy, with Daniel laughing off the danger he faces, and his imaginary best friends providing assorted comedic relief. While the premise is promising, the execution seems to lack. The plotting is fairly transparent, the character of Daniel X has no real depth, and the conclusion needed a bit more suspense to be effective. Overall, students 12+ might not notice the gaping plot holes, would definitely laugh at the teenage humor, and should enjoy the temporary diversion Dangerous Days of Daniel X provides.

A professor once told me that I should read the first in the series and then move on, so that's what I'll do with this series, even if the subsequent books generally reviewed better than the debut.

 This week, I'm reading Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry. It's fairly short, which leaves lots of time to finish up A Feast for Crows (page 660 this morning!).

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

I decided to take a break from YA reading for the vacation, instead I delved into the fourth book of the Song of Fire and Ice series (which is the basis for the HBO series Game of Thrones). I'm not going to review it, because I'm only halfway through (at almost 1000 pages, at least in trade paperback form, they take a while). I will say that I hardly ever read fantasy. In fact, it took me several months to slog through The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I just don't really care for them. Fantasy, by design, creates this other world for us to inhabit, but those worlds generally don't intrigue me. Nor do they operate by similar rules that I'm used to abiding by. Also, fantasy has the tendency to take more than one book to tell the story, and I'm not really into devoting my reading time to series that take so long to finish.

That being said, I found myself drawn into this series, especially after hearing George R.R. Martin speak at this year's ALA conference. He was well-spoken, funny, and incredibly touching about why he was a writer and what the story meant to him. The fantasy world that Martin created is incredibly rich and deep, we're constantly learning more about this world and their beliefs, but it never feels fake (to me, at least). This could be the world we live in, with a few little adjustments and the addition of dragons.

I also really appreciate that he has no fear when it comes to killing characters. There is a point in the first book where he kills someone and I kept thinking "okay, now when are they coming back" or "alright, now how are they going to get out of this". Nope, the character dies and stays dead, which was refreshing because it was the best thing that could happen in the storyline. If that character hadn't died, it would have felt disingenuous and out of place in the story.

As for already reading over 3000 pages of the story, without complaint, it's just a testament to how great the story is.

This week, I'm back to finish Dangerous Days of Daniel X, which I'm already about 150 pages into and, so far, really enjoying it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Giggling like a little girl

Back to school, back to school... Being on vacation was addictive, isn't it always? I rolled out of bed (I slept in until 8:30 am!) this morning and my first thought was "only six weeks until Christmas break." It's odd, because I generally love my job. But I also like travelling, and I'm going to Australia for Christmas*, so it's something big to look forward to.

Anyway. To the post title.

Before I left on vacation, I got a delivery at the library that made me giggle like a little girl and get weird looks from the delivery man (the housekeeper who happens to bring delivers from the car, so someone I run into on a regular basis, yay).

 Bookends, people, bookends.

They are what takes my bookshelves from this sad state

 To this

 Something to giggle at like a little girl. More importantly, they are keeping the books upright, because the relative humidity in the library has yet to fall below 50%, the paperbacks tend to become pliable,the covers bend, and they become damaged.

This week I'm rearranging the library, according to feedback from students. They're also working on making labels for the shelves. I've struggled because I really want to make labels (I can be crafty...ish), but decided that allowing the students to help decorate the library would help them take ownership of it. So, they're helping design it, making labels and signs, and painting a mural.

As soon as we're done, I'll get some more pictures. I'm so proud of myself. I took 492 pictures in Nepal, at least 200 of which were of sunrises.

*I may or may not be going there because then I can see Les Miserables and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the big screen. Also, because it's the land of Hugh Jackman, I might try to stalk him, we'll see.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pictorial Evidence of My Travels

In short, I loved Nepal. We went to Kathmandu, switched hotels twice, had so much good, fresh food. Overall, best vacation to Nepal ever. I'm so excited to go back someday.

This moment of zen brought to you by sunrises in Nepal.

Anyway, I'm lazy and tired, so here is a link to the online album I made, I think it works.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I'm typing this from the top of a mountain in Nagarkot, Nepal. It's beautiful, peaceful, and chilly. Silly me didn't bring a jacket, not just to Nepal, I didn't bring one to this continent, what was I thinking?

Anyway, we had a very eventful day, we got the airport to find our flight, via Biman Bangladesh airlines, was delayed by an hour. Wich was fine because I needed a nap anyway. We ended up getting bumped to Executive Class because one of our students fathers was the pilot. He also took us into the cockpit so that we could see Mount Everest from the air!

When we arrived in Kathmandu, we were greeted with an hour and a half wait to get through Visas and Immigration. As the sign in the airport said, "Things in Nepal take time, relax and just enjoy it!"

We had worked with a travel agent who arranged the whole trip, so we had a driver and a guide to take us around the city. The rest of the afternoon we spent wandering through Bhaktapur Durga. Bhaktapur is one of the three major towns in the Kathmandu Valley and he Durga is the traditional palace. so basically, we wandered through the entire town square.

It's Desain, which is a Hindu holiday, celebrating the casting out of Demons. They had just finished sacrificing 108 animals, fortunately we missed that. It was incredible, to be in the midst of this rich history and cultural heritage.

We then drove about half an hour to Nagarkot, which is a small town at the top of o be of the mountains that surround Kathmandu Valley. It's breathtakingly beautiful.

Tomorrow, we face a 6 hour drive to Pokhara, but I'm in the mountains o f Nepal, so I really don't mind.

I'll post pictures tomorrow, hopefully (or at least a link to an online album) but you can enjoy this crappy picture taken with my iPad wheat was way too dark to see the mountains.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Son by Lois Lowry

First of all, let me explain why I stopped reading the Dangerous Days of Daniel X and read this instead. Basically I got an Amazon update that reminded me that this book came out and I couldn't resist. I adore The Giver, in fact I would go so far as to say it is my favorite book. I still remember with clarity the moment I realized that something was wrong in that world. The follow-ups (called a trilogy, until now) Gathering Blue and The Messenger took us from that world into the outside and I never really cared for them. I wanted more of that terrifying sameness that Jonas was subject to. With Son, Lowry takes us back to that community, only all too briefly.

We meet Claire, who was selected at 12 to be a birth mother, and at 14 she is getting ready to "produce" her first "product." The stark language and descriptions add to our horror as we journey through the birth, which goes wrong, and Claire's subsequent shunning from the job of birth mother. We journey with her as she grieves for her loss, realizes who she is, and determines to find the child that was literally ripped from her womb. Lovers of Gathering Blue and The Messenger will enjoy the closure of this novel, but fans of The Giver will probably leave wanting more.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book, or that I didn't read it with vigor. I was just very disappointed, because I wanted closure of my story, the story of the Giver. For the first third of the book I waited in breathless anticipation for some clue as to what happened to the community, Jonas' family, and the Giver. Would Jonas leaving force them to change their ways? Would the Giver die and the community move on without someone to keep their memories? Who are the elders? In the beginning where we are with Claire as she is thrown out of the birth mother community and realizes there is something different about herself and her community we hearken back to the realizations of Jonas that something isn't quite right. And seeing the story of Gabe unfold from the other side is heartbreaking and honest in it's description. We see Claire suffer through all of this on her own, when she's little more than a child.

In all, I would probably not buy this book for my library. Especially considering I don't have the other two novels, but I really feel as though, personally, I don't want to taint my memory and love of The Giver any further. That being said this is a good philosophical debate fodder, aimed towards a younger grade level, and students will definitely engage with the characters. It seems best read right after the other 2 novels, as there are many continuing threads.

I would rather leave my childhood alone, with Jonas arriving on his sled, to a warm house with a fire burning in the fireplace, I can imagine the rest of the story on my own.

This title also reviewed at Library Thing

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fair and lovely, missing moons, and a partridge in a pear tree

I don't have any pictures this week, because I am terrible at taking pictures. I dumped all my photos on this Facebook album, if you're a friend , you can go see them there. Sometime in the near future (let's call it two weeks from now, which I'll explain why in a second), I'll upload them to Picasa albums too.

First, let's talk about Fair and Lovely, which is a beauty product here in Bangladesh. It purports to bleach your skin so that you can look whiter. Seriously. I tried explaining to one of my students that people in America spend millions of dollars every year on various methods of tanning their skin, but they thought I was crazy. Here, everyone wants to be lighter skinned. I would give my left arm for a nice tanned skin, because with my paleness (I could flash down airplanes with the whiteness of my legs) I'm guaranteed to have melanoma at some point in my life.

Second, the Bangladesh National Moon-Sighting Committee didn't see the Zilhaj moon this past week, which means they moved Eid-ul-Azha back two days, which means I get additional break time in Nepal. The Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles, so if they don't see the moon, they have to wait to have the Eid. This is the most important Eid as well, it commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and is marked with the literal sacrifice of a cow. I have several students who have showed me their cows that they're going to sacrifice. It also coincides with Durga Puja, which is an important holiday in the Hindu religion. In fact, while we're in Nepal, they're having three days of national holiday, which should be a good learning experience. I'm so looking forward to seeing mountains, I feel most at home next to them.

Third, I finally have access to a television with cable, which means I'm watching Indian TV shows. Indian soap operas are almost exactly like Hispanic telenovelas,* minus the hoochie pants, sex, and latina temper flares. Hmmm...that didn't sell them as well as I wanted. Suffice it to say, the one I'm watching right now features a woman who is forced to marry a beautiful man, while she has flashbacks to her last marriage, where her husband was shot right as they were finalizing their vows (which involved him putting a red mark on her forehead, just like this new husband is doing!). It was very dramatic. I like them better than telenovelas, because I'm a bit of a prude.**

By this time Wednesday, I'll be in Nepal. So. Freaking. Excited.

*apparently telenovelas is misspelled, so I right-clicked and the only suggested word is "tasteless", somewhat apropos. 

**This sentiment is dedicated to you Adriana. I could hardly keep a straight face while typing it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The dewey decimal number for this post is 025.4

Or it could be 027.8

The question is, do I want to be cataloged with this:

or, with this:

When really, the question is, do I really want to be cataloged (catalogued?) at all.

I understand, respect, and even love the DDC (Dewey Decimal classification system), but I've spent every extra moment recently trying to catalog all the books that we had on hand, plus several more that we've gotten. It makes me wonder, does anyone even know or care what those darn numbers mean? If I put this book in 920 for biographies or 973.932 for "Administration of Barack Obama, 2009-" is anyone even going to notice?

Probably not. If they need something, they ask me (very, very soon, we are going to a dedicated OPAC for the students) and I tell them. They don't care if the book by Rabindrath Tangore is in fiction or non-fiction, or if it's in poetry or history, they just want the book.

That being said, cataloging is absolutely essential, and taking an extra 30 seconds to make sure that I'm cataloging this new science encyclopedia next to all the other science encyclopedias will save me time in the long run. Instead of finding a specific book, I can just send the student to the right numbers and they can find a whole bunch of similar books.

I have seen a lot of blog posts in School Libraryland (like Disneyland, but with books) about changing libraries to a "bookstore" model, where all books are defined by their subject and shelved together. So, all the history books are shelved together, alphabetical by title. How do you find a book about England in a library like this? I imagine the conversation goes like this:

Confused Student: I need a book about England for my country report.
Librarian: Well, let's look this up on the computer here, here, I'll print off this list of 43 books for you, and then they're shelved in different sections, like History, Travel, Guys Books*, etc.
Confused Student: Why aren't all the books about England just shelved together, this is ridiculous, you're ridiculous, I'm never entering this library again, unless I'm forced to because this is where lunchtime detention is.
Librarian: Sorry you feel that way. Have a nice day!

Okay, maybe not exactly like that. Did I show you all my cards? Sure, the DDC isn't the best cataloging method, nor is it always updated, and it definitely isn't culturally sensitive, but it does a really good job of putting all the books about one subject near one another, so that if I have to a report on some type of environmental  disaster, it won't take me that long to find all the books on that topic. 

Also, if we start grouping books into topics, aren't we just creating another cataloging schema, except it's much more inefficient than the one we already use, it's different for every library you go to (so students would have to learn a new method every time they moved, whereas it's approximately the same with the DDC), and it caters to the lowest common denominator. I think that's what annoys me the most, it seems like most people's complaints against the DDC have to do with the fact that students are confused and don't know what the numbers mean.

Up to this point, I've been talking about non-fiction books, fiction is a whole other matter, which I may or may not address in the future.

Right, cataloging is sexy material for blogs. I may enjoy it more than is reasonable for someone who is very busy trying to set up a library.

*If you think this is a silly name for a section, I read an email from a listserv I follow (way back in the springtime) about how this librarian created a section for "guys" and "girls". Why not throw all our knowledge about gender normative labeling out the window?

Monday, October 15, 2012

My give up

I tried to read The Golden Compass, I got encouragement and everything (thanks Anne!), but I just couldn't get into it. Perhaps it has something to do with me being female protagonist fatigued. A lot of the books I've read over the summer have female protagonists, which then devolves into some sort of love triangle (boys + romance = barfing noises). I'm sure it might have improved and might even have paid off in the long run, but I just don't have the energy or time to devote to a book where, after 100 pages, I just don't care.

I've switched gears this week and decided to read The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson (and Michael Ledwidge). Yes, it's the same James Patterson as the Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club series. This is actually the second series for YA he's done. The other is called Maximum Ride. I listened to most of the first book in that series and generally enjoyed it (I stopped because I didn't like the narrators, not because I didn't like the story, also, driving through Wyoming will take all your willpower).

This is the story of 15-year-old alien hunter, Daniel X, who is on a mission to destroy all outlaw aliens, perhaps in the hope to get vengeance for his family's death. I'm a sucker for sci-fi, and I really enjoyed the action in Maximum Ride, so we'll see what happens with this one. Hopefully more than 100 pages in this time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I tend to attract a crowd

I must be pretty incredible to watch, because any time I go anywhere I get people like this following me around:

We went to a local grocery store (aptly called Daily Needs) in Moana, the local town by the school, and there was a big crowd of men watching us through the window while we were shopping. Typically, they're not inappropriate or scary, they're just interested because they've probably never seen white people before (or they've seen them very rarely). Any time we do something that locals do, like wander down to the local village (which is about a kilometer from the school) for a drink and a haircut, they're just curious to see us.

This lady stopped walking (with 10 bricks on her
head!) to watch me, but then she turned away when
I took a picture.

Sure, it can be a little annoying, like when the woman stops dead in her tracks to watch you walk by, but it is what it is. I try to say hello to people, that really scares them. Like these girls, who I asked if I could take their picture (mostly because I love their school uniforms) and they ran away.

These are the younger girls, the older girls wear a darker blue, but isn't this the
cutest school uniform? And comfortable, I have one (they're called a Shalowar Kameez)
and they are ridiculously comfortable, like wearing pajamas.
These boys, on the other hand, fought to get into the picture.

Last week, we had a 10K charity walk at the school, we all walked around the Cricket pitch 21 times. Which attracted this:
We didn't take a picture, but this paint version should suffice.
Can you tell it's cute Bangla girls in a tree, looking over the fence,
watching us?

I even attract a crowd at church. There's an investigator who comes just so he can speak English with me, at least that's what it seems like. And that I'm fine with, because I know people need practice, and the best practice is with someone who is fluent*.

This picture is the entire branch right now, usually about 6 people.

I think all the crazy celebrities who feed on people watching them should move to Bangladesh, they'd get their fill soon enough.

*According to my Facebook page, I'm fluent in Sarcasm and Utahnics, both useful skills.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reading books and posting reviews

One of my personal/professional goals for the year was to read at least one book from the library a week. This way I get to know the collection, plus I can make better recommendations. So far, I've read about 50 pages of one book. Don't get me wrong, I read, I just don't read stuff from the library. Not because it isn't great, but because I have a stack of books I brought from home and they keep calling my name. Also, I finished watching The Walking Dead season 2, and I decided to continue reading the comic books on my iPad, so that's been distracting me. I did read UnWholly by Neal Shusterman, which is a follow-up to UnWound, and it's safe to say that it blew my mind, but it's not in the collection.

Is it unreasonable to set a goal to read one book a week? Definitely not. I read about 4 books a week for a Children's lit class I took, so it's definitely possible. That's the point of this blog post, to hold myself accountable for reading a book a week, and then I'll post the reviews here. And that's that.

Week one: I'm currently reading trying to read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It's part of the trilogy called His Dark Materials and has been widely acclaimed by many sources. I'm only about 50 pages in, but it hasn't really hooked me yet. It's also daunting to think that, if I want the full effect of the story, I'll have to read three books, especially when they're pretty hefty in size (anything over 300 pages is too much for me, especially YA lit). However, I'm going to make a grand effort to finish it this week or at least read the first 100 pages before I decide whether or not I want to go on. Nancy Pearl says you only need to give it 50, but I'm still on the fence at this point.

I'll post more detailed reviews here on the blog. For a listing of all my reviews, you can visit my Library Thing bookshelf.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

To weed or not to weed

Weeding is absolutely essential to any library, but especially in a school library. I say especially because if you don't weed the non-fiction on a regular basis, you run the risk of finding books from the late 70's that herald the magnets in telephones as innovative and perhaps they could be portable soon! Or, books from the 50's that explain to girls that they should let boys win in games because otherwise they won't like you, boys are very sensitive to things like that. Seriously.

However, having come into a library where we have brand new books, I'm faced with the dilemma of whether I should weed the ones that were already there. The school opened in January last year, and they had a part-time librarian, who was actually a lawyer, and he was also supposed to teach PE (we wear many hats here), and they purchased about a hundred books locally. Now I have to decide if I want to keep those books. And if I don't, do I just throw them away? Can I give them away? Is it good for the school to get rid of books that aren't good, especially when we need to expand our collection?

If I don't weed, am I going to add this book to the collection? Do I really want this book in my collection, because it's actually a photocopy of a book, with a color cardboard photocopy of the cover, so it's not like it will last long.* Also, they tend to be books that I already have, or that are fairly redundant to our library. Do I really need 5 copies of Robinson Crusoe written on three different grade levels, especially when kids, lets be honest, are not reading books like that to begin with.

The point being, weeding isn't just about getting rid of books, because there are long-term implications to your choices that you need to think about. Sure, kids might not be reading Robinson Crusoe, but having a good number of easy reader books available is essential to a growing library with English language learners. So, it might stay, for now at least, but when I get more easy readers, you can bet I have a list of books that I'm going to replace first.

I would post some sort of picture, but the internets are being slow. Have you noticed that's a theme to my life?

*you know what I say about practices like this, in a place where copyright doesn't really exist "ha ha ha, terrific"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Long weekend in Dhaka

My Dad reminded me that I hadn't blogged for 9 15ish days, forgive me, someone dropped their buckets of internet on the way from Dhaka and we had to scramble everwhere to get them picked up (that's how it works right, we have buckets full of internet access? it's no more ridiculous when you think of how it's actually set up).  Every six weeks we have a three day weekend, where the students are required to go home and spend some time with their families. Us teachers get three days to hang out in Dhaka, which gives us much more time to explore the city. I took advantage of the time.

We leave Wednesday afternoon, a much shorter drive into Dhaka than normal (it really should take only an hour, but with traffic, it can sometimes take four). This leaves us time to visit Wasabi, a sushi bar in the city (the apartment we stay at is in Uttara, which is north of the city). This leads to mocktails like this one, called Monkey Boys, and delicious sushi.

Thursday morning I went to Bushundhra City, the largest mall in South Asia. It was very large, 8 floors, with a rotunda in the center.
The view from the 3rd Floor

The Rotunda

Me and Julian (the new teacher on campus)

These are all jewelry stores, nowhere else had neon signs
A strawberry smoothie with tapioca pearls

After we went to a movie, which was edited for sexual content (but not violence or language) and the DVD skipped the most important scene in the movie. It ended up being more an anthropological outing than anything else.

After that, we took a half hour CNG ride. Many of you know of my unrequited love for public transportation (particularly trains, with no hyperbole, I adore train rides).

 CNG's, also know as baby taxi's are basically three wheeled motorcycles with seats on the back. They have a cage surrounding them. The ride was fun and cheap, 250 taka, which is about $3, (although my driver later said it should only have been 150 taka, I'm not going to quibble over a buck), plus I got the added bonus of being this close to a bus.

That guy hanging out the bus door is a spotter. He yells at drivers of other vehicles and collects the money for the driver.

Our driver, he kept turning around to look at us, it was a little nerve wracking 
I quizzed my driver  on the way back to our apartment about how much it costs to ride a bus (which depends on whether it has AC or not, and where you're going), he laughed a lot at the mental image of the big white girl riding a bus to Moana (which is 55 km north of Dhaka, where the school is). I imagine that would be the most packed bus, with all the people wanting to crowd around and stare (next blog post, I'll post pictures of crowds of people staring).

Thursday for dinner we went to Mainland China, a restaurant in Uttara. It was on the 14th floor and was delicious.

If you forgot your woolen shawl, they've got you covered.
I never forget my woolen shawl.
I'm a sucker for dim sum, and that was good. Also, reasonably priced, with leftovers for lunch the next day.

Friday was also packed, church, then a volleyball game (some of our students were in a tournament, while they didn't win any games, they did pretty dang good for having only practiced three weeks and never playing before that), then shopping (groceries and whatnot), then dinner, then driving home in the dark.

I've mentioned it before, but it deserves another mention, driving in Bangladesh is probably the most terrifying thing I've done in a while. At night, it's twice as bad because all you can see are headlights coming straight at you. Seriously, my life flashing before my eyes several times.

I vow to be a better blogger, once we stop losing internet access (not because we don't have the network set up, but because the ISP keeps slowing down the service coming from Dhaka).

Friday, September 21, 2012

5 weeks in...

I've officially been in Bangladesh for 5 weeks. I keep thinking back to the fact that I was in Utah lazing away my summer only 5 weeks ago, time flies when you're ridiculously busy. I would be better about posting pictures, if I would only take more of them. In all honesty, I'm trying desperately to keep up with the demands of setting up a new library, which includes training an assistant who doesn't have the best grasp at English (and library lingo such as "shelving" a book is difficult to explain), trying to plan three different classes (same subject, different grade levels), and trying to become accustomed to the school and living in another country.

Today I took the morning for myself. It included watching three episodes of Breaking Bad (season 5, episodes 6-8), sleeping in, and drinking Diet Coke with breakfast. I then picked up a new book (fun to be the one with the keys to the library and access to the catalog).

Daily life for me in Bangladesh is very easy, especially compared to tthose who live just outside our compound (I call it a compound because there are gates, armed guards, and barbed wire, even though I could leave at any time, if I wanted). I have warm water for a shower (not as hot as back home, but it's too muggy outside for that). I have delicious cereal, which cost 960 taka (you do the math yourself, I'm too embarrassed to say I paid that much), real milk imported from Australia, a cheese slice, fresh fruit, and I only have to walk across the cricket pitch to get to work.

I then spend the first part of the morning being a librarian, which currently involves trying to get the relative humidity below 50% and the temperature below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
<---This is way too hot for books to not get damaged, just ask the Dew Point Calculator

In the afternoon, I play technology teacher. It's hard when the power goes out on a regular basis and the internet is sometimes spotty. However, having been at a school where the computers were ten years old and the wireless was non-existent, I count my blessings.

After school, I stay a bit late to let students come in and get books or use the computer (or finish assignments)

Then I walk back and see things like this:
And then it rained. Sorry it's a terrible picture.

I have dinner in the cafeteria, which always involves rice, and sometimes involves bread pudding. Then I go home and go to bed early, because I can.

Sometimes I Skype my parents, not as often as my mother would like though.

See, being an international teacher isn't as exciting as everyone makes it out to be, it's just like being a teacher in the US, except without No Child Left Behind!