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!

Monday, September 17, 2012

In which I sound annoyed about book selection

I promised myself I would post every week, but last week was hectic and the internets (that magical series of tubes that I love so much) were down for a good portion of the weekend. This week has been hectic, what with planning, spending quality time in Dhaka, and then being sick for no apparent reason (not to be crude, but I feel like I've lost at least 10 lbs due to loose bowels). I'm feeling better now, but it's a good thing I'm near a washroom (which is what they call a bathroom and what I call a toilet). Also, I was able to acquire a bag of Crunchie bars, which soothe any aching soul. Forewarning, this is a library heavy post, I have lots to say after unpacking almost 5,000 books.

So, let's talk for a minute about Titlewave. Titlewave is Follett's book purchasing website, where you can select books, add them to a cart, and have them shipped to you, in order, so all you have to do is open the box and add them to the shelves. Genius, right? They will also help fill in your order, which means that you pick a few books you want, put in the reading level of your library and they'll fill in the rest of the order up to a dollar amount. Ok, so this sounds good, all the joys of pickign books without having to go through individually. However, this can leave a few problems. Take this book, for example.

"Ah, no wonder you're extinct. I'm gonna run you over when I come back down!"

It's beautiful, lovely pull out illustrations, it has lots of facts, it has a CD-Rom for kids to get more info. On the other hand, in what school library do you want a pop up book with a CD-Rom for kids to rip into (literally) and lose?

Example #2
 Clearly an awesome book, not really all that great for a library, right?

All that on the left, that's all the bibles. All that on the right, that's all the other religions.
Another minor quibble I've found is something that we discussed at length in grad school, specifically in the class that shall not be named (because no one could remember the ridiculously long name they gave it) and that we called SI church, because there was a pulpit in the movie theater we met in. Specifically, we're talking about the fact that my library now has no fewer than seven (yes, seven) different Christian bibles. Why does that matter, you ask? Well, first of all, Bangladesh is not a Christian country, it's 89.5% Muslim. Having seven bibles, while definitely representative of the Christian world, is not representative of the population that I am serving. Second, we only have one Qur'an. Actually, I just looked it up, and it's not even the whole Qur'an, according to the book description in Destiny, "It combines a study of key quotes from the Qur'an with a discussion of Islam, its history, founders and beliefs." So it's a selection of quotes with commentary. This is quite short-sighted for a school that has an Islamic Studies class, don't you think? Third, we have no other sacred texts from other religions. The second largest religious group in Bangladesh are Hindus, and we don't have the Bhagavad Gita, in fact we have one book that has the been categorized as being about Hindus, just the one. I know, talking about the number of religious books we have is probably not all that interesting to you, however, I feel very passionately that a library collection should represent its readers. How can I say this collection represents my students when it fails to represent a massive part of their culture?  </rant>

The point being, collection development is essential to the library. Sure, we can have Titlewave fill in the blank spots we have, but librarians also need to be proactive in actually making sure that the titles it's "filling in" are something that meets the needs of our patrons.

In other news, I now have a book return.
It's a giant hunk of furniture, I'm designing displays for the top.

Books in the book return!

In other, other news, I bought a ticket to Kathmandu in October. Mountains, here I come!

Monday, September 3, 2012

And the #1 most unlivable city is....

DHAKA! Which is where I spent a couple of days this weekend. Let me tell you why it's unlivable.

#1, it's dirty. Really, disgusting. It's a good thing I'm washable (and have access to hot water, most of the time), because otherwise I'd be in big trouble. Sometimes I feel droplets of water near my feet (because I can't wear anything other than flip flops here, too hot right now) and I pray that it's just rain.

This picture doesn't even begin to capture the chaos of the traffic
#2, the traffic defies description. There is nothing like it in the world. When you want to turn right onto a street (which is like turning left for you right-side-of-the-road drivers) you just get out in front of people and hope they stop for you. Honking is a requirement, let people know you're coming (or passing), tell people to move (people walking in the road that is), and other assorted needs. Or just honking because it's almost like music to hear this chorus of honks. Also, street signs and stoplights are kind of a joke. I laugh because otherwise I'd go crazy.

#3, white people (women in particular) attract a crowd. I usually don't mind, most of the time it's just people who've never seen a white-skinned person (especially in the countryside). If it's lascivious in nature, I ignore it (and, not to be crude, but I was felt up enough in Russia to learn to ignore it). So, it's really hard to travel in a country where you can't just blend in, but it's also kind of fun because sometimes you can use it to your advantage to get something you want. For example, it costs 200 taka (about $2.50) to go into the airport arrival waiting area (or you can wait outside the gates for free), but because I'm a white woman who doesn't speak Bangla, I can usually play dumb blonde and get through for free. I only did it that once, and only because I'm not paying 200 taka to go to the lost luggage desk when they're the ones who lost my luggage.

Now, let me tell you why it's one of the most beautiful places in the world.

#1, the people. Sure, it's not everyone, but in general I've been greeted with such hospitality and kindness. Also, people call me ma'am or madame, which is more courtesy than I've every gotten anywhere else I've lived/traveled. Pretty much everyone I've come into contact with is just happy, a lot of them smiling all the time, it's infectious. They have so little, yet they're so humble and happy with what they have. It truly makes me re-evaluate what I need in my life.

View from the Rooftop Spa at the Nordic Club

Good-as-new feet!
#2, the oasis of greenery and the fact that I'm living in a tropical monsoon climate. People, I have palm trees in my backyard, if that's not beautiful, I don't know what is.

#2.5, the fact that I can sit in this oasis and get a manicure, pedicure, 1 hour massage and 30 minutes scalp massage for only 3,200 taka (about $40). Jealous much?
Tropical sunset at the school

#3, once you understand that everything is a little slower around here (and sometimes requires bribes), you'll get along great. Sure, it's not the most effective system, but everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. Again, it makes you evaluate what it is you really need in life.

#4, they have church! I was ecstatic to find a branch of about 5 locals. It was glorious to be able to feel the same spirit and participate in the same ordinances even though I'm on the other side of the world.
Did I mention that I'm on a billboard?
This mannequin is really excited!
#5, they have Diet Coke, which is typically part of my balanced breakfast or nightcap. Also, peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. Also, also, mango juice.

Later this week, unpacking the library! (After I figure out how to upload new patrons into Destiny. I followed the guide and it just didn't work)