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).