Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: The Horrible History of Britain and Ireland

Horrible Histories is a series of books from the UK that takes a comedic look at history, complete with cartoons and terrible puns. Typically they are in the form of trade paperbacks, but this special book is about the size of picture book with color illustrations. I picked it up because, for no reason whatsoever, I felt like learning more about the English Civil War, so it seemed like a safe bet.

First of all, this is a book from the UK, so there are many times when I had to re-read a sentence because I wasn't quite sure what it meant. Sometimes they would clarify with footnotes ("Adam-and-Eve'n it" is Cockney rhyming slang for "do you get it?"), sometimes they wouldn't. For my particular audience this is problematic.* How am I supposed to teach students who barely have a grasp of English what the difference between American, Canadian (eh?!), and British English is? Especially in written form, where their reading comprehension is lacking. Add the really dry British humor of this book (think a child-friendly version of Monty Python) and maybe this book isn't the best idea for younger students at a school in Bangladesh.

That being said, I really enjoyed the book. The cartoons, which are painfully punny at times, still made me laugh, and the full-color illustrations throughout were fun to explore. If I have one problem, it's with how quickly they blow through 30,000 years of prehistory, one spread of pages and that's it. Same with the Romans conquering all of England, nothing about how that entirely changed the world. I was also confused about how they separated things. First they would have a short timeline, then a small digression. For example, they had a timeline of the Roman invasion** and then they had three stories of British invaders. Which was interesting, but confusing because they jumped way ahead in the story.

Good for my library? Yes, definitely, but probably for a little older kids with a firm grasp on their English language skills.

LibraryThing Review:

England, or Britain depending on who and when you ask, has been invading, being invaded, squabbling over land rights, squabbling over who's supposed to be leading them, and generally causing a ruckus since time immermorial. In this brief horrible history, learn more about tragic leaders, such as the Slimy Stuarts, the Terrible Tudors, the Rotten Romans, and all those Brits who have generally been a nuisance to everyone.
 Horrible Histories, a series that prides itself on uncovering the worst about their subjects, brings us this concise book about the history of Britain, Ireland, and sometimes Wales. They use full-color, richly-detailed illustrations and cartoons to poke fun of their own history, while still sharing fascinating stories of British rule. For those unfamiliar with British slang, it might be a bit confusing at times, and the tendency to jump from one topic to the next could be confusing for some reader. Overall, this is a  fairly good introduction to such a vast history in a package that is very accessible to students Grade 6 and above.

*Because Bangladesh was formerly a part of the British colonial empire, they do use British terms for some things. However, it is rather outdated British terms, at least according to a student who grew up in London. For example, the toilets are for "Ladies" and "Gents."

**I typed evasion instead of invasion first, which made me picture a giant group of Roman centurions (like unto Rory in Dr. Who) standing at Hadrion's wall evading a question. "Oh no, we're not going to invade, we just wanted to have tea here on the border, in our uniforms"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dentist Visit

When I was getting ready to leave for Bangladesh, I went to the dentist and I said "Let's pretend I'm not going to be able to go to the dentist for 2 years and fix anything that might become a problem". That, my friends, is how you spend $2500 at the dentist.

Truth is, I'm terrible with my teeth. Don't get me wrong, I brush every day and use mouthwash (and on occasion I floss, but I always forget), but I wasn't always so good when I was younger, and I used to mainline Dr. Pepper (over 3 years without a true DP, only diet) which is loaded with sugary-type substances. I was worried my teeth wouldn't be cared for here, but I needn't have been worried. One of the students' fathers is a famous and well-respected dentist. In fact, he's a fellow with the American Dental Association. So, to help ease my fears that if I were to crack a tooth or something (which happened last year when I bit into a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver, but it was totally worth it) I could get help.

I'm sorry for not taking pictures, I wasn't in my right mind.

First of all, I must mention that people take off their shoes when they enter a home here. When we first came and our housekeepers were helping move our things, they always stopped outside the door to take their shoes off. Going to the dentist is apparently like going home because everyone took their shoes off. Even the dentist, although he had flip flops on. Just a pile of shoes in the hallway. You can always spot the westerners shoes, they're twice as big as the Bangladeshis.

Then, the dentist came out and greeted us in person and took us back. Like anything in Bangladesh, there is one or two people working, and always a mass of people watching. Shuffled into the chairs (in front of people waiting in the office already there) we signed waivers and laid back. the teeth cleaning was quick, a high powered water pick and a dousing in mouthwash and we were set.

We waited in the office, drinking apple juice and eating crackers, while he finished up the other patients and then were treated to a short conversation where he showed us his qualifications, such as the fellowship award, and an international dentist association award. My absolute favorite was a letter from the the North Korean ambassador who praised him and said he was better even than the dentists in his country.

Overall, I'm really glad I went, because now I know that, if I have a problem, I can get it fixed.

But I really hope I don't have a problem.

In other news, I'm being totally irresponsible with my money and going to Thailand (by myself) for spring break. I don't know if I'm more excited to ride an over night train (private first class for $62 each way), or stay at this resort:
Picture from

I'm travelling Biman Bangladeshi Air, so I left two extra days for when if they cancel or delay the flight

Monday, January 14, 2013

Did you know...

that Bangladesh is home to the second largest gathering of Muslims, called Biswa Ijtema. As it has been described to me, it is like Hajj, but for those who are unable to get to Mecca. There are at least a million people who descend on Dhaka (well, really, Tongi, which is north of Dhaka). As if Dhaka wasn't crowded enough as it is.
I just love that there is a chair in the back of a truck, and there
are two guys sitting on it. Later on, the left the back of the truck
leaving the chair lying on its side.

Traffic, traffic, everywhere, and it all really stinks.

The cutest little boy!

So many people!

The more you know...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

In the land down under...

I'm behind in blogging. Possibly because I am on vacation, in Australia, which I've officially moved onto the list of places I want to move (specifically, anywhere south of Surfer's Paradise, but north of Sydney).

We started with a ridiculous flight. Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur, arriving there at 3 am for a six hour layover. The airport was really nice, we just found some benches and slept for a while, then bought a ridiculously overpriced breakfast. The second leg of the flight was better, I slept a bit, and I didn't have a smelly man sitting next to me staring awkwardly like on the first flight.

We arrived in Sydney to 25 degree (Celsius, I'm getting better at knowing how warm that is) weather and light sprinkles. I'm traveling with a couple from school, she went to school here for a year, so we're staying with locals. I prefer staying with locals, they know the real city.

Instead of going into severe detail, here are the bullet points. After which is a link to the pictures. I was going to upload them to blogger, but, being back in Bangladesh, the internets make it take too long.

Day 1-Church! At a real branch, with tens of people! I was greeted by about 6 missionaries, it was kind of intense.

Off to Circular Quay (pronounced "key")

The Opera House

Botanical Gardens

Shopping (Christmas Trees!)

Sushi from a conveyor belt (first time ever, loved it so much I went back twice more)

Darling Harbour (I promise, that's spelled right) for hot chocolate (later followed by a sugar coma)

Day 2-Manly

A suburb to the north of Sydney. This involved taking a ferry, which was a highlight for me, of course. It offered great views of the Opera House.

Manly was named such because of the manly aboriginal men who inhabited it. Seriously.

Beautiful beach

Eating baby octopi (chewy)

After this, I went shopping at a mall. The shirt I was wearing (which, at one time, was a nice ivory color) ripped, then I spilled teriyaki sauce on it (whilest eating octopi), I was a right mess and needed a new shirt.


Walking across the Harbour Bridge


Day 3- Blue Mountain Tour

About an hour and half from Sydney is the Blue Mountains (I'm going to overlook the fact that they really aren't mountains, they're hills, I'm a bit of a snob). We got up early, took a bus up into the mountains.

Gondola across

Three Sisters

Gondola down

Walk through the eucalyptus forest

Old mining equipment

Worlds steepest incline train (funicular)

Princess Rock Overlook

King's Tableland

Driving home pretty much the entire bus fell asleep, it was awesome.

Cruise to Darling Harbour

Day 4-Shopping at the outlet malls around the corner. I was in need of some good tennis shoes. They were acquired, although slightly more pink than I really care for.

I had pork belly for lunch

Tour of the Sydney Opera House, a fascinating history for an incredible architectural wonder.


I was menaced by all the Dr. Who villains

Got Alex Kingston's signature

Day 5- The other people I was traveling with went on a tour of wine country. I was tempted to go with them, to at least enjoy the sights (if not the wine), but decided to have a day of my own. I really wanted to do 3 things: Go to the temple, go to Ikea, and swim at the Olympic Aquatic Center. I accomplished one of those things.

I missed the bus stop for the temple in the morning, missing their last morning session (11 am), so I decided to go back later. Then I took the bus to the aquatic center and couldn't get a bus back the other direction. I ended up getting lost and missing buses until about 8 pm. It worked out fine, I got to ride a bunch of buses and I stumbled on a plus size store that was a having a half off sale.

Day 6- Riding the train to Mermaid Beach. It was a long trip. The food was okay and you can get up and move around, but next time we'll pay a little bit more and just take a flight. good to know.

We stayed with a woman named Maree, she worked with Bridget's parents in Papua New Guinea. She was the most incredible woman, so much energy and happiness. She opened her house up to us, let me drive her car, and was generally amazing.

Day 7-Nimbin. The couple I was travelling with wanted to go to this hippie town in the hills. I got to drive them down there (on the wrong side of the road and everything!)

On the way back I stopped at a rainforest in Mount Warning (a volcano crater). Then I got Devonshire tea at a cute place called Mirna's kitchen.

Day 8-Church! Driving down the coast, saw a lighthouse, walked along the beach.

Day 9-Christmas Eve! I went and saw Argo at a ridiculously overpriced theatre. Played doubles tennis. Went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Lost $20 at the casino.

Day 10-CHRISTMAS! Catholic mass in the morning, followed by tea with this cute old couple from Holland. Skyping with the parents (it was Christmas eve there still). Lunch with Maree's sister and her partner. Then, another lunch with a family from church (which I didn't take pictures of for some reason.

Day 11-Boxing Day. Another drive down the coast, see where Captain Cook landed. Then, went to see Les Miserables at the overpriced theatre. I generally liked the movie, except it always drags on towards the last quarter (I felt the same way about the play)

Day 12-Bridget and Roy left for Cairns, I rode the train with them to Brisbane. I got there about 8 am. Breakfast at the library cafe, then took a cruise along the river to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I got to pet a kangaroo and cuddle a koala. Then I got ridiculously sunburned. Dinner at a sushi place (I love the conveyor belt!). 3d Hobbit movie. I liked it a lot, although it is too long.

Stayed at the YHA Brisbane, not too bad for $37 a night.

Day 13-Brisbane temple. I met someone at church who was going to the temple. I met her there and she gave me a ride home, first stopping to let me get groceries.

I made dinner for Maree (although it was also for me, because I wanted lemon chicken like crazy).

Day 14-Day off. I slept in, lazed about, watched movies and generally did very little. I needed a break.

Day 15-Church!

Day 16-New Year's Eve! Got up early, went to breakfast with Maree and her cousin. Delicious eggs benedict and hot chocolate.

Shopping and running around. Maree was great and took me to a couple of stores I wanted to get to. Buying things I can't get in Bangladesh (like bras).

Sent a mass of post cards.

Ate dinner.

Watched a movie called "Gettin' Square" that was filmed in Surfer's Paradise.

Watched fireworks on the beach at 8:30 (they have them for families then).

Went to bed at about 10 pm, my usual New Year's routine.

Day 16-New Year's Day.

Train to Brisbane. Flight to Sydney. Taxi to the apartment. Slacking off the rest of the day.

Day 17-Finally got to the Sydney temple. It was awesome. A perfect way to end the vacation.

Hyde Park Barracks Museum.

Wandering through Sydney.

Dinner at a conveyor belt sushi place.

Bridget and Roy came back from Cairns.

Late night dumplings.

Day 18-Our flight didn't leave 'til 8 pm. Went to breakfast. Paddie's market. Wandering around Sydney again. Flight left on time. I took a sleeping pill, slept most of the way. Got into Kuala Lumpur at 2 am.

Day 19-Slept at the airport until 6 am. Took a train to KL. Tried to get into the Patronus Towers (the ones from that movie with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones and the Y2K bug), couldn't. Went to the top of KL Tower (a telecommunications tower like the Seattle Space Needle) instead.

Walked to central market.

Fell down. I was so proud of myself for not falling down at all until then.

Lunch at central market (it was a noodle soup, like pho)

Delicious strawberry ice cream.

Final flight to Dhaka, arrived around 8 pm, ready for bed.

Overall, a pretty dang great vacation, although I feel like  I need another vacation to recuperate.

A link to the photo album, it might be out of order for a bit, the pictures are coming from two different cameras.