Thursday, November 13, 2008

Photographic Boat Tour on the Padma River
November 9, 2008

I just got back from a two day boat tour that my roommate, Mikey, organized. He also taught a photography class while we were on board. I was eager to sign up because: a) I would like to improve my photography and b) I was eager to finally see the wooden Contic boat that I have heard so much about.

The boat was very nice. It had six cabins that held two people each. Mikey and Osama (from Contic) slept on the deck and the crew slept in the back by the kitchen. The food was very good and it was lovely to be out on the river, watching the scenery go by.

My only complaint was that I would have chosen some more picturesque villages to stop at. The first site wasn't bad - we saw some boats being fixed which was quite interesting - but the second site was a manure farm by a brick factory. I think that a river boat ride on the river near Panigram would be much more beautiful! :)

Contic Boat
This is the boat with its sails unfurled. Contic is trying to revive the ancient wooden boat making techniques. This boat design is thousands of years old. Boats like this are still around, but now they are powered by engines instead of sails. The sails on this boat can't be tacked, so it can only go one direction - the direction the wind is blowing! In olden days the boats would be filled with cargo and sailed to their destination and then pulled back by men and cows! These sails are mostly for display. We used the motor most of the time we were on the water...

Boat Deck
The roof of the boat is made of bamboo. We went up here to take photos and enjoy the breeze.

This is the guy steering the boat. I really like the carved elephant rudder.

Mending a Boat
At the first village that we stopped at, men were mending a boat. They were putting a new bottom on it. Even the locals stopped to observe the work.

Boy Carrying Pack
I took a few photos of the kids on the beach.

Girl on Beach
This is my favorite photo. This girl was really charming, and I love how you can see the boats in the background.

Photographing the Photographer
The villagers were just as eager to take our photos as we were to take theirs.

Fishing at Sunrise
The next morning we got up early to take photos of the sunrise. These fishermen were up early to take advantage of the morning light.

This is my favorite sunrise shot.

Village by the River
I love this picture because it really captures Bangladeshi village life - the house by the water, the wooden boats, the banana trees, and the villagers in brightly colored clothing curiously watching the foreigners sail by... I just wish the photo were more in focus!!

Manure Village
The second village that we stopped at was a manure farm. Most rural Bangladeshis use manure as their primary fuel source. It is better than cutting down the trees, but I could have selected a more picturesque location than a manure farm by a brick factory. Still, as this photo shows, beauty can be found anywhere!

Monday, November 03, 2008

October 11, 2008

At the Durga Puja celebration I met Kym, who is the wife of the coach for the Bangladesh cricket team. She invited me to come to the game, and since I have wanted to see a game for about two years, I happily agreed!

Since she is a VIP, we got nice, air conditioned box seats right over the middle of the field. Kym tried to explain the rules to me. It seems a bit like American baseball, except the batters run back and forth between two sets of sticks (called wickets, though apparently there are six different meanings for wickets in the game!) instead of around bases. Each batter continues to bat until is gets out. Because of this, games can continue for days. The game that I was watching was a one day came, however, so it was capped at 50 overs. Even so, it was quite long and so we just arrived for the second half of the match where Bangladesh was batting. (New Zealand batted earlier in the day.)

The stands were packed and there was an air of excitement, because two days before (on the same day we went to the Durga Puja festival) Bangladesh had won their first cricket game in years. Sadly, they did not fare so well today...

Cricket Stadium
The stadium (as seen from our lovely air conditioned box seats!)

Batters running back and forth trying to score.

The score board was very low tech! There were many guys standing behind it who updated it after every play.

Durga Puja
October 9, 2008

My friend Mikey arranged a trip to go to Savar today to see the Hindu Durga Puja ceremony.

Durga Puja is a Bengali Hindu ceremony that celebrates the goddess Durga. Durga is a ten-armed goddess of invincibility and feminine power. She came to embody the idea of Indian independence during the British occupation.

For the five day festival, wealthy villagers create painted idols out of clay and straw:
  • Durga - goddess of invincibility and feminine power
  • Shiva - god of destruction or transformation
  • Lakshmi - goddess of wealth and prosperity
  • Ganesha - god of the arts and sciences; remover of obstacles
  • Saraswati - hindu goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts
  • Kartikeya - god of war
  • Mahishasura - demon who could not be defeated by men, but who was vanquished by Durga (a woman)
On the morning of the fifth day the eyes are painted on the goddess. In the afternoon the family members anoint her with spices and herbs and take her to the river in a great procession that the town participates in to be burned.

We stopped at a brass shop in Savar and observed the owner's durga puja statues being sanctified and taken to the river.

Sculpture of the god of war.

Villagers Celebrate
The villagers gather around the idols to celebrate. There were several families in Savar who created idols.

Carrying weapons in each of her ten hands.

Durga Being Anointed
Family members rub her with spices and burn incense before she is taken to the river.

Brass Store
The brass store itself was quite interesting. They had some amazing sculptures (which I may purchase for Panigram Resort!) and the most incredible chess set that I have ever seen! Here is a close-up of some of the pieces.

I Vote for Obama!
October 7, 2008

The American Embassy in Bangladesh has done a very good job helping U.S. citizens here figure out how to vote. They had a few information sessions where we could apply for our absentee ballots and then a couple of voting nights at the American Club where we can turn in our absentee ballots, ask questions, and watch the debates on T.V.

It was actually quite exciting to vote! Even though we vote earlier than everyone else and thus can't rush home to see how our vote influenced the latest results, the American Club still had that air of excitement that comes with an election.

I am so happy to be an American at this amazing landmark point in our history. I downloaded the debates and nomination speeches from the internet and have been following the election news daily.

Happily, the American Club will be showing the results live on TV the morning of November 5th (that is the evening in the U.S.) I expect that the election will be close enough that they won't call it until I wake up! I can't wait!! I haven't been this excited to participate in an election since I was eligible to vote!

October 2, 2008

After spending the entire night in the bus station in Munich, I went to back to Mariella's house to rest for a day before heading back to Dhaka. Because Oktoberfest happened to be going on while I was there, Mariella's mom invited me to come see it with her.

I will admit that I had always been curious about Oktoberfest, and much of it lived up to my expectations. There were many beer halls in large, very elaborate tents. Vendors sold the largest beers and pretzels that I have ever seen! Girls in dirndl and men in leder hosen danced merrily on top of the tables to the folk music the live band was performing.

The part about Oktoberfest that I did not expect was that it is also a giant carnival. There are rides, games, and concession vendors selling gingerbread and candy.

Beer Tent
The tents were so elaborate it was hard to believe that they were just temporary structures. It was quite difficult to find a seat!!

Dancing on Tables
Men and women dancing in a drunken frenzy on the tables.

This was probably the largest carnival that I have been to! There were tons of rides! This photo was taken from the ferris wheel.

Ferris Wheel
Aforementioned ferris wheel...

Candy Vendor
Mmmm... Candy... My brother-in-law would be in heaven! The honey roasted nuts were my favorite!

For more photos you can visit my Oktoberfest 2008 Flickr page: Oktoberfest Photos

Montenegro Coast, Mountains, and Skadar Lake
September 22, 2008

After a couple of days in Kotor I headed along the coast of Montegro. I stopped briefly in Budva and took a lovely photo of Sveti Stephan. I wanted to continue on to the mountains, but it was getting dark, so I stopped in Cetinje for the night.

The next day I drove up to Skadar Lake. The mountain road was VERY narrow and quite winding, so I went very slowly. Several times I had to pull over on a tiny little ledge overlooking a cliff to let another car pass. At those times I wished that I still had my little motor scooter!

The toe curling ride was worth it though for the spectacular view of Skadar Lake. The lake is extremely large and has several small islands in it. Plus, the leaves were just starting to change, which made it even more picturesque.

I continued on through the mountains to the northwestern part of Montenegro and ended up in Plitvice for the night. Plitvice is next to the Pivsko Jezero River which is a fantastic shade of turquoise. The river runs in between some very steep mountain cliffs; a very dramatic view. My only complaint about Plitvice is that it was very cold while I was there (I am glad I had the foresight to bring my gloves and winter coat)!

The next day I took another mountain drive back down to the coast. Again the view was spectacular, though much different from the view of the days before. I drove through the area where people normally ski in the winter. The mountain tops were bare and beautiful, dotted with grazing cows and small village homes. I got a bit worried at one point because I was getting low on gas and there were not any major towns in sight for hours. Fortunately, just as the gauge hit "Empty" I arrived in one of the ski villages and was able to refuel.

After an entire day of driving, I ended back in Kotor for a night. Tomorrow back to Croatia...
Montenegro Coast
The coastline of Montenegro is very picturesque.

This is a photo of the old town of Budva, one of many little stone villages on the coast of Montenegro.

Sveti Stephan
A small little medieval town on a tiny island off the coast.

Skadar Lake
Looking at Skadar Lake from the mountain path. The lake is really beautiful!

Islands of Skadar Lake
I would love to buy this island! It is so picturesque (and a nice size for a small resort!)

Leaving Skadar Lake
I took this photo as I was leaving Skadar Lake. The lake turns into marsh land on the western side.

Mountain Village Home
This is a charming little farm house that I came across while driving from Skadar Lake to Plitvice.

The beautiful turquoise river of Plitvice. Sadly it was very cloudy the day I took this picture, so you can't see the true color of the water; it is a Caribbean blue!

Through the Mountains
Taken while driving through the mountains on my way back to the coast. It was nice to get a taste of fall! Since I have been living in Bangladesh for two years, I haven't seen fall in awhile!

Mountain Top
This is the view at the top of the mountain. It was quite windy and cold, but also very serene. In many places I drove through the clouds because the mountains were so high!

For more photos you can see my Montenegro Flickr Page: Montenegro Photos