Monday, January 28, 2013

Dancing in Bangladesh: The Performance

This weekend was intense! We had our dance performance both Saturday and Sunday nights. Each day we had to be at the performance venue by 10 am to practice on the stage. We finished practicing around 12:30 pm and took a 15 minute rickshaw ride back to our house for lunch. We had just enough time to eat, get our stuff together and then leave. We then headed to a home with three daughters. Two of the daughters dance with us and the third is in college. The oldest daughter, Poly, helped all four of us (Angela, myself and her two sisters, Shima and Lima) with our hair and make-up.

Eye make-up halfway done!

Lima, Heather, Poly, Angela and Shima. It's too bad the Bangladeshi girls aren't smiling in this photo because they have the sweetest smiles and I love watching these two dance! Bangladeshi's don't smile in photos for some reason, but they are very happy, friendly people even though they often won't look like it in their pictures. 
Then at 5:30, we were off to the performance. What we didn't realize was that there would be a very long speech before the dancing started. We sat there for an hour unable to understand anything that was going on   before we could watch our friends perform.
The opening ceremony consisted of the girls dancing with strings of balloons and the guys come through with more balloons that stayed at the base of the screen for the subsequent performances. Angela and I held candles at the beginning and end of this performance. Then we sat again, waiting for our first dance. 

 Angela and I were so worried about perfection in our dances; are we lined up right? Are our arms at the same height? Are we all looking in the same direction? etc, etc, etc. As the performances began we realized that here in Bangladesh, they do not go for perfection the way most would Europe or the states. As we watched our friends, it seemed there was room to add a little of your own style to your dances. We saw this in our practices but thought, surely they would clean that up before the performance. Nope. That took some of the pressure off of Angela and I but of course we still wanted to look good out there and not like we were just jumping around on stage. The nerves hit as it was time for our first dance- the love song about a Bangladeshi man falling in love with a "maiden from a distant Allah".
I told my partner I had just completely forgotten the dance and he laughed. I'm pretty sure he didn't understand what I said. Cause I was serious! There was one part in the dance that we do twice, although on the first time around, Angela and I both thought we were on the second and froze when we were supposed to move. Angela unfroze a little faster than I did, but I quickly caught back up and the mess up is barely noticeable. 
I have attempted to input the videos to no avail. I think our internet connection
is just too slow here for the video upload.  I will see if Angela has any luck and in that case
try again, or add another post with just the videos.
Once we completed that dance, we had to run to the changing room, get out of our princess dresses and change into Sari's which neither of us know how to put on by ourselves. Poly and her sisters rushed back to help us. Safety pins were flying in all directions. Jewelry was being taken off of me, while new jewelry was put on. I was spinning into the Sari, then back out again to readjust, spin in again, pin, pin, pin. Mass chaos!!! Finally we were dressed and ready for our next performance with a few minutes to spare. We went back down to the seating area to watch another performance. Some of the mother's who are always at our practices ushered me over to them. They tried to help me flatten my Sari as I had so many pleats in it that I looked pregnant! They laughed, told me I looked very nice in their traditional costume "m'am very beautiful!" and gave up on flattening my Sari as the only way to fix it would have been to completely redo it. 
The Folk dance did not go as well as the classical dance which is sad because the folk dances are the reason we wanted to take classes in the first place. 
Angela and I trying to get this little cutie to smile. She wanted
her photo with us but no smile :(
Once the folk dance was over, we headed back to the changing room to put our street clothes back on. by the time we finished changing, the performance was over. We found Nazmeen, who loyally came to watch us perform and we all headed home together in an ez-bike (motorized rickshaw). We enjoyed a very late dinner (10:30pm) and went to bed. I was so incredibly tired, I could not imagine getting up and doing it all again the next day. Angela and I wished it had just been a one night performance and we could be done with it. 
We made it to practice the next day around 11:30am, and didn't miss anything. We got a very happy surprise when we found out we only had to do one dance on the second night (the performances were different both nights and only a few of the dances were repeated). Unfortunately it was the classical dance that we would be repeating. However, this saved us the stress of having to bring a second costume and change at the performance hall. We were very happy to only be doing one dance this time around. The day went pretty much the same as the previous day only this time we requested blue eye shadow instead of red (cause that's so much better). We also decided to wear a fancier bindi instead of the red dot we had on our third eye the previous night. 
Cruella Deville
This time around our performance was flawless. unfortunately the video wasn't as good, with people walking in front of the cameras. We received tons of complements from all the little girls (5-8 year olds) who had adorable costumes for their performances. We also received complements from many people in the audience and the mother's who had been watching us since day one. We stayed and watched the rest of the performances. 
We were then brought up for pictures and stayed for at least an additional 30 minutes taking pictures with everyone. We were also asked to perform our folk dance again this Thursday at the folk festival. It will be an outdoor performance and it is the dance we really enjoy and get to wear our bells around our ankles for. Although it will be another long day, we want a chance at getting a better video of that dance and again, attempting perfection in our dance.

 All in all, a great experience!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ma'm No Beautiful!

Muslima and I after our outing
I must say, despite all the eggs she feeds me, I do really like our maid. Muslima is very funny and her and I often play charades since neither of us is able to speak the others language.

Today Muslima looked at me and got this sad scrunched up look on her face. She shook her head and said "ma'm, no beautiful". hahaha, okay....RUDE! She then came over and looked at me even more closely and began touching my eyebrows and saying something in bangla to another maid who occasionaly comes to help Muslima. Now I understood...

One of the beauties of living in developing countries is a lack of mirrors. I didn't have a mirror in South Africa or Costa Rica. I do have a small mirror in my bathroom now but it is always so fogged up after my shower that I usually don't bother with it. In addition, shops are nothing like the malls we go to back home so there are not mirrors in every store to check your appearance with. I actually really like this because when I can't see what I look like, I no longer care about make-up etc.

Back to today's issue. I have not bothered to "clean-up" my eyebrows since I arrived here. Muslima was telling me my eyebrows were not beautiful anymore. So, I am going out today to buy some things for my upcoming dance performance and while I am out I will get my eyebrows threaded. I have no idea what that is going to be like, but that is what they do in Asia. Not waxing, threading. I will finish this post after I return.

I'm back! It's actually been about a week since Muslima told me I wasn't beautiful. Things have not worked out for one reason or another to go to the beauty parlor and my eyebrows have continued to get worse. Finally today I told my coworker I wanted to go get my eyebrows done. I told him I would take Muslima with me since men are not allowed in beauty parlors here, they go to barber shops (it's like going back in time 60 years here!).
My eyebrows being threaded

Muslima hailed a rickshaw and we were on our way. We went up to the parlor and I sat in a standard swiveling beauty parlor chair. I was than shown (since they can't ask me, I won't understand!) to slide down into the chair so that my head could rest on the back. Then the cosmetologist began threading my brows with a piece of string. It wasn't too painful but still made my eyes water. It actually went pretty fast, less than ten minutes for sure and possibly less than five. However, my eyebrows are much thinner now than I like them. I thought it would be obvious to just follow the shape and get those stragglers underneath, but no... they really cut them down! Oh, well, I will be able to let them grow back while I'm living in an Ashram in India, no one there will care if I'm beautiful or not.
I know its not my best photo, but
here are my newly threaded, thin
Asian style eyebrows

All in all, with the round trip rickshaw ride to get there and back and the threading itself, I spent 65Taka, that's about 75 cents! Eyebrow waxing in the states costs no less than $10 and sometimes $20-$25. So even though my brows are a little sparse at the moment, what a bargain! And...Muslima says I'm beautiful again :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Kid's take the cake-Bangladeshi babies

I just love this little guy's polka dots!
While all babies are cute (with the exception of human babies- don't deny it, they are not cute until at least 6 weeks) I have to say as far as domesticated animals go, kid's (or baby goats) take the cake.

Here in Bangladesh we don't get too much of a winter. Some of you heard my cries of "freezing" here but that had more to do with me being unprepared than actual freezing temperatures. Once I bought a hoodie and a couple pairs of socks, I was fine. Now, the colder temps appear to be on their way out and we are making a transition into what appears to be Bangladeshi spring time. I have seen many more babies in the last week than previously.

My friend Angela kept telling me that I needed to find a baby goat and have my picture taken with it. She kept telling me how soft they were. So I kept looking, but I had a hard time getting close to them, they were a bit skittish and none of them seemed that small. The ones I had been
 encountering were probably more like teenage goats.

What a sweetheart!
Finally, I found some baby goats to cuddle with. My local co-workers thought I was a bit crazy and were like "Wow, hahaha, you really like goats!". To which I just smiled and asked them to take a picture.

They are so soft and when you pick them up, they just relax completely. Have you ever noticed a goats eyes? Their pupils are little rectangles that sit horizontally in the center of their pretty golden iris's.

While puppies, kittens, chicks and calves are all adorable, it's the kid's that I feel win first place in the cuteness category. Of course, I'm open to disagreements here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dancing In Bangladesh: Part Deux

My not so beautiful Sari, with blouse
and matching bangles
I have been dancing in Bangladesh now for about three weeks. After the first week, our teacher and one of his apprentices took us shopping for our Sari's.

Apparently there was some kind of misunderstanding (that's what happens when you don't know the language of the country you're in...). I thought we were going to get Sari's for the performance and they were going to cost us 570 Taka (about $5). Well, that was true, however that price did not include the blouse and petticoat for the Sari ensemble nor any of the jewelry that we would be required to buy for our folk dance. In addition, we are dancing two dances and therefore need two completely different costumes! We will wear our Sari's for the folk dance which are green, yellow and red. Along with the Sari we had to get matching bangles, a nose pin, flowers for our hair, a bindi for our forehead and henna to decorate our hands and arms with.

My Princess Gown
May have a second life as
a "Glenda the Good Witch"
Our second costume which is for more of a ballet style dance is a poofy silver and white princess dress. Seriously. When we were shopping with our teacher and he was picking out the fabric we kept asking for a photo of the dress design. Finally when we took all of our fabrics to the tailor, we got to see a picture. There in the pattern book was an adorable 3 year old white girl dressed in her princess Halloween costume. That is what they wanted us to wear for this slow love song we are dancing to with partners. For this costume we also had to buy diamond looking earrings and flowers for our hair. He also wants us to buy black shoes, to which I am refusing. Who would wear black shoes with a silver/white dress? I'm trying to convince him to let us dance barefoot as that's how we always practice. The only shoes I have really seen here are sandals and I don't see how those are going to stay on my feet while I'm dancing. In addition, if I found some heels, I don't really think I would be capable of dancing in them either and then he will be wishing he had let us go barefoot!

My favorite part of dancing here though (besides all my new friends) are the ghungroo! Ghungroo is a string of bells that we tie around our ankles to make noise when we dance. It may be the only part of my dance costume that makes it back to the states with me, but they will be my favorite and most memorable souvenir ever! We only get to wear them with our Sari's in the folk dance, but they are awesome. The dancers here have this amazing ability to slap their feet to the floor and make a clapping noise. This along with the ghungroo is what makes Bangladeshi dancing really intriguing. I am trying very hard to get my feet to make the clapping noise. Right now I can get it about once out of ten tries.

A close up of the borders on my
princess dress
Too cute! HADER. This is what my teacher wrote on the bottom of my
bag that had my costumes in it...Apparently this
is how you spell my name here :)

Our big performance is next week! I ended up spending way more than anticipated on these dance classes. Between the two costumes and ghungroo, all the jewelry and the classes themselves, I have spent about $65 (yup, dollars, not taka). While that may not seem like too much for dance costumes etc, consider that my salary is about $120/month, which is a pretty typical salary for the average Bangladeshi.Granted I don't have to cover rent or food costs with my salary, so for me anything I make is to do exactly this kind of thing with, but how a local affords to dance here...I don't know. They must have to save up all year to afford the performances.

 This is going to be the most memorable experience ever. We are going to look so incredibly ridiculous in our costumes and Bangladeshi make-up (don't even get me started on that part, just wait for next weeks photos after it happens) but we will definitely be laughing about the stories we have to tell for many years. In the end, the money spent is irrelevant.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Going Vegan???

Living in Bangladesh I am blessed with the service of a chef and a maid. While it is totally awesome that I don't have to cook or pick up after myself, there are some definite setbacks.

First of all, having never had these luxuries, it is extremely awkward. I don't enjoy asking someone else for something that I could do or get myself. However, this is their job and what they are getting paid to do, without it, they may be unemployed so I try to play along. Personally, I prefer to cook for myself. One: I enjoy cooking, and two: I have aforementioned dietary preferences which poor starving people cannot comprehend. This makes me feel like a total jack@$$ when I have to turn food down that I know anyone else in this village/city would love to eat. Having said that, I am in a village with a mixture of Muslim and Hindu people. Hindus will not eat sacred cattle and Muslims will not eat dirty pigs, so you would think they could understand me not eating ANY animal products, sacred or dirty.

My favorite! Who would've thought
I'd find myself BEGGING for Ramen
One of the biggest mistakes I have made so far is telling the kitchen staff that although I don't eat anything that moves on its own (chicken, fish, cow, pig etc..) I will eat eggs and ice cream. Desperate to make sure I get enough protein on a daily basis, I am now given one egg at every single meal, every single day. Moving forward I will commit to a completely vegan diet or at least lacto-vegetarian but I'll definitely be dropping the ovo portion of my diet. In addition my cholesterol levels at this point must be sky high!

I have tried explaining that I cannot eat so many eggs which will usually result in me getting one meal that day without an egg, but it will still be on my plate for the other two meals. Dahl is a traditional food here which contains legumes which are also high in protein. I have requested dahl on several occasions as a replacement to this strict egg diet I appear to be on. Occasionally I will get dahl, but sometimes there is an egg IN my dahl! I'm still working on getting a nice big bowl of hummus...I'll keep you posted if that ever happens.

Vegetable meat! haven't tried this yet.
Love that it is stored next to the
cleaning supplies in the market. 
So the other morning, I sat down for breakfast and our maid, who is now also doing the cooking while we wait for a new chef since our last one quit (too much stress trying to serve the crazy vegetarian girl???), put down a bowl of broth in front of me and looked very proud of herself. Next came a plate with some Roti (flat bread), potatoes guessed it! Egg! I looked at the broth because I have never been offered soup for breakfast before. It was however, questionable. The broth looked pretty oily, I questioned it, but they have been dealing with me for a month already, so they have to have this figured out by now right?  I took a tiny sip of the broth. I looked at Muslima (the maid) and pointed at the bowl with questioning eyes (I still haven't gotten a Bangla lesson so communication around here is more like charades). Muslima smiled and proudly blurted out "SOUP". I looked at the bowl again, tucked my hands to my armpits and began "flapping" my elbows. I pointed at the bowl again and asked "chicken?"  Muslima instantly realized her mistake, got a bashful smile and said "yes. sorry m'am".

Two types of bread, potatoes and egg!
I feel so bad because she is working so hard now with not only her maid duties but also taking on chef duty. However, I have my own morals and values that I refuse to let go of even in a developing country. Besides, I'm sure the cat enjoyed the soup.

 I have taken a few photos of some of our plates of lunch. We often get a plate that is all one color. Usually either white or yellow. On occasion we get rice, bread and potatoes (and an egg for me, fish or chicken for the English teachers) for a meal! Talk about carb loading!  Maybe this would be a good time to train for a marathon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Best Friends are Twelve (Dancing in Bangladesh)

Angela (one of the English teachers here) had been wanting to take traditional Bangladeshi dance lessons here. Once I arrived, she asked if I wanted to join. That was a no brainer! As I write this we have been to three lessons so far and are having so much fun! I will continue going five days a week until I leave for India. Our dance instructors know a little English, enough to tell us to "turn" "toes" "push" "right" "left" etc. It is really fun and they seem to get a kick out of having us there. 

One interesting part of Bangladeshi culture is that for the most part it is the men who do all the shopping. In addition it is always men running the shops. So, in our dance class, which consists of girls 8-15 we have all male teachers. The director is probably in his 50's and the rest of the male teachers I would guess to be in their early 20's. Their are a lot of men there to help us out and the young teachers are apprentices also learning dances as they teach us. 

The girls who take classes there are so sweet and they actually speak English really well. On our first day one girl was giving me tips on how to hold my hands when I wasn't quite grasping what the teachers were trying to tell me. Yesterday when we arrived some of the younger girls were dancing and the older girls were sitting on the bench. Angela and I stood by the wall, but the older girls very quickly and shyly stood up and offered us the entire bench. As soon as the young girls finished, they came running to the bench and piled on to start practicing their English with us. They are so much fun and such beautiful dancers. I am so happy to have them there to help me!

One thing I was not expecting from this class was that I would ever have to perform in public. This was something I was doing for myself, just for fun. However this dance studio is celebrating its 20 year anniversary on January 25 & 26, and Angela and I are expected to perform. Not only are we 20 years older than the majority of the students there, we are the only white girls and therefore will be unable to hide while performing. Last night I also found out that we will be wearing Sari's for the performance. 

Sari's are very beautiful and I was thinking about getting one while I was here, but then thought it wasn't a good idea because I would never wear it. Sari's are basically one long piece of fabric that gets folded, pleated and tucked as you wrap it around your body. You then have a special sari blouse which is like a little half shirt and a petticoat, or little pants so your midriff remains bare, but the fabric of the sari covers most of that. However, I do not see how all this folding and tucking will keep the fabric in place while I am twisting and turning on the stage. Bigger than my fear of performing for a large Bangladeshi crowd is my fear that while performing, my sari will end up on one side of the stage while I am spinning my way to the other side! While I would still be partially covered with my blouse and petticoat it would be very inappropriate for Bangladeshi standards. 

No matter what happens though the memories I will make through continuing these dance classes and performing in one month will be priceless. Besides, now I have some amazing friends who are 12 years old. \

Dance photos will come in a post soon!