Wednesday, January 30, 2008


This is what you call a 'deep clean'. Our housekeeper is great and keeps our apartment very clean. How could it not be? He sweeps the tiled floors, then vacuums, then mops and also cleans the bathrooms everyday! Can you imagine cleaning your bathroom EVERYDAY?! Anyway, I caught him 'sweeping' Molson's paws one morning and thought it was hilarious! Molson DOES track in all kinds of crud from his walks, so I thought this was pretty ingenious of the guy. Molson does get a bath once a week here to keep smelling nice and get the filth scrubbed off.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to make a sandwich in Dhaka

Purchase all required ingredients at the neighborhood mega grocery store that’s open 24-hours and take home and put together….NOT!!!

This is what was involved in putting together this simple bologna and cheese sandwich I had for lunch today. The bread was purchased at the Westin Hotel here in Dhaka, as their head chef imports EVERYTHING he cooks with from Australia. I mean bananas and flour, many, many things you can purchase here. They also bake their own bread with this imported Australian flour, butter, eggs, etc. The bread is expensive but like nothing you could ever buy in Dhaka (and now you know why!) The bread is not always available, so you will to be lucky to get a loaf! The bologna was purchased from a place commonly known to expats and Bangladeshi alike as “The German Butcher”. This is the one of the ONLY places in all of Dhaka where you can buy bacon, pork bologna and other pork products. He also carries fresh (i.e. butchered acceptable to western standards and not on the side of the road somewhere!) beef and chicken. Don’t shop here at the last minute, because he is closed for sieste or around lunchtime 12-3PM. The cheese was purchased at a small grocery store named “Lavender” that has some of the items we are used to at home (Hershey’s chocolate syrup, corn flakes, Colby cheese, etc). The hot mustard was purchased at yet another shop in Dhaka. This shop is called Value Plus officially, but the “Australian shop” by expats because all the items are imported from Australia. I can buy granola bars, packets of macaroni and cheese, cake mixes, dried apricots, and even Cadbury caramello bars here! The lettuce was purchased in one of the open air vegetable and fruit markets. The price was stated, bargaining took place and a final price was settled on. The lettuce then travelled by rickshaw through the streets of Dhaka to arrive at our apartment, where it was washed in filtered water and then treated with bleach water and dried. Last but certainly not least, is the fact that you cannot have a sandwich without some type of accompanying “chip”. We can actually buy Pringles here as well as Tostitos and other brands. The Pringles are, strangely enough, sold around the corner from our house at a FRUIT stand! The prices are a little high, but convenience costs money! So, let’s review how easy it is to make a bologna and cheese sandwich in Dhaka:

BREAD: purchased at The Westin Hotel
BOLOGNA: purchased at “The German Butcher”
CHEESE: purchased at grocery store named “Lavender”
MUSTARD: purchased at the “Australian shop”
LETTUCE: purchased at a local market
CHIPS: purchased at a fruit stand

So, basically with all of the shops you would have to visit and the fact that there is no traffic in Dhaka, only GRIDLOCK, it could realistically take you an entire day to put this sandwich together! Think about this the next time you have your ‘simple’ deli sandwich for lunch!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The little monkey at the playground!

Catherine has deservedly earned the nickname "little monkey". She LOVES bananas and can't get enough of them morning, noon and night AND she can climb and swing from the highest of places with ease and NO fear! Here she is at the playground, with Mina spotting her, climbing up on the 'big kids' play equipment (you try telling her its for the big kids ONLY). She also loves watching the monkeys that play behind our house. She will jump up on a chair and squeal "monkeys, monkeys!" We sometimes ask her if she wants to go and live with the monkeys, but so far, she is not interested.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Catherine hanging out at the playground

Catherine has gotten herself into a good routine now that we have been in Dhaka over 4 months now. She goes to school from 8AM until noon, comes home and has lunch with mommy (on lucky days, she gets to talk to Mimi on Skype!), plays a little, has a tub-tub and then its down for an afternoon nap. She still takes great naps and has no problem sleeping (gets that honest). After she gets up from her afternoon 'power nap', she heads out to the playground or the park. She plays and plays before heading home and getting cleaned up for supper.

Here she is at the American Club playground just yesterday playing with a friend she met in her playgroup. He is a french speaker but they speak the same 'playground' language. You wouldn't know it, but this kid is more than 6 months YOUNGER than Catherine. Michigan ought to start recruiting this kid NOW.

You can see she has a coat on, but its really not that cold. Feels like early spring or late fall still. But, we know the heat is coming!

Self-portraits from a budding photographer!

Well, Catherine loves anything that beeps, blinks and has moving parts and so she loves, loves, loves playing with our digital camera (much to her father's dismay who purchased the not so cheap camera!) She has learned by herself how to turn it on and how to take pictures. These are some of her best self-portraits. She just might need her own camera soon!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Softball in Dhaka

The picture says it all. I've recently started playing softball on Fridays. It feels good to swing the bat (this one brought in two runs); however, it would be nice to get in some infielding and fly ball practice. I guess I'll have to settle for game-time practice. I'll keep you posted on how the team does.

More fun in Thailand!

We visited an orchid farm where they showed us how long it takes to cultivate an orchid from a seed. Catherine stepped off the narrow walkway at one point and went in mud up to her ankle. Yeah! Other photo is visiting a temple in the old city. Our lonely planet, Thailand book came in handy!

Our hotel room in Chiang Mai

Here was one of our rooms in Chiang Mai. Most of the time, we had a regular room, but we got a suite the night before the race so our babysitter could have a place to sit that morning while Catherine slept and for the other night we got a babysitter…New Year’s Eve! The other photo was taken out the window of our suite. You can see Chiang Mai’s old city and the water you see is actually a moat that surrounds the ancient brick city walls!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Catherine and her friend in Thailand

Catherine found her "friend" here, on on our walk to dinner one evening. She loved the fact that someone (or something) was actually smaller than she was! She walked around this little guy many times, patted his head, touched his face and finally gave him a bye-bye hug!

Enjoying time at the mall while in Thailand

Well, here are a few more shots of us enjoying our Chiang Mai vacation. We walked around one of the big malls in town and found a great sporting goods store. Dave found a tennis racket and I bought a new golf shirt. Catherine had fun riding on all of the kids bikes and emptying the HUGE barrel full of plastic balls. She also got some rafts for the pool. We enjoyed some ice cream at a Dairy Queen! woo-hoo! We also found this great playground within the mall that Catherine loved playing on all of the trains and cars and running around inside the big cage-which was full of balls and play mats!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Chiang Mai marathon race report

We arrived in Chiang Mai on December 26th, plenty of time to rest up before the race on the 30th. We enjoyed day trips, walking around the city, going to the night bazaar, shopping and eating lots of good food in the days leading up to the race. The day before the race, we upgraded our room to a suite, so we could quietly sneak out in the morning and the babysitter would a have a decent place to sit while Catherine slept. The suite was beautiful and overlooked the old city (moat and wall included) as well as the mountains in the distance. I could look south from our room and see the Thae Pae gate, where the race would begin.
I slept poorly the night before the race, worried that I would oversleep. The wake-up call came at 3:15AM (necessary for a 4AM start!!!). I choked down ½ a power bar, a banana, some Gatorade and this was thankfully enough to go to the bathroom. J I saw people jogging (what were they thinking??) towards the start about 3:30AM. I hung out not wanting to stand around for a long time and get chilly.

My race outfit consisted of spandex shorts (my legs hadn’t seen the light of day since August in Arlington!), triathlon race dri-fit t-shirt, cap, fairly new shoes and sunglasses around my neck (not sure when I’ll get to wear these with a pre,pre-dawn start! My bib was pinned to my shirt the night before (dang! I forgot my triathlon race belt!) and this was a NO chip race.
I walked to the start and saw what looked like prostitutes on the corner of the street between our hotel and the race start. I later found out these “ladies” are the infamous ladyBOYS of Thailand. Think The Crying Game. You get the picture.

There were what seemed about 40-50 people at the start of the race. I was not hot or cold in my outfit, which made me worry I had overdressed. There were lots of announcements made in Thai (great!) that I could not understand, obviously.

A gun went off at 3:58AM and we were off! We ran along the city wall and out of the old city towards our hotel. I looked up at our hotel room and waved thinking Dave might be at the window. (His half marathon started at 5AM). He was not at the window, as I later found out, but busy taking care of his own pre-race “business”.

I decided to drink some water at every stop, which I was able to do, until about halfway through race when there were two kids on bikes blocking my way to the water table! Rats! I had just eaten some sports beans too and needed it to get them down! Oh well.

Let me set the stage a little bit: as I run the early kms out of the city I was watching out for cars, trucks, motos, etc. as this race was NOT closed to traffic, it was dark, quiet (i.e. lonely) and every few hundred yards I caught the smell of burning trash and was chased by random stray dogs. Good times.

The course was fairly boring-flat and straight until about halfway where we started into the Chiang Mai zoo. It was still dark and the roads were windy and not well marked. I was running with two Thai men, when we realized we didn’t know where we were! We called out for some direction, but there were no course marshals around!!! We doubled back (I know, BRUTAL!!!) and then found the right road. We then saw the leaders coming towards us yelling at the course marshals, “which way”? I really felt for them. I was irritated and I wasn’t trying to WIN this race!!!

I ended up having my sunglasses on since the start of the race, b/c the trade off was NOT see with no glasses on in the dark or to see exactly what you are able to see in the dark with perfect vision! It turned out a better bet to run in the dark with my sunglasses on! This only became a problem in the zoo, where it seemed to get darker!? There were little to no city or street lights and the weird shapes of the landscaped tree animals gave the place an eerie quality! It was like running through Edward Scissorhands neighborhood in the dark…with your sunglasses on! Weird! Also, there were great big HILLS in this zoo. My legs hadn’t run up or down a hill since July or August? In other words, A LONG TIME AGO. They felt it too. Dawn started to break as we left the zoo. Nearly 20 miles into this race and its finally starting to get light! If I could only be this productive every morning!

I only saw the following kilometer markers during the race-2, 4, 10, 21, 32. Yes, that’s right, the last 10K which is awful anyhow was run completely devoid of any knowledge of whether I had 9km or 2km to go! Yes, it was an out and back, so I should have KNOWN exactly where I was, right? WRONG. I was now running the same road, but running back into the city, so across a large divided highway and it was now light! I didn’t recognize A THING!!!

I tried to keep up with a small pack of runners coming out of the zoo. A woman and 5 men. They were keeping a good pace. A bit faster than I felt comfortable running. But, I worried that if I let them get away from me, I would slow down to a crawl. I stayed with them for several miles. I was with them, when I ran past an ostrich farm at mile 22. They stopped for water with (Im quessing here!) about 4km to go and I kept running. I knew they would catch me. The woman looked strong and fit and you can TELL when someone is in better shape than you and she clearly was. It was a matter of time before she/they caught me. I started to see some people ahead of me and realized this was the back of the half marathon pack (the 3 hour ½ marathoners).

I wanted to break 4 hours and saw that it was 3:58 on my watch and I was in the home stretch. The banner was up, I could see it, but it was still kinda far away. I was going to have to pick it up to break 4 hours…felt like Richmond 2006 all over again, only I didn’t have that awesome downhill to get me in! I spotted 2 people (1/2 marathoners) and tried to catch them. I did. I looked up as I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch with 3:59:25 on it. Hardest 4 hour marathon I have probably run. I guess it wasn’t bad considering my longest long run here in Bangladesh was 16 miles. Training in Dhaka was like this: NO hills, NO speedwork and next to NO long runs. This lame finish was good enough for 4th in the 18-39 year old female division and 5th woman OVERALL. Yeah, pretty tough field, eh? The winning women’s time was 3:30ish. I also heard she did TWO laps in the zoo as she was REALLY lost. She would have finished in closer to 3:10 if she hadn’t gotten lost. The beauty is that 5th female overall got prize money! I won 1000 Bhat, which is about what I paid in race fees. I have a nice Chiang Mai marathon singlet and a pink marathon dri-fit finishers tee. Whew! Lastly, check out this website for a picture of my photo finish!

Its on to our next race. Which will likely be one of the following: Tibetan marathon, Great Wall marathon, or the Kuala Lampur marathon.


Today was the first day of school for Catherine (and on her birthday too, 2 years and 2 months today!). Dave, the nanny and I all piled in the car to take our little monkey to her first day of pre-school. (We took Mina for security reasons, b/c we wanted the school staff to meet her). As I had researched schools and picked out this one, Dave finally got a chance to see the inside and check out Catherine’s classroom. We all met the headmaster and Catherine’s teacher. The staff got to meet Dave and Mina and were told that only one of the three of us would ever be allowed to pick Catherine up from school. She will attend school from 8AM to noon Sunday through Thursday. (regular workweek here).

She came home with a sticker on her hand, a homemade paper crown on her head and a tired but happy look on her face! Her afternoon schedule remains the same: eat lunch, play a little bit, then take a tub-tub and down for an afternoon power nap.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Robin was not only one getting the Thai massages post marathon...

Yes, we all enjoyed the rest and relaxation that the park and massages provided. (cost about $3 for over an hour) Dave can be seen getting a foot massage post race and Catherine is enjoying a little rest too.

Chillin' in Chiang Mai Park

One of the things that we became addicted to, especially after running the Chiang Mai half/full marathon, was the Thai massage. We found a wonderful park in Chiang Mai where we could park Catherine for a nap and enjoy a massage together under the shade of a little open-air hut. Despite the extreme pressure of the Thai massage we found the experience extremely relaxing with the cool breeze blowing around us. On this particular day, Catherine hadn't yet fallen asleep for her afternoon nap so she enjoyed her favorate snack, "fish." After her snack and a little fussing, Catherine found a comfortable position to nap.

Chiang Mai Day Trip

There's so much to tell you about our vacation in northern Thailand. I think the most memorable day for me was the day we drove an hour outside Chiang Mai to Mae Ping Elephant Village. After watching the elephants put on a spectacular show, which included running a flag up a pole, moving/stacking logs, and painting a picture of a tree, they came into the crowd to get up close and personal with us. In addition, it gave the elephants a chance to collect any gratuities from the spectators. The one photo is of Catherine giving the young (not sure of its age) elephant a tip. It also gave us a chance to touch the elephants trunk. As you saw in one of the previous blogs, we also went on a nearly hour-long elephant ride through the river and countryside. The motion of the elephant ride put Catherine to sleep about 10 minutes into the ride. After putting on the show and giving rides, the elephants were released to roam the countryside for some afternoon R&R. We then went to a nearby resort hotel to eat a very tasty buffet lunch. Following lunch, we couldn't resist going to yet another show, this one put on by a couple of monkeys. They did all sorts of tricks. One of them especially enjoyed giving the spectators kisses. Catherine wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to pet a elephant and get a kiss from a monkey in the same day. As you can see from the photo, momma was a cringing a little as the monkey put his arms on Catherine's shoulders and puckered his lips right before the big smooch.

Enjoying Christmas Day

Catherine poses for the camera in front of the tree and hams it up with her dad.

More on Christmas in Dhaka

Enjoying some more Christmas Day gift opening. Molson gets a new bone and Dave a book on Rickshaw Art in Bangladesh.

Christmas Day in Dhaka-a recap

We spent a quiet Christmas in Dhaka. Christmas eve (day!) Dave worked and in the evening, we had a wonderful dinner at our neighbor’s house. They invited another couple over and we had a great meal and interesting conversation. It was really nice to just walk across the hall afterwards to go home. Christmas morning, Dave had a tennis lesson (yes, it’s still about 75 degrees here!) and then we opened some gifts. Christmas morning we were invited to brunch at the home of an Australian friend that lives within the Australian High Commission compound grounds. We ate “pancakes” (aka crêpes) with blueberries (you absolutely cannot get them in Dhaka!) and yogurt. We headed home for some more gift opening and an afternoon nap. We went for a great cocktail hour at our friends house (they have kids little older and younger than Catherine) and also had some hot chocolate. We went home and packed for northern Thailand-we left the next day!
The photos here are of us opening gifts. Thank you Aunt Sue and Uncle Nick for the beautiful pink sweater for Catherine.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Hello family and friends in this new year! Just a quick note to say that we are back safely in Dhaka after a wonderful week of vacation in northern Thailand. We left on Boxing day and returned on Jan 2nd. As you can see from the photo we had a great time doing all kinds of interesting things! Will post photos of Christmas day and other photos from the vacation here this week-end. So, stay tuned! Hoping everyone had a healthy and happy holiday and new year! And as my brother in law, Joe says...we'll be talkin'! :)