Thursday, July 22, 2010

Signing Off

I returned to Kansas almost two months ago and have been surprised by how quickly I am adapting to life here. I have been surprised by the ease with which I have shifted gears. Everyone has been so kind here. They say, "You must be dealing with such intense culture shock after a year in Bangladesh." My blunt response to these sympathies takes me back to third grade when folks would tell me, "It's not your fault your parents are divorcing." I would respond, "I know it's not my fault! Why do you keep saying that to me?"

Yes, I am dealing with some degree of adjustment issues; but it's not Bangladesh itself that has me grasping to analyze and define my experience. I felt significantly more culture shock after returning to the United States after living in Spain and Italy and a two month stint in Guatemala. I think this reaction (or lack thereof) has a lot to do with the fact that I did not want to come home from those other places. After a year at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, however, I was physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to return home.

No, it's not American excess or the ease of living and getting around that has me feeling unstable. I don't find myself berating myself or others for eating fast food, driving big cars, or being uninformed. Instead, I have turned my energies toward appreciating my freedoms and privileges more than ever. Sure, I don't like giving the government a lot of my money, but I do appreciate having access to water I can drink, roads I can drive on, sewers that are covered, reliable mail service, and a clean, safe health clinic I can go to while I'm waiting to get a job. For the most part, as an American woman, I can go to school where I want, wear what I want, say what I want, work where I want, get married/be single/date if I want. I am privy to possibilities that are very different from what the majority of university students, former colleagues, and friends in Bangladesh--men and women--are allowed. Forgive me if this smacks of being overly optimistic or idealistic--I do realize that America has it's problems and it's not a utopia. But I must say that right now, I feel sincerely blessed to be an American woman in America.

As you can see, I'm still trying to get my bearings and process an intense year at a start-up university in a third world country. This process has given me a better perspective on my life as a young female American worker. I better understand the purpose of hierarchy, governance, management, due process, and checks and balances. I see how creativity and entrepreneurial skills flourish in the right environment. I see clearly how top-down organizational culture can cripple effort, decision making, and responsibility. I feel like my time at AUW was a crash course in management, infrastructure, and capacity building.

From my comfortable home in Kansas, I better appreciate the power of shared experiences, friendship, laughter, patience, and optimism that surrounded me in Bangladesh. I'm truly thankful to those who keep a noble vision and mission close to their hearts. Onek dhonnobad to my dear friends, co-workers, and believers in Bangladesh and beyond.

Signing off,
Summer Lewis

Feel free to email me if you have questions about living Bangladesh and/or working at the Asian University for Women:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vincent's Trip Home (accompanied by Summer & Katrina)

Katrina and I left Bangladesh on May 24 with Vincent the Kitten. The trip ended up taking over 70 hours...

Check out my photo album for photos and details of the journey!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bangladesh Open House

I realize that I'm finally sending this after being here almost a year--apologies for the delay. This is the apartment that Katrina and I have shared for the past year. Welcome to 2C in what we call the “Panchlaish Apartment Building!”

Our home in Bangladesh 2C Panchlaish

Chittagong Has Talent

I was asked by a friend at a local private school, the William Carey Academy, to be the judge for their Middle School Talent Show. At first I thought it would be more like American Idol--luckily, it did not involve (constructive) criticism. Two other respected members of the community and I had to decide on the three top acts from over ten performers.

WCA Middle School Talent Show

Bangladeshi Bob Marley, Waleed Abedin (my co-worker's son):

All the glitter and sequins in Bangladesh

The other week I uncovered the location of all the glitter, sequins, jingle bells, and shiny material in Bangladesh--at the International Dance Day 2010 Festival of Dance.

This "Celebration of International Dance Day," was hosted by Bangladesh Nrittya Shilpi Shangstha, Chattagram and Alliance Francaise de Chittagong. The Chief Guest was Monsieur Charley Causeret, Ambassador of France to Bangladesh. Laila Hasan, renowned choreographer and dancer and recipient of the Ekushey Padak 2010, was the Special Guest.

Laila Hasan

After about an hour of introductions, speeches, flower sharing, and photo-ops, the dancers got down to business. You may need sunglasses to comfortably view these videos:

Friday, May 7, 2010

AUW 20G 607: Step into my office

I like to have an inviting office space.

It helps create the illusion for my co-workers that I am a calm, peaceful person.

When I have to deal with asking for the third time to have something done or explained, I shut the door.

You can't hear me yelling over the generator or construction noises literally 3 feet outside of my window.

I like to think of my chairs as therapy couches.

AUW 20G 607 My Office

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm an auntie!

Our younger sister Margaret just had her baby! Garrett was born at 5:49 am May 4, Tuesday morning--he is 7 lbs 13 oz, 20 in long. Margaret says his hair appears to be a reddish color-auburn.

It's tough being this far away--but Kat and I are heading home to Kansas in late May. So we'll get to see Marg and baby soon!

My first nephew!

Great hair!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just like heaven

I have been making dark chocolate truffles with the dark chocolate baking chocolate Paul E. left me

I just consumed 3 tablespoons of the delicious, rich ganache

it's resting now in the freezer

to be made into little chocolate balls of heaven later tonight

oh, the simple blessings!

The block of dark baking chocolate that Paul Eisenberg
gave me (as compared to a normal-size Ghirardelli chocolate bar)

Time to make the truffles

Dibs on the pan!

The finished product

Link to the vegan dark chocolate truffles recipe (add sugar if using unsweetened baking chocolate)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sari Glamour Shots

I told Varuni "I don't wear red." But she said, "this would look so good on you--just try it." So I did. I loved it. And I took some photos (propping up Kat's lovely Lumix camera on a chair):

Summer Sari Apr 2010

And then I went to another event a few days later that required a sari. I borrowed this number from Fabiha. It was FAB! Jill took the photos, and Vince helped out:

Summer Sari Rahimafrooz night

Mighty Kitty

Mom always asks us via e-mail: "And how is little mighty kitty?"

Well, Mom, here's what Mr. Vincent van Playful is up to: