Thursday, September 25, 2003

Thirsty Thursday 

Well it's hard to believe that another weeks has passed me by and it is now only a matter of days before I'll go and pick mum and dad up from the airport. I think in many ways it will be quite surreal to see them in Bangladesh but I am defeinitely looking forward to it.

It's getting around to the end of semester so that means lots of assignments being handed in and lots and lots of marking to be done but most of that will have to wait until mum and dad have left.

I think that now it's been a few months I am starting to really relax here. I am familiar with the routine, don't have any problems getting around, can remember most peoples names most of the time and that sort of thing. Have started calling CRP home, which all in all is a pretty nice way to feel.

Sometimes the work can be frustrating as there is a wide range of ability in the students population and a lot of this seems related to how well they speak english. I know how much trouble I had getting through uni in my first language let alone how hard it must be for some of these guys. But like all students there are some that have the ability and seem to make no effort which I can now see is much more frustrating for a teacher than someone who is a bit slower but tries their heart out. Have had to give a severe reprimand to one of my students as she was not putting in what I thought was a reasonable effort. Not my kind of fun but I'm sure she'll thank me in the long run when she has a degree.

This week have been running some classes for the 4th year students. 2 on counselling and 2 on advanced group work in mental health. This was a bit of a challenge but after giving them three lessons of straight theory I decided it was time we had some fun. So I got them in to groups and told them that one of their members would have to be blindfolded and navigate an obstacle course made out of the furniture in the room. What I didn't tell them was what kind of obstacles they would have to navigate. Also told them that they couldn't use any form of verbal communication. I don't think they've done too much of this kind of learning but it was absolutely hilarious. Then used discussion to find out from them what kind of skills were required to complete the activity, what roles people took on in groups etc. The feedback from the students has been really good in fact some of them said that it would have been very useful to have this kind of experience before they had their mental health prac so I'll keep that in mind when I 'm doing that this year.

I've had a few problems getting a little bit caught up in my own little corner of CRP but if I am ever lacking in inspiration all I need to do is go for a wander around the wards and see some of these guys in traction where they basically cannot move for about a month of so and to think that many of them would not be able to receive this treatment anywhere other than here... tends to put my own problems in a slightly better perspective.

In other news... restrung my guitar the other day and that is something that I just love doing. The sound is just that much better that I find it hard to drag myself off to do other things. Have also decided that I'm going to make a time every week where I can go down to the wards and strum a few tunes for the patients. I don't get to spend too much time with them due to the business of teaching but I think it would mean a lot to me and it's probably what I'd be doing at home anyway so I might as well share the love around.

Have managed to get over the disappointment of the raiders loss and must sadly admit that I would really like to see the warriors win it, well if not them Penrith. Can't say I'd be too fond of seeing the roosters win back to back games and don't like the bulldogs that much so we'll see how it goes.

Thanks all for emails, comments etc. It's great to be able to keep up with everyone in Australia so easily. Have not forgotten the comment about what my flat is like etc., but will hopefully get a chance to add that in the next day or two.

Am off to the Australian club for a beer tonight which although it comes in cans is served in a stubby holder, how aussie is that!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

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Monday, September 22, 2003

New AYA's arrival. 

Last week the new bunch of youth ambassadors, or AYA's, quite humourously in my eyes also the bangla for the people who clean and do washing and cook and stuff, arrived in Dhaka. There are three who are living together in Dhaka and one who is living next door with Patrice. Apart from being aussie's they seem like a pretty good bunch. So last Thursday night we all met up at the Australian Club and Then Patrice and I stayed in Dhaka and we did a picnic trip on Friday.

Almost as soon as we arrived at the picinic sight it started raining buckets and we were sharing the only available shelter with quite a few bengalis. Once that blew over we had a bit of a feed before embarking on our tour of the Folk art museum. Now due to the night before I was feeling a little bit worse for wear and one of my favourite ways of managing this is to make jokes about everything. I'm sure some of would have experienced this and so our guided tour was co-commentated by yours truly. I've got to admit it was absolutely fantastic having an Australian audience who not only understood most of my incredibly witty/plain rude comments but actually found it in their hearts to laugh. The museum wasn't too bad either.

Spurred on by my success on Friday I decided that it was definitely worth trying to carry on the humour to the first class I had given to the 4th year students. The course is called advanced rehab and the topic was counselling. So a week ago I was told I had to give these lectures meaning they were ever so well prepared. So one of the theories of counselling has the concept of an inner parent, inner adult, and inner child. Another part of this is that you have to make a contract with yourself. So very wittily when I was talking about the contract I said that it was very important to get the parent the adult and the child all to sign the contract. Only to be met by blank stares. Even after an explanation they couldn't even manage a snicker. Best save it up for the aussies I think or learn some really funny bengali jokes.

Due to these extra classes I have been pretty flat out this week as well as trying to get through as much work as possible so I can have some time off while mum and dad are here. Am really looking forward to seeing them.

Other than that life is pretty chooky here. I really feel like I'm at home and feel like I've really found my feet and can now get on with the job at hand. It's going to be hard to get used to the frequency with which volunteers come and go but there'll be a few long termers which will make it a bit easier.

I'm sure everyone must be thinking by now has mick not heard the footy scores? I have but it sounds like we went down in a thriller which we probably could have won, but at the start of the season I never could have expected us to go this good and it's a lot easier going out in a hard fought game than being walloped at your home ground.

Til next time...
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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A day in the life... 

Well am feeling somewhat better now that the raiders will get at least one more shot at it this weekend. And I guess as long as we play well I'll be fairly happy with how the season has gone. It will be tough to beat the warriors but I am eternally optimistic.

So back to CRP life. My usual day starts at 7:30am when I wake up. Usually pretend I don't have to get up straight away and end up having about 15 minutes to shower shave (occasionally) and dress then straight out the door for the short walk over to the office. Doesn't seem to matter where I am in the world I still hate getting out of bed in the morning.

My day generally consists of preparing lectures, giving lectures, meeting with students about assignments, marking assignments. At the moment we are also reviewing the curriculum which for me means merging 2 subjects program planning and community culture and development into 1 subject and making OT in psychiatry into 2 subjects, 1 focussing on the classification diagnosis and general treatment of mental health problems and one that focusses on OT interventions so there will be a fair bit of group work, creative therapies and so on covered in that one. Currently as well as my usual classes I am preparing to give some lectures to the 4th year students on counselling, advanced group work in mental health and OT and the elderly. Obviously I am an expert on all of these topics so they require a fair bit of wading through text books to prepare which is something I really love. I am also supervising 3 4th year students on their research projects which is part of the honours degree here (which all bachelor students complete). This is possibly the thing that I feel most out of my depth doing having had no interest in research myself and never having done any!

By somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 I need some breakfast so I head outside to a little tea shop where I usually have a couple of roti, flat bread, a small bowl of dahl and vegetables and if I'm feeling particularly hungry an omelette. This is always followed by tea which is served in smal cups and is very strong and sweet. The total bill is about 15 Takka or less than 50cents. The tea shop also does great snacks like samosa and shingara which are small balls of pastry filled with a vegetable curry. Very tasty.

Lunch is from 1-2pm and we have an Aya who cookes for us (the volunteers) This varies a bit but usually consists of rice, chicken or egg curry, dahl, vegetale curry, aloo chop (balls of fried potato, onions etc) or a combination of the above.

Official knock off time is 5:00pm but more often than not I am in the office a bit later as during the day there are so many distractions that it is difficult to get much done. Much less distracting when there's noone around.

Dinner varies greatly depending on what people feel like. Sometimes a group of us volunteers get together and cook up a bit of pasta, sometimes we get a rickshaw into Savar and go to one of the restaurants there where the food is usually pretty good. Sometimes I am very lazy and have some toast for dinner. It all depends on mood and what other people are up to.

The weekend is Thursday afternoon and Friday which essentially means that it's a one day weekend by the time you get moving on Thursday arvo. Fairly often we head into Dhaka and go to one of the international clubs for a drink and a bit of r&r which is well needed. Dhaka is also the place to do any serious shopping that is required. There is a supermarket which sells pasta and some other western style foods which are essential for the maintenance of dietry sanity. This Thursday we are heading to the Australian Club as the new intake of Youth Ambassadors have arrived and need to be shown the ropes and then on Friday going for a picnic somewhere or other. One of them apparently lived in Canberra and studied at UC so I'm wondering how long it will take to make a connection there, if I don't laready know her! She will be coming to CRP and moving in with Patrice so i'll have 2 Aussie chicks living next door. Who would have thunk it hey?

Other than that spend a fair bit of time strumming my guitar which is a very enjoyable passtime and with the lack of opportunity to work out songs from CD's and stuff have been trying to write a few things but generally just mucking around, it's a great way to pass a few hours.

I have to remind myself often that this is actually a pretty exciting thing to be doing and somehting I've wanted to do for a while. It's easy to get into the routine of work and focus on the few things that you have to get done and forget that you are training OT's in a country where they are very much needed and there is only 7 in the whole country. It's even easier to forget about the massive amount of good stuff that CRP does in a big picture sense. It is the only place in Bangladesh that provides rehab for spinal injury patients. So it's just a matter of finding a balance between being focussed on what needs to get done and trying to see the big picture at the same time.

Am still working on the photo's but Rimon our resident computer genius and OT lecturer extraodanairre is feeling a bit tired today so I might be able to talk him into giving me a hand.
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Saturday, September 13, 2003


Sometimes words just don't cut it, but i'll give it crack anyway, besides, thought the comment that I may be personally responsible for the raiders abismal effort yesterday warranted some sort of reply.

Like sitting in an internet cafe in Savar waiting for the stats to pop up on the screen isn't enough. After watching your team drop the ball how many times and miss that many tackles.... All that was left was the long journey home. Well normally it's not so long maybe 5-10 minutes with the usual interest from passers by. But for some reason, foreigners in lime green football jerseys are even more interesting, the fact that noone who's staring at you can even begin to fathom the despair you are experiencing does not exactly help the situation. Eventually managed to get back to CRP and avoid talking to too many people to whom I would have had to explain in depth what had just happened, something which they don't seem to understand so well. I guess they are used to their team losing and have just lost hope. Anyway my main point to Ana is that I didn't even have a beer to cry into. Noone to complain to the referee about, noone to tell me that results will go our way and that we'll have a chance to make up for it next weekend. Nothing.

So I did the mature thing and locked myself in my room.

The only thing I had to soften the blow was the fact that I now have a stereo system, of sorts, in my room. This is a set of computer speakers which has a sub woofer and built in amp and runs off my discman. So I consoled myself ina bit of bass therapy. In fact Jo, another OT who is sharing with Patrice at the moment commented on her arrival home that they must have lost. So its good to see that the whole building could share my pain even without fully understanding. For the record Massive Attack and Portishead are very good music for feeling depressed to.

Unfortunately my bad mood has carried over to today and some of my students have copped the brunt of it. The short story is that I've set them an assignment, devoted 2 full classes to the explanation of the assignment, organised meetings with the individual groups to discuss the assignment, asked them if they had any questions, told them to come and see me if they have any problems and yet they find it necessary to go and talk to other lecturers about this assignment. So today they didn't see the best of me, they saw the very disappointed in their behaviour side. Proud to say I didn't do my stack. Lucky that it wasn't during that class that I got the request to do the assignment myself so they can see how they are meant to do it. Have considered making them stand outside the classroom holding their ears which is the Bangla equivalent of hands on heads but have refrained from this so far.

Am going to have a very busy 2 weeks trying to get it all together so that when Mum and Dad arrive I can basically avoid work and hang out with them. Have begun to realise that setting assignments is much easier than marking them. The joy. Anyway have to toddle off and see one of my students for supervision of her research project which I am onviously over qualified to do.. if she hasn't done what I set for her last week there may well be a very unhappy mick and an even less happy student.

Will wait until penrith have rolled brisbane tomorrow and I am feeling a bit more cheerful to write again.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

the cultural evening.... 

Well sunday night was the first and thankfully only performance of the international volunteers cultural extravaganza spectacular. Saturday rehearsals were alittle subdued due to afore mentioned shananigans on friday night but when it came to the big night not even Big Kev could match the cast for pure excitement.

The story of an aussie backpacker (me) who went backpacking to europe and married a pom (mel) had three kids, went on a bbq, sang waltzing matilda, had a birthday party, went to visit cousins in austria, had christmas and new year there and generally sang and danced a bit, was translated into bangla by our good mate moyeen who was born in england to bengali parents. So at least the audience had some idea of what was going on.

Possible higlights were, dancing to greased lightening at the birthday party afte there was a minor muck up with the musical arrangements, the wedding ceremony which was greated with very enthusiastic applause, or perhaps the heel and toe polka sneakily finding its way into the script by an australian family on a bbq spontaneously deciding to have a bush dance, as we often do.

All in all it was great fun and so far there have only been enthusiastic comments from everyone I have talked to. Apparently noone at CRP has ever seen a group of foreigners get on the stage and make idiots of themselves before. Val who is the founder of CRP she had no idea I could play and sing so well so I felt obliged to tell her that it is often not wise to let people know your full capabilities straight away or you will be expected to do a lot more and since I'm inherently lazy I try to avoid this at all costs, she seemed to think this was funny too so there is the possible explanantion that everyone in bangladesh is on crack....

Teaching is going ok, ahve managed to deal with a few student problems which i thouhg would be a problem and have turned out fine just fine, sometimes I find myself wondering if I really can do this and I'm not just pretending.... hmmm it's an interesting thought. I guess time will tell.

Am actually very busy at the moment as I need to organise the 3rd year Psychiatry prac, mark assignments, prepare a leaflet promoting OT in psychiatry and write the curriculum for 2 courses 1 which is an amalgamation of 2 courses and 1 which was one course and is becoming 2 so that should keep me out of trouble for a while. Well most of the time..

Is it wrong to pray for a miracle that would enable Jason Croker to play on Friday night?
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Sunday, September 07, 2003

dinner and dancing anyone? 

Well I've decided to skip the day in the life for a bit as something much more exciting has happened.

On friday night a group of 7 of us went to a dinner and live music thing at the american club. We met up at another club before hand for a couple of drinks and then by 8:00 we were on our way down the road.

The food was great, buffet style. Beef strog, veg lasagne and a whole array of fresh salad and all sorts of other good stuff but I think I speak for all concerned when I say the highlight was the wine. OK it wasn't australian but to have a nice drop of red was absolutely sensational.

The band started playing and as the wine flowed the dancing began.

Now I'm not sure if it was that it was a great bunch of people we were there with, or if it was the fact that opporunities like this are so few a far between but we all went a little bit crazy. I looked around the room occasionally to be reassured that there was not another group of people in the place having anywhere near as much fun as we were. There was all manner of dancing techniques, group hugs and other assorted shananigans, the possible highlight of these was Patrice stealing a waiters drink tray and dancing with it on her head, and maybe a close second the lower portion of zip of pants being creatively used as head attire.

By all accounts it was a pearler and everyone had a ball. I for one could not stop grinning like the village idiot for several hours.

The next morning.... well i'm sure you can imagine there were a few sore heads fronting up.

So Bangladesh continues to surprise me and up until now they have mainly been pleasant.

Will write about the cultural evening tomorrow sometime as the performance is tonight, needless to say that our rehearsal last night was not the most enthusiastic effort of the century. Should be alright.

Must add. Gutted that the raiders lost. Gutted.
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Monday, September 01, 2003

just a quick note... 

OK for those who are interested here's the postal address at CRP

Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP)
PO CRP-Chapain
Dhaka 1343
Tel: (880) 2 7710464/5 or (880) 2 7711766

I would also highly recommend checking out the website which has lots of info on lots of different things. The address is:

will write more and better stuff soon.

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