Good evening and good morning to my vigilant seven followers and to anyone who might be reading this from a link I will inevitably post to the Facebook. It is Saturday afternoon in Chittagong and the construction noises grow ever louder while I sit in my apartment, hiding away from the outside world. Truth be told, I have a lot of writing to do today (and I don’t feel like showering), so I’ll probably remain inside for the better part of the day. Then I will cook pasta ceci for some friends, after which I will read the teen fiction novel I am obsessing over (don’t hate), and rest my weary head. A luxurious weekend day, to say the least.
If you’re wondering what inspired me to write my fourth—count ‘em, FOURTH—blog post in the five and a half months that I’ve lived abroad, then I’d have to tell you that I was worried I wouldn’t get a fourth in before the apocalypse I’ve been hearing so much about. Happy new year, by the way. I’ve wrangled with it before, but now I can say with certainty that I tend to prefer verbosity over getting to the point, so I have never been inspired to write in this blog on the daily or even on the weekly, as I don’t have enough time to write the lengthy diatribes of which I am so fond. I do wish that I’d written at least once a month, but I have all of that nonsense tucked away in my private journal, so if you wanna know the details of my life—try stealing my journal. Which I keep locked up. In my bra.
In actuality, though, I decided to write another blog post because I realize that in the three blog posts I’ve written, I’ve never really gone into full detail about what my job is at the university and how the whole place is structured. The strange thing about living abroad for a year, no matter where you live, is that the location itself becomes so much of a player in your experience, that what you’re actual doing there can take a backseat. There is so much to learn on all fronts that your job becomes unintentionally secondary. I don’t think this is a problem because it’s not like I’m actually not showing up for work and listlessly wandering the streets of Chittagong instead, but it is easy to forget what you’re doing here. And recently, I was reminded exactly why it matters so much.
But first, a photo of me in a sari.
Never ever share this with another living soul. It is the first and last time that I don’t wear anything but my approved uniform, also known as my clothes. I don’t know, guys. I can’t get into wearing non-American clothing. I love and respect all that there is to offer in Bengali and Indian clothing (the sari pictured here was in Varanasi, India*—more on this in a moment), but I think I look rightfully foolish in it. It’s too gorgeous and gentle for what I’m used to wearing. I will happily let all South Asians do what they do best and strut around in these gorgeous garments. I, on the other hand, will stick to my ankle pants, moccasins, and cardigans. I’m a shameful dresser.
*Tomorrow, I will post a piece that I wrote about Varanasi for This Recording. You can read more about my trip then.
Recently, I volunteered to do a big thing (not in that pseudo-humble way like “I’m such a hero,” but in the way that I was thinking “I’m an idiot, who says I am capable of doing this?”) and have learned that sometimes, if you act a little braver than you think, you might learn that nothing is as impossible as it seems. Forgive me for sounding like the inside, outside, and underneath of a Hallmark card rolled in a high school graduation speech, but god dammit, it’s true. Long story short: I’m now teaching a writing class. A writing class on … FOOD.
Yeah, I’m sure that doesn’t spark much praise in your hearts for me. Writing and food. Those are the only two things I care about in the world, so it’s gotta be easy, right? NO. Teaching is hard, as I am learning. Prior to this, I was a writing tutor and a T.A. for a wonderful professor (as I think I’ve mentioned before), but now I have all this independence and these sets of eyes staring back at me expectantly and I’m supposed to actually know stuff and teach it to them. I’ve had a ball coming up with things to discuss with them, though, and hopefully it’ll continue to be as fun as it has been so far. For example, I’m having them write a personal essay about one of their favorite food memories and we’re reading The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher, which, I’m sure you know, is my favorite book. I can’t wait to teach them about what a sassy lady MFK was. We’re discussing the global food crisis now, then I’m having them read an excerpt from Swann’s Way (can you guess which one?). BUH. It’s so cool to teach about food. Next week, they’ll read selections from food blogs like Smitten Kitchen and Serious Eats to see how that style of writing is different from academic writing. TEACHING IS COOL, OKAY.
So that’s reason number one that I started to really remember what I was doing here, and not just where I was. I feel sort of reinvigorated by this challenge that I have ahead of me. Any suggestions for my class are always welcome. I know I’m not the only person on this great earth that loves food. Though I’m certain I love it the most of all. Someone prepare ninety-six burritos for my arrival home, which, by the way, is MAY 11TH. Yeesh. That’ll come up fast. Between then and now, though, I have this course and then my friend Zena and I are going to Sri Lanka for ten days. So you have some time for the burrito-making.
The second thing that got me feeling all warm and inspired about being here was the huge Lunar New Year party that our students threw last week. I am not lying when I tell you that these students are the coolest people I’ve ever met. They are too smart. And fun to be around. And genuine. We all love them to death.
So they threw this big party with lots of dancing, singing, drama, and fun. I got some of it (okay, a lot of it) on video and have posted one of the videos below. Our Cambodian students got down to some Nicki Minaj. Sisters ain’t playinnnnnn!
A Vietnamese fashion show!
My Sri Lankan ladies groovin’ it.
My friend Mandy (or, rather, Miss Mandy) was in a reinterpretation of Mulan with her Chinese class. She had to paint on a mustache and eyebrows. Too good.
There she is in the black, looking stern.
The Pakistani students did this hilarious traditional song but instead of traditional words, they talked about Facebook and dining hall food. Great hats, btw.
Then we had a tea party. I made scones and vanilla bean pudding—the vanilla bean was a real bean from the spice plantation I went to in India. Yum.
Oh, I went to India. And Thailand. I don’t really feel like writing anymore, so let this photo suffice as evidence!