Yes, it’s been a long silence. My workload is to blame, definitely. But not only. Mostly, my inability to blog for the past weeks, months, has to do with an overall sense of defeat as I watch my reserves of (positive?) energy slowly trickling out of me. I need to be parsimonious in the way I measure and distribute it. Work must be done (contracts have been signed and will be honored), and the demands of parenting cannot be ignored : homework, making sure my daughters attend their diverse activities, getting them bathed, feeding them dinner, and thank Goodness for all these mundane day-to-day tasks, and for my children’s laughter and needs, because even as they sometimes exhaust me, they also keep me from sinking into a state of stupor, and save me from self-destructive tendencies. By nine, most evenings, my whole body, mind and soul can think of one thing, and one thing only : crawl into bed with a book, and escape reality.
My mistake, and mine only, was to have agreed to move into a house that I knew could never be the kind of home that I need, wishfully (and fool-ly) thinking that the advantages it offered would supersede its major flaws : it was a house with a small patch of garden, as opposed to an apartment, and it was located close to our youngest daughter’s school, and close to most everything – and knowing the reality of the Dhaka traffic, that argument weighed heavily in the balance. Also, the rent was cheaper, and the UN having upgraded Dhaka last year (since it is such a fantastic place to be !) the hardship money was suddenly slashed (with one home-leave every other year only, as if the option of spending the whole summer break here could even be considered!), sending all our budget calculations out the window. We no longer had enough to reach the end of the month (I know, amazing, but true) unless we cancelled our school-break trips outside the country (and that was not an option.) So, I ignored my misgivings about the house. I told myself I could do this.
I overestimated my levels of tolerance.
And we moved.
Into a house surrounded with dwarfing buildings that stand in the way of all natural light and force me to use electricity from morning till evening. That would be bad enough, but there is more. The plumbing started collapsing on us, and for the past weeks, the cave has also become a stinky sewage hole, with workers banging on the walls and pipes right outside my office, toilets condemned or we find ourselves literally walking through piles of shit, soiled water coming out of the showers, and our electric installation breaking down at the most frustrating times.
This morning, I decided to go for a walk in the park close to our house. Temperatures have dropped, and so have humidity levels. The air feels nice.
Now, don’t get excited. Said park would most likely be beautiful if only it were looked after. As it is, we have an enclosure fringed with garbage, and inside, two holes containing low levels of stagnant water, a small bridge under construction (seemingly interrupted) straddling it from one side to the other, dirty, uncared bushes everywhere, and a tiled path all around.
As I tried to alternate fast walking and jogging (I should also add that my depressed mood has been compounded by the fact that I’m developing a most unsightly roll of fat on my hips and waist. Call me vain, but I’m totally freaking out, because as someone approaching menopause, I simply do not want to start putting weight on), I tried to breathe in and out, and relax.
Tried to think positive thoughts. As in: come on, it’s not that bad, you can do this, it’s only five weeks and two days before the Christmas break, and then, the rest of the year will fly as it did last year, and then, it will only be one more year… Surely… Hopefully… It’s not so bad. There are people out there with many more problems than you have. Real problems. You’re incredibly privileged, and you know it. And bla bla bla, and bla bla bla. I could almost hear my parents forcing me to finish my plate and reminding me of starving children in Africa.
Of course, the internal pep talk (or those voices from the past) did nothing at all to improve my mood, or smooth out the frown on my face.
There weren’t that many people around me – Dhaka is, after all, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. One or two women wearing salwar kameez and chunky running shoes, casually walking and chatting. One lady in a black burka. Two groups of six to eight men walking together. One or two lone men stretching on the sides.
Suddenly, I saw a bright patch of colour, a pink so radiant, so totally unexpected in this place where dust and grey seem to overshadow everything else, that it brought me to a halt.
Several gorgeous lotus flowers rose from the water, majestic, totally oblivious of all the dirt and neglect around them, their insolent beauty a welcome slap to my slushy train of thoughts.
People who get out of Dhaka, and actually see Bangladesh, say that it is a beautiful country. Unfortunately, I have not been outside the capital except for a day out on a boat, a few weeks after our arrival (and it was OK, but honestly, nothing to write home about either – maybe because we were still too close from Dhaka). My husband’s commute to the office and back means a minimum of two hours stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. That’s on the good days. He will not hear of spending two or three more hours in the car to get out of Dhaka on the week-ends, and I can’t say I blame him. Actually, I don’t want to spend two, three hours or more stuck in traffic, with the kids, on a Friday or Saturday morning either.
I guess I’m just going to have to take it one hour at a time. Day after day.
And remember these pink lotus flowers in the dirty, stagnant water.