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How to live passionately

Love this talk from a 71 year old woman who is amazing! Not only is it about being graceful, it’s about living in the moment, with humor, passion and freedom to be yourself 🙂

What have I gained? Freedom: I don’t have to prove anything anymore. I’m not stuck in the idea of who I was, who I want to be, or what other people expect me to be. I don’t have to please men anymore, only animals. I keep telling my superego to back off and let me enjoy what I still have. My body may be falling apart, but my brain is not, yet. I love my brain. I feel lighter. I don’t carry grudges, ambition, vanity, none of the deadly sins that are not even worth the trouble. It’s great to let go. I should have started sooner.And I also feel softer because I’m not scared of being vulnerable. I don’t see it as weakness anymore.And I’ve gained spirituality. I’m aware that before, death was in the neighborhood. Now, it’s next door, or in my house. I try to live mindfully and be present in the moment. By the way, the Dalai Lama is someone who has aged beautifully, but who wants to be vegetarian and celibate?

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Lessons in life: a reflection on my birthday

First off, thank you to the awesome people in my life. Thank you for reminding me that kindness exists every where. Thank you for lifting me up. Thank you for brightening my life every single day. Thank you for being honest & straight forward with me. Thank you to my family, friends, my mentors & colleagues. Thank you for showing me a thousand ways to love & live in every moment.

I saw this video a couple of days ago and since today is my birthday and I am stepping into 37 and staring the big 4-0 in the face – it seemed like a good time to take a look back on what has been a rather interesting journey so far.

It’s been 7 years since I started blogging. Putting my thoughts out into the open, for others to see, comment on and debate. It’s scary. Very scary. Mostly because I had this hang up on an unconscious need for approval. As life happened, I learnt that I really don’t need the approval or validation of others to be awesome.

I am a round peg in a square hole and maybe I don’t fit in because I am supposed to help create a new world. And I am – in my own little corner of the world, in my immediate sphere, I am making a difference and that’s enough. I am kind (mostly), considerate (maybe too much), empathetic (again, too much), loyal & protective (but these are things that I never want to change about myself).  Most days I manage to retain a sense of humor – someday’s its more sarcastic & dry and that’s ok too.

I know in my bones that even though the night is darkest right before dawn, the sun will inevitably rise. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and all I have to do is to continue putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward. I have learnt to say ‘no’, draw my boundary and roll with the punches. I know that no matter how many times I fall down, I am capable of picking myself up, dusting it off and going on.

You never know when it might be the last time you speak to someone. As I lose more people who I love, I have learnt that death can come for any of us at anytime. It’s very important to tell the people you love that you love them. Let people know when you appreciate something about them. Give others compliments – genuine, specific compliments. Let people know when who they are, and what they do for you, lifts you up.

Love with gusto. I don’t get how people can love in half measures with a generous sprinkling of caution. That’s like saying I am going to the pool but I am not going to jump in, swim around or get wet in anyway. If you are going to love something, love with all your heart. I consider myself very lucky to have incredible people in my life, who care for me and show me that in a thousand ways.

Half measures & half-hearted efforts yield mediocre results. To cultivate high quality relationships takes time (sometimes years), sincere effort, devotion, honesty, integrity and most of all genuine kindness. You can’t do any of this in half measures, whether it’s your work or your people, give a 100% and more. Let go of attachment to results. The destination is important but it’s more important to enjoy the journey.

Be Grateful, cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Give more than you get, spread kindness, happiness – the world will always need more of that. When someone helps you out, thank them. Smile at someone who isn’t smiling today. Say good morning, thank you, ask how are you & really listen to their answer. Sometimes we all need a ear and a shoulder for support.

Life isn’t black or white. Choices aren’t straight forward. Decisions shouldn’t be rigid. Be prepared to change as things changed. If you are stuck in a position, take a break. Breathe, walk, come back later with a cooler head. More often than not, I find that it makes me more willing to take a look at the opposing perspective. No one is all good, all bad, no decision or action is a person in their entirety.

Bad things happen to good people all the time. And that’s ok too. Being hung up on good, bad, fair, unfair only creates discontent and dissatisfaction. Take life as it comes, instead of resisting, flow the way water flows around a boulder on a river. Death isn’t fair and sometimes it takes the one’s who are too young or too loved.

If you let people screw you over more than twice, then I am sorry but you really are a moron. And I have been moronic – too trusting, too giving, too sympathetic, too forgiving. Funny thing is, I don’t think I lost anything. I gained lessons. I learnt to lose people and sometimes to kick off the one’s that hang on and suck my soul dry. I am ok with living somewhere in the shades of gray but I know now that some things can never be compromised on. I have a better idea of what my ‘deal breakers’ are.

Success is mostly hard work, with a tiny sprinkling of luck. The harder you work, the more your luck improves. However, there IS a big difference between being smart, working smart and just being hard-working. Sometimes the lazy way to get things done, really is the best way, it leaves one with more time to do other things.

Be open to new things. It really is amazing to stay open to new opportunities, adventures, places, people, culture, food, experience. Test your boundaries – life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Be alive while you are still living. My places to see and things to do list is ever-expanding. At this rate I have given up on any hope of being able to tick it all off. However, every time I do tick off something, I do my victory dance – the cross between my chicken dance and pointy dance. Find your rhythm and do your funky dance, celebrate your victories & success, celebrate people & their kindness.

I have learnt the value of quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s clothes, shoes, handbags or relationships. It’s better to have few very good friends, who lift you up, sing you the song of your soul when you have forgotten it. Then to have hundreds of friends whom you rarely, interact with. Small talk is over-rated. Don’t change yourself to fit with others. You are an original and it’s worth more than a copy. So be you, be awesome, be totally weird!

Commit to things but make sure that they are really what you need. We tend to confuse our wants with needs. I want a knight in shining armor who will ride off into the sunset with me, so we can have a house in the country with white picket fence and 2.5 kids. What I need is someone who will let me be the monk who meditates for a month in a remote mountain in solitude. Or go off in a grand adventure around the world with my friends. See the difference? Huge! What I think I want is what I have grown up with in fairy tales and the social expectations heaped on me. What I need is what my soul demands, the wanderlust in me who begs to be set free.

Don’t listen to other people’s advice, nobody knows what they are doing. People mean well – at least sometimes they really do. But if I wanted to run like the wind, I wouldn’t go to a turtle for advice. We are unique human beings and each one of us dreams of something very different from the others. If you listen to other people, they’ll either tell you what they have done, what has worked for them, or how you should or shouldn’t do what you want to do. So if you are going to take advice, better make sure that the people who advice you ARE where you want to be.

 Avoid toxicity – at all cost – in everything. You only have one life to live, one body to live in, one mind that will be with you for the rest of your life. So be kind to yourself, to your body, your mind. Avoid toxic people, junk food, negative thoughts. They take out more than they put in and in the end, it’s really not worth it. Cut out the crap, exercise, meditate, take long walks in nature, hold hands and hug your loved one’s.

The only person you should be competing with is yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t really know what they are going through. Also, you may not really want their life if you knew. What others have to say about you is none of your business – it’s a reflection of them, not you. Also what others do is none of your business unless it has direct negative impact on you (like a physical threat). In which case – hit first, hit hard, neutralize the threat and remove yourself from the situation.

Discard labels. Tags and labels are for stuff – clothes, shoes, bags, accessories. Not human beings. Do not allow others to label you – beautiful, smart, stupid or whatever. Good or bad – your life’s narrative is your own. You decide how you want to write it and do it your own way. If you don’t, others will. Choose your words wisely – the way you describe yourself – verbally out loud or silently within your own head – is what you project out into the world.

If you are stuck, keep hammering at the door to new opportunities. If it stays closed, then sneak in through the window. The only one who can really help yourself or change your life for the better is you. Pick your heroes and mentors carefully, they do shape who you become but even they can only show you the door, the decision to walk through is exclusively yours.

Be awesome, be kind, charity starts with yourself and in your own home. Be the best version of yourself.  Be your own best friend. Learn to love your life and be comfortable in your own skin. Believe in yourself and stop being your own worst critic. 

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My first ink – a symbolic commitment to myself. The phoenix symbolizes rebirth, courage – the strength and resilience to rise from ashes. Among the Chinese, the phoenix (fèng) is also the symbol of good fortune. The word on top is Meiyo – Honor, it’s from the code of Bushido. Warriors have only one judge of honor & character and that is themselves. Every decision is their own responsibility and how it’s carried out is a reflection of who they truly are. The word in the bottom is Yu – heroic courage, again from code of Bushido. It denotes the difference between living life like a turtle hiding inside its shell vs. living life completely, fully and wonderfully. Courage that is not blind but intelligent & strong. The word on the left is Ga or Hagane – meaning Strong as metal. The word on the left is Chi, meaning Wisdom. Honor is leading, therefore on top; courage is the power coming from deep down, and strength and wisdom are the qualities needed to tackle life, therefore under the Phoenix’ wings.

Being at peace: free resources for learning meditation

I love meditation 😀 I love the feeling of peace, security, acceptance and over all lightness that I experience in my meditation sessions. As an introvert, my inner world is supremely important to me, in fact so important that from time to time, I like to set dedicated hours apart to ensure that my inner house is in order.

Knowing who I am and what I am has been quite a journey. In this journey of self-discovery and learning, I have found meditation to be quite a tool for inner discovery. Most of us look outside when we want company, happiness, comfort… not quite realizing that everything that you need already resides within you. However it’s almost impossible to find your inner resources when you don’t have the best relationship with yourself.

We all have that little voice that nags us at the back of our head. Maybe a forgotten voice that belonged to a teacher who called you ‘stupid’ for failing in math or a family that thought you were too ‘naive’ or ‘angry’. All those labels that people we have forgotten, labelled us with and that subsequently became part of our personality. The voices that say that things aren’t quite how they should be, that you could always do better, etc. and you keep beating yourself up over your perceived failures. It’s a never-ending nag! Had this voice belonged to someone else, you would have probably resented their negativity and pulled away from their social circle. But since this is the voice in our head, most of us, go through life oblivious to it.

This is exactly why I love meditating. It puts me in touch with me. The me, who already has everything that she needs. The me, who is happy and blessed. The me, who knows what is right for her, in her gut, in her mind, intuitively. This is the inner me, the fat happy cat that purrs near my feet, light as a feather, happy as can be.

So given the recent onslaught of questions on finding resources on meditation, I have found quite a few sites which I love.

These Buddhist monks who have started a Peace Revolution are amazing, head over here: https://peacerevolution.net/. They have a free 42 day program to guide you through your journey 🙂

If you want something more scientific, try this site: http://marc.ucla.edu/ The UCLA MARC has an array of information, including free guided meditations.

And if you have an interest in Buddhism (you don’t have to in order to learn how to meditate), head over here: http://www.how-to-meditate.org/ They have an array of videos on lectures and techniques, along with the underlying principles.

So go on ahead… enjoy!

 

p.s. Other posts were I have written about meditation are:

Mind monkeys

How to increase self-confidence

The lazy persons guide to being healthy

Meditation Realizations

Meditation Retreat

 

The lazy person’s guide to being healthy

Let’s face it, it’s been about 8/9 weeks since your new year resolution to work on a healthier, skinnier you… and now your motivation is waning. Gym is boring. Food is interesting. You are cheating… with yourself.

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama

Fact is most of us will not realize the value of good health until our body or mind or both quits on us.

 

In our hyper-active, hyper-connected modern life, we are so busy being busy that finding the time and energy to exercise, eat right, engage in activities that reduce the inevitable stress that arises from such a hectic lifestyle should be a top priority in ALL of our lives.

So what can you do when you don’t have time to take care of yourself? Here’s a short list which you can customize and adapt to your own routine. Six non-sweat easy tips and One that encourages you to sweat it out 😉

Practice Gratitude: 

First thing in the morning when you open your eyes, in the space before thoughts invade and the to-do list in your head starts ticking. Stop. Breathe. Practice gratitude.

Be grateful that you are alive.

Healthy.

Awake.

In your bed and not a hospital.

Be grateful for being able to breathe without assistance.

Some days I am so depressed that I find it difficult to find things to be grateful for. Yet I know that I am incredibly blessed. So on my bleak days, I decide to be grateful for little things, like breathing, reading, books, the fact that I can walk without pain or that I still have all of my teeth. Whatever floats your boat… just find something to be grateful for and sincerely concentrate on that blessing.

Meditate:

Take a few minutes and meditate. There are many ways to meditate. You can chant, concentrate, visualize, play the singing bowl, flute or a guided meditation CD … whichever method works for you. Again, if you are not the kind that can sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands on your knees, don’t. If walking on the grass in the backyard works for you, do.

Meditating is about centering yourself. Connecting to the here and now. To be present. It’s the deepest part of you that remains unruffled through the storm of life. It stores your energy, your resilience. Connect and appreciate yourself.

You can create a daily routine to help get yourself into the mindset to meditate or you can take a few minutes through out the day to practice it as you need it. It’s like taking a smoke-break for smokers. Instead of getting off your desk to go smoke, you take a few minutes to breathe and center your mind.

 

 

Sleep:

When you cheat on your diet or worry obsessively or simply don’t get around to doing any of the above… don’t worry .. there’s still something that you can do to keep yourself healthy. You can sleep. Not the tossing & turning kind of sleep but a real good night’s sleep. Empty your bedroom of all electronic devices, specifically the TV and make it the kind of haven that you need to truly relax in. If darkness is your thing, install double blinds or get a light blinder for yourself. If you are a light sleeper, put on some white noise to reduce outside interruptions to your sleep cycle. Whatever else you might cheat on… don’t cheat yourself from getting a good night’s rest. Make it routine & a habit to go to bed at a fixed time. Cheating throughout the week and making up for it by sleeping in on the weekend, doesn’t work.

No matter how blue I am .. I usually feel a whole lot better after I have managed to get a good snooze. It has helped me hang on to my sanity on days I want to blow my top 😉

 

Hug:

Hug the person next to you. Hug before you leave home. Hug when you get home. Hug your colleagues if you share that kind of relationship. Hug your friends when you see them. A 20 second hug releases oxytocin, nature’s anti-depressant and anti-anxiety hormone.

 

 

 

Laugh:

Find something to laugh about throughout the day. If not a belly laughter at least smile through out the day, even when you don’t feel like it. Try it. You can’t smile and hold on to anger, depression, anxiety, stress. It’s just not possible. The physical effect of putting on a smile or laughing, transforms negative emotions & releases happy hormones. So go on .. laugh at yourself, or if all fails, laugh at all the cute animal videos on YouTube 😉

 

Write it out:

Put aside 20 minutes at the end of the day, sit down comfortably and write. Don’t think about what to write or how to write. Just write. Whatever is on your mind. Forget about spellings and grammatical errors. Suspend that grammar nazi in you. Just write.

Write about whatever is running through your head. Whatever is clouding your emotions. Whatever is nagging at the back of your mind that keeps you up tossing and turning. Take up a pen and paper and write it out.

Get moving:

Get moving and feel that blood flowing through your veins. If working out at the gym is not your thing, try a different activity …  yoga, competitive sport, dancing, start walking to the store, running to your chores, parking farthest at the parking lot….  if nothing else, walk back home from work, at least part of the way. Again, whatever floats your boat, as long as you are being active for at least 20 minutes every day, the kind of active that raises your heart beat.

 

 

So time to get on that band-wagon of new year resolution to achieve a healthier you. If you are tired of sweating it out without seeing some results that motivate you to continue… I suggest practicing the first six tips vigorously 😉

Meditation retreat

Recently I joined a meditation retreat. It was more like the halfway house of meditation retreat. All of the rules of a retreat but no strict enforcement. Since quite a few of the participants were first timers, the relaxed setting made it easier for people to assimilate to the environment.

So why did I join the retreat?

My life has been so hectic this year that I have been acutely feeling the need to unplug. Literally. I checked out 2 temples in Nepal to go on a private retreat. Unfortunately both were booked on month-long programs that are ongoing. Remember that saying “when you want something badly enough, the universe conspires to help you receive it?” well… I found a retreat all right and it was right here in Bangladesh.

So not only did I get to go on the retreat… I got to take my mom with me. Yes, my mom. We haven’t always had the best of relationship but recently we have been doing better. In fact, this year has probably been the best for us. The retreat gave us a great opportunity to spend quality time with each other and to see a side of us that we don’t usually get to. I know she’s done the quantum meditation course and she really loved it. She knows that I have done Butthan meditation and I really loved it. So this was another kind that we both got to try together.

We had a Thai Monk leading the sessions and it was lovely. He mostly used the visualization technique and had hilarious little anecdotes that he shared with us. For example, when his dad meditates, he imagines that he’s got a crystal hanging like a pendulum from his head, all the way down, inside his body to his navel. And during the meditation session, he would try to balance that pendulum and sometimes he would be swaying a little in his balancing attempt. The visualization in my head of that scene had me cracking up for the rest of the day.

So we all have this expectation of what we hope to get out of meditation and I was no exception. I wanted to come away remembering once again how to smile with every single cell of my body. Generally I am a pretty happy person. I have a great life, I love my job and my colleagues. I enjoy my studies and my various volunteer roles. So it’s a full, busy life that I find very satisfying. But this year which has flown past me was really starting to get to me.

So yeah, I sat in my sessions, willing myself to find that happiness inside again. And here’s the funny thing, on the last day, in the last session, I had this vivid sensation that I was a fat, happy, cat who is purring away against my own leg. Sated, satisfied and just HAPPY! I opened my eyes and I could still feel myself, happily purring away. It felt soooooooooooooo good! It’s been months since I have felt good enough to want to go dancing all night.

Yesterday, the visualization that worked for me is of being a wild horse. My thoughts were all over the place, the to-do list kept running through my head. I had to keep coaxing my mind to slow down that runaway horse. After some time, I could feel that horse standing still. It was black and beautiful… almost majestic! with soft full mane and a lovely long tail and I knew it was me. Now how can you not smile at that? I think I fell asleep with that picture in my head.

So I have gone from constant rushing – office, university, home, assignments, reports, presentations, workshops, never-ending to-do lists running through my head – to chilling out, breathing, being mindful and more present. I had started walking on the treadmill again, the retreat inspired me to add yoga to my routine.

I just love the fact that I am from a continent that has a rich history of health practices – yoga, meditation, martial arts, herbal medicines… you name it and we probably started it and there’s such a wide variety of activity to pick from to get healthy, stay healthy, cope with stress, it’s freaking amazing!

The next retreat is in February 2015, somewhere in Thailand. I am not sure if I am going to be there. But I am pretty sure that I will be doing another retreat, somewhere, sometime. If you would like to check out the peace rebels… head over to their website here:    https://peacerevolution.net/docs/en/peace-revolution

Peace in … Peace out…. 🙂

Mind monkeys

Yesterday my mind has been making a lot of monkey jumps… not the screeching monkey jumps… just quietly, serenely, swinging from one branch to another, reminding me of the ever-expanding to-do list of things to tackle while time is running out. The only problem with monkey jumps is that there’s so many trees and branches that it gets confusing to keep it all straight. So I did what any sane, logical person would do. I made a list.

Yup! Got a pen and paper and then started to take note of all the branches and the trees and if I thought that I had A monkey swinging on several trees, turns out I actually have a couple of monkeys on several trees. LOL! After I wrote down my to-do list, I numbered them according to importance, time constraint regarding deadlines and then simply resolved to start tackling them in the order of importance. Some will be completed later in the week but since I have them solidly on my radar, I know I won’t miss either the deadlines or the actions needed so I no longer need those monkeys in my mind tree.

monkeys on my mind tree

Now wasn’t that picture of calm, quiet, serenely jumping monkeys much better than screeching monkeys? According to popular advice, when this happens… when the mind monkeys start to create chaos, this is what I am supposed to engage in…

calmness in the middle of the jungle of the mind

And lets not forget that I have in fact recently completed a 2 day Meditation course which I did enjoy immensely. Mostly because it showed us the science behind meditation and what is it that we are hoping to achieve with Meditation. Luckily in class it also showed us several ways to achieve that calmness, the Alpha wave-length of the brain where we are most creative, problem-solving and clear thinking. I particularly liked the ones that goes along the lines of “meditation in motion”. While meditation in motion is taught in many different ways, the simplest I would say is to do the thing that you love with all your attention, whether that is running, biking, sketching, singing or as in my case, a good solid dose of ‘yoga’.

Personally I don’t think that mind monkeys are bad, quite to the contrary, I find them very interesting. If you can let go of your attachment to any particular thought, refrain yourself from feeling anxious over pending tasks, you might surprise yourself if you take note of all the thoughts that fleet through your head on any given day. Yesterday I was reminded of long forgotten dreams, of things that I still want to do with my life, places that I had wanted to travel to, tribes that I wanted to live with and it reminded me of how far I have already come, of all the things that I have already achieved. That my life is always in balance, even in the moments when I had thought otherwise.

Dhochula, Bhutan, 2009

 

Meditation & realizations

I do not know how to meditate, meaning, I have never taken any classes on it. But I am going to this weekend. I am taking the Butthan Meditation course for 2 days, hoping that I will see the amazing changes that everyone claims manifests in their lives immediately following a meditation course. I guess what I am hoping for is more clarity, logic and a clearer picture in my head of where I am heading and how to travel down that road.

Since I do not know how to meditate, or maybe I do. After all… what is sitting in silence? what else can I call it when I spend time in solitude, letting my thoughts run around in my head. Taking note of them without getting involved in them? I guess that’s my own way of meditating. It’s the way that I like to think before making any decisions. Before any major decision, I need a couple of days time to think, to cover all my bases, to look at every possible scenarios. And when the decision is bound to have a major impact on my life… I need those days of solitude more than ever.

I had written a little about this in my post “Karma, Prayers & Others” that I was doing some thinking… that I needed to make decisions that I have been putting off for over a year. ME, the impatient pro-active person, suddenly felt like I had procrastinated on this decision for far too long already. However 2-3 days of thinking and here’s what I realized: I wasn’t procrastinating, I wasn’t making the decision simply because I wasn’t ready to make that decision yet. I needed to make the decision now because I am finally in a place in my life from where I can make this decision.

It made me realize the importance of waiting for the right time and place in our life to make certain decisions. How often have we tried to rush in our decisions? How often have we known that we are not yet ready to commit to something and yet still gone ahead and committed? How often have you made a decision that you knew in your gut was the wrong timing or decision?

Who doesn’t want a promotion at work? Everyone does! Question is… are you ready for that promotion? Have you really learnt more? contributed more to the team? do you really deserve it? are you ready to soldier the additional responsibility that will be yours with that promotion? Or are you just pushing for the promotion cause you need the money? you have stayed in your current position too long already? I see this a lot. People jockeying for higher position with neither the capacity nor the ability to grow into that position. An incapable fool is the worst possible promoted boss to work under. Trust me, I have and it’s not pretty.

But this is not a rant. It’s a realization. Sometimes we want things because we want them. Sometimes we force things to happen before its time for them to happen because we think that’s what’s suppose to happen now. But maybe, just maybe, things aren’t suppose to happen. Maybe events should be given the chance to unfold on their own time, in their own way, like a flower blooming, you can’t force the bud to open until it is ready to. And maybe this decision is not a year and a half late, maybe I wasn’t ready before and now I am making this decision because I am ready to make it, to commit to it. I think that actually went along the lines of one of Anais Nin’s quote “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

 

 

So I guess the time has come for me to lay down some roots, to bloom right where I am planted. To allow the beauty of life to unfold right here and now and to quote Anais Nin again  “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” I guess going forward, my life will be affected much more by the courage I master and not just my best laid plans.

I cannot resist sharing another one of my favorite quote of her’s that I just can’t get enough of now. I find the ending beautiful since it declares the absence of pain.

 

 

 

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Online Programs in the Humanities and the Social Sciences at UNCG

A Travel Blog

By Lena Desmond

TED Blog

The TED Blog shares interesting news about TED, TED Talks video, the TED Prize and more.

Kindness Blog

Kindness Images, Videos, True Life Stories, Quotes, Personal Reflections and Meditations.

The Only Way Is Dhaka!

Daily blog of an Englishwoman (married to a Bangladeshi) living in Dhaka, Bangladesh....

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