Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Call to Prayer

One of the most distinctive parts of staying in an Islamic country is the call to prayer. AT 5:45 AM, I woke to the ethereal call from a mosque that can be seen across the flowering mango trees from my window. I am out of the hospital.

I will stay in a very nice hotel now until Sunday, when I finally depart for the Teknaf Peninsula. Departing from the hospital was sad, and there was a deep sense of gratefulness and many smiles and farewells when I departed. This morning I awoke feeling healthy, and rested for the first time since I arrived!

There is much to report from the previous week. The evening of Obama's inauguration, I was ill and retired before it was carried live, in our little guest house in Srimongal on Al Jazeera English. These are my notes from the following morning.

January 21 09 Srimongal, Bangladesh 5:45 AM

The call to prayer is ringing across the rice fields.
It is now a new day and a new age is dawning.
Obama is president.
The world has felt the illness of what America can be,
the wrongs it can do, the Nero of America's empire
is now gone. Salaam Alikuum, Salaam Alikuum

Voices of Muslim praise to the gods are the first sounds I hear
Their sad, minor loneliness grabs my heart and I remember
we are all one.
It is the voice of reconciliation, awe, fear and longing.
Three men are singing from the two corners of my simple bed
as if in harmony, calling, calling, reminding, reminding
We are here but for the grace of the patterns of the universe

Life is transforming.
We are building on the sails of a destroyed burdened earth,
skies heavy with the carbon of our excrement.
Here in this massive delta, there is rice planting.
The early rice plants stick their shoots above the watery floodshed
demanding nourishment from the cool Bangla wintery sun.
The men push water from field to field, encasing it, securing it
demanding its nourishment. 120 million people are fed.
But the flow of the natural, renewable, life giving waters is blocked and the system is dead.
Stagnant, dirty, muddy waters sickens the once vital delta,
and the factories of brick belch unscrubbed black smoke.
80% of Bangalis are poor, but the system of of polluted water
and growing factories feeds them, if only rice and vegetables. This is life.
Textile and leather dyes now flow untreated, and the waters near Dhaka
look sad and vile. People live in shanties on this water,
scrounging their lives from its toxic mud.

It is the dry season. I am told the whole system comes green,
but with the monsoon rains also come the floods.
I will not see the whole cycle. But today we will see patches of forests
tea gardens and hill tribe groups who live a life that tilts towards renewal.

It is a new day in this flat patch of earth.
6AM and the call to worship is done.
The crickets sing a soft refrain.
This gauzy, netted bed a shelter.
This dawn a new age.

Well, I am no poet. But there are times when prosaic field notes cannot express all of the things an ecotourism consultant observes. I had traveled out through the delta that day, observed the rice planting and brick factories, we had gone to a restored wetland and observed how by removing the many levies and blockages to what is called a hoar, the natural flows of water bring an outburst of life with fisheries now restored, and fisherman showing off proudly their catch.

In these notes are recorded what I learned about the Bengali delta, the cycle of rice planting, factories and their pollutants, of course my own feeling about the inauguration which all of us on the planet felt as a moment of renewal.

1 comment:

  1. What excellent news about your health - don't over-do.


Thank you for your comment. For more information on the work of an ecotourism consultant, visit EplerWood International's website at http://www.eplerwood.com