Friday, January 2, 2009

Countdown for Departure

Preparing for an ecotourism assignment begins with studying the country you have been assigned to. I am heading to Bangladesh for the very first time on January 16, 2009 - a
country most everyone I know associates with poverty, overpopulation, and regular flooding. I see the eyebrows twitching, the question marks in my friend's and colleagues' eyes. I hear their thoughts, Bangladesh for an ecotourism assignment?? Yes, yes, yes - there is no need to worry. Every time I am assigned to a country that no one associates with tourism, I find the most magnificent gems - places that tourists may some day see, but are mostly undiscovered. This is a privilege, an honor to go before the tourists arrive, and I relish it.

How do I prepare? There are many components. Of course, there is the country clearance, the shots, and other health considerations. This time I had to take a live Typhoid virus, to prevent Typhoid. Of course, there is the Malarone to prevent malaria. I am still without a visa, as my country clearance has been held up by the Christmas holidays, even though I am visiting a Muslim country. I just bought my ticket on New Years eve day, as I could not take the risk to wait any longer for my clearance. The usual delays, I don't really worry.

But the most important ritual for me is going to the university library. I went before Christmas. The students were in every corner readying themselves for final exams before the holidays. I was blissfully searching the catalogues and stacks for background and finding myself fascinated - intrigued, excited.

I have been reading the books I selected that day at home over the holidays. I could not help but start with Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet, scholar, and philosopher. He is one of the most revered men in Bangladesh. I must admit I did not know his work. So as the sun set over my beloved mountains here in Vermont, I read Tagore yesterday evening for the first time, and sought to enter in to his life-long journey to bridge East and West.

I found a poem, which I will excerpt for my first post.

A Travelers Wishes

Traveler, must you go?
The night is still and the darkness swoons upon the forest
The lamps are bright in our balcony, the flowers
all fresh, and the youthful eyes still awake.
Is the time for your parting come?
Traveler must you go?

Did we ever try to hold you back it was but with our eyes.
Traveler we are helpless to keep you.

What quenchless fire glows in your eyes?
What restless fever runs in your blood?
What call from the dark urges you?
What awful incantation have you read among the
stars in the sky, that with a sealed secret message
the night entered your heart, silent and strange?

O traveler, what sleepless spirit has touched you from
the heart of midnight?

Excerpt (with edits) from Tagore, The Mystic Poets, The Gardener

1 comment:

  1. Did you know the country's previous tourism slogan is "Visit Bangladesh: Before tourists come?"

    You can see it here:


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