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June 16, 2017

Prayers, the Birds and Trees

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It is now past the cycle of the full moon and the month of Ramadan (fasting month) will be coming to end when the new moon is sighted in less than two weeks.


The recitations after Magrib (7 P.M. prayer) are now becoming much longer. They are broadcast over five speaker systems. They are all different and add an eerie melodious listen to the night air.


At the beginning of Ramadan, they are short, but as the month wears on they become longer and longer, lasting well past midnight. The chanting is in Arabic with a base quality, but once there was a high tenor whose notes reached to the stars. I was told he was the winner of the Qu'ran reading contest and was here for a visit. As I drift off to sleep, the voices of so long ago gently send me off to slumber.


The weather here has been wacky. The climate is supposed to be hot and dry with afternoon showers which last about 20 minutes or so. We now get warm dry days punctuated with cool cloudy and rainy periods from storms which come off the South China Sea. These periods are not supposed to happen but I do enjoy the changes.


One can often smell the sea in the air. It often reminds me of the days in Ocean City sitting on the front deck overlooking the ocean in my parent’s townhouse. My kids were small then as I taught them to play and to love the surf.


Dzul has been off school for two weeks and went back this morning. In the A.M. we had Daddy's school where he manipulated addition and reading worksheets. Afterwards I take a nap while he reads on the computer and then down to the pool for a swim and play which lasts for two hours.


Twenty five years ago my daughters learned the same things, but instead of me going for an afternoon nap, they did. Then we went out into the backyard with water toys and a long blue plastic sheet for sliding. Fond memories!


I have tried to teach him about nature. We have learned about the birds and trees we can see. I am learning as well. We have a pair of yellowed vented bulbul's who come to our bird feeder.


Well, it isn't a bird feeder per say, just a regular meat packing styrofoam black container that you usually buy with hamburger. We fill it with left over rice and other crumbs. They will come and feed while I am there but when others come they quickly flee. Other birds include the Brahminy kite which looks and acts just like a bald eagle only smaller and soars over the river.


Egrets, great intermediate or little, I am not sure which, fly close to the water while swifts, not sure which type, soar above us catching mosquitoes and other flying insects. There are not many birds readily visible from my balcony, unlike the wide variety back in Maryland.


The trees are a different matter. There are so many varieties that they boggle the mind. Instead of a stand of oak, pine or maple with small dogwoods below the canopy, there are a never ending variety of mainly hardwoods with leaves beyond our reach. We have tackled the palms first. I can deal with them.


Often, across the river, a group of Malay boys will take off their clothes and go for a swim in the river. They carefully fold their clothes and place them in a neat stack before jumping in. Then after playing for about a half hour or so, they will leap out, wait a few minutes to dry off and then re dress.


The river has become much cleaner than when I first came thanks to the opening of the sewage treatment plant. Birds, crocs, fish and prawns have returned. It doesn't stink anymore. This is just a personal observation as I don't have access to agar, petri plates and other scientific equipment to test my hypothesis.


...Life is good. . . . .


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