Morning in the Backwaters

Jan 16, 2009 by

First you become aware of the sound of Indian light rock music slicing through the night. This is immediately accompanied by the howling of some lonely dog, who does his best to keep the beat, but is a little off tempo. When you finally get used to this strange duet, a rooster begins chiming in as well – not consistently, but only occasionally – an accent to the strange morning sounds.

The morning air is cool and I figure that I am awake, and this might be a good opportunity to catch the sunrise. I stumble around in the dark to get dressed for the day (it turns out that flashlight, or torch as it is called here, was useful after all).

As soon as there is light, I slip out of the home we are staying at and begin making my way down the dirt path along the water that is the highway for foot traffic (and the occasional bicycle).

I walk by several women, washing their dishes, ankle deep in the water. Sometimes they are washing their hair – dishes drying on the bank. The path meets a village and I reason through the directions to take in order to remain on the path – always choosing the most well-worn and wide path. I interrupt a woman who is doing one of her morning chores – sweeping the dirt path clear of leaves.

I continue to walk, now passing old men, women, and children all wandering out to the water to brush their teeth. Do you say “good morning” to someone with a mouthful of toothpaste? It seems impolite not to say anything.

The morning light begins to splash shades of red and orange across the horizon and the palm trees become crisp outlines backlit from the sunrise.

Eventually I pass the source of the music that woke me – it comes from a cluster of dwellings about half a kilometer from my lodging. Behind this, I can see the morning mist hovering on the rice paddies.

I pass a local store – a building cobbled together from corrugated metal and scraps of wood. A jumble of local sweets presses against a plastic showcase on the counter.

All along the path, children stop me with the question “photo?” They have learned that many travelers will send back their photos to a local man who will see that they make it to the smiling stars. Occasionally a father makes it into the photo, but the women here are shy and rarely want to be photographed.

At some point, I turn around, walking away from the sunrise and see a different view. Now I pay attention to the houses, peeking into windows and open doorways as I pass – women making breakfast, a child minding a smaller child while her mother works, a father sending his son, wearing a uniform, off to school on a ferry.

I glance back every few minutes to see if the sun is up yet. Finally, the sun makes itself known on the horizon. It rises quickly over the tropical backdrop.

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3 Comments

  1. Pop

    Wonderful pictures and a wonderful description.

  2. SG

    Beautiful pictures!

  3. Nancy

    Aaah…this is beautiful, Maria. As are your pictures AND your description. I can almost smell it too! Thanks!

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