Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Winds at our back - October 5th

We woke up to a windy day intent on getting out on the river early so that we could take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures.

Our campsite

Some rather bizarre pink substance that appears to have the consistency of a strawberry smooth has issued from something to coat a lot of our stuff.  We think it is coming from the inner-tube tires we use for the Kalak but it is rather acidic and nasty stuff and spugged over our gear.  We've started referring to it as the ectoplasm of Wilfred Thesiger (the British explorer who wrote extensively on the Marshlands of southern Iraq).

Me with a sample of the "ectoplasm"

We finally got started with a strong headwind that eventually clocked around to a wind at our back. Either way, it was an improvement over yesterdays windless heat.

Finally underway!

It's clear as we look at the Tarada that we need to do some significant repair work.  Both the bow and stern have been damaged by moving/loading the Tarada by lorry and then in the incident in the Kut lock.

Damaged bow of the Tarada

Since our main logistics guy can't join us we were actually down to just four people (not enough to staff the boats we have) so our southern office sent Abu H's son to join us.  Abu H's son is a father himself and is called Abu S (Abu means "father of")

Abu S (the son of Abu H) at the oars of the raft

Modern and Traditional as R paddles alone in the Guffa with a kayak paddle

H, our remaining logistics staff, waving us on our way before he looks for our stopping point

I eventually got to paddle the raft alone for a good portion of the day.  I rowed in college and I find it a meditative exercise.  Unless the Tarada has a full complement of rowers, the raft is usually the fastest boat, even though its stuck carrying the engine (which fortunately we haven't used in the last two days)

Alone in the raft

I can even haul the Guffa when R needs a break.

Guffa Siesta

Trees, particularly large ones, aren't so common anymore but we found a few to sit under for our lunch breaks and J and I did some filmed interviews with Abu H, Abu S and R along the river.

Lunch interviews

When we got to our take out (after about a 12-13 km journey), we had the haul the boats out ... unfortunately we have a scheduled event in Amarah in the next city and need to do some boat repair work before it takes place.  All of us need a shower and a chance to clean our clothes as well.  The banks of the river have been 3-5 meters high on either side of the river and we haven't seen many good places to take the boats out.  But H, our logistics guy, finally found a place near the home of a fisherman and enlisted a group of locals to haul out the Tarada (the heaviest and most difficult boat for us to move).

It was a wild event under the setting sun with R and Abu H and H, our logistics guy each yelling and calling out instructions ... debating how to get the boat up the steep bank, but it was finally done.

Taking out the Tarada

We spent the night at the fisherman's house ... I briefly greeted the ladies to use their shower room but was too tired and spent from a day of rowing and a night of loading boats and gear and couldn't really face the struggle to communicate with them alone.  So I hung with the guys and did talk to the fisherman (with R as translator) and debate the causes of unsustainable fishing practices with him and Abu H.  

The fisherman whose home we stayed at used only nets and lamented the decline of fish in the river caused by unsustainable practices like electro-fishing, the use of poisons and even explosives.  Abu H, has been an electro-fisher in the marshes and knows its a bad practice.  There have been some poor, half-hearted attempts to stop the practice but all have failed and ultimately the problem is one of poverty.  If you have little to no income because there are few jobs and you to feed your family, you are forced into using such practices.   

Sunset on the Tigris

I was finally able to get through to my father.  He's ok after his first treatment and I told him about our time on the river. But eventually the day caught up with me and I pitched a tent and called it a night.  Tomorrow we drive to Amarah in Missan Governorate.


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