Award winning Swiss-based Afghan poet and author Bashir Sakhawarz describes his encounter with bees and what it taught him about Swiss culture.
This article was originally published on 3 June 2015.
While we kill each other in Afghanistan, here people take care of bees making sure that not even a single one is lost. That is the difference between Afghanistan and Switzerland.
I discovered them yesterday when the sun was shining and I was cutting the grass in our garden. Hundreds of bees were buzzing around a bush and when I looked closer I noticed their home like a cluster of grapes. I was scared, not for my own safety but for the safety of my children who always play in our garden. Our daughter climbs the tree above the bush where the bees nested.
“I found bees in our garden,” I told my wife while she was drinking white wine, watching the TV.
“What?” she asked me as if I had told her something very unusual. Or maybe she did not want to be disturbed from watching TV.
I told her the whole story of the bees and she mentioned that in some countries they smoke them.
“Smoke them?” my son protested. He even likes snakes and wants to save them from being killed.
We thought about how to deal with the bees. Finally, my wife suggested that we should contact our landlord. Our landlord was helpful and said that the firefighters would deal with it. Obviously I thought they would smoke them out but I did not dare to tell my son.
In the morning my wife phoned the firefighters. We were surprised to find out that they would be at our place in less than thirty minutes. There was no noise of wee-oh wee-oh wee-oh. They came quietly and parked their truck in our car park. The two young men were very pleasant and the explained the procedure to me. I was thinking of a can of gasoline and a controlled fire but there was none of that. They both wore beekeepers’ protective clothing and with care approached the beehive. First they spayed water from a container normally used to spray flowers. The reason for that was to create artificial rain to make the bees stay in their hive and not fly around. One of them took a box about 30 cm in length and width and shook the beehive gently to make sure that the bees came to the box. Their main goal was to bring the queen over first. The worker bees would then follow to protect their queen, risking their own lives to make sure the queen was safe. The two firemen were so gentle that no bee was killed in the operation. The box will be given to a beekeeper for free. The philosophy behind this generosity is to make sure there are more bees.
When I offered them coffee, fortunately they did not refuse. As we sipped coffee, I found out that one of the men was a beekeeper, collecting one hundred kilograms of honey on average each year.
“You know in Yemen armed men protect the honey from being stolen,” he said
“Seriously? Why?” I asked
“Because the country does not produce much honey and for that reason the price of one kilo of honey is more than one hundred dollars. Most of the country is a desert.”
“It is not very expensive in the US.”
“Well, the US is not a desert,” I said.
“No but for some reason they have lost forty percent of their bees.”
I was touched by this Swiss humanity, so much so that I decided to write this story and make my children read it. I want my son to become a scientist and invent a machine that destroys the weapons of the world. I want the children of my daughter to climb the trees and gaze towards the horizon of peace and hope. Since they were born, they have lived in Kosovo, England and Switzerland with us. I want them to be citizens of a peaceful world and have the hearts and minds of people who care for the small species of the world.
Before the Afghans started to kill each other, they were practicing the art of killing animals and birds. If a crane traversed the Afghan sky, bullets flying around it made it impossible for the poor bird to reach its final destination. Shops were filled with big game such as crane and even small swallows. The wolves and snow leopards never dared to come down from the ice-capped mountains and were still there until the war ended. Then, even the children carried guns, shooting at everything. Now, the snow leopard has become part of a legend and the birds no longer fly in the sky of death.
By Bashir Sakhawarz
Bashir Sakhawarz is an award-winning Afghan poet, a novel and short story writer living in Geneva.