Malindi Fishermen

 In the morning, the Yamaha motor had fallen off the boat and became totally waterlogged- too many confluences of water and technology lately, what horrible luck. We flagged down another fishing boat that tugged us back near the bridge. People here help one another, there is no other way. That afternoon, we had to wait for a replacement boat- we sat on the beach underneath a pile of dead trees, chewing khat to pass the time. I kind of like its mouthfeel- super dry- maybe I’ve had it somewhere before but under a different name, perhaps. Memories can be hard to place. Better to take it with groundnuts or gum, they say; Omar shares a Wrigley’s tablet with me. Finally, the boat comes, most fishermen being done for the day. We get on with it, looking for the flags placed earlier. It takes a while to locate them, they’re tiny on the expansive sea… the light is fading, I look over twice at the sun setting and before I can see it off, it’s slipped away. The equatorial light always leaves so quickly. The fishermen are hauling up the nets and it takes longer than I can remember it every taking- a sheer mountain of seaweed and broken corals pile into the tiny boat, filling it to the brim. Like laboring over a Sisyphean task with a magical net that goes on and on into perpetuity. There’s no barracuda this, but there are crabs, flounders, even the same kind of catfish that had sliced peter’s foot open 9 months ago. Finally, they’re done. we head back to shore in the smooth darkness, less water chopping into the boat now that we’re going with the waves. 


Twice a day they go out into the water. At daybreak and then again in early afternoon typically, to haul up the nets and cast new ones. The first time I went on the boat was early, just before sunrise. It had rained throughout the night and we ended up getting caught in a morning storm. unusual for the region this time of year, just my luck. Mohammed tried to call us back but to no avail. Peter offered me his jacket but I couldn’t, it was my fault for not being prepared. As we weathered out the storm, the rain stinging our faces, we saw a diver hunting for octopus. Already fully immersed in the water, he was safe from the rain.

(Malindi, Kenya, 2020)

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