Another day at the office

    We will go along fishing at the sea today. All men of the village are fishermen en they fish on a daily basis. Boys throw at the beach elegantly the long slender nets into the sea at low tide. Then they  immediately  walk into the waves to pick up the nets to check whether they have caught something. The catch and the fish that make it up are small. But after ten throws dinner is caught. Long slender nets are also set out during the night in the lagoon, the large inner lake of our island. It is an open lake with two gullies to the sea. Fresh sea water comes therefore in with the tides. The nets of the evening are checked in the early morning. Again the catch is just big enough to have a family breakfast. We are amazed by the diversity in the nets. Blue striped and yellow checkered fish, milk white and veiled ones, the entire tropical aquaria passes. Yesterday morning we had barracuda and this morning a giant lobster. But today we sail the sea and fish with a rod. Us, the museum crew in a motor boat, surrounded by five fishermen in their outriggers, super slender canoes with a beam at the side for balance. We are covered in sunscreen factor 50 and cover as much skin as possible as we are going to simmer at the equator.  Our boatswain wears a hat made out of palm leaves. Gorgeous we want one of those for the exhibition. He promises to make some. But he will keep on wearing this one today.   Initially we sail at a distance of the canoes so we do not disturb them. But soon we see that there is reeled in. We chug towards them and Thom films the first fish on the hook. It is immediately cut into little pieces to function as bait; one fish to catch many. At the other canoes is yelled, they also have a good haul. The lines are going in and out. It is pretty small scale. Thom, who as a student listed and described boat models at the Dutch Museum for Ethnology cannot stop filming. He indulges everything. While he hangs over the border of the boat he records how the boats raid the water. He films how the rods are only wrapped around a big toe, the hooks, the growing pile of fish in the baskets. Then he expresses his deepest desire: he wants to sit with his camera on one of the outriggers. No Thom, you should not! This footage is enough! You, your camera, or the both of you will end up wet. We are certain. So is Thom. Kaairo, a tawny fishermen sees our reasoning, and nods to Thom. He brings his canoe alongside. Thom hands his camera to us and clambers cautiously on the canoe. Then he carefully lowers his bottom and sits as he would on the back of a bicycle with this legs outboard. He grabs the camera and directs it to Kaairo. They both grin. Nobody breaths or moves. Talking of balance! When Thom is done with his outer adventures we first haul the camera and than him in the boat. Kaairo stays close, because now he will tell his story to the camera.             He tells that this is his life, that this is what he does to maintain his family. ‘Doesn’t there ever change something Kaairo?’ ‘Sure it does, the sun seems to be getting hotter and sometimes there are too little and sometimes too many fish. The seasons are different than they used to be. Heavy rains have already fallen this year, that is too early.’ Your president tells to the world that your land, Kiribati, is threatened due to the climate change, what do you think, Kaairo?’ ‘I knows he says that, that worries me’ is his answer, ‘but what can I do about it? I go fishing, to provide food for my family and my parents, that is what I can do, that is how I live.’ Kaairo suddenly points: ‘look over there, very far away, those backs and fins…’ We shoot upright in the boat. Dolphins. The disappear and emerge close to our boat, five, six backs break the surface. One jumps higher. The swim alongside. This is great. I gaze at them speechless. As quiet as they came they leave. We are excited and jolly, we also want to get into the water. The camera goes into a waterproof bag, we ditch the hats and glasses and there we go. Thom and Diederik grab their snorkels. I float behind the boat holding a line. Diederik emerges and shouts: ‘what a job we have’. We laugh: ‘another day at the office…’ Anne-Marie Boer    

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