Saturday, September 17, 2011

It takes a village…

Much like we would on a sunny February day in Minnesota, we smiled brightly this morning seeing a reprieve from the rains and grey clouds and headed to the beach.  Rainy season began in May and most days don’t go by without rain.  But, today looked promising.  We loaded up a Land Rover and  navigated the roads that have become holier and holier since we got here.  Pot holes, that is.  The rainy season has done a number on the streets and to drive without four-wheel drive here would be quite the challenge (and painful to your car repair bills).
As soon as we got out of the car at Lakka Beach, Savannah spotted these “shy” plants.  She and Kylie had seen them earlier this summer on a field trip with the other kids, so she recognized them and showed them to us.  Watch what the leaves do when touched….
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Cool, huh?

Next we were greeted with green coconuts.  Being thrown from the sky.  We looked at this giant palm and wondered how the fruits were falling so suddenly. 
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We’re talking a GIANT tree.
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Notice anything unusual about this tree?  Say, like a small boy at the top??  Talent I tell you. 
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We took a walk hoping to find some shells, but instead came across one of my favorite phenomena at the beach: the bringing in of the fishing nets. 
Twice a day the village sends a huge net out – a canoe is used to spread the net out in a semi-circle 500 meters from shore.  After being out there for a few hours, it’s time to bring in the nets. 
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This is not a one-person job.  The entire community comes together.  The young, the old.  The women and the men.  Everyone joins in and uses their strength to pull in the nets.  In the nets is dinner.  Income.  Livelihood.  Purpose.
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There’s even a rhythm keeper.  His job is to “beep,” and keep time. 
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Once the net is in, whatever you take is yours.  I asked “who gets the fish?  Will there be an argument?” and the local man answered me, “No, we all share.  Here it belongs to all of us.”  The sense of communal living is incredibly strong in West Africa.  You aren’t as much an individual as you are a part of a group.  Clubs, societies, denominations, neighborhoods – all of these ways of being a part of something bigger is of extreme value here.
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Hard to tell, but this net is pulsing with it’s fresh catch trying to flip to freedom.  Fish of all sizes were wrapped up here – from two inches to 20.
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So everyone comes with their plastic bowl.  And takes what they need.  They will chop up and put it in spicy sauce as a rice topping, or smoke it and sell it in the market.
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Only the loose scales will be left on the beach (and those will wash out with the next wave).
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Savannah, almost age 8, with her teeth growing in!
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Kylie, 10 for a few more months, sporting her new shorter hair!
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Dan, showing off some spiny lobsters (that he had nothing to do with, other than watching the extremely ripped man carry them onshore in a giant crate on top of his head). He’s hoping to do a night dive in a couple of weeks and catch some himself.  There will definitely be a blog about that if it happens!
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And they became his tasty lunch.

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