Tuesday, June 3, 2008


getting used to life without email, lights, dishwashers, alarm clocks...we wake up real early with the sun around 5, in bed by 9. whenever the generator turns on everyone comes out of the woodwork with their phone and laptop chargers. for the first few days there was only one outlet working and it was a giant mess of extension cords, knotted cables and phones and blinking lights everywhere. i so thought i was going to get electrocuted. electrocuted on an island with no electricity!
it's ironic that across the street is a giant building with "central electrica" written on it. the last time it worked was in the 80s. yeah, more like the 1880's.

it's also ironic that on an island with no cars or lights, there's a "no jaywalking" sign in the main plaza that says to only cross when the light is green. this is downtown ibo:
our dinners at the hotel are family style with the owners and other guests, which include this couple from the bay area who really wanted our honeymoon suite. haa haaaa. we sit surrounded by kerosene lamps and figure out if the hotel should get a goat and chickens and serve fresh milk and eggs. or maybe a crocodile. something cool that eats garbage. so...goats.
so in the early morning we do real work: we head out on the water the some local fishermen. on the first day we set out 20 wicker fish traps -all homemade and amazing 0 inside and outside the fishing sanctuary. no need to use a gps, the fishermen know exactly where to put the traps, so they are eagerly diving in, doing most of the work while we sit in the boat and eat peanuts and laugh. the next day we pull up the traps, see how many fish are inside, measure them. if we're inside the sanctuary, tag the fish and let them go. if we're outside, the fishermen get to take the fish home. plus they get a small pay, and they are seeing the positive results of having a sanctuary, so they're very excited about the work (not excited about letting fish go. they usually look at these huge fish and get the little dollar signs in their eyes going "cha-ching!"). alice says the fish inside the sanctuary are poisoned, and that you have to let them flush it out for a while before you can catch them. that's her way of saying wait for them to get bigger!
there are loottts of spacious smiles, as most of the fishermen have no teeth. they wear these really ratty clothes, like one guy, whose shorts and underwear were ripped right across his ass. you could see everything. and i mean everything. so alice got them uniforms: these silly sailor boy outfits, navy blue and white with the little knot in front and flap in the back. so weird.
we have to keep all the gas for the boats under lock and key in a big empty building that is the park office, or else it will be stolen. and we have to be real careful about who goes in there, always need a watchdog to make sure they don't skim from the top. we put tick marks to make sure the levels are the same the next day. already, one guy knows about our stash and came asking for gas for his home generator. his home generator powers that annoying disco music we hear every night. sorry senor! he insisted he was an important man from the opposition party. sorry senor! ask your party for gas!
yesterday afternoon alice took me for a long walk to see a friend, a woman who lives in a hut with a dirt yard surrounded by a bamboo fence. she brought out some chairs for us while she sat on a mat with her grandchild on her lap. there were goats, chickens, garbage. i was trying to imagine living like that, with so little, spending your day preparing food and doing daily chores. it's sortof like camping...but...i imagine without the glory. there was a young girl there, who was washing clothes in a bin, and just hanging around playing with dirt and an old carboard box. i wonder what she was thinking about, how is each day different? does she ever get bored?
then we walked around the town some more and met some kids who surrounded us in awe. this little girl in a ripped dress jumped into my arms and clung to me like a little monkey. it sortof made me sad. alice knew immediately, "don't cry!"
then we walked some more to the fort at the end of the island. a big white star shaped thing i've seen on the satellite images. inside were a whole bunch of guys just sitting on the ground, banging, bending and soldering silver. silversmiths! they find old portuguese coins and make the most intricate delicate amazing jewelry. alice definitely knew i would love this place. i learned a little bit from the guys, watched them melt silver into little balls and chain links using a tube, they blow air into this hot flaming oil can thing. crazy. alice bought me a beautiful pair of earrings and i picked out 2 more, for less than $10. i could have bought the whole store. they wrapped them in torn pieces of hiv pamphlets, which are everywhere here. "Q: my baby is not gaining weight. A: your baby might have aids." sigh.

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