so every day upon our return from field work, a waiting line of sorts would greet us at our camp. women and their babies, young kids from the village, all in a line with their big droopy eyes just staring. it was their version of going to the movies. they would follow me to my tent and stare at me as i gathered my towel and bath products to head for the little privacy wall that hid our shower.
when i come back out, i am wrapped in my tiny sports towel, screaming and flailing my arms and running in a benny hill zig-zag as a futile attemp to trick the angry mosquitos, they are still there. and no, they don't even pick up a shoe i dropped or anything, nor would they beg for anything, i guess. but the way they would turn the breast sucking baby in my direction, his mouth taking the saggy boob with him as he turns around, and now i see his distended belly, he might as well have had a cardboard sign on him that read "will stare blankly for food." and so yeah, the only thing that would make them go away would be a prize from my goody bag. my imported individually wrapped 100 calorie packs of trader joes nut mix, beef jerky from south africa, gummies, organic granola bars...these were part of my "emergency food" stockpile to thwart hunger on those days on the boat when i couldn't handle the canned sardines anymore. so the only way to disperse the audience was to hand off some stuff. by the end of the trip, i didn't have anything left, so they stayed longer, after the sun set, the hungry whites of their eyes ambushing me on the way to the toilet. whenever kunat would give them anything as they walked ambivelently away he would say, like to pre-schoolers "and what do we say when someone gives us something? tttttthaaaaank. you!" and they would mumble and walk away.
|at the movies|
and i'm not asking anybody to kiss my feet but yeah, a thank you would be nice?
it was so weird because just earlier in the day, we would be at one of these villages, scavenging for anything edible or drinkable to buy so we could diversify from the sardines and mango juice. ok, yes, we ran out of whiskey on the second night so anything alcoholic, no matter how home made or bad smelling was a hot ticket item. that was usually semo's job, no sooner had we tied up the boat that he was already scheming something with some disheveled fisherman. but what was crazy was that more than half of the time people wouldn't let us pay for anything. it was crazy, this guy is standing here in tattered rags, barefoot in front his hut which is swaying in the wind, with three kids and skinny dogs running around, and he's all, "nah it's ok, just take this 5kg of scrimp." or manioc. and we'd insist, no, really, let us pay, or give you something. how about this mango juice? and he would inspect the juicebox, smelling it like it was a dead animal and they say, nah, it's ok. in the rare occasion he would toss it to the dog. you can imagine we would be profusely thanking them. you really don't need to do this, we can give you cash! this situation was so reversed and weird. but ok. one guy was smoking a huge spliff, rolled out of a receipt or something. jackpot. semo is all, ok we'll take a little little bit. ok, a little more. how about that whole pile, we have no whiskey. i pull out a few meticai bills. he says "it's illegal to sell marijuana, you know....so...i must give it to you. here." um, ok!
back at the camp, i am taking all my clothes down from the "drying tree" where they have been hanging all day. they have all been poorly washed, despite my cool expensive organic camping soap, what with the dirty mud water, everything is all crunchy and flat like newspaper or shark skin or something.
the women are still staring, i ask kunat if we can't pay them to do something, a lot of women have been bringing us super clean water on 20l jugs on their heads every day, maybe these ones want to wash our clothes or something?
kunat laughs, "you can try, but they will just complain. that the clothes are too dirty, that the soap isn't the right soap...women. all they do is complain. that is their job!" ok. noted.
so i take a t-shirt and hand it to an old woman wearing some sort of baby jumper as a tank top. i have no more food to give away. take this t-shirt, it's a lost cause. it's a she looks at it, holds it up to her chest and something like "it's not my size."
you're wearing a baby jumper, i'm a fat european next to your tiny skeleton build, trust me, this is your size.
"do you have anything smaller?"
let me check in the back. no, this is all we have. take it or leave it. or give it your sister, i don't know.
"i have 5 sisters. i will need 5 shirts."
then she starts gesturing all grumpy, storms off.
you're welcome!! i look over to kunat who raises his cup of coconut beer, "see, i told you so! women!! number 1 complainers!"