The thing about living in developing nations is that you have to Novocain your heart enough to get through it. When you stand on the beach at 7 a.m. and ask to see what the fishermen caught as they haul their boats in… it is undeniably tragic when they say “wa la”. Nothing. Sometimes they are out there for 6 hours with a big net, and they don’t catch a single thing.
One day, a man showed me his catch held in a plastic grocery bag: a butterfly fish and two wrasse- each no longer than 5 inches. If you have ever seen these fish in a saltwater aquarium tank, you can easily acknowledge that this is not enough protein for one man for the day. And it is definitely not enough for his whole family. That is why he must sell it at 60 pesos/kilo ( or $.70/lb) to buy rice, because I don’t think he can afford canned sardines today.
In the Philippines, it is a shameful thing to be a bad fisherman. Even though the lack of fish in the surrounding seas is not his fault, he is not proud of his catch, and it is obvious by his lack of eye contact and shuffling feet. Though I would have loved to show you a photo of a catch like this, I find myself unable to pull my camera out of my pocket. I usually smile and say something like this-“That is beautiful fish. Thanks for showing me. Have a nice day.”
But what I really want to say is that I am sorry. I am always well fed and I don’t worry about my inability to feed a family. And at the end of the day, I have my golden ticket out of there. My passport grants me opportunities far beyond his reach, but it’s also a golden ticket of guilt. I am so fortunate, and I am so sorry.
My work is not all that difficult, but it has been near impossible for me to write a word for the last two weeks. I’m back home, but not done here yet, so stay tuned. The Novocain has worn off.