West Coast of Madagascar, August 16th, 2011. A long day. Walked over 20 kilometers…10 km to go, 10 km on the way back, and back and forth on the beach depending where the small boats full of fish would arrive.
I had gotten up at 5:00am; asked F….. if she was going to fetch fish today. She still didn’t know. Someone had to be able to watch her daughter, E…, 2 years old. Thus, I decided to fetch water waiting for to make up her mind. She said: okay, let’s go. So I ate, no morning walk, no time and I had to reserve my energy… I did the dishes…. She was ready; the others from the village had already left! Hurry up Sophie, hurry up!! I finished the dishes, changed, put sun cream, prepared my backpack with water, my camera and a pack of biscuit… And off we were. We walk ten kilometers… And it is not flat! However, the time went fast, we chatted… Other people joined us. Alone it must be hell; the walk must seem very long! Just before we arrived at the beach, she stopped to take leaves off small palm trees.
We get to the beach. Finally the sea, finally some peace and quiet!! The fresh air from the sea… I had almost forgotten how good it felt! The tide is low, the water still far. We sit down in the shade of tree and prepare the palm tree leaves. We don’t use the main stem, just the leaves. We do a knot, then cut the leaf in half. That’s where the fish will be hung. Seven. A lot of people are already at the level of the sea, waiting for the boats to arrive. We stay a little longer in the shade taking advantage of the peace and quiet. When the boats get close, it is time to leave, the battle start. The people run in the water to the boats. The first arrived, the first served. Or rather, the people fight to serve themselves and take the fish. The strongest wins!! Those who weren’t able to take fish head towards the other boats coming and it starts again. The ones who have fish go and prepare it, hang it through the palm leaves, and rinse it. If they brought a knife, they scrape the scale and take out the guts. If they don’t have one, they will do it later. However, they can leave! On the way back to their village they will start selling the fish. The leftover, they will have to prepare it, to fry it in order to preserve it and sell it the fallowing days. As for those who weren’t able to get fish, it is the wait, again… Before the battle resume and the hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
Around 3:00pm, F… finally got enough fish. We were part of the last group. The tide was already high. The water came to our thighs before, there was none. Now, I better understand the timeframe and how one prepares fish and the whole process. Walking back to towm took a little longer; two and a half hours instead of the two hours it had taken us to get to to the beach. We were a little tired, a little hungry, a little thirsty. We arrived in town at 6:00pm., when we had left at 7:30am; when wehad gotten up at 5:00am. We still had the dinner to prepare, eat, prepare the fish and take a shower. However, we did see a magnificent sunset. F… went to bed at 2:00am. At 5:00am, the next morning, she was already up, fetching water at the fountain.