Photos from India

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Grocery shopping in the Solomons

Back in Ghizo, the only real town in this area of the Solomon Islands, Bill and I walk down a road that looks like it may have been paved some time in the past fifty years. As we walk past mud filled pot holes and near the market, we notice a small group of people around a taxi. Don’t take my saying that there is a taxi on this island as if it is any sort of island with a public transport system and lots of places to go. I am actually not even sure where exactly it is that the taxi’s take people. I would have to guess that out of the twenty five or so cars on the island, four of them have a little sign on the roof that says taxi. They aren’t painted yellow and they aren’t very clean, they are what you would expect of a taxi in a third world country, an old beat up car with a small little sign on the roof. Now we are a little closer to the taxi and someone pops the hatchback open to reveal an enormous turtle flappnig around on his back. Two men grab one of it’s front flippers and yank him out of the boat and onto the ground as the turtle struggles to get away, thrashing it’s head back and forth in an attempt to bite the hands of the men who are dragging it by the flippers. As Bill and I watch the two men drag the turtle across the ground, you can hear the scraping of it’s shell across the rocks and sand in the road and the flapping of his rear flippers slapping the ground. In a last effort to escape, he finally pulls away from one of the men and almost turns back over, but the man is too fast. He quickly get’s a better grip on the fin and off they go with tonight’s dinner. Watching the scene was pretty disturbing by all means, but I guess looking back, it is not much different from killing any animal. The difference to most of us however is the fact that the animal has long since been killed by the time we cook it and the dirty work was done by someone else that we will never see or know.
After watching the turtle incident, Bill and I are back to business and trying to find a good fish for dinner. When we are out at sea, we fish on the boat, but in Ghizo or near other towns, we like buying fish from the locals. That way we are not taking their resources from them, but also we are giving money to those who need it most. As we walk past a few women keeping their supply of small tuna dusted of flies with a small brush, we see a few small boats pull in and begin unloading their fish. One group brings out several enormous mahi mahi. After eating the one I caught a few days before, we still had a taste for them and decided to get one of these. We asked how much for the largest one they had and they responded $50. Now that is Solomon dollars, not U.S. In U.S. currency, that is basically seven dollars. Not too bad for a fish that is over four feet long. Bill pays for the fish and I grab it by the tail, heading off to find our next item on the grocery list. As we walk along the street, everyone we pass comments, “Nice fish!” Some even ask how much we paid for the fish, and when we tell them, they tell us “Pretty expensive.” Back home to have bought this fish at a fresh seafood market probably would have cost about $150. Here we get it for $7 and people think that it’s expensive! As we walk up to the window at the bakery to get some rolls, I look down at the ground and realize the fish is dripping blood everywhere we go. The fish blood is the same color as the spit that covers the ground everywhere you go here in Ghizo from the popular local form of chewing tobacco, Beetle nut. Bill grabs a loaf of bread and a few rolls straight out of the oven and we head across the street for the important stop on our grocery list, the bottle shop. We buy a two liter bottle of wind and a carton of the local beer, Sol Brew. As I look down and feel guilty about the little spots of blood I’ve left on the ground inside the bottle shop, the owner looks at me and says “Nice fish.” I smile and say thanks, grab the carton of beer under one arm, still holding the fish out with the other, trying not to let his head drag on the ground. It’s strange to feel like you have accomplished so much in your day and done the important task of shopping for groceries and here I am, carrying a huge fish and a carton of beer, both the fish and the beer beginning to get heavier by the minute as we make our way back to the Dinghy.

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