|“The people from Finnish!” shouts the man with just one tooth on his upper jaw. He’s some sort of a fixer-middle man at the hotel that organised us a dhow trip to Manda island. The crew of the boat consisted of captain Simba and three eighteen year-old rasta-man wannabees. The boys preferred the tourist/fishing job to school, which according to them, was expensive at college level. They were enthusiastically talking about an upcoming fishing trip to catch the big ones out in the sea, way beyond the sheltered and shallow mangrove-lined waters of Lamu island. The excitement is understandable considering these teenagers had pretty much spent all their lives on this island of approximately eleven thousand inhabitants and four villages, and had never even been to Mombasa, 200km down the coast.
An important part of the trip was to catch lunch with a net. First, the youngest of the boys jumped in and swam further away from the engineless boat. After they had cleared the rest of the net, the other two also jumped in. The water was so shallow that the boys (and these were no tall Maasai youths) could stand while forming a circle, hoping some fish would be trapped in the middle. Slowly, the boys made the circle smaller and smaller, occasionally beating the water with their hands and plastic bags. This “fast fishing” technique yielded seven small silver fish and one “flying” fish.
The fish were prepared in a makeshift grill with lemon and salt. It was served in Swahili fashion with coconut rice and a tasty vegetable sauce (no oil, no butter!). Captain Simba retired for an afternoon nap right after lunch and it was the boys’ job to clean up. The teenagers talked about how to use coconut oil to make your hair red and why you had to cut your dreadlocks off during Ramadan not to upset mum too much. They figured they could learn more English from tourists than they ever did at school and despite not knowing where or what Switzerland was, they were interested to know whether people there also smoked (weed, that is). They were nice enough boys, talking about similar things as eighteen year-olds talk about everywhere in the world.