The fish

July 11, 2009

June 20, 2009

Seated under the luminous afternoon sky on the woven pink palm mat, my neighbor Diana sat across her friend Sandra rocking little Pam on her lap near the thatched gazebo.  I stood on the grass near the intricately handcrafted mat looking through the Minolta binoculars eyeing the Broad-billed Roller perched high on the pine tree.  Wak, wak, wak!  The deep raspy call caused Diana to look up from her conversation and study what I was watching.  Amused that I would spend time observing an ordinary bird, she asked me whether there were any birds in America.  I informed her that there were numerous birds in North America, but the Broad-billed Roller is a native of East Africa and the only one I had ever seen in the US was at the African aviary of ZooAtlanta.

Diana invited me to sit and talk to her about America.  Thinking that I’m not used to bending my knees to sit on the ground, Diana nudged her stepdaughter Paulina to bring a wicker stool for me.  Sitting on the small stool with my legs stretched out, I waited for Diana’s questions.

Do you have trees? Mango trees? Jackfruit trees? How about geckos? Are there mosquitoes? Do women breastfeed? Do you cook on a sigiri (compact charcoal stove)? Do you eat fish? Do  you have the kind of fish we have–the one with breasts?

Keeping a straight face with the last question was a mammoth task.  Unsure whether I heard her correctly, I reiterated her question.  She nodded.  I asked her whether she was mistaking the “fish with breasts” with a mammal.  “No,” she insisted.  Then she added, “women don’t eat those fish, but men eat them and become stronger.”  Wondering whether scientists discovered a new species of animal with fish and mammalian characteristics, I googled “fish with breasts” in the search engine and discovered that there is indeed a fish with legs and breasts in America–in Sekiu, WA–but it just happened to be a wooden statue that welcomed tourists to the small fishing village.