images from zanzibar

the sky opens and the rain pelts down, pock-marking the sand and sending pink tourists scurrying to the comfort of awning-ed terraces of sheek restaurants with brightly-colored fancy-named mixed-drinks.  from my vantage point submerged in emerald waters, cold rain pouring over my head and dripping off my eyelashes, i see the rain bounce up off the ocean surface.  water is everywhere.  cold and grey from above, warm and blue below.  the bouncing raindrops create the semblance of fog, through which a boat appears, a small wooden contraption, normally salt-stained and sun-bleached, today a deep brown color from the rain soaking it and its passenger through and through.  the man is standing in the boat, rain coursing in rivers over broad black shoulders.  he is propelling the boat through the fog with a long mangrove pole.  i imagine i am in a misty medeival scene from king arthur, instead of the mystifying isle of zanzibar.  submerged on the seductive swahili coast.

at low tide the waters recede beyond view, leaving mucky marsh full of seaweed, seashells, sea urchins.  brave zanzibari fisherman plod out gingerly, their feet sinking to the knee in peanut-butter-consistency soggy sand, out to waiting nets.  the horizon is dotted with their tiny silhouettes in the distance.  as the tide begins to rise they wade back to solid ground.  i watch six women, covered head-to-toe in colorful fabric kanga wraps, make their way through waist-deep turquoise waters, their skirts trailing behind them.  the tide is coming in and it’s started to rain.  suddenly one woman claps her hands and shouts and the others quickly close their line into a circle, splashing and laughing and tightening the circle.  they have scared a passing school of fish into the net held by two of them.  all six peer into the net to admire their catch, dump it into a red bag, then fan out again and continue to wade along the shore, rain-soaked and water-logged but chattering and smiling anyway.  the leader spots another school of fish, claps, shouts.  the line closes.  there is more splashing and laughter.  fishing in the rain.

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~ by aliciawolcott on April 13, 2008.

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