Thursday, February 26, 2009

Van Gogh's Fishing Boats

Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries

26 February 2009 – Anchored at North Button Island, Andamans, India.

Mid morning we motored for about 45 minutes from Middle Button to North Button and found no sign of human life yet again. These islands were surely named because they resemble tiny buttons of land protruding from the sea.

Today was uneventful other than that I’ve convinced myself to get off the boat in Port Blair next week. I’ve had too much sun exposure, am dehydrated, and I destroyed my eyes by wearing old contacts to snorkel yesterday. I’m tired of paradise. I inadvertently brought with me from Texas a little bookmark I bought at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam last year – which coincidentally happens to be a tiny print of Fishing Boats on the Beach. This is the first and only work of art I’ve seen in twenty days…and it seemed more beautiful to me than the endless view of beaches I wake up to daily. So, grumpily, I stayed in today, avoiding the sun, reading Shantaram and planning what I’ll do if I get off this boat. I think I’m in the mood for Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Alyssa embraced the day, testing Nat’s fishing pole for the first time and catching one squid. Squid look like black fish underwater and when you catch them they squirt black ink all over the place. While I was at the helm steering us to North Button, Nat brought me the blue bucket with the squid floating in it and asked, “it dead? it dead?” I looked sympathetically at the motionless little creature, “I don’t know, Nat. If it’s not dead it’s at least really, really depressed.” Later I saw Nat holding the squid up to John, smiling and pointing to it one tiny quarter-piece at a time saying “this Ali, this Alyssa, this you, this me… dinner…hahahaha” and her laugh made me happy because she really enjoys the funny things….also I’ve never heard her say all our names together before. Sure enough, she did make a spicy noodle salad with squid and it did feed all of us – along with papadoms made from a tiny canister she bought in Port Blair – which seems to fascinate her. This is her first time in India and I’ve noticed her studying all the food, inspecting it to figure out how she can make it herself. This afternoon she dissected a pomegranate Penny bought and twice asked me the name of it. I know I’ve said this before, but it is nothing short of amazing that Nat makes different meals for us three times a day. This morning over brekky, John told us his brother-in-law once described the menu on a three day sea passage as, “on the first day we ate sandwiches, on the second day we ate stale sandwiches, and on the third day we ate toasted sandwiches.” So I decided to be grateful for Nat, who never feeds us stale sandwiches.

Meanwhile, Linbaba in Shantaram endured a tremendously uncomfortable ordeal to get to Prabakar’s village where he lay down on the poor farmer’s bed, and [his] first night in that first Indian village ended, as it had begun, with surrender. But you know what? Linbaba is a much better person than I. I just don’t think I can surrender to this.

I’ll have to decide in a few short days.