Monday, March 19, 2007

The long ride

For the last few months the mud from the volcano has been channeled into the Porong River and thence to the sea. We wanted to see the impact on marine life, so our "fixer," a local reporter named Suyono, arranged for us to go out on a boat with the head of the fishermen's association.

Here's Suyono, lounging around as if he's on a pleasure cruise, along with a photographer friend of his at the back and the fisherman in front. We were crazy about Suyono and enjoyed hanging out with him. When he SMSed us in the morning to find out the day's agenda, he would often ask what we'd had for breakfast, which was oddly endearing.

I had blithely assumed it would take half an hour to get to our destination. It turned out to be two hours. Luckily we were close to shore the whole time so I wasn't worried about safety. About an hour into the trip, though, I really, really had to pee. I wasn't about to halt the expedition to go ashore, so after confirming that there was no miraculous hidden bathroom on board, I said I'd just crawl under a big orange tarp they had and use a plastic bag. Which I did. I felt I deserved a Girl Scout badge, but there wasn't anyone around to give me one.

Finally we got to the mouth of the river, where we saw a huge mud flat stretching out into the ocean.

A fisherman was coming in with his catch. He told us there'd always been a mud flat here, but it had become much bigger and denser since the mud disaster, and the fishing had dropped off precipitously. With the scarcity of fish and the added impact of fuel price increases, he estimated he was making 80 percent less money now than a year ago. But, he said, with little education and no experience in any other job, "I can only work as a fisherman, what else can I do?"

No comments: