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Fishermen, originally uploaded by Robin Manuell.

Madonnia is away when we arrive. There has been a death in the village and preparations must be made for a funeral. Constantine’s mother and sister greet us and we are seated under the shade of a tree. I hang my hammock and we eat more sweet potatoes and peanuts. At four o’clock when the suns heat begins to wane we walk the mile down to the lake shore to a spot where the local boys launch their bamboo rafts and gather off shore to cast their lines and wait out the rest of the daylight. They will stay out till after the sun sets while there is still a glow from the west to guide their way home. There are young men out on the boats but the majority here are small boys, some no older than 6 or 7. It is cool and I long to join the boys on their rafts, to try my hand at fishing but it is time to return home.

Madonnia joins us for ugali and kuku. He is a retired teacher, his command of English good though he talks mostly in Sukuma and Swahili sharing news with the son he has not seen in a while and Shegera who he has known growing up. He has a quiet contained dignity which I warm to immediately and although he is in his early 70’s his face is ageless. He could be anything from forty to a hundred. He admires my hammock and seems content that I will be safe there. We are at constant war here he says. Our enemy is the mosquito and the malaria it carries. We talk about crocodiles; there have been four sightings in the last week. People are afraid to put their feet in the water in case they are bitten and dragged off. I joke that the crocodiles will not like mzungu flesh; they prefer the sweet meat of the Sukuma.

As the moon rises we drink: beer for me and Paulo, a diluted banana spirit for Constantine and Shegera. I stay up later than I should, finally retreating to my hammock when my eyes will stay open no longer. My three companions throw down a mattress on the ground next to me and curl up together; their body heat and a single blanket their only protection from the night’s cold.

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