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The fishermen of West Lake

September 14, 2010

We woke up this morning to the sound of rain outside. Yesterday, at one point, it rained so hard we couldn’t see the other side of the lake. I’m enjoying the rain because unlike most summer storms in Atlanta, things actually cool down after the rain is over. I kept hearing what sounded like a bamboo wind chime, kind of a hollow, wooden clinking sound, but when I stepped on the balcony to see where it was I couldn’t find one. That may be the sound of rain on the orange tile roof.

The exterior wall of the room is a huge window with a door going onto a balcony. There aren’t any chairs on it so we don’t spend much time out there – plus it’s usually swarming with gnat-like bugs. I do enjoy watching the activity outside during the day though.

Besides the usual golfers immediately to our left, there is almost always someone fishing or doing something in the water. One of the pilots reported they saw someone peeing and fishing at the same time. What talent! I can’t tell how deep the water is because sometimes I see people up to their knees (wearing what look like boxers), and other times it’s simply a hat or a head sticking out of the water.

There are a lot of lakes around the city and there’s almost always someone fishing. I have passed a few people as they walk from the water to their house (sometimes only 12 feet away), and it amazes me that they deem the fish on their lines worth saving. All that I have seen are no more than 5 inches long and 2 inches across. It’s humbling when compared to the food we eat (and throw away) back home.

Something that puzzles me about the fishermen is that many of them will be seen standing on something several feet, more than jumping distance, off the edge of the water (the lakes don’t really have shores). I wonder how they get there and what exactly it is they are standing on. Their reels are spools about the size of a salad plate, open in the middle, held in their left hand, and operated by quickly rotating the wrist and hand – almost like repeatedly throwing a Frisbee. They do it with such ease.

Another of our group saw what looked like a cone hat floating on the water. They watched for a few minutes and saw it was a lady who was collecting something with her feet off the bottom of the lake. If she liked what she brought up it was thrown into a nearby basket.

This brings me back to the food here.

I don’t know how this is a successful method of business, but when you walk through the streets, particularly in the Old Quarter or Downtown area, it’s common to see many of the same type of store on one street. Six stores just selling belts. Entire streets of shoe stores – many with the same exact shoes. This also happens with food. The other night Jonathan and I walked about 30 minutes from the Old Quarter to our hotel. We passed many places that seemed to only have bowls of snails on the tables. The snails are about the size of a nickel and have dark brown shells. I wonder if this is what the lady was collecting off the bottom of the lake.

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