Saturday, 9 June 2012

Seaside Experience

Planting Season 1894


I am quite looking forward to today’s adventure at the seaside now that I have had time to acclimatise to the coast and sounds of the sea. 

Let me introduce Ama; she is our host Chief Iziengbe’s last daughter by his second wife, he has  four wives. She is about our age (Uwa and Me); fair and light skinned, she  always seems to have this grin on her face that makes you not quite sure if she was mocking you or not. By and by, I decided not to take offence at her jokes ( it seems that she forgets that  I am a royal princess and that she must show some respect); by the looks of things, this would be very difficult to uphold, therefore  accommodating her seems a fine solution for she is my escort on this visit; I have heard tales of young girls deliberately taking their guest into a cross road in the forest and losing them there on account of them showing some disrespect in order to take the person  down a peg or two . I am smart enough to know not to get on anyone’s wrong side particularly in a place I am not familiar with.   It is not my intention to provide anyone with a chance to loss me at sea, I might end up in the undersea Kingdom and never see my friends and family again, this would be unbearable. I am going to be very nice to Ama.

As soon as the sun came up this morning, we girls:  Ama, Omosegho (Ama’s senior sister),  Uwa, Ejiehia (Uwa’s half sister) Edugie and Me, downed our breakfast of roasted corn and assorted  nuts with spring water as fast as we could and set off for what promised to be a life time experience for us visitors from Benin.

By the time we arrived at the beach, which must have been a couple of hours, the sun was already high in the sky and so it was quite humid though the cool breeze from the sea cooled us. Ama and Omosegho, took us to a rocky part of the beach where we dropped our bags and calabash pots . Omosegho explained that since it was our first time at the seaside, we could just stay very close to the rocks and not have to step into the sea if we did not feel up to it.  She showed us how to play in the rock pool, she took me gently by the hand, swishing the warm sea water with her feet and scooping up handfuls of beach sand simultaneously. The glistering sand sieved through her fingers forming pretty patterns as they dropped to the rock pool floor.  This proved to be a very enjoyable experience for me as I begun to enjoy sieving bigger stones and rocks from the little ones, the colourful sea shells added a new dimension to the pattern making.

‘Come on, see if you can catch me!’ it was Ama running deliriously down the beach making intertwining footprints as she ran. I was quite taken by the patterns she made and even more fascinated by how quickly the waves wiped them off; she seemed to be able to get away from the waves before they caught up with her making it all seem so effortless and fun.

‘Come on let’s try it;’ Uwa was saying but before I had time to respond, she had raced after Ama, leaving me alone with Edugie who also seemed to be desperate to join in; I gave in.

‘Why not, let’s join in.’ I chased after Uwa and Edugie followed suit; I could not believe that I had lost all my fear of the sea, where I found the courage, I would never know but I was soon enjoying the feel of the warm sea water and squelching sand under my feet. What a great time I had running up and down that beach, playing ‘Catch Me if you can’ game with the waves.

We must have carried on for hours, for by the time we knew it, the sun was at its highest point in the sky and we needed to have our lunch. We took shelter under a nearby shrub, spreading out, we gobbled our lunch of fresh forest fruit and bean cakes.

‘Ok, this is what you do, first find some crab holes and then watch out to see where the crab is; when it leaves its hole, you give it enough time to go some distance from it, then you creep up to the hole and fill it up with sand to  block it;. When the crab comes back and cannot get back into its hole, you have to catch it by putting a calabash pot over it and scooping it up from the ground. Small baby crabs are no good because they won’t have much meat on them. Is this understood?’

‘Yes’ We all answered  in chorus.

‘Good, off we go then, but if you want to watch me catch a crab before trying to do so yourself, you can;’ ‘ Come on, off we go!’ It was Omosegho our now group leader instructing us on crab catching.

This was to be our first and only lesson in seaside crab trapping.

Omosegho led the way to a different part of the beach which was much quieter and with hardly any human activity; it looked like a city of crab holes. I was excited and worried at the same time as I have heard stories how some unfortunate person who had not handled the caught crab correctly have had their fingers chopped off by razor sharp claws of the crab;  I did not want to be fingerless on account of  a crab.

Omosegho seemed to be a master crab catcher for soon she had collected six big and four average sized crabs; she made it all seem so easy that I decided to try my hands at it. I found a clear spot in the crab city with no footprints, sizing up where to pitch myself, I crouched down in wait for an unsuspecting crab to put in an appearance and very soon one did; crawling at such speed from its hole, it was soon out of sight. Sensing victory and working at break neck speed, I soon filled the hole up with sand and waited; soon enough, the crab was back. Feeling exhilarated at the thought of  catching my very own crab,  I  made a dash to cover the crab with my calabash pot  but alas, the crab was much faster than I had anticipated, it disappeared into another hole which I am positive was not his but anyhow, he was gone from sight and I had lost a crab. After a  couple of experiences like this, I gave up and offered to look after the calabashes for others so their crabs do not escape.

‘They wouldn’t anyway;’ Omosegho was saying; just when I thought I wouldn’t be able to get away with it, Edugie came to my rescue; ‘They may try to do so, just because they know it is us and they know that we are not used to this.’

‘Okay then.’ Omosehgho seemed to understand. Relieved I sat down and spent the rest of the time listening to the soothing sounds of the sea.  By the time the sun started to go down, we had two big calabashes full of crabs of different sizes; we set off back home with Edugie and Omosegho carrying these.

‘See what we caught!’ Omosegho announced when we arrived back at the chief’s house; the women were very pleased indeed, giving us big cheers. I couldn’t wait to taste the dinner they’d prepare.

Dinner was ace! Never tasted anything quite like it; seafood is in a different league of its own.

Checking out time, it’s been a really enjoyable day and me thinks that I am really enjoying this visit to the coast; guess what,  a little birdie tells me that tomorrow, we will be going up to spy on the Ebo (Whiteman);  I cannot wait!

Stay cool for now.

Princess Iyomon.

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