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500 hours afloat with fishermen: Part 8

Mixed emotions of the return day

09:30 | 06/10/2020

Four doors of the vessel’s cellars were nailed with full of 10 tons of fishes, Leo pushed the GPS machine, on which the screen show Sa Ky letter and shouted: “Thanks to Ba Cau for providing us lots of fishes, let’s go, brothers!”. The ship moved toward Sa Ky estuary. Reaching to the prow, I stood solemnly and greeted Trung Sa, after experience a lot of days looking forward to returning to my motherland.

children who grow with the waves Children who grow with the waves
ships going aground at sea Ships going aground at sea
the rage of the ocean The rage of the ocean

In the midst of the ocean, mirror and comb “enthrone”

mixed emotions of the return day
Illustrative photo.

During the push-off, fishermen were rushing to work. Besides the circle of netting, fishing, eating, and sleeping, they did not even have enough time to look themselves in the mirror. Twenty days of erratic sleep and meals under the sea wind and wave, all of the seafarers looked tired with their eyes deepen, beard hair thickens, and their skin darker. My shampoo was shared for all the members of the ship who tried to plaster as much careful as it could to eliminate the fishy smelt of the ocean. After the “bleaching”, Chinh, the most graceful man in the ship joked: “I would be beaten by my wife if my body was not clean, my children would also shoo me away due to the fishy smelt.”

Fishing was hard, but the returning was relaxed, apart from improving their outlook, the seafarers had nothing to do. The whole boat only had a motorcycled mirror as small as a hand, which was usually shelved somewhere but became a very hot item in the idle time. Sitting up and pulling every single beard hair like a broom out of his chin, Tam Hung said that he was old and his four sons were all mature, his wife was also aged. But he still wanted to shave his face so that his grandson would recognize him. “Once, I accidentally came back home with my beard growing so thick, as soon as I saw my grandchild playing at the door gate, I grabbed him and held tight. He cried a lot, quickly sneaked out of my arms, and shouted: “Grandmom, grandad hit me in my lips, it was hurt!”. Then Hung’s wife demanded him to shave after every push-off.

Thoi, was the one who found touting his outlook was hard due to the but the ship is thick beaver like those of Middle East people. Every time he showered, his hair did not need to be combed, but for his beaver, combing is a must. The beauty care steps made by Thoi was also longer than usual, the first step was to use the scissors to cut the beard shorten, then the razor was used.

After one hour of handling the thick beard, his face was finally revealed that shocked everybody. He looked handsome without a beard. “Once, I spent almost three months to go squid fishing and had my beaver grew to the chest and my hair grew to the shoulders. Until the return day, I saw Hien, my wife waiting for me at the port but it was weird that she could not recognize me, she cried a lot and seemed worried as she thought I would in trouble.” Since Thoi started taking care of his outlook very carefully before returning home.

Sadness as fishes were cheap

mixed emotions of the return day
Wives wait for their spouses to come back after a long fishing trip.

As soon as the ship arrived at the port at 5 a.m, eight wives were seen waiting for their spouses at the bank. It was just me who had been waited by anybody. Seeing their husbands all healthy, these housewives experienced mixed emotions. “ As a wife of a seafarer, I would never stop worrying about my husband, I am looking for him to return every time he pushed off. It is not different from our mothers looking forwards to their spouses back from war. The day since I heard about a storm would hit the region, I was sleepless and worry if something bad may come…”

The happiness of the reunion in ship 05985 lasted not so long as the price of fishes plunged. “Today is 17 but the price of fish was as cheap as mud that we may forget about the push-off in the coming days”. Normally, from 14th to 20th of the lunar month, the price of fish is usually expensive as it is hard to net the fishes.

The last fish was pushed on the scale, the whole four cellars featured 10.6 tonnes of fishes, worth VND 85 million (US$3,700) including VND 35 million (US$ 1,500) for investment and the remaining VND 50 million (US$ 2,200) for the fees of the ship, net, and other companions. After 22 days with a little sleep, little food, and joined in a serious fight with waves amidst the ocean, the salary of each fisherman was just VND 2 million (US$ 87). Holding the cash, Leo wished if the fishes could be bought in wholesale by the local agencies, the fishermen would found their push-off less hard.

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Translated by Lyan Vu