The Fisherman of Erhai Hu Lake – Dali, China, Asia

More Dog Than Human
He's poor, unsmiling, wears a frayed jacket and a blue cap from Mao's era, covering salt and pepper hair, wafer thin trousers, ironed. He's poor, decently poor. Not knowing a word of English, he's eeking out a living babbling to tourists, sipping on lattes. He's being barked at by a French man – loud, harsh sounding words, jagged, serrated, French words – rude words. He skulks away like a mangy dog, this man with paper thin trousers – more dog than human.

A Business Transaction
Towards me and my steaming cup of Yunnan java, he pulls up a chair and says, "**!!&&**," then hands me a well worn photo album – a cormorant fisherman of Erhai Hu Lake trying to conduct another business transaction. He has photos of grinning, red faced, fat white people flanked by cormorants, photos of engorged westerners sitting by dozens of dishes, grinning, sitting beside the brown faced, wizened sad cormorant fisherman.

It's a portrait photo, black and white from days gone by – my nonchalant flipping stops. Staring back at me are two almond shaped eyes and a smile full of youth and hope. He says, " **!!&&**," and holds up two fingers. I tell him, "You look the same. You are still so handsome," I lean my head against his shoulder, he smells clean.

Let's Go Cormorant Fishing
"Let's go cormorant fishing tomorrow!" I suggest to my husband, who of late seems to be willing to lubricate the local economy.

I bob my head up and down as if caught in a tornado and the fisherman understands this universal language of mime.

He says to us, " **!!&&**," to which I add, "But not today, tomorrow."

He says, "**!!&&**" then pulls out a small black book full of numbers and Chinese letters. My head stops bobbing. My husband and I peer deeply into the little black book, we understand nothing.

From the coffee table on the patio of The Tibetan Cafe, I call out to two young Chinese girls. "Excuse me, can you speak English, can you help us?" They can and they do. Tomorrow we are going cormorant fishing at 11:00 a.m. because that is the best time, we are informed. We invite the girls to join us for a coffee, to practice their English, but they can't, they have somewhere else they need to be.

"Why can you speak English so well?"

"We are in the English Department and are graduating in June."

"Good luck and thank you."

Business Transacted – A Bounce to His Walk
The cormorant fisherman gets his 10 percent down payment for the trip tomorrow and tells us he will pick us up at our hotel room.

I watch him as he disappears down the cobbled road, his black thin trousers flapping around his ankles. There is a bounce to his walk and I think he may be smiling.

Traveler Article


Leave a Comment