Monday, October 3, 2011

a day in the life of a vietnamese clammer

If you have been following along with my blog, you are aware that I went on an escapade to the mangrove forests.  At night, we drank sugar cane water, which I did not like at first but am now obsessed with. And then walked along the beach and met some locals who were catching mudskippers and crab and literally cooking them right then and there.

live crab trying to get in one last pinch
"eeee! being boiled hurts!"
They also told me they were cooking sweet potatoes. The first thing that crossed my mind "OMG yes! I can't believe they have sweet potatoes here!" Well, let's just say it is not exactly, your average sweet potato. Case in point:

vietnamese sweet potato
Basically they shove this potato like thing into the coals of the fire and wait for it to blacken and then you are supposed to peel it open and eat the insides. Can't say I would order it again but I am glad I tried it.

scrumdiddlyumtptious 

ya know--octopus..your typical campfire food of choice
We stayed the night in a guest house that was definitely not something that I would classify as "fit for a king", as there were no sheets on the mattress--just one tiny baby blanket...but I did the best I could. I wish I could say I enjoyed a hot shower, but I did not as I still cannot figure out the whole "no tub or shower and just a tiny sprayer hose next to the toilet" thing.

The next morning we woke up really early in order to visit the locals in the town who make their living off of clamming. Incredible experience, I have to say. I was waaaaaay in depths of Vietnam. I am 95% pretty sure that none of these people have interacted with a foreigner, let alone a bouncy little red-headed birder. And let alone, one that wants to join their daily clamming adventures. I was heavily stared at and was even asked to have my picture taken with various people. They were soooo excited that a foreigner was taking interest in what they were doing. Hundreds of people, men and women, young and old, wake up early when the tide is low and scoop up as many baby clams as humanly possible.
early morning clamming
I learned that each of the workers have their assigned region that they are working in. These boundaries are created by people who somehow own certain portions of the shore. So basically these "clamming owners" will have 20 or 30 people (getting paid by the hour) working for them while they sit there and watch and then the workers have to turn in everything caught at the end of the morning. Yeah, I'm still trying to figure out the whole communism thing, too.
"border markers" 
The actual act of clamming is quite comical and of all hard labor, extremely low paying jobs, I might choose this one to do every morning. For one, you only can work when the tide is low. Two, you just carry this giant net and walk around in circles and then dump out everything you catch into a giant bag.


Here is the final product:

bag o' clams
Yes, don't worry. I was confused too when I saw this as well. But apparently there are many delicious baby clams in there as well as millions of clam eggs that people can put in their "clam farms".  Towards the end of the work, many of the clam property owners brought breakfast to their workers. This is nice in theory. Except for the minor fact that they bring the breakfast in individual styrofoam containers and bags of sauce that people eat and literally just throw in the ocean. So all of the sudden I find myself surrounded by hundreds of disgusting used styrofoam containers. And the workers just walk right through the garbage continuing to clam! It is pretty unbelievable how the concept of "littering" isn't even in their vocabulary considering their life depends on the ecosystem they are currently standing in. The CBD took careful note and is looking to implement educational outreach program regarding this.

breakfast time
breakfast time over apparently



So, it was time to call it a day at the clamming farm. As we walked along the beach though, we saw a gaggle of young boys enjoying a swim. Needless to say, bathing suits are not the common vestment of choice.
having the time of his life

 On the drive, we saw a mussel farm and I thought the pictures were lovely and fit in nicely with this blog topic.



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