Mittwoch, 4. November 2009

A safe harbor

Tanya stared out over the harbor. The sky was clear blue, as it was most of the time, and already it was almost too hot to move. Seagulls were sitting idly on wooden poles, waiting for the inevitable tourist to drop them some french fries or fried fish. They had adapted to the modern way of life.

Tourists were the main source of income in this part of the country. They came by airplane and crowded the hotels along the beach and in the beautiful cities. They spent their money on colorful trinkets, overpriced clothes and imitations of designer handbags or shoes. They loved the climate, the culture - and the many possibilities to get wasted in the discos along the so called "fiesta mile". Where in most areas of the world you only find the passed out drunks on weekends, around here you stumbled over dead-seeming bodies every given day.

There was another kind of tourism - gleaming, elegant sailing boats and small motor yachts, drifting from one Mediterranean island to the next until their owners got bored with this life.

Envious, Tanya watched a young couple, all dressed in white and blue, enter a pasty shop to try one of the island's famous small cheese cakes. She knew the cakes were shipped all over the world, and even the most famous gourmets claimed there was no food experience like this in the world. Tanya hadn't even tasted them. And how she loved cheese cake.

The corner of the harbor where Tanya lived was not as impressive. Old, rusting trawlers and abandoned cargo ships formed a small floating city of their own, connected with each other until they did not look like a group of dead ships, but like a futuristic city from a science fiction movie. The inhabitants watched everything from their improvised homes and also watched over each other.

Most of the ships came from East European ship-owning companies. When the money had run out, the captains and officers had fled, and as if by magic, many of these ships had come here. The sea men and women were from East European countries as well, and in the evenings, when they gathered around the small kitchen fires for food and drink and merriment, a wild mixture of languages could be heard. Some would sing, some would tell stories or read out loud the letters they had gotten from the families they had left behind.

For the last two years, Tanya had not received any letters anymore. She had left a husband and two sons behind - twins, lovely children who must be ten years old by know. They could barely walk and speak a few words when Tanya had last seen them. She had come to work on a trawler because in her home town there was no work - not for men nor for women. The ship-owning company had not wanted to hire her husband, but they had offered her a job - at seventy percent of the usual salary, for after all she was only a woman and wouldn't be able to work as hard. And she had accepted.

Of course there hadn't been any money after the ship had been abandoned. She took whatever job she could find - showing tourists around, cleaning, cooking. Sometimes the other tourist guides would chase her away, and many tourists frowned upon her cheap and neglected appearance. She didn't have the money to dye her hair regularly, and there were few places where people would let them shower or wash their clothes. Whatever money she could save, she sent home to her family. At first they had counted the days when they would meet again, and her husband had told her everything about the progresses their sons made. After the letters stopped, she kept sending them money, hoping it might help somehow.

Deep in thought, she watched the harbor and the tourist life on the other side of the water.

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