10:42 a.m. 2010-01-30
So, the other day I went to the beach by boat. This meant winding down a river to where in meets the ocean, then taking an inland water way, sheltered from the ocean by palm trees and a glorified sand bar through calm, scenic waters. Past villages that live at the edge of the water and by their boats that were clearly made in town. Past pigs wandering the coast line. Past the froth and chop that arises when Lagos meets the sea. But most awesomely, picturesque in a very different way past the port.
So much of this city is caught between two scales, the village and the metropolis. This dichotomy is very plane at the port, where on one side of the river are massive container ships and the towering cranes that unload them. On the other side, on the first of those sheltering glorified sand bars, tin roof houses, pigs wandering, and narrow fishing boats that look like Queequeg’s coffin with its roof ripped off.
Certainly an interesting dichotomy to leave it there, but the real fun lies where the two sides meet, in the middle of the river. Container ships who have died lie partially submerged in the middle of the water way, sometimes clustered together. Huge, floating skyscrapers dead and rusting in the water.
They are clustered to allow for salvage, and so you see several decrepit ships lashed together, one of them holding people and taking apart the others. It can be very hard to tell which is which. And on the return voyage, going through the ship graveyard/butcher shop for a second time, I noticed the pillars of metal sticking up from the water line that mark completed salvage operations, ships stripped down to the point where they are all under water, and their only purpose is to trap the next ship. I suppose that is another reason you see them in clusters. I suppose knowing that those hulks are there really helps the tug boat industry.
On the one side you have the great symbol of our modern economy, the container ship, taking the energies of people from all over the world to this particular point in Africa, and then taking Africa’s energy back out to the rest of the world. On the other side you have the village, boats bringing in fish from the surrounding 3 miles and vegetables from local trees, and meat that the villagers themselves saw being born. And I wonder if it really is tin that those village roofs are made of.
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