Saturday, May 10, 2008

Summers Past

When I was a young child in the 1970's, having fun alone or with friends and playmates during summer vacations in Lianga meant being resourceful to the max. There was yet no television, no game consoles (portable or otherwise), no iPod's and Mp3 players, and, of course, no computers. The Internet as we know it now was still a dream that smacked of science fiction.

Commercially available toys were few and usually horrendously expensive, so we, children, made our own. Blocks of wood, scavenged metal sheets, discarded rubber slippers and a few odds and ends became toy trucks and cars complete with serviceable doors and windows and equipped with spring suspensions. Boys pulled their creations behind them with strings and ran races with them.

We made elastic rubber strips and tree branches into deadly slingshots which we used to hunt small birds and other small creatures or shoot down all manner of fruits from stingy neighbors' fruit trees. Bamboo sticks, colored paper sheets, homemade paste and string became kites of every size, color and shape which we flew in the backyard of the house or along the shoreline of the town during the summer season.

When we played house with friends and relatives, we built with our own hands small shacks out of spare wood, discarded plywood sections and sheet metal roofing behind the house and actually spent hours pretending to live inside them. The structures would stand for days until they collapse on their own or my parents would raise hell and they would eventually be dismantled over our tearful protests.

But the sea was our primary playground. Older boys would build large rafts out of discarded timber logs, often elaborate floating structures complete with roofs, tables and benches and we all would vie for the chance to take them to deep water where we would throw out fishing lines, use the raft as a diving platform or just spend hours floating on the sea and watching Lianga drift by from sea.

We also fished from the backyard of the house and we made our own fishing lines and rods. The fat bellies of poor hermit crabs serve as our bait and there is no thrill to equal the sudden, frantic tugging and jerking on one's fishing line as a fish gets hooked. You then have to quickly reel it in, fighting the fish all the way, until you finally have it on dry land, the taste of sweet victory in your mouth.

Those were all good times and remembering them brings back a lot of warm memories, memories of a simpler, more innocent and less complicated time. Memories that most children in Lianga today unfortunately will never have anymore.

Even for a small and remote town like Lianga which seems to sit on the edge of the world, change is constant albeit slow to seep in. And all manner of change is always a double-edged sword. It may enrich our lives in many wonderful and unimagined ways. But it comes at cost because it also takes away many things that may precious from us.

One cannot have one without the other. That is the way of the world.

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