Akha fishing is like nothing you would imagine. In fact, the Akha phrase would literally be translated to something like "fish catching" or maybe "fish grabbing" which are both better descriptions of what we did yesterday.
We arrived at the creek and began walking up stream. After about 10 minutes we came to a place where a small island divided the stream in two, so we began the process of building a dam in front of the right side to direct all the water over to the left side of the island. We used a combination of rocks, tarps and mud to make the dam almost completely waterproof. After the water had stopped flowing to the right side of the stream, we all started searching in the little puddles and under the rocks for all sorts of little fish, shrimp, crabs and edible water bugs. Paul and I were not very good at this task... it takes a trained eye which we do not have! Never the less, we had fun and got better at finding fish as the day went on. After the first section was picked over, we pulled up the tarps, set the water running again and kept moving up stream. We ended up repeating the process two more times before we finally settled down to feast on our catch.
As the final dam was being built, about half of us started gutting and preparing the fish for lunch. The only thing we brought for the meal was a bag of cooked rice, some salt and dried chilies. We didn't even bring any pots or pans to cook in, instead our clever Akha friends found everything they needed from the forest around us. They made trough-like bowls and chopsticks on the spot out of bamboo. They even found wild herbs and greens (which were very tasty I might add) to add to the fish soup. About half of the cooked fish were left whole in the soup, while the other half was mashed up with salt and chili to make a paste (which sounds a little gross but was actually quite good!) For desert one of the guys risked life and limb climbing up the mountain to procure some fresh honeycomb for us! What a treat!
When the day was done, we were not only left with sore muscles and full bellies, but with food for thought. What an amazing experience we've been blessed with! I wonder how many people can say they've been Akha fishing (besides the 1.5 million Akha in SE Asia of course!) We are constantly amazed at the resourcefulness and amazing skills that our Akha friends posses. As one of the girls was teaching me how to gut a 2 inch fish with just my fingernail (is that too gross to post?), I was thinking how I would most certainly starve to death if left alone in a forest; but leave an Akha in the forest with only machete in hand and he'll never want for food! It made me ponder the value of my own skills, like being able to type at 30 wpm or create a nice Excel spreadsheet with linking formulas. They didn't seem so special as I was standing there watching a veritable feast materialize out of the forest. I'm sure there's a very deep anthropological lesson here, but this blog is certainly long enough already so I let you ponder that question for yourself!