So on Monday November the third, deep-sea fishing, when we got back to the marina, the Captain and crew docked the boat and Beba asked who among us wanted to have a meal of our own fish. Having never eaten yellowfin or whatever the blue stripy fish was that Jerry and Don caught, the five of us decided to make a meal of half of my fish and one of Jerry’s. There was such an abundance of meat, we could have treated everyone we fished with, and still been able to gift the Captain and crew with a good portion of the catch.
That is, as I understand it, customary. The one regret I have of the day is Tip #1 – ASK who wants to share in the catch. Among our group, a few thought that if they didn’t catch any fish they couldn’t partake; others thought that all the catch would be divided up among us all equally. None of us, though, were allowed to keep our fish. I don’t know the specifics of why and what, but I do know that you can’t bring raw fish aboard the cruise ship.
Well, Beba talked to the crew and they filleted the yellowfin and one of Jerry’s, and wrapped them up in a plastic bag. It was in that moment that I really wished I could speak Spanish – to be able to tell them ‘Thank you,” and tell them how well they had done; offering me the hooked fish, guiding us to schools, baiting the lines, and just generally being friendly, welcoming, competent.
After we bid farewell to Captain and crew, Beba led us along the waterfront to a restaurant; alas, they were closed for business. But there was another – though not the preferred, apparently. I don’t know why not; the second restaurant Beba led us to fried our catch, and served it with taco fixings, rice chips and salsa for a mere six dollars a person.
Now, nobody was really starvingly hungry; Beba had brought along Subway sandwiches, bags of chips, and a soda each. But as the five of us parted company with our fellow fishers – Beba going over and over the directions to a shuttle that would take us back to the port – I wished that more would stay to share a meal.
But not being sure of the protocol, or how much fish feeds a person or even if anyone wanted to join us, or what Jerry, Don or Ted would think, I didn’t make a general announcement to the group. I just looked at those closest to us in the group and asked if they wanted to share the meal. Now, at that, I must have spoken to at least three-quarters of us – but I somehow missed the one or two who would have wanted to (we ran into each other later on aboard ship and happened to talk about it). Tip #2 – if you have something to offer, make yourself heard! Maybe there isn’t quite enough to fill every stomach, but everyone’s going to at least get a taste, and it’s something further to share and remember. But as it was, only the five of us stayed; Beba guided the rest back to the charter office, where the bus was waiting.
And just like that, we were on our own on the streets of Ensenada.
It’s a strange feeling, being in a foreign country without language skills, a guide and having heard stories about how high the crime rate (specifically, pickpockets) is in Ensenada.
The wind was whipping-fierce, even blowing over an umbrella or two from the next place up. Flies buzzed around the table. Smells from the kitchen drifted by, teasing and taunting; I fretted about onions in my food, even though Beba let the kitchen know I was allergic (I need to learn to say that in Spanish).
The chips and salsa were delicious (I had chips dipped in sour cream) and when the fish arrived, the portions were HUGE. One large and one midsized chuck of fillet were nestled on a bed of Spanish rice; fruit slices provided flavor and a splash of color. And we gorged ourselves on fish tacos, self-prepared, that was oh-so-good. The yellowfin tasted nothing like tuna; the stripy blue fish was a bit more tender, with a more subtle flavor.
Street vendors approached once or twice; Jerry and I got a couple of hats from one – Ted wistfully voiced a wish for a ‘real mariucci band, with strings and horns” – and lo, within ten minutes they appeared. Ted was kind of wondering if one of the younger people we’d seen ducking in and out of the restaurant were runners for the band, finding folk who wanted to listen. Two songs, they played and sang for us.
Eventually we reluctantly agreed that we needed to get back to the port. I think all of us were starting to get really tired; a half-day on the ocean fishing in the wind and sun, plus a full meal and the knowledge that we had to be back on board before four-thirty. So maybe we weren’t as inquisitive or outgoing as we normally might be. Walking up an alley to the main street we needed to follow, we passed other restaurants, an open-air fish market (some of the fish not so fresh), a couple of old cars. I was torn between wanting to take pictures and ask questions, and knowing that if I said anything, everyone there would be after us to buy something – or so I feared.
I’d like to be able to say we explored that section of Ensenada – stuck our heads in the stores, spoke with the shopkeepers, absorbed both the appearance of poverty and the visible industriousness. We didn’t get lost, but we also didn’t poke our noses anywhere – and I wonder now if that was prudence, or a missed opportunity.