These are some quotes that I have come across.

"If you ask them, 'Do you know the forest is disappearing?' they'll simply say, 'Oh no, there will always be a forest here.' Yet as soon as you ask them about a particular species, for instance a palm they use for the floor of their homes, they'll nod their head, 'Oh yes, we have to walk half a day now to find that one.' But they still haven't made the connection between their own individual actions and the final result: deforestation."

I spoke to one young woman, named Irina, who worked in a Russian candy factory but who had not been paid for six months. She gets by, as do all her friends on this boat, by working for the Chinese, hauling back into Russia so-called bricks of inbound trade goods. "I go over for the afternoon with my empty bags--I meet my contact in the market, he fills my bag with stuff he wants to sell back in Blagoveshchensk, and I carry it back. I get paid 150 rubles. Sure it's humilliating, working for the Chinese, hauling their goods. But I need the money, I can't argue. I just wish we had something to sell to them," she said. "But we don't make anything. And you wait and see what I bring back. It'll be good stuff."

... Later in the day I met another woman carrying a similar load: "Can you imagine the real humiliation of that--the Chinese getting me, a Russian girl, to lug Chinese-made vodka back into Russia to help them make money. It is totally shameful, don't you think?"

"Pity us poor Bushmen. Pity us who have so many problems facing us in this world down here. We Bushmen, we were the first people here, so how come we are the last in line to get anything? When people see we are a gentle people, they just walk on us. We have to find the strength to make a place for ourselves in this world. Otherwise there will soon be no more of us. We will all be gone. And so will our memories. Only our paintings will remain behind to remind you of us."

"All that is happening to the Muslims of today is due to our easy acceptance of the teachings which are selective. We propagate only those parts of the religion which we, in our selfishness, want to perform for our own exclusive merit in the afterlife."

"But tourism is a double-edged sword," El-Maawy said. "People come here because they like to see the way we live. We are very traditional, even conservative. We do not drink alcohol; we prefer that people dress modestly. The tourists bring money, which we need, but they also bring influences that are difficult for our young people to resist. Just recently I had to ask a visitor to please wear a shirt while he was in town. And the tourists attract people from the mainland who are after their money too. Between our young people leaving and others coming from the mainland, only about 50 percent of the population is actually from Lamu. This puts us in danger: The tourists help us survive, but their money and ways may kill the thing they come here to see. We elders must walk a fine line between accommodating them and maintaining our traditions."

"Old people always feel threatened by new things--not just here but all over the world. They feel that culture is a fragile thing, to be preserved intact. But you have to remember that swahili is a dynamic culture. It has never been pure. Since the beginning, it has incorporated foreign elements, and it will continue to do so."

"I was born a fisherman, I live like a fisherman. If you're born an engineer, you live like an engineer. He eats out 15 times a month; I eat out once a month. I have a wife and a son, and my work. Even if I earn less compared with other work, I wouldn't change. No no. It's the tranquility."

"But there is always the feeling that Sao Paulo is not Brazil. It's very ugly; it's very expensive. We don't really believe it's so ugly, but it's very difficult to speak about Sao Paulo, why we love it. I couldn't live anywhere else."

"Do you know Han Heliu? He's from our village! He's gone to Beijing to work! I was wondering if you've met him yet!"

"People are absolutely multimedia when it comes to medicine. They come in here and get vaccinated against measles or polio, and then they go to the monastery and get an amulet from the lama to ward off the same disease."

"Someone like you comes to Mongolia and see how we live and thinks it is romantic and you want to preserve it. But peole who live it don't think it's romantic--it's a hard life. If they can buy a truck to do the work of ten oxen, why not?"

"No matter what system you live under, you always have to work hard. But you also have to think. And sometimes you have to take risks."

"The English discusses the weather; we discuss the water. Before it comes, we drink beer and talk about when it will arrive. When it's here, we drink bear and talk about how much it has come. When it's gone, we just drink bear and feel sad."

"You know, sometimes all you can do is help to change one life at a time."

"Our village is very nice, but sometimes you can't cross the road because car, car, car coming .... Of course transport must be. We can't do without it. Do we want to go back to using a horse? Or carrying goods on your backs? I don't know. I don't know. You can't stop it."

"My grandmother hated the park till her last day on Earth. But if it weren't for the park, what would all this be now? Nothing but condos and hotels, probably."

"The price is cheap because more and more tuna are being caught. My only weapon is to catch more fish. It's a vicious circle. If I catch my quota of a thousand tuna, I can't live because the price is very cheap. I want to respect the quota, but I can't because I need to live. If boats of all countries respect the rules, tuna will not be finished. If only few countries respect the rules, and others don't respect the rules, the fisherman who repects rules is finished."

This webpage is authored and maintained by Leen-Kiat Soh.
Website created on February 4, 1999