Note: This is a big man made pond in front of a newly-built conference hall at the new campus of Maha Sarakham University, where Nam teaches.
Just about a month ago, we had a big storm come in at night due to a typhoon battering Taiwan. It rained a lot more than normal, even for rainy season, and the pond in front of our house must have flowed over onto the road at some point during the night. I say must have because I didn’t actually see it happen, but found some evidence to that effect including washed up debris on our curb and a half-dead pla salit (Snakeskin Gourami). Upon poking with my finger, he wiggled a bit, so I decided to try reviving him in a spare six liter PET water bottle I had in the yard.
I filled it with water from the pond and slipped him in through the top, and after performing carefully measured agitation to stimulate oxygen transport over the gills (read: shaking it for a while), Mr. Gourami “turned that frown upside down” and started swimming around.
Thus was born the Ghettoquarium in all its polyethylene terephthalatiffic glory:
Max was delighted and immediately dubbed the fish “Bitty” (it was not until later that I realized he was trying to say “fishy,” but by then I had gotten used to calling him Bitty as well).
Bitty received due adulation from his attending 2.5 year old host, including being assaulted with long cooking chopsticks and drinking straws joined end-to-end (which daddy was using to occasionally blow air into the bottle just for the hell of it). But as cool as this fish was, and as much as Max loved him, I decided to let him go at the end of the day because I wanted him to go live with his friends in the pond. Also, I had no desire to find out which aquatic plants he could eat by trial and error – I knew he ate plants because that’s what it said in my go-to SE Asian fish book, Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos by Alan Davidson.
In addition, Max gets bored with new toys almost instantly, so we thought we could get away with Bitty just suddenly disappearing… This is how we ended up going out as a family to buy a small aquarium less than two hours after I threw Bitty back in the pond, but that’s another story.
For now, I choose only to commemorate a boy and his fish: