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1,2,3,4,5… Once I Caught a Fish Alive

Rhona Lewis

I live in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a little island south of India. You’re probably wondering what I’m doing on an island near India

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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I f you like unbelievable stories, carry on reading. If you don’t — stop right now. Because you’ll never believe what happened to me, Aliza Kastelman.

I live in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka (for anyone who missed geography class) is a little island south of India. You’re probably wondering what I’m doing on an island near India. Well, my parents have a guesthouse for tourists. Pretty much like Avraham Avinu plus air conditioning. And in case you ask about school, I learn in an online school. Which is pretty cool because my classmates are from places like Nepal, New Guinea, and the Outback. (Pay attention in geography class and you’ll find out where those places are).

Let’s be honest from the start. Having all these guests is fun and games — most of the time. They’re pretty interesting and even helpful. One elderly hiker taught me how to read a contour map (that’s a map full of squiggly lines). A lady who was missing her thumb taught my mom how to gut fish (I didn’t ask how she lost her thumb).

But sometimes, I get tired of the hullabaloo. Like the time I was ready to climb into bed and couldn’t because a tourist had curled up splat in the middle of my bed. (My mom steered her to the guest wing.) But the hardest is Erev Shabbos when one of our regular helpers doesn’t turn up. Because that puts me on kitchen duty. Which is what leads to this story. Are you still reading?


Last week, when Samira didn’t show up for work and there were 50 guests to feed for Shabbos, Mom sent me to the local market. A colorful place with fruits and vegetables piled on wooden tables, spices in bowls as big as bathtubs, birds in cages, sandals, shells, and… fish. I don’t like the fish stall… (sniff why).

“Let’s send Uriel,” I suggested. Uriel, a former paratrooper from Israel, had been living with us since before I was born.

Mom gave me that look. You know the one I mean (Your mom has probably looked at you that way, too). The look that means No Way, Jose.

But I wasn’t giving up so easily. Just the smell! I griped, moaned, grumbled, protested… all in vain.

“Aliza Kastelman, this is your chance to honor Shabbos,” Mom said. “Surely you don’t want to give it up?”

I did want to give it up. Very much. But out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Amy. And she was staring at me with one eyebrow raised right up to the stitches on her forehead. Amy was a meteorological student who had been researching rain patterns in the Himalayas until she had tumbled down a mountain and hit her head and broke a leg. After a medicine man in a village without a main street kind of set her leg, she began heading back to New York. Till she stopped over in Sri Lanka. With her limp. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 677)

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