Saturday, October 11, 2008

working at a real kelong

this is a model of a kelong along the changi board walk

my friend, who is also a retiree, used to help out at a kelong in tuas and, at times, at another kelong off katong when he was still a 16-year old student. he would stand in for a married friend who wanted to have the saturday off so that he could spend time with his young bride.

on saturday evenings, he would take a bus to tuas and from there a boat would take him to the kelong. initially, he had looked forward to this weekend job but after working for a few months, he found little excitement in it. it was really back-breaking work and during the monsoon period, at the end of the year, he had to endure the biting rain and the cold.

it was a working kelong where visitors were not welcomed. there would usually be four workers to raise the nets, sort the fish, cook the fish and re-set the nets. the nets were so heavy that it needed at least two adult persons to work the axles to bring up the nets.

after that they had to sort out the fish according to types and sizes. some catch, like the octopuses, were discarded and thrown back into the sea. some, like ikan bilis, had to be cooked in salt water immediately so that they would be ready to be sold at the market in the morning.

they would boil a huge pot of water and then thrown in the rock salt. when the water started to boil, they would throw in the freshly caught ikan bilis, blanch them and scoop them up. the ikan bilis were put into shallow cane trays. one time, when the catch was really good, he counted 54 trays of ikan bilis caught in the early hours of that sunday.

they would start raising the nets between 11.30 p.m. and midnight and after that every two hours or so until dawn. in between, they would try and catch some sleep. however, in november and december, sleep did not come easy because the cold wind seemed to come from below the kelong.

early in the morning, a boat would come to the kelong to take the day's catch to the market.

for his overnight work, he would receive $3.00.

these days, the new kelongs are more like fish farms. the fish are reared in the net and you may get to watch them feeding the hungry fish or you can try your hand at line fishing or rod fishing from the kelong. quite a number of singaporeans go to the one off penggerang. in this modern time, all they need to raise the nets is to flick a switch, not like the old days when it was really required a lot of muscle power.

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