Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fruit Has Returned

I wrote this entry about a month ago, before I came back for my visit to the US. Thanks to the feedback from my lovely grandmother and all the readers at Boca Woods Country Club, I realized that I never posted it. I will probably write a new entry after my three weeks in the land of free refills, crisp air, customer service, and broccoli have concluded. Enjoy!

The season of fruit has officially returned to Mozambique. And it is simply fantastic.
The season for litchi, which is the best fruit on earth, though extremely short-lived, only about a month long, and plagued for the first half of it with the Mozambican tendency to pick, sell, and eat produce before it is actually ripe, is the most wonderful month of the Mozambican seasonal produce calendar. Nothing can beat sitting on my front porch, sitting next to a big bag of litchi that only cost $1.20, people watching, and popping litchi after litchi after litchi to pass a Sunday afternoon. If you have never had a litchi, like me before I came to live here, try to find some litchi juice and watch your world transform. The reason we don’t get litchi in the US is that the season for them is so short and they are damn near impossible to transport before expiring, thus there can be no real American market for them. But apparently San Francisco is one of the only places in the US that could effectively grow litchi so I may have found my new profession after Peace Corps: amateur litchi grower and distributer, thereby positively affecting the lives of those consuming my product. I may seem to be over the top about litchi, but 1. They are that good and 2. Living in Mozambique, with the positive lack of new food options, can make a volunteer crazy about food.
Along with litchi, we are also entering the season for avocados, cucumber, mango, pineapple, more easily accessible bananas, and coconuts. Thus, I am back to a diet of cucumber, tomato, onion, and avocado salad sandwiches, and guacamole and pineapple or mango salsa on homemade tortilla chips. Delicious. But, because GuruĂ© district doesn’t have that many coconuts, we also don’t have any lanha, young coconut. Essentially, what you do is find someone selling them, usually an 8 year-old boy who climbed the coconut palm or threw rocks at the lanha to knock it down, and for a measly $0.15, they cut a hole into the top of the young coconut. And then you get about 2-3 cups full of delicious, sweet, rehydrating coconut water. Then you hand the lanha back to the kid, and he breaks it in half, and, with the cap of the shell, you scoop out pieces of the coconut flesh, which at this stage in its maturity is super soft. It is the best snack ever, and I make a point to buy one whenever I see them when traveling outside my district.  
Aside from the re-inauguration of my favorite Mozambican produce, life is pretty monotonous here. I found some paint in my house the other day and gave the kids in the neighborhood paintbrushes and paper. They had a field day with it since it was the first time any of them, ages 2-7, had ever used a paintbrush and paint. Wow, things I take advantage as childhood staples are anything but that here. There is currently a drought going on in my region of Mozambique. It should be raining almost everyday, but it is currently raining once every 2 weeks. People are very concerned about the potential shortages of food and water that may result from the drought, and also worry about the impending deluge that may hit, ruining all the crops everyone is currently planting. I’m really hoping the rains start, thereby normalizing the lives of 90% of the population that exists on subsistence farming. The second cycle of national exams start next week, and then I begin my journey down the continent to Johannesburg, to catch my plane back to the land of clean, paved streets, peppers that come in a variety of colors, and onions the size of my hand.
I was thinking the other day about what will be different in America besides amenities and food. It weirded me out when I first got here that everyone says “Good morning, how are you” before you even begin to discuss making a purchase at the market or when you are simply passing each other on the road. But now, it is just part of my daily, even hourly, routine. And its kinda nice, as it provides a sure sense of community and neighborly-ness because it is considered rude if this conversational exchange is not undertaken. There were certain aspects of life in Mozambique that I was relatively aware of and prepared to approach before I got here: irregular electricity, no running water, different foods (that often make you sick), mosquito bites, practically resource-less teaching, different ideals, values, and roles for men, women, and children, Africa Time (nothing starting on time), etc. But clearly, I had forgotten to try to come up with the positive differences I would come across: always inquiring about the wellbeing of others, respect for your elders, forgiveness, not holding grudges, constant ingenuity in the face of obstacles, a slow pace of life (which can be frustrating, but I have been slowly trying to appreciate the value of it), general propensity to help (even if you don’t need it) and share all that you can spare, blatant trust and reliance on both neighbors and strangers, “little by little” being a core tenet of life, etc. And these parts of life here are even more felt and seen than the (more negative) ones I had initially thought would most greatly affect my day-to-day. Though I will say, with certain conviction and anticipation: genetically modified, diverse in color and type, massively large, easy to attain, and quick to prepare food, here I come.