Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mangoes and Mosquitoes: an Ode and a Loathe

Wednesday, 16 December 2009, Accra:

Oh, Pablo Neruda, how I wish I were you.  I am in love with the mango the way you were in love with onions, lemons, salt, wine, women, breasts, and—I might be mistaken on this next one, but then again maybe not, cause the guy wrote odes to every damned thing under the moon (which he also wrote of in matchless verse)—nougat.  Oh, Pablo Neruda, how I wish to sing of the mango’s majesty the way you poetically polished the plain potato.

You know, sometimes I wonder if it’s that, indeed, Neruda truly was more gifted at poetry than me, or if instead he just had more time on his hands, and barrels upon barrels upon barrels of good wine….

Except that’s not the kind of nonsense I normally find myself thinking about.  Normally, I think about stuff like where to find a can of cat food in a country that doesn’t feed it’s animals “animal food,” and whether or not a cheap can of tuna saturated in oil won’t make the cat-that-came-with-the-house, Mischa, puke all over the place.  Cause I really don’t to have to deal with THAT…and I wonder if her upchuck would attract those tiny, damned ants I keep seeing everywhere. 

So, anyway, I was getting my usual workday lunchtime fruit from the woman across the street yesterday when I saw a peeling I hadn’t ever seen since becoming addicted to this woman’s papaya and pineapple.

This woman and her fruits are insanely popular with the Ghanaians.  She only comes at lunchtime and there’s always a line of customers and I’m always the only obruni there.  I’m not sure why that is, exactly, cause this fruit—ideally paired, by the way, with a small bag of groundnuts—is the best mealtime option around! 

While we’re all waiting in line for her attention, I regularly exchange some small-small chat with the folks in line.  However, since I don’t speak Twe, I usually fall quickly out of the conversation and indolently bide my time watching the free-ranging chickens peck and pluck around our feet for whatever it is chickens in Africa eat.  And a note on that while we’re on it: when they say “free-range” in America, they have NO idea what they’re talking about.  Free-range here means exactly that: roadsides, brush, gutters, street corners.  Really, pardon me for saying so, but chickens rule the roost.  

The new peeling—back to that—intrigued me.  It wasn’t from a papaya, that much I knew.  The color of the fruit within wasn’t pinky-orange.  For as long as I live, I will never forget what color the fruit of a papaya is.  I was in Costa Rica once, and this woman was taking my sisters and me to the beach.  She was here-and-there pointing out some of the sights when she suddenly said, “See that papaya-colored house down there?”  I looked towards where she was pointing and realized I had absolutely no idea where to focus because I had absolutely no idea what color a papaya was.  Not to appear stupid, I said I saw the house and, after she had dropped us of, went straight on a mission to find out what the hell kind of fruity-color loop I had been left out of.   

No, no, this peeling was not papaya. There was a slivering of ripe golden-yellow—shall I say, essence—attached to the green peeling. Yet again, not wanting to appear stupid, I ordered papaya from the woman, knowing full well it was available and that I’d spare myself some embarrassment—my decision itself smacking of stupidity AND cowardice.  I realize that.  Trust me.  But in my defense, yet again, not to be left out of the fruit-loop, as she handed me my papaya, I straightforwardly asked her if she was having any mango. 

Oh, and how she was having mango!

YAYayayayayayay!  I snatched a whole one, bought it along with my papaya and groundnuts, took the beautiful sucker home, nearly completely butchered it because mangoes are superhard to cut into cubes if you’re not skilled (please see prior Blah Log Blog entry “A Trifle About Food, a Crumb About Me” for plenty clarification) and then popped the sweet, dripping messes of pulp one by one into my mouth and realized that, for me, there ain’t nothin’ much in Ghana that compares to the gilded heart of a mango. 

EXCEPT—and I was just reminded of this—smacking the living shit out of a mosquito.  Like, slapping them dead between my bare hands. 

Oh, MAN, I hate mosquitoes and I lovelovelovelove killing them.

1 comment:

  1. The word Accra is derived from the word Nkran meaning "ants" in Akan, a reference to the numerous anthills seen in the countryside around Accra.