Wednesday, March 19, 2008

picking plums with Maria

On Thursday Maria returns to Japan for a year. I will miss her and her soft spoken mum who was always anxious to drop her and hurry away to meet her young lover. She would return smiling, late and wearing different clothes. Today was our last class. We went to the beach and picked coco plums, very tart round purple plums which grow on scrubby bushes on the shady side of the coconut palms. They are all around the point which this week is littered with people from the city camping under tarps for Semana Santa, Holy Week. It’s a tent city complete with SUVs, blaring music and babies, paddling pools and beach fires. We were the only ones picking plums. Maria is fearless in her search for new foodstuffs wanting to try as many tings as I let her. Luckily most of the plants by the beach are edible: papaya, coconut, almond, ginger, plums, sea grapes and noni (well one could debate whether the vomit fruit is actually edible). The herbs while not always so tasty won’t harm with a nibble: blue snakeweed, life everlasting, hibiscus, mimosa, zornia. We stopped at George’s for coconut and an extra big kiss, I think there’s a lot of drinking going on this week. His house has been repainted a sunny shade of blue, it looks good. His neighbors did it while he was off for a clandestine weekend in Bocas. I promised I would visit properly sometime this week. I like George. His last name is Hansel – the Hansels were a big family round here, one of the points is named after them. I think they came from Jamaica at the beginning of the last century. George hasn’t got back that far in his stories yet, but he will. I like George and Mister Eddie and ol’ John Brown, old time Jamaicans with strong hands and big smiles who speak a patois English that sings. They still work their gardens and we sit and sip ginger beer and swap gardening tips and I listen. And they tell me what the weather will do tomorrow and what plants are good for the kidneys and I pay attention and feel totally bathed in another life. I brought home some akee. It’s so good, tastes a bit like peas straight off the vine. It was brought from Africa via Jamaica and not many people here eat it. Perhaps something to do with it being poisonous when unripe and toxic when overripe. But at the right time it’s delicious. It’s fairly easy to tell the right time – the fruit opens by itself and when it turns brown it’s no longer edible. The local name is vegetable brain for fairly obvious reasons.

I feel a desire to learn again and to share too. This afternoon on the way home from the store, two girls cycled behind me, a vulture was picking through garbage at the side of the road and they saw it and stopped to take pictures of the big bird. Was it important for them to know what it was? I don’t know, probably not. When one is traveling what is important? That one spends money where it’s needed? That one broadens one’s own horizons? That one shares one’s culture and takes interest in another’s? This is such an incredible place. I would like to guide. Nothing big, just something low-key with some cultural history and natural history and maybe a little responsible, conscious living thrown in. I wonder if anyone would be interested?