Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mango Mania

We took off out of the Pitons in St. Lucia, cruising across the smooth as glass waters and as I looked up at the beautiful conical mountains I thought to myself, this day is like no other, there will never again be a day like this, I should appreciate it. I don’t know why this thought went through my mind, but after an extremely trying week, it seamed like a good thing to focus on; all the possibilities that lay ahead... We pulled into Soufrere, a tiny, French fishing village with storybook architecture and winding streets – it looked like a movie set, or a lost town in the South of France. A rasta on shore helped lift my bags out of the tender and grabbed his friend, Raymond, to take me to the airport.

The taxi wound through the mountainous rainforest en route to the capital city of Castries. We passed through amazing little towns that although run down, were full of life and color. Street vendors with mountains of banana’s and alien looking local produce, women carried bags of laundry on their heads, little children in their Sunday best walking down the street, and brightly colored houses pocked the mountainside – it was just what I always imagined the Caribbean to be. As we wound through the hills, I couldn’t help but notice everywhere I looked were enormous, bushy mango trees bursting with the largest, most plump mangoes begging to be picked, and bigger than any I’d seen on the islands so far. I hadn’t eaten any breakfast that morning, or even had a proper cup of tea so I was lusting over the thought of just being able to pick and eat. My lucky moment came when the taxi ground to a halt in front of a Rastafarian on the side of the road selling coconuts and mangoes and with a live boa constrictor in his hands. The taxi driver and the rasta chatted away in their thick accents in island Creole and soon we were parked. I hadn’t made any mention of being breakfast-deprived, but the taxi driver must’ve read my thoughts for as soon as we were parked the rasta wielded his giant machete and lobbed off the top of two coconuts and handed them to us to drink, and when we finished, he hacked them in half, creating a spoon out of a piece of husk and showed me how to scoop out the young, sweet flesh to eat, all the while playing with the wild boa he had in his hand. As we all stood around chatting, the rasta and the taxi driver were friends and somehow in the course of conversation the boa (named “Daniel”, by the rasta) ended up wrapped around my neck as I held its head at a safe distance. After some joking and picture taking, he handed me a mango and said, “dis is for you, lovely lady”. Then, it was time to continue our journey to the airport….

As we made our way around the mountains and through banana plantations, I studied my mango and thought about how I should go about eating it. “Peel it wit’ your teeth, mon” and so I did, biting through the skin and then ripping the peel away with my fingers. The fruit inside was bright gold and juicy and the pulp was like custard. I gnawed and chewed at the pit and the fiber to get every last ounce of fruit. Like a four-year-old, I had juice running down my chin and my fingers were a goopy, sticky mess – which I vowed to lick clean so not one drop would go to waste. As I slurped away at my fingers, the drivers friend who was travelling with us looked back at me and laughed, and thankfully handed me a towel. “That was the best mango I’ve ever had”, “there are 52 different varieties of mangoes on St. Lucia”, the driver declared, “Great, I’ll have to come back to try them all!”. This was living…

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