Published: December 4th 2008December 4th 2008
It’s mango season now in Samoa, and all over Apia you can see trees heavy with the fruit, and hundreds of overripe ones litter the ground everywhere. The smell of mangoes to me means Christmas, and it certainly feels like all my Christmases have come at once with this many mangoes available. I could eat mangoes all day every day, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing. Their juicy tastiness is heavenly and I can regularly be found leaning over the sink to eat one (or two) with the juice dribbling down my arm. Unfortunately some of the stringier ones leave you feeling like someone has just woven a rug between your teeth, but it’s absolutely worth it.
All around town small mango stalls are appearing, set up by enterprising people with mango trees in their yard. I say stalls but most of them are an up-ended bucket with a pile of mangoes on top; you get about six for two tala. We were over the moon when we first moved into our place and discovered the enormous tree out front was a mango tree, but alas the excitement was ill-founded. We watched with anticipation as large bunches of
Just a few to choose from
big juicy red mangoes sprouted, and waited for them to fall. And waited. All around town mangoes are dropping in the thousands, and our tree just refuses to let go. A couple have fallen now and then, but they’re either rock hard or the chickens get there first. Finally I salvaged a green-looking one from the ground, while the big red juicy ones still sat firmly on the branches, taunting me. I sat it on the kitchen bench in the sun and waited for it to ripen, until it was really squishy and overripe. Cutting it open and taking a bite, my face turned almost inside out at the sourness! Ah well, I can’t complain about having the only inedible mango tree in town when they’re generally so plentiful. At work, Lucy, the lovely lady who does our filing, took pity on hearing my tree story, and has been bringing me an enormous mango for morning tea every day from her tree. Then yesterday Ed came home with a shopping bag-full from his work colleague; so I had nothing but mangoes for dinner.
There is a gaggle of mournful-looking children who sit outside the gates at work with large
bowls of mangoes for sale. I’ve been tempted on many occasions but won’t purchase them on principle, as the children should be in school. It’s becoming quite a problem in Apia; young children being sent into town by their parents to sell goods. We’re often approached by them at one of the cafes, selling anything from fruit to boxes of matches to material. School fees are so low they’re almost non-existent in Samoa, so the excuse that parents can’t afford the fees is a poor one; and one of my Samoan colleagues angrily pointed out that everyone can always rustle up the money for a faalavelave (family obligation such as a funeral), so why can’t they put their kids first? The government is about to introduce a $1000 fine for the parents of any child found to be selling goods instead of in school, which seems to be a long-awaited response.
Last week we had a national tsunami drill. Everyone was informed which day it was, and so came to work prepared and wearing trainers, ready for a long walk up the hill. Of course if a real tsunami came and you’d turned up to work in stilettos you’d
Our evil mango tree
Look at those juicy mangoes taunting us!
be in trouble, but I wasn’t that fussed about trying to be authentic - I’d brought sunscreen, a very large hat and an umbrella in preparation for the walk. Everywhere on the island has an allocated destination at higher ground; my workplace’s is a twenty minute walk back up towards our house. No one knew what time the drill would start (some attempt at having it come as a surprise), and so of course when the siren finally went at four o’clock I was in the bathroom. I made it back to my office only to discover someone had helpfully locked the door, with my sunscreen, hat and brolly inside. I raced after my workmates for a key but they were long gone, so cursing everyone, there was nothing for it but to start walking.
I couldn’t stay grumpy for long as it was quite a sight watching people pouring out of buildings and making their way up the street; it’s not often you see that many people in one place in Samoa. And I could hardly whinge about a bit of sun exposure when I was accompanying my workmate Peta who was trekking up the hill while six
Our evil mango tree
Just TAUNTING us, damn it!
months pregnant. Really we had it quite easy - another Aussie work colleague was in town at a meeting when the siren went, and so had to head off to that area’s marshalling point, which happened to be an hour’s walk away. (Apparently a real tsunami warning gives you about five to fifteen minutes before it hits). Interestingly it was also flat the whole way, walking past various points that could have quickly led up hill. Luckily that particular colleague is on the country’s Disaster Management Team, so at the follow-up meeting for the drill she could recommend a better ‘safe zone’ be allocated.
Now we only have two weeks left in Samoa, but I’ve used up too much space to start musing on that, so I’ll write again soon!
There are more photos below