It's in the dead of summer here, clear skies stained watercolour blue, the days are long and full, aches and pains have receded from the chill of winter, it's the time to relax, slumber away the days, have a picnic, go to Whole Foods and scrape clean the scrumptious salad bar. I purr like a cat at the very thought of summer, it's a kind season, and I used to wonder why it couldn't last forever.
What I remember most about summers past is ice cream and watermelons, but I'm in a part of Africa where summers aren't like I remember back home---good ice cream doesn't exist, there are no salad bars, and not only are the watermelons grown here stringy and pit ridden, they are way to heavy to carry back on a hot kombie, then lugging it back and stumbling to my house with people gawking that I have something edible to eat. So what to do, I decided to grow my own watermelons thinking they would do so nicely here in the heat, and I tried to grow other summer veggies like zucchini. I honestly thought that I didn't have a bad relationship with plants, but these assholes here seem to hate me---we just aren't compatible. In fact, I helped several neighbors start a garden, shared my organic seeds from home, and I wonder why, 100 feet away from me, their crops weren't killed by the lightening storms or intense heat of summer as mine were, and why one woman comes to my door holding a gigantic, beautiful, mouth watering zucchini, saying “now what.” I wanted to grab the thing away from her, telling her it was to big to eat, and she better give it to me now before I kill her.
Longing for something edible, I take the long trek to Gabs in hopes of getting some decent fruits and veggies, even if they aren't organic, and some good juice to quench my thirst in the sweltering African heat. I noticed in the past few months I finally found something that says 100% Orange Juice---alright, I'm in big business now. I check the labels, it's all good, I buy, I'm happy. The next time I go to Gabs, the label on my 100% OJ changed a little---now it's 100% OJ but with mixtures of pear, grape, and “other fruits.” Hmmm, I wonder what those other fruits can be? But at least the labels say no preservatives, no added anything bad for you. I'm good with this---but then I went this past week, and I see that the label changed yet again, and I'm starting to have one of those incidences that have given me personal pause for thought. I swear, whoever put these labels on are really trying to spoil all my fun. Why can't I just get a really cool African Basket and put farmers market produce in it and be happy.
Ok, so even though my dopamine receptors are off now because I don't really have my 100% OJ, maybe I'm not taking the time to celebrate what is here. It's not exactly like I'm some the classic middle class, menopausal woman in my expensive bohemian cardigan clutching wine at 3pm. Labels schmabels---who cares, it just causes problems anyway when I bring food into my village. People here aren't starved like in some parts of Africa, but they are hungry, they don't like having to eat porridge all the time, or having to run all around the yard chasing a skinny chicken just to get a little protein. So I sit here, living on the level of the locals with my reconstituted OJ, or whatever it is I'm drinking, and thanking my lucky stars that I even have the opportunity to drink this junk on this amazing journey called the Peace Corps.