We’ve been pretty fortunate this week. Mango season is in full swing and I’ve got the word out that I’m not too proud to beg for a mango or two or three, or a bag or two or three. And really, it’s not that I’m ungrateful to our friends who have kindly donated to the cause but the best experience thus far with mango begging occurred yesterday.
Yesterday was Tuesday, one of the days that I get to go and spend an hour or so (it was “or so” yesterday) instructing some of the children in the pueblo in the intricacies of the English language. After class was over, mi amiga indicated that two of her students had offered to show her where their favorite Chancleta mango tree was. Chancleta or Banana mangoes are an attractive, delicious, slightly curved long mango that is a yellow and blush color when ripe. The nice thing about them is that they yield a good amount of flesh when cut because the pit is narrow and thin. The word chancleta means flip-flop or sandal and I guess if you look at it kind of look like a sandal.
Never willing to say no to an adventure I quickly agreed to go with the troupe on a quest for the Chancletas. So after class we organized to follow the two boys to their tree, me pushing my bike as we meandered through town on a beautiful blue sky afternoon. The boys took us on quite the tour and as we progressed, trying to guess where we were actually going mi amiga tried to tell them to slow down, we were old women. It didn’t seem to work and on we went at quite the clip. The further we got, I theorized that we were actually going to one of the little fellows houses and that theory turned out to be fact.
As we arrived at his home he went in to tell his mama that we were there and he was picking mangoes for us. His mama came out to greet us, a lovely woman that we had met before and his little sister came out to partake in the fun. The tree is actually on the property where the family lives but a good part of it hangs over into the neighbour’s yard. We went into the yard and searched in the lower branches for possible mango candidates suitable for consumption. After finding a few our little mango helpers got to work; one boy scrambling into the tree to be the thrower and the other situating himself as the catcher.
There were many directions being given; hablame, izquierda, derecho, dónde? It was a concerted effort on the part of the two niños, with the little sister observing and trying not to get bonked by a thrown mango. We were there for about a half hour while various means of knocking the fruit down were used, a hand, a piece of wood and a piece of plumbing tube or tubo as they call it here. I wondered how they figured out what was ripe and what wasn’t ripe and so my friend yelled up to ask. The answer was that the fruit should fall freely when hit or knocked and even though there was a lot of fruit at the bottom of the tree, none of them were willing to part with their spot on the branch just yet.
Mi amiga was quickly collecting a lovely bounty in her take away bag of both the Chancletas and a rounder mango. As it was getting late she told the boys that we had enough for one day and we thanked them for their work and said goodbye to the señora of the house.
As we walked towards home I told mi amiga that this is what being in Panama is all about. Kids climbing trees and cooperating, proud that they can give you something that only takes a little work to get. A gift from the heart; and that is why today is filed away as another wonderful Panameño experience, in the campo.