this is a coconut shell, and i am it's frog

Monday, March 03, 2008
Tanzanian Diaries II

20 feb 08

Given that Tanzanian cyber cafes are notoriously slow, it’s no surprise then that pirating a line is even slower and less reliable. Oh well. For all of 2 seconds I had internet in my room. Sometimes it’s longer than 2 seconds and then I get really excited and pop the bubbly.

In my efforts to re coup the aforementioned monetary loss, I decided to skimp on food. Yeah it’s that bad. Wei Jin is skimping on food gasp. The end is nigh. So for lunch I thought I’d be smart and bought the largest freaking bunch of bananas I have ever bought in my life for the low low price of 3500 tsh.

Short segue. Ever since I was afflicted with asthma as a kid, my mom has tried me on countless Chinese herbal remedies to get rid of it. Every time some sinseh told her of a new cure she would get very enthusiastic and subject us with said remedy (often times useless). Truth be told, I hated every single attempt to remedy it, because they never worked and more so because they involved putting something that tasted downright foul into my mouth.

I could get on fine with my asthma, why couldn’t she? Anyway now that I’m older I’ve begun to understand her point of view – seeing her son struggle for breath and turn blue must not have been a very pleasant sight. ‘Specially when that same son had to be admitted to the hospital at least once a year for said breathing difficulties.

Back to the point – herbal remedies – I have, in my time, tasted an inordinate number of blehgrk tasting concoctions, things no sane man would ever think of putting into his mouth. Among the more memorable being snake’s bile, crocodile soup, something that involved guinea pigs and/or hamsters/other small rodent, seahorse soup, and countless hordes of despicable roots and herbs that taste downright disgusting. I remember one of the brews being so foul I vomited right back into it after the first few gulps, while my friends looked on, wide-eyed.

I mean, come on, which bored demented senile old chinaman first thought “if I cut open snake… oooh green stuff! Hmm when I cough got green stuff come out… means if I eat snake green stuff my cough green stuff no more!”

In my later years, when the asthma had cleared up (I put it down to good ol’ exercise) and I had become a healthy daring swashbuckling risk taking bracing young lad, I set out to try and taste as many things as I possibly could in this world. Food-wise, that is. I don’t go around licking walls and rocks just for fun. That’s called pica. Pica! Pica! No, not of the yellow electrifying cartoon genre, it’s a symptom of mineral deficiency and sometimes schizophrenia. Crazy both ways.


Before I segue off the segue – in my quest to put as many different foods (as defined by its respective cultures) down my gullet as I humanly could (not all at the same time), I’ve tried everything from fried gecko to buffalo to tarantula. Not forgetting the locusts, termites, cockroaches and many other nameless creepy crawlies some culture or other has defined as “food”.

Also, being Chinese, no part of an animal is spared. Except the hoofs and horns. Cause that might make chewing a little tricky.

The point of this seemingly pointless ramble?

Among all the weird and wonderful things that my tongue has experienced, few have come close, in terms of pure nastiness, as 4 hujambo-tembo-tic bananas in a row.




Why? Because it deceived like no other food has. If something tastes gross (eg snake’s bile), it’s usually gross from the get go to the end. There’s nothing pleasurable about snake’s bile and vinegar. You prepare yourself for the grossness, you experience the nausea, you hold it in, choke it back with a litre of water, curse your mom, and then go along with your day. It doesn’t pretend to be sweet. It doesn’t pretend to be tasty. The only neurotransmitter it releases is the adrenaline coursing through your veins as the cold sweat breaks out while you attempt to not puke (edit - endorphins make you feel good, adrenaline is a catecholamine which mediates the flight-or-fight response, both are neurotransmitters. thank you psychoK. and incidentally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!)

It’s nauseating, but it’s honest. It’s nasty and it knows it. And you know it.

The same way you know that that hairy spider’s leg is going to be nasty. Or that bug that’s the size of your thumb and still squirming is going to be nasty.

No duplicity about it.

BUT these bananas though... They’s tricksy. They’s lies to us. They’s promises us to take care of us but theys liessssssss

They start of promisingly sweet and mild-mannered but by the time I got to the 3rd one, they were getting bland and mushy. I was still hungry so I tried for a fourth and my dear was it gross. That weird coating in your mouth that you always get with bananas multiplied 4 times. A funky after taste in the back of my mouth that can only be described as organophosphate-ish . It’s no longer softly-textured, it’s about the consistency of a bowl of mashed brains and oatmeal. It’s no longer oddly (yet satisfyingly) firm, it begins to resemble a long yellow turd. It’s no longer golden yellow, it’s the colour of your puke after you puke everything else out and the dredges of your gastric contents are being evacuated.


You know you’re either very bored or very artistic when you spend two pages devoted to how a bunch of bananas supposedly tricked you. I think all artists are bored anyway.

In any case, I learnt my lesson and never had 4 of those things in a row ever again. The only problem was I also forgot I was in Tanzania, where fruit goes bad quickly as opposed to Canada where you can leave bananas out for a week. In three quick days, a thin furry film started to grow on the leftover bananas that I was doing my rapid best to finish without grossing myself out again.


So three of the bunch went into the garbage, having turned a garbage-water brown colour and having grown a furry white coat.

Next up – what’s up with the blue toilet paper anyway?

And – the African beach is absolutely breath taking. I’ve been to many beaches before, and this definitely ranks in my top 3.

*hujambo tembo - Swahili for “hello elephant what’s your problem?”

posted by theycallmecruel @ 1:25 AM  
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