Sunday, January 10, 2010


The other day Jason and I were driving back from a village about 2 hours out of Bissau and we saw branches full of fruit for sale. I thought they were coconuts at first, so we stopped to check them out. It turned out that they were not coconuts, but they were a related fruit called “ankol”. The entire branch was only $2, and the people selling it assured us that it was quite good, so I thought, why not? We threw the branch in the back of the truck and got back on the road.

When we got home I asked some people at the youth center about “ankol”. They all said that they liked it but they hadn’t had any in forever since you can only get it in the interior. Their memories of its yummyness made me curious so I decided to test out our new mystery fruit. I picked up the branch and the first thing I noticed was that it was heavy! Like ridiculously heavy. This picture is not an exaggeration!

The second thing that I noticed was that it was really hard to get off of the branch. I had to twist, yank, and basically use all of the strength and cunning that I possess for each one.

Sydney is not amused

Sydney was much more interested in chewing
on the new stick than in the fruit itself

Finally I had one and I took it inside to check it out. I cut into it and was immediately puzzled. Most of the inside was a dense, spongy sort of material, but there were three sacks each about the size of a golf ball filled with clear jelly. I tried the spongy stuff first, but it was so bitter it made my toes curl, so I decided that the edible stuff must be the gooey part. I grabbed a spoon and stuck it in. I was prepared for the worst, but I was surprised, and then even more confused. It tasted like... well... nothing. It didn’t really taste like anything at all.

I went back outside and asked my friends how they usually eat “ankol” and they said they cut the top off, take a spoon, and dig out the jelly goodness. They asked me if I liked it and I said that I didn’t not like it. They all laughed.

Jason came home and came to the same conclusion, so then we were left with about 40 “ankol” that we didn’t really want to eat. I decided to load a bag (several times because I couldn’t carry all of them at once) and give them away to our neighbors. As I visited different neighbors and took out the “ankols” they were all so excited. Some of them hadn’t had one in 20 years and most of the kids had never tried one. Before I knew it I was hearing all kinds of stories of people’s childhood memories, it was a great time.

Then the weirdest thing happened – people started giving me stuff. Someone gave me a handful of lemons, someone else gave me a little bunch of bananas, and one of our neighbors gave me a bag of freshly harvested peanuts. Here in Bissau people ask us for stuff all the time. Everyday, especially if I leave my house, people ask me for things – money, food, you name it, even the clothes that I am currently wearing. A lot of the time we do help people, so we are very familiar with giving stuff away. The difference with this was I got the opportunity to give something away that I wasn’t asked for (kind of like a preemptive strike) and people gave me things back. It was strange and kind of nice.