Sunday, September 26, 2010

Going Bananas


Katana’s mother—call me Mama, she insists—introduces Hamsa and me to Bahati, their cow. His name means lucky and his bellows are as prolonged and persistent as a conversation of greetings in Swahili—habari nzuri mambo poa karibu asante—that goes back and forth. I quickly lose track of who is the host and who is the guest, who's starting the conversation and who's responding, and not because I don't speak Swahili.

Mama wants to make a special dish for lunch, Katana’s favorite. Armed with a scythe, she asks a passerby to help her cut down some banana bunches from her farm and he cheerfully obliges. He hacks at the trunk, it folds, bending over, and he is now tall enough to cut as many banana bunches from the treetop as Mama wants. Then he hacks at the rest of the trunk and once the tree falls over, pierces the trunk with the scythe to drag it out of the way. Mama cuts and peels the fruit in preparation for a large meal of ndezi zaku pika – banana with coconut milk and beef – and its vegetarian sibling, ndezi zika kanga, fried banana.

Katana shows us around his home town. We visit his sister, play with her darling son Eli, visit some ATMs, milk them dry and buy sandals off the street. We visit the Arusha Snake Park with Gloria, pick up mountain climbing snacks and camping supplies at a grocery store and return home for a late dinner. Ndezi is waiting for us in various forms and we indulge hungrily, while Mama refills our plates even before they’re empty.

It rains steadily through the night and the constant drip outside our window keeps me up a while. I watch the moon peeking out through the grey drapery of sky. She parts them coyly to reveal more cloud and more grey—while continuing to hide a mountain.

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