Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Mango Battle

When we moved into the bamboo house, i was totally delighted to find a mango tree in the garden. When it started growing big yellow-orange fruits and dropping them into the pool, i was excited -- at first. After all, i find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn't love their delicious flavor and the sweet smell of their flesh. With many more fruits hanging from the trees, i was convinced we were going to be in mango heaven for quite some time.

That is, until i started to see the downside of having the only big mango tree for blocks. Turns out, it was going to create trouble in my world on multiple fronts.
A day's reap in mango heaven.

First was the fact that i started to find rocks -- first, rocks that were only an inch or two in diameter, scattered around the patio and sometimes in the pool. At night, i started to notice the sound of a rock falling down among wide almond leaves and thinner mango leaves. It was the neighborhood boys -- sometimes actually "boys" at around 10 years old, sometimes boys who were more like men and should know better -- throwing rocks toward the bunches of mangoes that overhung the street.

My first reaction was to get pissed and to shout from the garden to the boys "no tire piedras!" por que they were falling into the garden, where my daughter and her friends are often found swimming and playing. I realized, though, that yelling anytime a rock was thrown was pitting me as the silly foreign lady with the bad accent, always angry.

I also realized that i simply didn't need all these mangoes, and that, like always, my daughter was watching. So in the mango battle, i switched to the kindness tactic. Something had to be done, because the rocks i started to find were getting bigger -- nearly fist-sized. We set a sign out on the ground near where the boys would throw rocks, asking people not to throw rocks. On top of the sign we'd pile every mango we saw fit to spare that day -- which in the height of this mango season, is at least two dozen or more every day. Within minutes the mangoes would be gone.

That seemed to work OK for a while, but still, the little band of boys who are allowed to roam around the dusty street at night, just perpendicular to the side of the house, didn't seem to get the memo. Maybe they weren't around when we put out the mangoes on a nightly basis. So i had to turn to yet another tactic: catching them in the act. This wasn't to yell and scream and to be the crazy yelling foreign lady whose Spanish no one seemed to understand -- but instead to try a bit of negotiation.

I caught them in the act one evening recently, when the heat was so much that all i could do was lie in front of a fan as soon as dinner was over. I explained to them that if they didn't throw rocks, i'd give them all the mangoes they wanted. If they threw any more rocks they got nothing. They seemed to get it; all of a sudden, when not yelling, my Spanish didn't seem so incomprehensible.

So the two sides set out their white flags, and i started tossing mangoes down from my balcony when i'd hear the boys outside playing under the street light. They got their nightly treat, and i got my peace of mind that no one in the house would be hit in the head by a rock. One night one of their crew threw a rock and when they asked for mangoes i reminded them of the deal. The next night, no rocks.

It seems to be working just fine -- until some unknowing new pack of boys decides to make the mango tree a target...

But here's the other downside to having a mango tree in your back yard: You eat a lot of mangoes. You find that it's actually easier to bite off a bit of the skin and then to eat the sweet flesh by holding said skin as kind of a handle. That is, until someone tells you that mango skin contains Urushiol -- the very same stuff found in poison oak and ivy -- which i happen to be very allergic to. Over the past couple weeks i've been blaming my dentist for giving me an anesthetic that made me break out; but it turns out it was really mango heaven that was turning my face to hell...


If we were staying, i could maybe even turn this little battle into an enterprise for my local pack of boys who seem to have nothing else to do. As it is, i'll be happy to free of the mango battle when we move out of here.

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