A Fruitful University

In Chiang Mai, we live a block from the CMU campus. It’s a wide stretch of land with plenty of tracks, trails and shaded sidewalks (plus too much traffic and dogs that chase). I run here almost every day.

And almost every day, I find people gathering food. I follow a paved walkway around a reservoir. On the weekends, a man sits in a tree overhanging the water. He holds a homemade spear gun in his hands. What does he hunt? What does he catch? Is this a job, or a hobby? I’m not sure. I’ve never seen him find anything, but he’s always there, always scoping the water.

On the other side of campus, behind the track, I watch as locals pick through a patch of greens, collecting bunches in their hands, and scampering off with a bag or two.

In the dry season, people raid the trees with long sticks and scoops: They’re collecting ant eggs, not my pleasure, but a popular food in northern Thailand nonetheless.

And then one day I find my own treasure. As I’m walking through a grassy lot, I discover two plump, ripe mangoes at my feet. I look up and see I am indeed standing beneath a mango tree. I take them home to Jerry, an eternal mango lover, and he bites into the juicy yellow flesh.

Campus Mangoes

5 thoughts on “A Fruitful University

  1. If you ever find a Ding-Dong tree and there are “fresh” DD’s lying around please pick them up for I am the Eternal Ding-Dong lover… mangoes, yeah I like’em too…
    Oh and the dude in a tree, he’s probably looking for one o them BEEG Catfish…yum

  2. Our neighborhood used to be farm and orchard land, and many trees and vines were left next to parks and walkways when the housing developments went in. Starting now through the end of the year, and especially this year after a very wet winter, those fruit and nut trees are full of almonds, walnuts, and tart plums, and the vines are full of tiny grapes and slowly ripening blackberries. Most of it goes unpicked, except by the very well-fed birds and squirrels (and me). It’s amazing that more folks don’t take advantage of the bounty. If it were Thailand or Cambodia, those goodies would be picked in a heartbeat. Now if only there were a mango tree among those plums…

  3. Mangoes are manna from above. In Indonesia you have your own buffet of the flavor-rich fruit from different parts of the country. Called mangga in Indonesian, you try mangga Indramayu from Indramayu, West Java. Or Golek (It is a Javanese phrase meaning find it!) from East Java. Mangga Simanalagi (It means: Where is it again?) is from any mango grove on this volcano-clustered island. But one favorite of mine grows on the lowlands of Rinjani, the 2,000 meter plus high active fire mountain on Lombok, the island east of Bali. I visited the hill country there for a story project on out-of-school education. I was grandly treated to the local mango. I don’t know its name but I’ll call it the Rinjani mango. It has a totally different taste from its Java-based cousins, if not competition. It is sweet and piquant at the same time and the juice doesn’t slurp on your lips and drip the way the juice of the mangga Indramayu and Golek does. Unfortunately I can’t find Rinjani mango in the big-town supermarkets. Perhaps it’s for the better. Its guardian-growers beckon you to come to their grove to relish the fruit of their labor. This is one manna from the mountain.

  4. Free Mangoes! How exciting! We don’t get those around here…People do collect pinon nuts in the summer and fall, but due to the long drought here, there haven’t been many to pick lately. Lots of empty lots with weeds tho!
    No ding dong trees etiher. I’m sure that would be a big hit if it could be made!

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