Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gardening Five: Fear and Vegetables

Gardening in Africa, continued:

Our move to Africa has quite unexpectedly become all about overcoming fear.  Moving here was a huge leap of faith, and our comfort zone has been challenged constantly.  At first our fears were based on the safety of things like water and food.  After our serious car accident in August, I had a number of mountains to overcome before I felt brave enough to be in the presence of cars again, let alone walk on the side of a road.  I've gotten much more comfortable living alongside Africa's giant millipedes, its spiders and the lizards called skinks that surround us everywhere, including inside of the house.  I've become acquainted with our alarm system and navigating how to try to be safe at night.  And in my latest adventure last week, I am now patting myself on the back after finally begrudgingly sucking it up and learning how to drive on the left side of the road.  (Never mind that it was inspired by laziness and a strong desire to avoid a terrible downpour!)

For Jonas the challenges of overcoming fear in Africa have everything to do with his shyness.  Giving away vegetables has become a good way to initiate interaction and encourage Jonas to overcome his fears of greeting others. Though I'd ideally like it to be a lesson about giving, our shy guy is much more in need of learning how to say hello and use eye contact.  Every day Jonas and I pick vegetables as part of our morning routine, before I walk him to our gardener's home to deliver a bag of fresh edibles.

It wasn't always this way, though.  We had a few weeks in which all of our vegetables rotted on the vine while I frustratedly pointed out ripe things over and over to the gardener. It was a mystery to me. I pondered and pondered why this specific instruction, "pick the spinach and keep half for your family," was ignored hours before I saw the gardener return to our gate with a newly purchased bunch of spinach in hand.

Only after I spoke to a few locals did I finally get it.  My gardener's fears about taking something that was not his kept him from following instructions. Picking and keeping was not something he culturally felt was his place; so he watched as vegetables went bad and waited for us to pick and distribute the food as we saw fit. It was the way he had seen things done in his culture, and he was afraid of being accused of stealing if he got the directions wrong. Once we finally recognized this fear was just based on different perceptions, Jonas and I began our daily delivery tradition.  It has made the gardener more comfortable, fed two families, and kept Jonas excited about the garden.

 Here Jonas points excitedly to our first cauliflower.

Tomatoes, tomatoes.  So many tomatoes.  Though they are used often in Shona cooking, our gardener's wife sells many of the tomatoes on a neighborhood corner.

 Jonas washes a batch of potatoes.

We have so far pulled over 60 pounds of potatoes out of the ground.

 Here Jonas washes our most abundant crop thus far- chard, otherwise known simply as spinach to the Shona here.  Cheap and plentiful, it is a staple of the Shona diet.

The puppy we often pet-sit is obsessed with rolling in the carrot greens.  Here Jonas tries to reason with her.  Doesn't work.

Our garden in its early phases.  We are currently growing eggplant, tomatoes, chard, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, sugar cane (here when we arrived), pineapple (an unexpected result of our compost pile), squash, carrots, pumpkins, onions, lettuce, baby spinach, peas, cherry tomatoes, corn, cilantro, basil, cucumbers, watermelons, and green peppers.