Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mangoes and Other Dangers of Excess

With so many things to feel guilty about as a Westerner in a developing country, I’ve been casting about for things I can feel good about. My chief candidate at the moment: mangoes.

I love mangoes, but since mangoes don’t love -30 degree temperatures, they tend not to grow in Canada. In order to acquire them, as a Canadian, one needs to import them from overseas and I find it difficult to justify enjoying a fruit with such an enormous carbon footprint. It’s sort of analogous to melting the arctic ice with a blowtorch; one mango won’t make all the difference, but it doesn’t seem the right thing to do. Anyway, the Philippines is reputed to produce the world’s best mangoes, and I intend to consume them until I start to look like one.

But over-exuberant mango consumption isn’t the only way in which I will be tempting fate. No, I will also be learning how to surf. And how can I not? I’m living 200 metres from one of the best surfing beaches in the Philippines. San Juan is, in fact, a town populated primarily by surf bums. I suspect that my new home’s sleepy nature will provide a welcome antidote to the nearby barely controlled chaos of San Fernando City, where I will be actually working.

In theory, I’m supposed to be working on community-based waste management projects in several of San Fernando’s unserviced districts. For the moment, however, I can hardly envision a future in which I am able to navigate San Fernando’s chaos, let alone harness it.

Predictably, I haven’t been helping my own chances of survival. But in my own defence, I was brought up to believe that when the mayor personally invites you on a bicycle race, you accept the offer. And if that race happens to consist of a 5 hour climb up a mountain in the searing heat, then you plan your funeral with dignity and grace. He gave me a mug with his picture on it; how could I say no?

I admit that I was feeling a little pressure to please, since the first thing I saw upon entering the city was a welcoming poster with my name on it. But I suspect they would have evicted me anyway after I ate an entire season’s worth of mangoes.

Coming soon: context for the mayor’s declaration that “with the modern times, even fish can now have their own condominium”.

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