10 November 2010

Pineapple Trees

Obviously I've learned a lot in the three months that I've been here. But this is about the best, and possibly most important fact that I've learned so far.

Pineapples do not grow on trees. I know, right? Who knew?

This goes back to training in Wakiso, when, one Sunday afternoon, my friend Eliza and I took a walk out of town. Wandering down one of the dirt roads, talking about nothing and admiring the view every time we reached the top of hill and being hemmed in by trees on either side when we reached the bottom. From the top of one hill, we saw a compound of buildings on the next rise and, wondering what it was, decided to try to get over to it. We branched off the main road and after another ten or fifteen minutes reached the fence and then the gate of what turned out to be a school and an orphanage.

The kids who lived there were excited to see us, as always, and they brought us inside where we chatted and played with them, my arm growing tired from doing bicep curls with a little girl whose pants gave way to serious plumber's crack every time I picked her up. Eventually they took us on a tour of the compound where we saw all the school and the dorms and the lake and the football field and the pig sty.

As we were walking around the compound, one boy in front of me pointed to a short, spiky plant, which distinctly resembled aloe.

Sweet little orphan, trying to teach the muzungu about Uganda: "This is a pineapple plant."
Me, not wanting him to go through life misinformed about pineapples, I mean, seriously, what are they teaching in the schools here?, poor kid: "No, it's not. Pineapples grow on trees."

I told this to Eliza a little bit later.
Her, laughing, hard: "That probably was a pineapple plant. They don't grow on trees."
Me, skeptical, using a common Ugandan phrase: "Are you sure?"

Needless to say, two months later, I still knew that I was right about pineapple trees.

Until this past weekend, when Eliza mentioned to her counterpart, Tony, that, not only did I think that pineapples grew on trees, but I had also once, out of the goodness of my heart, corrected an adorable orphan boy on the subject. Judging by his reaction and the reactions of the neighbors who'd also heard the story, this was maybe, nope, definitely the funniest thing to ever happen in Uganda.

Me, over their laughter and my own, using another common Ugandan phrase: "Is it not so?"
Tony's neighbor, still laughing: "I have never seen a pineapple that grows on a tree!"
Me, still skeptical: "Well, I have never seen one that doesn't grow on a tree." (Lawyered!)

After that they quickly sent us to the nearby pineapple farm to set me straight.

And pineapples do not grow on trees. I know, right? Crazy.

(Actually, there were no full-size pineapples on any of those "pineapple bushes," only a few apple-sized baby pineapples, so I still haven't seen real pineapples growing on an aloe plant, so, I'm still pretty much one-hundred percent sure that pineapples only, seriously, because how could it be any other way?, grow on trees.)

Then, later that evening:

Me, looking up at a palm tree with round, orangeish fruits hanging from it: "Are those coconuts?"
Eliza, with the confidence of someone who doesn't believe in pineapple trees: "Um, I think so..."
Me, only half-joking: "That's what I thought. But... they look like pumpkins."
Eliza, not believing in pumpkin trees either, and laughing, again: "Wait until Tony hears that."

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