07 October 2007

You say cucumber...

September 6

While travelling in Sierra Leone and Liberia, I've been impressed by the amount of cucumbers for sale. More impressive still has been the fact that Sierra Leoneans actually eat them.

This past year, when we did a pretty decent job in the Njau school garden, my headmaster elected to sow a half dozen beds with cucumber seeds. Master's reasoning was that the "kacoombas" (as it is pronounced in The Gambia) could be sold to Donald the French proprietor of the nearby hunting camp that has a very brief, sparse but profitable stint every dry season. Conveniently, we could send Gui Jahanka kids to peddle our kacoombas and other veggies, as the camp's not far from their village.

Unfortunately, Donald often pleaded poverty or lack of guests, so sometimes the cucumbers just spoiled. They could not be foisted on me, as I don't like them, which proved problematic for Master's next gambit.

With a bucket-full of cucumbers and one purchase in Njau, it was time to give them away. We'd had a PTA Committee meeting with a respectable turnout, so Master decided to act. At the conclusion of the meeting, he doled out the kacoombas to the bewildered old pas and the couple of matriarchs in attendance. It was left to me to explain the virtues, and eating/preparation, of cucumbers to the dubious audience. Pa Musa Jeng then asked me if I liked them, and I had to be truthful. No one reported back as to whether the kacoombas were enjoyed and cassava was transplanted into the beds as the hot season was upon us.

There was a thriving trade in cucumbers in Salone, by contrast. Whenever our poda-poda or sept-place stopped at a junction or village, we were besieged by girls and boys hawking water, roast/boiled corn, bread, groundnuts, and cucumbers. Just inside the border from Guinea, though, the kids were shouting "Come-cuber!" as they sold them. Indeed, they were very popular and invariably a few passengers were eating come-cubers or saving them for their families' travelling gifts.

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