Watermelons in Old Bodija
Abupepo always provides some kind of a complaint just to keep life more interesting. One of his more original complaints, not to say innovative, was - Why are there no watermelons in Ibadan? – That's what he asks me just like that one evening. Usually, his complaints come in the evenings.
Since that evening when Abupepo raised the issue about the watermelons, the ears of the guesthouse residents, are eager to pick up any piece of information regarding watermelons in the Southwestern Nigeria. The Yoruba Land.
And so, various rumors started flying around, without any particular direction, about some Dutch Oyinbo (Peeled people) that recently started experimental agricultural farm, somewhere near Ogbomosho, with the aim of growing watermelons in Nigeria.
Nothing travels faster than rumors in Nigeria, especially refreshing rumors about watermelons.
After a strenuous investigation, we managed to obtain a pale watermelon, which did not remind us at all of the red watermelons from the valley. It was nothing but a Dutch, whitish, pinky, watermelon, rather than the red, sweet, common watermelon we all know.
In fact, Abupepo was so disappointed with this Dutch watermelon, that he considered never to fly with KLM again.
So, instead of eating the watermelon, we took the seeds and planted them in the Old Bodija guesthouse backyard.
He cleared a small area of weeds, behind the guesthouse of Old Bodija, and reverently placed the watermelon seeds.
In General - he says - I oppose the term "weeds" because it is an insult and distain for ordinary plants and to local indigenous plants, that have the rights to have flowers and fruits, like most other plants.
By definition, "weeds" are plants that grow in their territory, except that this is in complete opposition to the wishes of the 'gardeners.' These plants have flowers and fruit and they grow without our help.
Now, for the sake of the watermelon dream, Abupepo cleared these plants. The weeds.
Landscaping Consultants should plan gardens and landscape using local indigenous plants, instead of importing plants. Because birds and insects, are not familiar with those Imported plants. Those Imported plants, cause confusion in the eco system. Frustrating the ecosystem! Sums up Abupepo.
A typical Nigerian, at least back in those days, would not plant flowers in the garden for decoration, nor for any other purpose whatsoever. Not in their backyard, nor in the front yard. Especially, not for decoration!
A good Nigerian shall plant corn, yam, cassava, pawpaw, and could even plant watermelon. It helps to survive.
In Nigeria, the yard is used for a true and useful purpose. After all, this is Nigeria for heaven's sake; not peeled people land. In Nigeria, the land is used to grow food, in order to survive, to live!! And food is more important from white roses. Also, from red roses.
In Europe, the land of the Oyinbo, the peeled people, all decisions are toward one goal, to live better!! Food is available in the grocery store.
In Nigeria, all decisions are toward a more important goal, to live!!
The difference between "living" and "living better" is a huge difference.
A completely different sets of values, and different world. almost upside down.
Back to watermelons. In western Nigeria everything grows fast. The humidity is high and temperature is warm and tropical.
For example, one morning, I couldn’t open the drawer in my office table. When I checked the drawer, it turned out that a root or a branch came out of one of the joints. Scary.
The rain in this Ibadan area is heavy and sudden. Only the locals can tell how the system works and behaves. The sky might be clear blue, and suddenly dark green clouds come from nowhere and the show begin.
The watermelon's seeds germinated in a short time and to be on the safe side, I asked Madam Apunanwu, the cook, to water the sprouts a little every day at noon, so that the shoots would not dry. This is very important.
Madam Apunanwu was a dedicated, hardworking house keeper and a cook. She is an expert in preparing food, which is only edible under certain conditions.
The work in the guesthouse was not easy for Madam Apunanwu. Especially, moving between the rooms. The doors manufacturers did not take into account Madam Apunanwu dimensions, when they designed the doors' openings, and she barely walks through the transitions from room to room.
Madam Apunanwu had fundamental dimensions to considered, under any circumstances.
Madam Apunanwu size is somehow associated with her tasting habits. As an experienced and responsible cook, she tasted the dishes during preparation and before serving, as other great chefs do, and she tried very hard to avoid tasty food.
Madame Aponano needs no less than 50% of the food she prepares to make sure the food is not accidently be tasty.
Sometime, if she finds that the food turns out to be delicious by chance, Madam Apunanwu might taste 100% of the dish, and this is how she developed her impressive, not to mention frightening, dimensions.
Madam Apunanwu's measurements created various advantages in several areas, particularly when she goes to the market, and especially when she goes to Dugbe Market (The G is not pronounced).
Those Market women, some with their own dimensions, would think twice before they shall consider an aggressive negotiation with Madam Apunanwu. Nothing in Ibadan markets is purchased, without an aggressive and tedious negotiation. But with Madam Apunanwu the negotiations were friendly and it was evident, that the market women acknowledge her good measurements. Why takes a risk?
Generally, Madam Apunanwu is a very intelligent madam, thus she has a good understanding capability of the reality around.
She chases every cockroach she sees like it's a green mamba. But she doesn't understand how the cockroach is back after she squashed him several times. She has been crushing this cockroach for two months now, and every day it resurrects and returns.
She asked for Abupepo help. He tells her that these cockroaches have existed about 320 million years. They are so successful that they manage to survive in different environments, from the pole to the equator.
For comparison, humans (homo sapiens), like us, exist for about 200 thousand years only. Relatively very little. That show that those cockroaches are very successful and manage to survive even against their worst enemy, man.
Madam Apunanwu opens her big eyes.
Abupepo tells her that people have been fighting cockroaches for many years, with chemical and biological wars, which cost billions of dollars, and are unable to eliminate them. They are too successful. Some say they are among the few to survive a nuclear war.
Abupepo says that even if they take the 100 most talented scientists, give them 10 years and 100 billion dollars, they will not be able to produce a living cockroach. The cockroaches are too sophisticated and complex. They should be given the respect they deserve.
Madam Apunanwu said – Ah-Ah!
It was Thursday, I left the office and, on the way, the driver tells me that he spotted a suspicious nervous cloud.
The driver says that he knows this heavy cloud well, and that this cloud was here three weeks ago and even then, he did not like this cloud. And now this cloud looks even scarier. The driver understands heavy clouds very well and knows some of them personally.
This driver was born four times under the auspices of the Abiku, the Juju that causes small children to be born, die, and be born again, so many times, until the juju is satisfied with the result.
Without further warning the heavy black cloud pours its merchandise on Bodija.
The road sides become rivers, the noise of the rain on the car's roof could turn you deaf. Strong streams of water wash the roads. It's hard to get out of the car in such a flood.
Arriving at the house, I go straight to the kitchen. Madam Apunanwu was not there.
I started looking for her and calling her Madaaam …!! - Madaaaaam …!! Madaaam …!!, but there was no madam.
I started getting worried. Madam Apunanwu is always in the kitchen tasting the food.
Inadvertently I lift the curtain in the kitchen and see her.
Madam Apunanwu stood outside, in the backyard, over the sprouts of the Dutch watermelon, soaked in water, the heavy rain was pouring, holding a blue plastic kettle in her left hand, watering the watermelon sprouts. It is very important that they do not dry out.
And that is the end of the story.
Except that Madam Apunanwu had to go to see her family, somewhere in Anambra state, and I continued watering those sprouts by myself. Within four days the sprouts dried up and withered.
You must water the sprouts especially when there is a heavy rain, Madam Apunanwu tells me. Not to upset the Juju. NaWow. Wahala.