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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

The Last Mango

One of the first habits I adopted after moving in with my homestay family was drinking mango juice. Being used to the ordinary taste of oranges, I found myself exhilarated at the prospect of indulging in what was previously a scarce and exotic fruit to me. My life, I thought, had been upgraded from orange juice to mango juice.

On a few mornings every week, I wake up to the sound of our mixer –the second most illustrious cooking appliance in our kitchen, after the rice cooker. Drinking mango juice is a habit I share with my family, and which has brought us closer. After getting acquainted with the ways of my home, I started offering to make everyone mango juice myself. Of course, there was a secret personal benefit behind this act of kindness: if I were the one to cut the mangos, I also got to munch on the juicy part around the large oval pit that the knife can’t get, which otherwise goes to waste. A local would never slice the fruit so painstakingly, in the same way that I would be less diligent in squeezing oranges back home. What was ubiquitous to them was rare and exciting to me, so I felt the need to squeeze out of each one of them as much as I could possibly get.

Gradually, as I began to chance upon mangos more regularly, I performed this brief ceremony of mango cutting with less heed. It sank in that that I’d still have a long time to enjoy them, so each individual one became less precious… Until I encountered the little fragmented fellow in the picture above. It’s color was right (not to be racist) and it was quite tasty. Nonetheless, it was notably undersized compared to its ancestors I had consumed previously. This one probably struggled to find nutrients while growing up, I thought. My ibu pointed out it was probably the last mango I’d be having for the season and I was instantly dispirited.

Realizing the passing of time here has been a bit of a struggle. There is barely any noticeable change in temperature between the wet season and the dry season, so in the course of November-December –when the temperature drops back home- I sometimes found myself feeling desolate; as if time had stopped, and I was trapped in the continuum of an endless summer. The end of the mango season, therefore, came as a relief, and a kind reminder: although the mango season will be back before I leave, the days that are passing in the meantime will not. Maybe it’s time to resume squeezing all the juice out of every one of them.