The following is an entry from journal, dated November 1, 2011. I was in training and had only been in country 17 days when I wrote this.
I don’t like peaches.
After my favorite meal – steam bread and beans – my ‘m’e set a bowl of jarred peaches and green Jell-o in front of me.
“Sweets,” she joyfully said.
It was a deviation from the custard-yellow concoction she occasionally served, but I wasn’t any more convinced of the deliciousness.
I don’t like peaches. But maybe I could.
My hatred for the squishy yellow-orange fruit has no specific origin; rather it always seemed to exist. When peaches were the fruit of choice at school lunch, my portion remained untouched in its dedicated spot on the pale-colored lunch trail until I emptied into the trashcan with the other foods kids deemed “yucky.” I’d skip to my class line never once realizing, or even thinking that I wasted perfectly edible, nutritious food.
Once, at a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Knights of Columbus after church, my dad convinced the servers to bring me a Styrofoam cup of peaches as a joke. I was almost as disgusted with him as I was with the slimy things he tried to get me to eat.
My dislike for the food is institutionalized, but as I stared at the helping my ‘m’e gave me, I wondered if I could give peaches another shot. They are one of the most plentiful fruits in Lesotho and maybe there was something I was missing.
Using my spoon, I scooped a small bit and put it into my mouth. I moved it all around, trying to absorb all the flavor.
Maybe I could be a peach eater.
As I tasted more, I though about the day I had just lived. In the third week of training, the excitement and newness of the place was wearing. Annoyance is a quick and easy feeling and tension between trainees was bubbling. The reality and hardships of our job are touchable and life wasn’t sunshine and mountains anymore. Instead of absorbing the culture, I was slowly sinking into my own pity and struggles.
Yet, the magic behind this place hasn’t disappeared and I know first hand that life on the other side of the oath is greater than any training challenge. M devotion and desire are still present and I’m willing to give what it takes.
That is the thing about this place, at least for me – it makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to be a better person, one that likes peaches.
So, I gobbled more spoonfuls of peaches. I didn’t finish the bowl, but eat enough to show my commitment to the mission.
UPDATE: Peach season is now in full swing. I often find a golden peach on a tree, rip it off the branch and sink my teeth in it. It’s refreshing and nothing like the yuckiness I imagined as a kid. As a full-fledged volunteer that is becoming more Masotho each day, I am now a peach eater.