Thursday, January 27, 2011
Written by Chad
Who could have foreseen the horror that would befall our village's beloved sugarcane plantation that fateful January evening? The towering plume of smoke. The shouts of children going berserk. A cataclysmic brushfire of doom raging outside our window. Would Tana and I escape the jaws of fiery death or perish in a burst of flames?
Ending spoiler: Okay, so we weren't in any imminent peril at all- it was less a catastrophe and more a spectacle. I just wanted to add some over-the-top action for the eventual animated Disney movie adaptation of our blog. Needless to say, we, the titular heroes, broke away unscathed and have lived happily ever after. That's not to deflate all the drama though, since the fire was pretty freakin huge. And it led to the demise of a field near and dear to us. RIP, Fieldy McFieldington.
Just the day before, we were lounging at the edge of the Fieldy and sipping Coca Cola from glass bottles. Looking across the sugarcane plantation is a lot like looking at the ocean from a beach chair. The wind sweeps across the rolling acres, almost like waves. Sometimes I can almost see a dolphin fin emerging out on the horizon. Actually that's not true, but what I'm trying to say is that it's very pretty, if you're into that treehugger nature-is-beautiful kind of stuff. Which I may or may not be, depending on whether that will diminish your respect for me.
Not only are the fields aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they're tasty too. Neighbor kids sometimes bring us cane stalks as gifts that they sneak from the fields. Even though it tastes really good, it takes way too much general effort to get to the edible part. My guess is that you expend twice as much energy tearing the stalk apart with your teeth, fingernails, and knees than you gain from the subsequent ingestion. The process is simple to understand but difficult to master- just savagely attack the stick with your entire body and soul and repeatedly bludgeon it against the concrete. After all this toil, more than the taste itself, biting into the sugary core instills a sense of achievement over nature. It's the same achievement that cavemen may have felt after skewering and barbecuing a mastadon or an American might experience after carefully assembling the meat, cheese, and crackers of a Lunchables. Of course, Lunchables isn't quite the same full-body workout as sugarcane.
By the way, you don't actually eat it- you just kinda gnaw on it. It's like sinking your teeth into wet plywood. You can't swallow the splintering little woodchips and must therefore spew them from your mouth with all the elegance of a vomiting beaver. Eating sugarcane is one of those things you do for the journey, not the destination, I guess. Anyway, back to the action.
It's not half as gratifying to yell "LE FEU!" in French as it is to yell "FFIIIIIRRE!!" in English. When we looked out the window and saw the huge red wall of flames, it was the same feeling conjured up by all those natural disaster movies a couple years back. We were clueless as to why there was a ten-foot fire. Maybe this was how Mrs. O'Leary felt after her cow kicked the lantern. The surrealness of it all was only enhanced by the fact that a happening of this grandeur should occur on 1/11/11, a date just begging for a happening.
Some of our younger neighbors met us on the porch and accompanied us to the edge of the fields set ablaze. They explained to us that this happens once a year. In early January, the SOSUCO Corporation that owns the plantation uses controlled fires to help harvest the crop. Burning the stalks, it turns out, somewhat helps the laborers circumvent the aforementioned hassle that stands between the village kids and their sugarcane fix. As we all watched, the president of the mango union at which I work told us that he thinks it's not the most environmentally sound practice with the smoke pollution and all.
The principal reason they scorch the fields is to kill off insects, weeds, and animals. This is fortunate for the village kids who stand at the edge of the brush to intercept all the little critters scurrying out of the fray. Just when the mice think they've reached safety, they scurry straight into the kids' hands. You should see the children beaming so proudly, each showing off his dead mouse carcass as if it were an Olympic medal. Even seemingly innocent girls merrily join in the slaughter. Some of the kids will make a tasty meal out of the mouse meat. Others just like playing with dead animals. And who doesn't?
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