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Best Travel Writing 2010, Fruits of Childhood


I still crave jambura, an inch-long black fruit with a tiny hole at the top and a green seed inside. It remains top of my list of lost fruits, especially since I haven’t tasted it for over thirty years now. I call it by its Swahili name because, having looked for it in vain during my travels through Latin America, Asia, and the English-speaking world, I have yet to find out what it is called in other languages. Like tun-tun, it grows in bunches on a large leafy tree. When ripe and black, it is sweet and juicy. When green or pink and still raw, it tastes sour, astringent, and leaves a purple stain on the tongue that can take days to fade away.

Africa, it seems, is still deep within me, despite thirty years of globetrotting.

Give me the smell of a childhood flower, the taste of a forgotten fruit, and Zap! I am back to the land of my birth, back to the patch of grass we called our soccer field, and the constant drone of cicadas in the banyan trees.


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