Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avocado Tree Adventures

In Douala, soon after starting my life in Cameroon, I planted an avocado tree from a pit, in the back yard, in the empty area between the two houses in the family compound. Fulfillment of a dream, after years of trying to grow plants from avocado seeds as a student in Paris.

A couple of years later, the tree was as tall as me, and thriving. Unfortunately, my father-in-law decided he needed the space to build an annex to his house. I protested. He informed me that my tree was none of his concern--just a silly little tree, in a country where many plants grow very fast and very tall. However, this avocado tree had enormous sentimental value for me!

While I was stewing, an American agricultural engineer, Ben, on a business trip to Douala, came to our house for lunch. Upon my inquiry whether there was any way of saving my tree, he instructed us to cut off all the leafy branches, dig a large hole around the tree, and gently remove the tree with its roots in order to re-plant it elsewhere. So one hot afternoon, post-lunch, when everyone else was napping, my brother-in-law followed the instructions and together, we moved the tree to another available space near our office (which was in the same building as our home).

2012: the descendant of the 1st avocado tree
Fast-forward a few more years: the tree was 10 years old, and was towering over the roof. However, it had yet to produce a single avocado. I went to ask my mother-in-law why the tree was still barren after so many years; the tree seemed to have recovered from the transplant trauma a long time ago. After listening to the story, she took out her machete, went to the tree and started hitting its trunk with the blade. I was flabbergasted--and worried. Then she threatened the tree out loud: "If you don't bear fruit soon, I'll cut you down!"

Lo and behold, the tree grew a couple of avocados a few months later; and the next year we had so many avocados, that we were giving away bags of them to people. They were delicious and plentiful. As far as I know the tree is still producing to this day a yearly harvest.