Maisha ya Mkenya: Mombasa Seasons

I thought that I would kickoff the introduction of more series-based posting with a talk on the seasons here in Mombasa. Now that I have been here for almost the year, and experienced the full gamut, I feel like I can give a better impression.

First off, what are the seasons. Many people will tell you that here in Kenya we have two types of seasons: rainy seasons and dry seasons. To be specific, there are the long rains and short rains, and then the dry times in between. I have encountered many different answers when asking about the meaning of, “long,” and, “short,” rains, the two most common answers being that long and short refer to the length of time it will rain in a particular instance if it does rain, or, the length of the actual season, one being more months than the other. I have also asked what months these are and this also elicits different responses from person to person, and it seems that it varies depending on what part of the country you are from.

However, none of this even matters here in Mombasa because though we have two types of seasons as well, it has nothing to do with the rain. Here in Mombasa, it is either mango season, or not mango season. How can you tell? Well, you know it’s mango seasons when Edith who works at one of the local duka pressures you to buy mangoes every time you walk by. You know it’s mango season when a mango the size of your head only costs five shillings. You know it’s mango season when you come upon students inexplicably throwing things at trees; but the reason is explicable: it’s mango season! You know it’s mango season when the kids cluster outside the NYS gate and shout, “Mzungu, how are you? Nipe maembe!” You know it’s mango season when the monkeys are happy, walking around in a satiated dazed, or slumped in a food coma under a tree to avoid the afternoon sun.

Mango season brings about a happy attitude of plenty. And boy is there plenty. Plenty of cheers. Plenty of meals with mango dishes. Plenty of happy monkeys, happy students, happy stomachs. But also plenty of flies. Plenty of mango pits strewn about here and there, begging to roll your ankle. Plenty of hawkers trying to sell mangoes to wazungu for eighty shillings or more!

Non-mango season leaves one with a sense of insincerity and anticipation: this isn’t what life really is, just wait. Children don’t cluster at the gate. Students don’t throw their scythes in the air at trees (trying to explain the American cultural interpretation of the danger of this falls on deaf ears). Edith is pushing her other products: “Jonathan, you want a tomato? I know you love tomatoes! What are you cooking tonight? You should cook tomatoes!” The monkeys get in fights over what little freely available food there is, and what remaining mangoes do exist really do cost eighty shillings; of course hawkers are selling them for one hundred eighty to the wazungu.

Non-mango season is a time of having to cook; Mother Nature only lets your free ride for so long. It is a time where you can sit outside and not be shooing away a cloud of flies every ten seconds. The mango pits still litter the ground, because, well, I am pretty sure they are less bio-degradable than plastics; dulling knives with the husks of mango-tanium. However, the free smiles are gone, along with the happy look of kids with mango mush all over their face.

Back home we have Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer, but none of that compares to the attitudes here when mangoes go away and all you can say is, “bummer.”

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Maisha ya Mkenya: Mombasa Seasons

  1. Jan

    So when exactly are mangoes in season?

    Here, pumpkin season is on the way out and the recession has triggered an early start to holiday shopping season. In Starbucks-land it’s holiday beverage season (gingerbread, peppermint or new!, caramel brulee latte?).

    I’d rather be in France where for a brief time it’s the le saison du Beaujolais nouveau.

  2. Well, good question as for time frame of the Mango Season. I believe it runs from around late October/early November until about May-ish. If someone else can correct me on this, I would be greatly appreciative.

    I miss holiday season. I was thoroughly beginning to enjoy it come high school and college. The last few days between the end of the semester and Christmas Eve were always fun for me during college.

    And don’t get me started on seasonally-flavored drinks. Maybe I should get local hotelis to offer mango-spiced chai! Actually, that sounds terrible.

  3. Jesse

    After May, Mango prices go down a bit usually because the quality of fruit is less. I can tell you that when I was visiting Mombasa, A Mango at “Kenyan” price was around 70 ksh, so 80 sounds fair.

  4. Andrew Carroll

    I had something really thoughtful to say….but I lost it. Can you ship home Mangoes Jon? I would love to see one the size of my head :-{P

    (I am so happy I just figured out how to do a mustache by mistake) :-{)