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The banana seller

March 9, 2009

I joined my associate Chris and his family yesterday for a dim sum breakfast in a small Chinese village, somewhere along the way to Kuala Selangor. I tell ya, it tastes better than some of the stuff I had in Hong Kong. Unfortunately I don’t remember the shop’s name.

We parked a distance away so after we were done, we set off walking towards our cars. Then I spotted a run-down wooden stall just behind the village’s old wet market. It was decked with fresh fruits, mostly bananas. I like fruits so I walked over with Chris to see what they’ve got. The rest of the family continued to walk to the cars.

The stall owner, a chubby Chinese man in worn faded clothes and who looked about 60, stood up and greeted us in mandarin. We nodded back. The bananas looked good but a little green.

“Do you think this is ripe enough to eat?” I muttered discreetly to Chris, trying not to sound too dumb. “I can’t keep ’em any longer than a couple of days.”

“I’m not sure. I guess so. They’re bananas, won’t kill you,” he whispered back, also trying not to look dumb. It was obvious we were a couple of city boys who didn’t know our bananas.

That’s when the stall owner chipped in in perfect English.

“Yes you can eat them immediately. Don’t let the green color fool you. If you prefer without green, you can try this one,” he said, picking up another bunch.

Chris and I glanced at each other, startled. Here’s this old guy in a remote Chinese village, dressed in tattered clothes, selling bananas by a smelly wet market, and speaking to us in flawless English.

“Uhh… what’s the difference between this one and this one?” I asked, trying not to sound surprised.

He then gave us a 1-minute primer on the difference between green bananas and yellow bananas.

“Okay, I’ll take those,” I said, pointing to the first bunch I picked.

“RM 3.20,” he said as he wrapped up the fruit and shouted at a youngster across the busy road in mandarin. Probably his son.

“Hope you don’t mind me asking,” I said as I handed him the money. “You speak very good English. Were you a teacher?”

“No,” he said with a mischievous grin. “I used to work up there a long time ago,” pointing to the direction of KL. “Thanks and enjoy your bananas,” he said.

I wish I had brought a camera to record the moment.

Its not every day that I get to meet someone who’s tasted high corporate life (I assume he must’ve reached somewhere from the way he spoke), climbed down to earth as he probably did, and still be as jolly as he was.

I’m amazed.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2009 6:02 pm

    encountered something similar but with a pomelo seller somewhere outside Ipoh…lol, looks like there could be more of this fellas in M’sia!

    Yeah. Its not unusual in Singapore though, probably because the whole island is urbanized.

  2. LC Teh permalink
    March 9, 2009 8:43 pm

    His doctor probably told him to quit corporate life if he wanted to live beyond 55.

    BTW, some bananas ripe without showing yellow on the skin. Some like Cavendish, can be eaten even if there are traces of green color on both ends. And some species have to be totally yellow and going brownish before you can eat.

    Either that or he had made his bundle and decided to get as far away from the rat race as he can.

    Ah, you do know your bananas. πŸ˜€

  3. March 10, 2009 9:35 am

    maybe i should go sell mangosteen ( i love them )

    I think mangosteens-r-us.com is still available. πŸ˜€

  4. LC Teh permalink
    March 11, 2009 5:40 pm

    As kids we played and worked in a banana grove, so we do know some. Sometimes we’d go bananas too. (sorry, couldn’t resist that one. hahaha) Some people can’t eat bananas in the morning. I can. It’s nature’s best packaged fast food along with the egg.

    A banana grove? Sounds haunted, hehe. πŸ˜€

  5. LC Teh permalink
    March 12, 2009 8:41 am

    Oh… we never played in there at night though. But during the day, the only things other than kids that haunted the place were snakes, rats, sometimes a porcupine or two, wild boars and some monkeys too. Then we kept a couple of geese to keep out the snakes. Their droppings are thought to contain sulphur which keep snakes away. Oh the good old times…

    I had no idea a place like that carried such an ecosystem. It sounds like the sugar cane plantations I read about in Cuba.

  6. LC Teh permalink
    March 13, 2009 5:11 pm

    That was about 50 years ago in a sleepy hollow called Tanjung Bungah. First a stone quarry screwed up the eco-system. Now there’s a college, highrise apartments, homes on hillslopes and hotels along the beach.

    The price of progress… Singapore’s Tanjung Pagar went the same route and now its become a giant container yard.

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