Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bali's Jackfruit

You may be wondering what the heck is so special about Jackfruit. Its texture is that of a typical tropical fruit: sweet, juicy, luscious, with a unique structure. Its flavor is a spot on match to bubble gum. Not any fancy sugar free bubble gum, but regular flavor Bazooka, Bubbalicious, Hubba Bubba bubble gum. So it's a taste of home in a sense in an exotic package, but it's also my taste of a vacation that I never want to forget...

We were in Bali for our honeymoon in October of 2002, during the Bali bombings. We started our trip in Kuta enjoying the sandy beaches, great restaurants, and nightclubs. I had some of the most amazing sushi in this town and the nightclubs were a blast. (It was a Mexico for Australians.) The first thing I noticed about the Balinese people was their spirituality and how happy they were. Every door step had an offering on the sidewalk and every person was smiling. After a few days relaxing and partying in Kuta, we went to Ubud, the artsy, cultural town in a central hilly area of Bali. Ubud is known for its monkey forest and museums.

Lou and I took a cooking class at the Casa Luna restaurant in Ubud. We started out the morning by going to the market where our instructor purchased various fruits and ingredients for our lunch that we would later prepare. We went back to her restaurant where she served us tastes of the unknown fruits, one of which was Jackfruit. It was pink in color with unique sections unlike any fruit I had tried before. Of course, like anyone does when they first try something new, I carefully placed a very small portion of this newly discovered fruit on my tongue. I was absolutely wowed by the flavor and finished my piece in hopes for another taste. I did not get one that day, but kept my eyes peeled for a taste of jackfruit through the remaining days of our trip.

After Ubud, we climbed the volcano, Gunung Batur. It was considered active and the ground was warm. After climbing to the top, our guide dug a hole and placed a couple of eggs and bananas into it then covered it with straw that was lying about. We walked around and gazed at the crater that was blown out in the last eruption. About 15 minutes later, we had a little snack of eggs and bananas. I was eager to get off this mountain. It seemed it could blow at any time.

After our hike, we continued on to Sanur, which is about 30 km away from Kuta. We had planned to go out in Kuta on that Saturday night, but Lou came down with travelers sickness. We think he had eaten too much of some of the local roadside food when we stopped and ate with our driver or perhaps it was the eggs and bananas cooked on a volcano. We'll never know, but it was all for the best because the bombings occurred that night and we were safe and sound in Sanur. Lou thought he was on the verge of death, but the next day he was feeling better and we were able to venture out again and enjoy the beach on what was an abnormally somber Sunday. We had no idea the bombings occured until that night while we were emailing our parents and Lou happened to see it on the internet.

A taste of jackfruit was offered to me a few days later by an old man sittting by a newspaper stand. We were waiting to board the boat to go to Nusa Lembongan, a small island just off the coast of Bali. I was checking out the uncensored pictures of the aftermath of the bombings wondering why we back home in the US are so reluctant to publish truth. He turned to me and offered a large segment of jackfruit from the small bunch he must have just purchased pre-peeled. His hands were less than sanitary so I reluctantly declined with thanks, smiled at him and called it jackfruit. He obviously did not know the fruit by that name but replied with sadness in broken English pointing to the news article he was reading, "Bad for Bali". His words and the sadness in his eyes broke my heart. The recent bombings were small in comparison to the tragedy of 9/11, but the devastation was far worse. These happy people depended on tourism for their livelihoods and in one blast, had the smile wiped from their faces, but still he was offering a complete stranger from a wealthy land a generous piece of his treasured jackfruit.

Later on that week, as we arrived at the deserted airport, I felt as though I was abandoning these people that had next to nothing when we arrived and even less on our departure. Who had just learned that they may face financial trouble in the coming months but still shared their treasures with us as generously as before. Who made me feel so welcome.

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