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Papaya Generosity

I learned the source of these blessings, and how better to share with generosity at heart, like the papayas gifted and growing in front of my house.
Tad Maier
Cameroon 1969-1970

I had a papaya tree outside my front door, growing right by my front steps of my porch, inside my gate in the town of Edea on the Sanaga River. I served as “professeur” of English, lodged in a house on a street where neighbors greeted me smiling as they walked past my house. They told me they knew I was there to help their children to be educated citizens of bi-lingual Cameroun. I was in the last batch of 60’s idealists out to change the world, but I found out how changed I was by living in Camerounian culture that held values of sharing more highly than personal property.   

Papayas had become my favorite new love. Tongue-soft sweetness kept me wanting more. I watched my papayas ripening daily as I left home on my mobylette to the College d’Enseignement Technique. I gave a gentle pinch to feel if the brass bra had become pendulous breast, yielding with mildly firm pressure when the green fruit ripened to deep red orange heart with golden slimed black seeds. 

One day I left for school thinking ‘tonight they will be just perfectly ripe.’ Nearing home from the day at school, I could see down the street the group of neighborhood boys gathered on my steps, with big smiles on their faces, eating my papayas, spitting the seeds all around. 

Puzzled they were at my outrage. I ranted like a condemned prisoner denied his last meal. “What do you think you are doing here?” I cried out. “Get out. Go home!” 

I shooed them out the gate.

The incident soon became the talk of the town. Not about the mischievous boys unrepentant, but about the stingy American professeur who got mad at the boys enjoying papayas on his steps. 

Kindly Professeur Nyobe, whose classroom was next door to mine, took me aside to explain: “God made trees and made the fruit for everybody to enjoy. Did you plant that tree? Make the seed sprout? Give it sun and rain? Africa tribal lands are for hospitality. We feed the stranger passing through.”

For a long time afterwards when the boys would walk by I could hear them say aloud, “I am walking on Professeur’s street. I am breathing Professeur’s air!”

That is how I learned the source of these blessings, and how better to share with generosity at heart, like the papayas gifted and growing in front of my house.

Indeed, my blessings abound and adventures keep happening, and I remember some fascinating happenings in my life, and wonderful adventures, and am always grateful for the friends from every chapter in my life that will still celebrate what we accomplished in that day and time, and what we have become since, and still have a hand at becoming.  

My philosophy of life is evolving as I become more conscious of what good we can still do to help the world get more peaceful and tolerant and understanding.

Papaya tree
Tad with fellow Camerounian professors
Tad Maier with a family