For summer, a banquet of exotic fresh fruits: Bring travel back home

So you’re at home this summer. Your vacation budget is bust. Sure, there are backyard barbeques with friends and family stretching out into summer, but that tropical vacation feels long gone.

Or perhaps, you have never been on a tropical vacation. Perhaps a tropical fruit to you is the canned version of Dole pineapple–the one that waits in your kitchen cabinet.

Hop to it. An exotic experience might be as close as your neighborhood grocery store. As you browse the fruit, section buy those that you haven’t tried before.

Perhaps, they are the odd looking ones. Go head. Pick one up. If you’re heading to a barbeque, bring some with you and give your friends a geography lesson with the bounty. If you’re a parent, pull out a geography book and give your kids a taste of the world.

Here are suggestions and countries where such tastes can be had. I found them in local markets where I’ve lived and traveled, and some of them, in my own backyard.

1. Last year we purchased three dragon fruits in Chinatown in New York City. Dragon fruits, a nickname for pitaya, are cultivated in Vietnam, among other places. Those three brought back memories of our pleasures of first trying them on our first Vietnam visit. Even though I’ve had them elsewhere, I attach them to this Vietnam experience.

2. In Bangkok, we head straight to the fresh coconut stand across from the Regency Park where we always stay. The vendors cut off the tops of coconuts, add a hole and slip in a straw. Sucking out fresh coconut juice is one of my daughter’s favorite treats.

3. Taiwan was the first place I ate a star fruit. A friend of mine had carefully cut one of these slightly sweet fruits into star-shaped slices and arranged them on a plate for a lunchtime dish.

4. Also in Taiwan, on a bus ride to Taroko Gorge, I ate an Asian pear for the first time at a rest stop. The crunchy, refreshing taste is distinct from the pears grown in the U.S. They’re like apples, but not quite.

5. In the Gambia, I was greeted each morning during the rainy season by a tree filled with mangoes that created welcome shade in my backyard. With lack of refrigeration, I ate mangoes morning, noon and night and made mango jam, mango bread and added mango slices to oatmeal. Since the season for that tree was so short, I didn’t have time to get tired of them. Not all mangoes are the same. I prefer the ones with juicy flesh and very little strings to get caught in my teeth.

6. If you’ve ever eaten bananas where they are grown, particularly the red ones that are not much bigger than a fat finger, you’ll have a hard time adjusting to the Cavendish variety most common to grocery stores. The Gambia also was a worthy introduction into banana wealth.

7. Also, in the Gambia, papaya trees were one of the easiest fruit trees to grow. Thus, papayas were everywhere, and almost all year long. Although I like them, I suggest squirting a bit of lime on your slice to add a bit of zip to the flavor.

8. The first time I ate a pomelo, my great aunt and uncle brought one back from California. As a young girl, the size amazed me. It’s the largest citrus fruit there is. Before I ate it, I took it to school for show and tell.

9. Singapore is a fruit lovers delight. Even though we had a durian tree in our backyard, we let other people have the fruit that is so stinky it’s banned on subways. I have had durian ice cream and found it appealing.

10. I first developed a taste for rambutans that we bought from the market in Singapore. One isn’t enough.

Of course, if you happen to live in the tropics, relish what you have. You’re lucky. You get the goods fresh off the trees.

Jay Leno’s traveling to his future song. What’s yours?

Last night on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno’s musical guest was James Taylor. Before Taylor played, Leno told the story about why he picked Taylor to do the honors of Leno’s last show farewell. He said that as he was moving to California to give himself a shot at big time show business, he played James Taylor’s song, “Sweet Baby James.” The line “With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go” seemed apropos. [song after the jump]

Leno’s nostalgic look at a song significant to his life as he traveled from his past to his future by traveling to a new place, reminded me of my own traveling from my past to my future song.

When a friend and I traveled across the U.S. for three months–mostly by bus, after our two-years in the Peace Corps the song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel captured our emotional state the most. I remember looking out the bus window watching the scenery roll by while listening to that song with a shared Walkman and two pairs of headphones.

Neither of us had any idea what was ahead for us, but we were looking. Three months of interacting with the physical America helped with our direction. I ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and she headed to Washington, D.C. Since then, we’ve both traveled elsewhere.

Of all the experiences I’ve had in life, nothing was more strong than that move back to the U.S. from The Gambia, looking for a place to land where I would feel comfortable and thrive. Simon and Garfunkel were fitting companions on that journey.

By the looks of the hug James Taylor gave Jay Leno after he sang, Taylor’s song helped Leno find his way.

Have any songs helped you find your way as you’ve traveled to a new destination? Metaphorically or physically, it’s all part of the the traveler’s path. For more songs that have inspired us at Gadling, here’s our series Sounds of Travel. One of Annie’s songs was “America” as well.

And, here’s James Taylor singing “Sweet Baby James” in 1970. He’s traveled a bit himself since then.

TSA workers at Logan Airport treated for scabies

I feel for those three TSA workers who were found to have scabies. I just read about them in this article at WBZ. Each of them worked during the same shift at the same check point at Logan Airport in Boston.

It is not clear how they got scabies. TSA officials have said that because the TSA workers wear gloves, the public has nothing to worry about. The workers are on medical leave until they have been told by a doctor that it’s okay for them to return to work.

To prevent the spread of scabies to the rest of the TSA workers at Logan, all of them were told to take all their clothes and uniforms home to wash them. The areas at the airport that could have been infected were also thoroughly cleaned.

Here’s a health refresher course. Scabies is caused by a microscopic scabies parasite that burrows under the skin, creating a blister that gets patchy, red and itches something fierce. It’s kind of gross really. I’ve had it. Like the TSA folks, I have no idea how I got it, but one day, there was a small patch of it above my upper lip when I was living in The Gambia. A friend of mine who was ONLY A FRIEND had a case much worse than I did under his beard. It must have been going around. In The Gambia, I seem to remember it being much more common during the dry season.

Scabies can be caught by: scratching, picking up mites under fingernails, touching another person’s skin, and touching anything that might be infected with mites because someone with scabies touched them. Think keyboards, toilets, clothes, towels, workout equipment etc. Luckily mites don’t live off of a body for longer than 72 hours. [Wikipedia]

Scabies is curable through the use of a prescription topical cream. It didn’t take me long to be as right as rain again.

The Motorcycle Doctors in The Gambia and Beyond

This video published on YouTube by Good Magazine about a program that equips health workers with motorcycles in The Gambia brought back memories of when I was in the Peace Corps there. I was a health education volunteer who trekked with a community health nurse to three villages from N’Jowara, the village where she and I lived. The roads between these villages was soft dirt. From N’Jowara to the main road that led to Banjul, the capital, was about seven miles on a hard-packed dirt road. From the point my road hooked up to the main road, the trip to Banjul involved two ferry crossings and a taxi ride–also on a hard packed dirt road. Banjul was where The Gambia’s main hospital was located. Depending on the season, it could take several hours to make the journey. Some days the taxis didn’t go all the way.

Whenever N’Dey and I set out for a village visit as part of our job we hoofed it. I had a bicycle, but she did not. It didn’t matter anyway because the dirt was so soft, riding a bike through it was almost impossible. Often we would get to a village to meet with the village health worker or the traditional birth attendant to find out they weren’t home, so we’d turn around and walked the three miles back. The fact that she had me to walk with her keep motivated to make the trip. After watching this video, I’m happy to see that health care access is becoming much easier than back then. The scenery is just as I remembered it. I can almost taste that red dust. Thanks to Marilyn Terrell, our National Geographic Traveler information-giver extraordinaire for passing the info about the program along.