The peppers we call Hawaiian look like little red lipsticks but are more like capsules of fire. I was talking smack in Waipio Valley fresh off the jet about how I just love hot food and I can eat anything and not even blink. I ate one and within three blinks of an eye was on my hands and knees under a mango tree, sucking rotten fruit like they were life savers. I've handled them with great respect ever since that uncomfortable day.
In garden class the 5/6 grade boys are first to find the pepper bush, four years running. Even boys that have been in gardening class, cruising around that same pepper bush since they were in second grade, get to fifth/sixth grade and start secretly daring each other to eat ripe peppers. I hear them whispering even though they don't have to: "I can eat four." "I can eat more than that." "You go first." Depending on who is in on the daring, I usually don't interupt. I figure boys that dabble in daring must be prepared to suffer their own consequences. This is just chilli peppers and an impactful few minutes may teach a lifetime of a lesson. Sometimes I don't hear the dares and trash talk that makes a person gobble a pepper. Everytime though, quick as a bite, red-faced contenders are running to the hose, gasping for cool air, promising an unseen angel they'll never do that again.
Yesturday, I witnessed one boy who is usually on the cusp of social scenes, get in on the red-hot action. I jumped in with a gentle warning, "Hey guys, that is super hot. Even touching it is dangerous. You'll forget it's on your hands and touch your eyes later and it will hurt."
All heard my warning and even nodded in understanding. None headed. Three boys tumbled out of the garden like flames were in pursuit. The boy who is often alone was included in their group, covering his eyes with his folded-up, watered down shirt, bemoaning "Oh why did I touch my eyes?!!" The boys all took turns with various spiggots and picked each other starfruit to stop the sting. One of the barrel chested ring leaders said, "I thought I was stronger than a pepper." Another said, "No way. Never again." All walked away from garden class complimenting each other on surviving their great pepper adventure. The boy usually not included in the banter was shining center stage.
Krista Joan says:
My mission is to teach, train, and testify in resistance to the white supremacy of my ancestors. My personal choices are political, powerful, and practical. Let's trash waste.