To cut up a pineapple you must first go and find a pineapple. So you and your roommate Cynthia go to the market, well, markets because you can’t just have pineapple for dinner you also need cabbage, onions, carrots, pili pili peppers, and tomatoes (kabati, vitunguu, carroti, pili pili, na nyanya). Oh and you need bread for breakfast. That is at least three different stops. So when you finally get to the kibanda with the good pineapples, you are already longing for the light sweet flavor. To pick a good one is easy, just run your hand along the bottom of each pineapple in the mound and find the one that is leaking. That is the one you will take home.
So you buy your leaking pineapple for elfu mbili tano (about $1.00), put it in your bag with the other foods for dinner and head home. When you get home you must lay out all of the buckets and sufurias you will need to cook dinner, and for the pineapple of course. You fill one bucket with tap water or rain water (it doesn’t have to be boiled because everything will be cooked or peeled. You throw all your veggies in the bucket to wash. You can also peel them over the water, keeping all the mess in the bucket and your knife clean. As the carrots, peppers, tomato, and onion are peeled and chopped you throw them in to another sufuria. The cabbage, which you bought already chopped in the market, is in another bowl soaking. While your roommate heats the oil to cook the veggies and cabbage, you set to work on the pineapple, it was your idea in the first place.
As if it knew the monstrous task ahead of you, the power shuts off just as you kneel down to make your first cut. So, you put down the knife and look for your flashlight; you then spend several minutes in debate with your roommate about what is the best angle to rest it so you can both see what you are doing. Compromise is tough when pineapples are involved. Eventually you settle on a position and resume the task of cutting. The good news is the woman who sold you the pineapple pulled the top off for you (with her bare hands!) so you don’t have to do that part. Now the tricky part is in the organization. You don’t have a cutting board, just a pot, a towel, and a knife. So to buy more time you wash it in the rainwater but then realize it is rainwater and have to find a way to dry it off quickly. It’s okay though, during the distraction you’ve figured out your plan. First you cut it into fourths, place three of them on the towel and peel the fourth in the bowl with the knife. You do the same to the other three.
After the second one, the power turns back on so you must wipe your hands and run to plug all of your electronics in so that they will be charged enough for the next time the power cuts out. After that you kneel down and peel the other two quarters. You dig around under the sink for a clean plate, when you find one, you slice the pineapple quarters long ways and let them fall into the bowl. Now your pineapple is cut, but you must put the pineapple debris in a bag and deposit it into the communal garbage can outside. Then return and wash your hands. Dinner will not be ready quite yet, and you do not have a refrigerator, so there is nothing stopping you from digging in! Oh, but you should probably share with your roommate, oh and the little girl next door would love some, and her mom. Do you think the neighbor across the courtyard wants some? He never cooks his own food.
So maybe in the end you only get one or two slices. But eating a whole pineapple in one night, filling up so you are about to bust and then rolling into bed, is maybe not as much fun as it sounds. The eating is just for a moment; the preparation is all night. Indeed if I just wanted to eat pineapple, the preparation would not be worth it. The preparation is as sweet as the fruit itself.
Come thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in thee.
Lord, let us not fear finding the Joy of Christ’s coming. Whether that means saving up to buy pecans and whiskey for fruitcakes to share, or taking on the task of cutting up a pineapple in Tanzania, let us push forward. Let us soak in the hardships, the awkward moments and the late nights of decorating and planning. When we find this Joy, help us to share it. A cup of coffee is never quite as satisfying as when taken with a friend, a loaf of bread is much sweeter when wrapped snugly in aluminum foil and hand delivered.
As we anticipate lighting the “Joy candle” on the advent wreath, let us remember that Christ is the light of the whole world, not just for Methodists, not just for our city, not just for us. This means that it is a long road, it is frustrating, it is dusty, we may not have all the tools we think we need to share this Joy. And how much sweeter is the Good News because of that?