I spent part of yesterday afternoon raking leaves into plastic bags. As pieces crunched underfoot, the smell of freshly fallen leaves wafted through the air. Ah, the start of autumn. But wait. I’m in Pimampiro, Ecuador, where springtime is eternal and the only real season change comes with the rain. In fact, the leaves that filled the living room of my house in Pimampiro yesterday weren’t maple or oak leaves at all but rather the leafy coverings of uvillas. Uvillas are small orange fruits that look nearly identical to cherry tomatoes but taste more like a mix between sour grapes and oranges and they are in season. Yesterday, twelve giant crates of them showed up at my family’s front door. Mí mamá, my two sisters, my aunt, at times mí papá and my younger cousin, and I proceeded to remove the cases from hundreds of uvillas. We talked and peeled and laughed and four hours later, with hands sticky from uvilla juice, we finally finished.
Sometimes we peeled in silence and sometimes we raced to see who could peel the most uvillas the fastest. Either way, the time passed quickly and I am proud to say that I probably peeled 1,000 uvillas. I also have a feeling that more uvilla peeling may be in my future, as I passed a truck filled with crates of uvillas this morning on the way to work.