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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Nature to Nurture: Tikal National Park - Page 2

Written by Grace Zhang
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As we walked through the seeming expanse, Milton pointed to a dark, scarred, rugged giant looming over us and said, “It’s a chicle tree. See the marks? The crosses? The tree is cut to get the chicle. You know, for Chiclets. Gum.” He further explained that local men used to climb the trees and use machetes to make diagonal cuts in the trees’ bark to collect the chicle that oozed out. The trees healed as bark regrew over the slashes, but the diagonal scars remained visible, the bark grown in slightly askew, offering a clue to how mankind can take advantage of nature’s resources without destroying them.

As we made our way through the clearing, I spotted on the ground a green-skinned, fist-sized fruit, unmarred from its fall. Eager to learn what else the surrounding nature offered, I asked Milton, “What’s that?”

He picked it up and carried it with him to a tree a few feet away. Hanging from the tree, the same fruit grew in pairs. He pointed to a low-hanging twosome and asked with a sly smile, “What does it look like?”

I could not help but laugh. My parents wondered at the fruit with puzzled faces. Then, my mother dared to respond, “Like…balls.”

ChicleThe tree was the aptly named cojon tree—for cojones, Spanish slang for testicles. Holding the fallen fruit in his hand, Milton used a pocket knife to scratch a spot out of its surface. A milky sap, like white liquid Elmer’s glue, oozed out of the avocado-like fruit’s wound.

“Touch it,” said Milton. Tentatively, I tapped my index finger into the cool goo.

“Now press your fingers together.” I pressed my finger to my thumb.

“See? They stay together!” Indeed, the milky white gel-like sap glued my fingers together, and when I gently pried them apart, a collection of fine white threads spanned the distance between my fingertips. The tackiness reminded me of how my mother used to mash together a few grains of cooked white rice to use as the adhesive to wrap gifts when we ran out of transparent tape. The four of us stood in the shade of the cojon tree and marveled at the simple yet remarkable ways nature can provide solutions for something as often taken for-granted as glue.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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