Those annoying stringy banana bits

Those annoying stringy banana bits – image: AV

Did you know that the stringy bits of a banana had a name?

Yes, they do.


It’s not just bananas, but present in most plants; it’s just that in bananas they are so damned annoying.

Just another interesting fact of life bought to you by a blogger with nothing better to do than take phloem photos on a Friday morning. BTW, the banana was delicious after I had removed the stringy bits. Don’t you just hate them?

This morning at 3:something a.m. I was browsing blogs that I follow. One blog had a post with three BBC headlines, the first two terrible news, the third, however may seem terrible to you, but to me wasn’t.

Bolivia lowers working age to ten

Now the world is trying to stamp out child labour, and this headline is the exact opposite. To those of us in the ‘developed’ world, that seems terrible, but having travelled throughout, worked as a tour guide and lived and loved on and off in Bolivia, it’s sensible.

Meet Feliciano, he was seven at the time,  and the head of the family.

Head of the family, aged seven

Head of the family, aged seven

Sorry, the photos are terrible, they were scanned off negatives that have been abused up and down the Andes, in the heat of the jungles and bounced along dusty roads around South America.

Feliciano and his cousins Sandro, 10 and Juan Carlos, 8 all worked as shoe shine boys in the main plaza in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. You could get your shoes shone brilliantly for B$1 (boliviano or peso) which at the time was about 30 cents US.

Feliciano at work, the flourish of the brush in the air, he was quite a craftsman and a bit of a comedian

Feliciano at work, the flourish of the brush in the air, he was quite a craftsman and a bit of a comedian

You could find him and cousins in the plaza as early as 6am they worked through the day playing cat & mouse with the municipal wardens to avoid having their tools confiscated and evicted from the plaza. The day often ended at midnight.

Sometimes, when in the plaza for my early morning coffee, I would find them.

Too tired to go home

Too tired to go home

When they woke, I would buy them a salteña (like a pie) and they would start the long day all over again and maybe go home the next night, maybe not. He worked seven days, sometimes he took a day off and spent it playing at the nearby Rio Piray, but he would have his kit and ply his trade around the many cabañas as well.

What he took home was the family wage.

This is the reality in Bolivia and the new law provides some protection.

The last time I saw Feliciano was in 2000, he was 10 and still working.

An ethnic Aymara girl begging in the plaza

An ethnic Aymara girl begging in the plaza

Not only Feli, but beggars, windscreen washers, food sellers as well.

In Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, everybody has to pitch in.

It’s a matter of survival and they don’t have the luxury of not working.

They lead a hard and difficult life, quite unimaginable to us in the western world where we are insulated from these harsh realities and condemn them without knowing the real story.

I can relate similar stories from Peru where I lived in five places.

This is why I have always said, that it wasn’t until I began to travel, that I learned to appreciate the world, both just and unjust.

Sunny day, I have class at 5:30, there is lunch in the fridge today and as it’s after noon, I should be cooking along;