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Lesson Ten


The Green Banana Donald Batchelder

Pre-class Work I

Read the text once for the main idea. Do not refer to the notes, dictionaries or the glossary yet.

Although it might have happened anywhere, my encounter with the green banana started on a steep mountain road in the central area of Brazil. My ancient jeep was straining up through beautiful countryside when the radiator began to leak, and I was ten miles from the nearest mechanic. The over-heated engine forced me to stop at the next village, which consisted of a small store and a few houses that were scattered here and there. People came over to look. They could see three fine streams of hot water spouting from holes in the jacket of the radiator. "That's easy to fix," a man said. He sent a boy running for some green bananas. He patted me on the shoulder, assuring me that everything would work out. "Green bananas," he smiled. Everyone agreed.
We chattered casually while all the time I was wondering what they could possibly do to my radiator with their green bananas. I did not ask them, though, as that would show my ignorance, so I talked about the beauty of the land that lay before our eyes. Huge rock formations, like Sugar Loaf in Rio, rose up all around us. "Do you see that tall one right over there?" asked the man, pointing to a particularly tall, slender pinnacle of dark rock. "That rock marks the center of the world."
I looked to see if he was teasing me, but his face was serious. He, in turn, inspected me carefully, as if to make sure I grasped the significance of his statement. The occasion called for some show of recognition on my part. "The center of the world?" I repeated, trying to show interest if not complete acceptance. He nodded. "The absolute center. Everyone around here knows it."
At that moment the boy returned with an armful of green bananas. The man cut one in half and pressed the cut end against the radiator jacket. The banana melted into a glue against the hot metal, stopping the leaks instantly. I was so astonished at this that I must have looked rather foolish and everyone laughed. They then refilled me radiator and gave me extra bananas to take along in case my radiator should give me trouble again. An hour later, after using the green banana once more, my radiator and I reached our destination. The local mechanic smiled. "Who taught you about the green banana?" I gave him the name of the village. "Did they show you the rock marking the center of the world?" he asked. I assured him they had. "My grandfather came from there," he said. "The exact center. Everyone around here has always known about it."
As a product of American education, I had never paid the slightest attention to the green banana, except to regard it as a fruit whose time had not yet come. Suddenly, on that mountain road, its time had come to meet my need. But as I reflected on it further, I realized that the green banana had been there all along. Its time reached back to the very origins of the banana. The people in that village had known about it for years. It was my own time that had come, all in relation to it. I came to appreciate the special genius of those people, and the special potential of the green banana. I had been wondering for some time about what educators like to call "learning moments," and I now knew I had just experienced two of them at once.
It took me a little longer to fully grasp the importance of the rock which the villagers believed marked the center of the world. I had at first doubted their claim, as I knew for a fact that the center was located somewhere else in New England. After all, my grandfather had come from there. But gradually I realized the village people had a very reasonable belief and I agreed with them. We all tend to regard as the center that special place where we are known, where we know others, where things mean much to us, and where we ourselves have both identity and meaning: family, school, town and local region could all be our center of the world.
The lesson which gradually dawned on me was actually very simple. Every place has special meanings for the people in it, and in a certain sense every place represents the center of the world. The world has numerous such centers, and no one student or traveler can experience all of them. But once a conscious breakthrough to a second center is made, a life-long perspective and collection can begin.
The cultures of the world are full of unexpected green bananas with special value and meaning. They have been there for ages, ripening slowly, perhaps waiting patiently for people to come along to encounter them. In fact, a green banana is waiting for all of us if we would leave our own centers of the world in order to experience other places.

Read the text a second time. Learn the new words and expressions listed below.


n. the act of agreeing that what sb. says is right or true 接受(某种观点、说法)

adj. very old

v. to understand and enjoy 赏识

n. the amount of sth. one can hold in one arm or both arms

v. to tell sb. that sth. is sure to happen so that he does not have to worry 使……放心

n. 巴西

n. 突破

adv. 随便地

v. to talk quickly about things that are not serious or important 闲聊

consist of
v. to be made up of 由……组成的

dawn on
v. to make sb. realize 使……觉醒

n. a place sb. is going to 目的地

v. to meet sb. or experience sth. suddenly or unexpectedly 遭遇;
n. 碰见

n. Here: sth. that is formed in a particular shape; rock ~ : 具有特殊形状的石峰;怪石

n. very great and exceptional ability or skill 天才

n. 胶水;胶汁

n. a strong feeling of belonging to a particular group 身份;认同感

n. having no knowledge or information 无知

v. to examine carefully

adv. at once

v. 泄漏;渗漏

adj. of a particular place or area 当地的;本地的

v. to be ~ d: to be in a particular place 位于

n. Here: sb. who is skilled at repairing cars 汽车修理工

v. to become soft through heating 溶解;软化

New England
n. 新英格兰(美国东北部的总称)

adj. many; countless

n. special time for sth. 场合

n. 起源;根源

adj. special 特殊的

v. 轻拍

n. a way of thinking about or looking at sth. 观点;看法

n. 顶峰;顶点

n. the possibility that sth. will have a certain effect 潜力

n. 汽车散热器;水箱

adj. acting with reason 合乎情理的

v. to fill again

reflect on
v. to think carefully about 思考

n. short for ~ de Janeiro, a city in Brazil 里约热内卢

adj. spread all over a large area 散布在……的;散落在……的

n. importance

adj. thin and graceful 细长的;苗条的

adj. small in amount or degree 少量的

v. to send out with great force 喷出

n. sth. you say or write publicly or officially to let people know your intentions or opinions 表述;声明

adj. 陡峭的

strain up
v. to make a great effort to move upward 竭力爬坡

v. to make jokes or laugh at sb. in order to have fun either in a friendly way or in an unkind way 取笑;逗弄


A Secret Lost in the Water Roch Carrier

After I started going to school my father scarcely talked any more. I was very intoxicated by the new game of spelling; my father had little skill for it (it was my mother who wrote our letters) and was convinced I was no longer interested in hearing him tell of his adventures during the long weeks when he was far away from the house.
One day, however, he said to me: "The time's come to show you something."
He asked me to follow him. I walked behind him, not talking, as we had got in the habit of doing. He stopped in the field before a clump of leafy bushes.
"Those are called alders," he said.
"I know."
"You have to learn how to choose," my father pointed out.
I didn't understand. He touched each branch of the bush, one at a time, with religious care.
"You have to choose one that's very fine, a perfect one, like this."
I looked; it seemed exactly like the others.
My father opened his pocket knife and cut the branch he'd selected with pious care. He stripped off the leaves and showed me the branch, which formed a perfect Y.
"You see," he said, "the branch has two arms. Now take one in each hand. And squeeze them."
I did as he asked and took in each hand one fork of the Y, which was thinner than a pencil.
"Close your eyes," my father ordered, "and squeeze a little harder.. . Don't open your eyes! Do you feel anything?"
"The branch is moving!" I exclaimed, astonished.
"Beneath my clenched fingers the alder was wriggling like a small, frightened snake. My father saw that I was about to drop it.
"Hang on to it!"
The branch is squirming," I repeated. "And I hear something that sounds like a river!"
"Open your eyes," my father ordered.
I was stunned, as though he'd awakened me while I was dreaming.
"What does it mean?" I asked my father.
"It means that underneath us, right here, there's a little freshwater spring. If we dig, we could drink from it. I've just taught you how to find a spring. It's something my own father taught me. It isn't something you learn in school. And it isn't useless: a man can get along without writing and arithmetic, but he can never get along without water."
Much later, I discovered that my father was famous in the region because of what the people called his "gift": before digging a well they always consulted him; they would watch him prospecting the fields or the hills, eyes closed, hands clenched on the fork of an alder bough. Wherever my father stopped, they marked the ground; there they would dig; and there water would gush forth.
Years passed; I went to other schools, saw other countries, I had children, I wrote some books and my poor father is lying in the earth where so many times he had found fresh water.
One day someone began to make a film about my village and its inhabitants, from whom I've stolen so many of the stories that I tell. With the film crew we went to see a farmer to capture the image of a sad man: his children didn't want to receive the inheritance he'd spent his whole life preparing for them—the finest farm in the area. While the technicians were getting cameras and microphones ready the farmer put his arm around my shoulders, saying:
"I knew your father well."
"Ah! I know. Everybody in the village knows each other... No one feels like an outsider."
"You know what's under your feet?"
"Hell?" I asked, laughing.
"Under your feet there's a well. Before I dug I called in specialists from the Department of Agriculture; they did research, they analyzed shovelfuls of dirt; and they made a report where they said there wasn't any water on my land. With the family, the animals, the crops, I need water. When I saw that those specialists hadn't found any I thought of your father and I asked him to come over. He didn't want to; I think he was pretty fed up with me because I'd asked those specialists instead of him. But finally came; he went and cut off a little branch, then he walked around for a while with his eyes shut; he stopped, he listened to something we couldn't hear and then he said to me: "Dig right here, there's enough water to get your whole flock drunk and drown your specialist besides." We dug and found water. Fine water that's never heard of pollution.
The film people were ready; they called to me to take my place.
"I'm gonna show you something," said the farmer, keeping me back." You wait right here."
He disappeared into a shack which he must have used to store things, then came back with a branch which he held out to me.
"I never throw nothing away; I kept the alder branch your father cut to find my water. I don't understand, it hasn't dried out."
Moved as I touched the branch, kept out of I don't know what sense of piety—and which really wasn't dry—I had the feeling that my father was watching me over my shoulder; I closed my eyes and, standing above the spring my father had discovered, I waited for the branch to writhe, I hoped the sound of gushing water would rise to my ears.
The alder stayed motionless in my hands and the water beneath the earth refused to sing.
Somewhere along the roads I'd taken since the village of my childhood I had forgotten my father's knowledge.
"Don't feel sorry," said the man, thinking no doubt of his farm and his childhood; "nowadays fathers can't pass on anything to the next generation."
And he took the alder branch from my hands.