When I first got here, I was really surprised to see people wielding machetes. Everywhere. They’re just so useful! And here they’re used for two main things: eating coconuts and doing yard work.
People who have the musculature of pro basketball players stand by the side of the road with a cart full of coconuts. The coconuts are large, round, and green.
The machete is first used to chop off edges of the coconut’s outer shell to give it a shape that’s stackable and won’t roll away.
The vendor does this by holding the coconut in his palm, chopping off an edge, tossing the coconut in the air to turn it, and then chopping off a different edge- the blade swinging towards his fingers and hand every time. I don’t think I could swing the machete with enough force to get a clean cut, never mind holding the coconut firmly enough so that it doesn’t go flying out if my hands. These guys are skilled.
The machete is next used when someone buys a coconut. The vendor chops off the top edge so that the customer can stand there and drink the milk.
Then, the customer gives the coconut back to the vendor. He takes the machete and splits open the coconut so the customer can eat the inside, using the “lid” from before as a spoon.
By the end of the day, the area around the cart is littered with coconut debris.
Here are some live action shots:
There are also lots of people wielding machetes doing yard work- mostly chopping grass. The fields around my dorm sway with tall grass, and sometimes there will be a team of men out there, swinging machetes to cut the grass. When you walk by, you smell the freshly cut grass just like you would with a lawnmower. There’s a grass-cutting group outside my balcony right now!
That reminds me that most lawn work and construction is done by hand here- anything that you would see done by machine at home. I just walked by two guys using pickaxes to plow the earth, digging up huge chunks of soil in a field. It looked so exhausting. Back breaking. Recently, street lights were installed along the roads on campus. The electrical wires had to be buried all along the roads underground. Did they use machines or automatic equipment? No! For weeks, teams of men worked under the African sun, digging trenches with pickaxes. Unbelievable.
So it’s not unusual to see someone strolling down the street, casually swinging their machete. A mundane part of life that would cause a panic in Duncanville!