A Coconut Court | My Family Travels
Piri In a Tree
Piri In a Tree

As the daughter of a Boeing employee, traveling has been an important factor in my life. Since my dad was working on the Nimrod Project in England, which was terminated in 2010, most of our living expenses were covered by Boeing. By living expenses, I mean that they paid for the house, our private school (King Edward VII and Queen Mary Preparatory School), and so on. This meant that I got to do a lot of things that I don’t get to do now – such as ride horses. That being said, there was a lot of other things we did. My parents both love to travel, and so we traveled a lot. To France, to Germany, Portugal and Spain, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, and probably more places that I cannot remember off the top of my head. One of my favorite trips was to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, where we met Piri – the Coconut King!

Of course, you don’t know Piri is, do you? In Rarotonga, we stayed in this neat little place that was really a house that we rented to stay in. It was quite open, to tell the truth. Anyway, across the dirt track by the water were a few tall coconut trees, their rough bark and lack of lower branches testimony to the difficulties in climbing them. A small bungalow-type house stood beneath those trees, with a rather spacious area covered in grass. There was a sign by the road that said ‘Piri the Coconut King!’ and stated some times which I cannot remember. We decided to find out more, and so one day, found ourselves sitting with several other tourists on an assortment of benches, deck chairs, etc. Piri was a small, rather old man with brown skin and white hair. Despite his age, he was very agile and full of smiles. He showed us how he would climb a coconut tree with only his hands, feet, and protective gear made of the tough fibers of the coconut leaves – it was like watching a monkey, I swear! He was up and down quickly, with a coconut and leaves in hand. With those coconuts and others he had gathered earlier, he set some of his helpers to opening the coconuts and shredding out the meat with a special machine. They placed small piles of the fresh desiccated coconut on coconut leaves, also fresh, and we had the option of putting honey over the coconut or eating it just so. It was delicious, and while we ate, Piri told us how in the olden days, people like him would climb the trees and bring down leaves to make large smoke fires in order to send messages from island to island. He also told us other ways coconut products were used. Later, when he was finished, he called my sister and me ‘Coconut Princesses’ and had us take a picture with him.

I’ve had a lot of memorable trips, but this one stood out to me. Sure, we could have packed more bug spray (a hint to those who plan to go to anywhere tropical!), but checking out little signs along the road can pay off big time! The coconuts were delicious, and it was very interesting to learn exactly how young men (and for some reason they always were men) climbed trees in order to get the fruits and the leaves. All the climbing ‘gear’ was made out of parts of the coconut tree too, which begged the question – how did they get it in the first place? I never did get an answer for that, but oh well. It was still very educational.

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