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Land of the coconut and sago palm

Yunder Wækraus

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I just got back from my first trip to Papua New Guinea (work related). I spent 11 days on a tiny island with a local family completely cut off from phone and internet. The islanders are trilingual: they speak Titan as their Tok Ples, Tok Pisin (aka Melanesian Pidgin) as the lingua franca, and all adults can communicate in English to some degree. The island was once the site of a copra plantation, and there remain 1,000+ very tall coconut trees from which the islanders derive their major source of income, coconut oil. These people are truly the people of the coconut. I ate a coconut apple for my first time, enjoyed the fizzy wonders of a fresh young coconut (chuwi in Titan/kulau in Tok Pisin), and learned how they used coconuts (niw in Titan/kokonas in Tok Pisin) for everything: husks for fire to smoke fish or extract cococonut oil, coconut water, coconut cream, grated coconut (laboriously obtained via a coconut scraper/ ndrawai in Titan), and leaves for structures. I also ate sago palm flour for my first time (api in Titan/saksak in Tok Pisin), which was served mixed with coconut alongside fresh fish. It was amazing to live among people who have evolved on a diet made up of 50% palm products.







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