I won’t lie. I have spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to think of a clever name for this post. Considering what I’m about to recount, it’s only fair! The word ‘coconut’ doesn’t rhyme well with other words, the puns I’ve come up with are stupid and I don’t want the title to give the entire story away. My mind kept reverting back to a childhood favorite by Bill Martin called Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, it’s a catchy rhythmic book about the alphabet that repeats “I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree”… only in our case, the coconut tree came down to meet… us….
This is a coconut tree that decided to bite the dust… on my friend’s Jay’s house. It had landed conveniently on top of his room, destroying his room only. Finding at least seven coconuts in Jay’s room, alhamdulillah no one was inside when the coconut decided to wreck havoc. However for the time being, Jay’s poor laptop is in a deep coma. After a weeks of anticipating and preparing for what would be the longest, most strenuous hike of my life (only by 233 meters in comparison to Emeisan in Southwest China), Mother Nature had made the final decision and decided it wasn’t our time to conquer Gunung Raung. A group of PCVs whom I was REALLY looking forward to reuniting with were planning to travel from the most western parts of East Java to the most eastern parts of East Java, but canceled. My Mojo brother John and I had separately made the trek out to Jay’s site in Genteng, not letting Mother Nature nor precarious bus rides stop us from basking in an adventurous weekend filled with coconuts, jeep-rides, and baby turtles. And that we DID.
It happened like this. It’s a quiet Friday despite the blaring mosques. The men are off doing their weekly Jum’atan thing. The three of us are eating lunch in front of Jay’s house. It’s windy. Jay’s really lucky to have such tall and lush trees shielding his house from the neighbors is what’s going through my mind. An energetic gust of wind directs the restless branches to dance, waking up the coconut trees. Branches snap. All of a sudden an overzealous coconut tree comes crashing down. We run in the opposite direction as Jay yells for his host father ‘PAAAAAK PINDA MOBIL! PINDA MOBIL!’ (move the car, which is at risk of being crushed if the tree tumbles even further). It doesn’t initially cross Jay’s mind that the tree has landed on his side of the house…We all have this big-eyed look of astonishment and confusion that reads WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?! WHAT DO WE DO NOW…?! We go to scope out the damage in his room. It’s bad. If Jay had ever wished for a skylight, well he surely got it. “Well maybe now I can get a new bed…” he jokes, referring to times he wishes his bed didn’t take up half of the modest sized room. Everything is covered in a thick layer of dirt, there’s pieces of the ceiling and roof everywhere (yep, refer to those pictures above)
Neighboring ibu’s swarm Jay’s room with brooms and rice bags. An assembly lines forms as we try to get everything out. Neighboring bapak’s bring out the muscle, cigarettes, rope and a bamboo ladder. The intense cleaning commences. It’s a community effort. No one expects anything, they are just determined to help from the kindness of their hearts. It’s wonderful. I mean, honestly, in America this would be a minor disaster (yeah, I said disaster) that would stress me out to the point of sprouting gray hairs, trying to sift through mountains of insurance documents and being on hold with Kenny G saxin’ it up with automated messages of ‘press one if’s’Crowds of bystanders of all ages form around the house. It’s like the event of year! Between the OHHHHHHH ALLAAAAHHHHHHHH’s, everyone’s all smiles, even Jay’s host father who now has a huge hole in the roof of his house during the rainy season, a broken window and nice little dent to accompany it on his car. Clearly there isn’t an insurance claim to file or photos to be taken as proof that yes indeed A COCONUT TREE JUST FELL ON HIS HOUSE! Instead there’s lots of men from the neighborhood who plan to work until the roof is repaired and the ceiling patched up. Makeshift scaffolding is built to support the hefty trunk that will need to be cut down. There’s men on the roof chucking roof tiles into mid-air. I pray they don’t knock someone out, and with our luck, it’s likelihood (but thankfully never happens). There’s nothing we can do but stay out of the way and revive Jay’s belongings. We recover seven fresh coconuts from his room, some of which had landed appropriately on his desk and bed. In no time, a neighbor with a machete is hacking the coconuts up for all to enjoy…and I learned that I can amuse people because I can’t properly drink out of a coconut without getting the water all over my face. ‘When life gives you a coconut tree, you make es degan’ is our new saying, but here’s to hoping that there’s easier, less destructive ways of accessing es degan!
Things get real when a neighbor with a chainsaw arrives. The makeshift scaffolding is in place. The trunk is hacked into pieces and the ground rumbles as the mighty pieces land with force. To teach those rebellious branches a lesson and ensure they don’t decide to topple over and destroy shit in the future, the men move on to hack up branches that appear questionable.
The three of us didn’t let coconuts ruin our plans completely, so we headed to Sukamade, a serene turtle sanctuary five hours away…