Collecting Coconuts

While I sit here typing on my iPad, Kadek and 4 of her friends are working very hard carrying coconuts from the kebun to the side of the road from where a truck will collect them once there is enough for a full load. Several businesses here employ people to collect coconuts which are then sold by the truck full either for their meat which is used to make oil or their shells which is used to fire huge kilns in Java.
Sometimes the coconut collectors go high up into the hills via a very muddy and narrow path however the fellow who owns that land is currently busy organising several ceremonies, so Kadek today is working for someone else who is only too happy to employ Kadek & her team when they are at a loose end. The kebun we are at today is huge, over 5 are and chokker block full of a variety of fruit trees.

While waiting for everyone to arrive, we sat at the kubu chatting. I was introduced to everyone. While amongst each other, they call each other by name, the polite way to introduce someone is to acknowledge their status as a mother. So Kadek would be introduced as Mae Ari (Ari’s Mum). After the introductions, Kadek opened her bag and removed a bag of short lengths of coconut leaves and a mixture of glutinous rice, salt and grated coconut. Together they made offerings while waiting for the last person to arrive.


Once the last member of their team arrived, off they went carrying huge wicker baskets to collect the coconuts. It is very hard work and I was exhausted just watching them. In fact I felt very guilty sitting there enjoying the breezes while they staggered past with their enormous loads of coconuts on their heads.
There are 5 people in the team. One person has the job of putting all the coconuts into a rough pile. She walks around searching for the coconuts and either picks them up by hand or using her scythe, spears them and then propels them towards the pile. Some of the coconuts fell into a small stream, so the coconuts were speared with a scythe before being hefted over the hedge to the pile there.

20130727-110709.jpgThe coconuts are very heavy and watching Mae Dewi heft it like a basketball high over a hedge, impressed me enormously. I’d be flat out throwing one, yet she does it over and over again!

The others follow behind her. They load up one basket till about half full counting the coconuts as they go and then together heft the basket up onto the head of who ever owns the basket.


That person then stands still while the basket is filled to the brim.


While they then head off to the road carrying this incredibly heavy load on their head, the others work together to fill up the next basket.

Finally after passing me countless times, they finally stopped for a break. Kadek grabbed a bag full of jajan (snacks) while one of the other women opened a papaya. Kadek kindly goes off into the kebun and gets me a kelapa mudah (young coconut) which she opens using a scythe. I am totally impressed because Kadek even remembered to bring straws for me!



After the break, I went back into the garden with them to get some more photos. There I found the husband of one of the women here cutting down the coconuts using a long length of bamboo and on the end was a very sharp scythe:

Here he is cutting them down:

The thud as the coconuts hit the ground was scary and I’d hate to get too close. The job of cutting the coconuts down is very dangerous.
I got a few photos and then in what felt like in no time at all it was lunch time.We all returned to the kubu, the hut near the cows. Everyone opened their lunch box which was full of rice and various dishes. The different foods were offered around to each other so everyone ended up with a amazing variety of food for lunch. Before we started eating, Kadek and one of the other women took pinches of all the food they had been brought and placed it on a tiny piece of banana leaf which was then placed under a nearby frangipani leaf as an offering of thanks for the food.
One of the other ladies made a small fire to heat some water for coffee. She used a old soft drink tin which had been speared with a stick to make handling it easier.

20130726-130207.jpgEveryone enjoyed a cup of coffee with their lunch while I had another young coconut! I just love the juice/ water in a young coconut.
While eating our lunch, the lady who owns this land appeared and joined us. She was surprised to see me and even more surprised to see me eating rice and vegetables. I heard her asking Kadek in surprise,”What do you feed her?” and she look incredulous when Kadek told her I eat whatever everyone else in the family eats! Her husband also appeared soon afterwards and presented me with 2 more young coconuts! We took them home with us at the end of the day and enjoyed another drink at ome!
Then Ketut, Kadek’s husband, arrived with their children, Puta and Made, and then someone else’s son also turned up. Our group kept getting bigger and bigger and our lunch break turned into a social catch up.So while we sat there chatting, the children played a traditional game with complicated rules.

20130726-131155.jpg Then the old kumpi lit another bonfire. The kebun has many piles of dead coconut leaves which make brilliant bonfires.

Soon our delightful break finished. The food was packed away and once again the women hit the path carrying their baskets.

We left the women alone so that Kadek’s son wouldn’t get underfoot. Putu took me into the garden and we discovered many interesting trees that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. She pointed out a mangosteen tree which is unfortunately out of season before coming to a nutmeg tree covered in fruit.

20130726-142741.jpg Putu found an old fruit under the tree which I have put in my bag to take home where we will open it. We also found a pool of beautiful water lillies. I learned there that The Balinese are not allowed to put such a pond near their house although small decorative pools are ok. They believe you will certainly get sick if a pool is built close to a house. The mosquitos would be horrendous too! We also found some pineapples growing hidden in a copse.

20130726-143055.jpgAren’t they a beautiful colour?
We then headed back to the pile of coconut being constantly added to by the women here, where I was able to photo one of the women emptying her basket.

Then back to the kubu for the last break of the day. The kubu is a fantastic hut built specifically as a place to rest when working in the kebun and very appreciated by allwho work here whether sunshine or rain!

20130726-143329.jpgEveryone is very tired. This rest break is the quietest one so far. Even though there is a beautiful breeze, it is very hot and everyone is feeling weary. Not surprising considering how many kilograms of coconut they have carried today. Each load is easily 20kg and they have each carried too many to count! I feel exhausted on their behalf! I have no idea why I am so tired because all I have done is follow them around carrying nothing more than my backpack! One more session and then home for a mandi! I bet that will be the best part of the day for them!

The following day, the coconuts were collected by truck. The driver sat in the cab while the coconuts were hefted into back of the truck by his offsider. With each ten loaded, the driver would note it because the women are paid for the total number of coconuts. The women also keep track of the number they collect to ensure they are paid correctly.



4 thoughts on “Collecting Coconuts

  1. Cath, I love this story… There are so any little stories in ths or simple language. I did a imple story which sari narrated years ago, about the coconut. From tree to table would be good theme. Wadaya think?

    • Do you mean in Indonesian or English? When writing stories for Primary students, I like to include a lot of repetition if the story is in Indonesian so the students quickly feel as though they have mastered it. So I will think about some text that focuses on kelapa. Finished filming feeding the pigs yesterday afternoon and Kadek has agreed to do the vocal for that video! So will edit the video while in Ternate & Kalimantan and then ask her to add her voice when I am back in Bali later.
      Keep the ideas flowing. xox

    • Terima kasih Ibu Trees! Kami disini senang juga omong dengan Trees. Hari ini ombak disini sedang. kalau purnama dan bulan baru besar! salam dari Putu, Kadek & Cathy

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