"We use each part of the coconut, that's all we need"

I have been in Vanuatu for just over two months and have seen Moana or heard from the soundtrack approximately 12 times. Not only is it a recent release, but it's probably the only movie with worldwide recognition about the Pacific Islands or Polynesian culture. It's understandable why it would be so popular here.

During training, some of the cultural aspects that were focused on were cooking and everyday use of the surrounding nature. One of those things is the coconut, so aptly put in these Moana lyrics from the song "Where you are":

"Consider the coconut, consider its tree! We use each part of the coconut, that's all we need. We make our nets from the fibers. The water is sweet inside. We use the leaves to build fires. We cook up the meat inside!"

But that only touches on a couple of the many uses of the coconut and how helpful it is in daily life.

Planting my first coconut tree

In training, one of our language exercises was a weekly verbal essay on a topic of our choice. You could explain your first experience attending a local church, or what your host family dynamic is like. I did one of mine on the coconut and its multitude of uses.


Sandei, mi bin planem firs tri blo kokonas blong mi. Mi bin go wetem famili blo mi lo Epau long karen blong hem. Mama blo mi, Wini, hemi telem mi, "Long 5 yia, bae yu gat tri wetem kokonas." Afta faev yia, bai mi go lo Epau bakagin, mo bae mi save kakae kokonas lo tri blo mi.

Sunday, I planted my first coconut tree. I went with my Epau host family to their garden. My mom, Wini, told me, "in 5 years time, you will have your own coconut tree." After five years, I will return to Epau and I'll be able to eat coconuts from my very own tree.

Fulup yia ago, wan man blo Australia, neim blong hem Thomas, i bin goraon long Epau. Wini i bin gat bel. Taem hemi bin harem se bai hemi bonem bebi, Thomas i bin helpem pasem bebi blong him. Wini bin i givim neim lo bebi "Thomas," tu. Thomas blong Australia i bin stap witim Wini smol taem, mo i bin planem wan tri blo kokonas. Taem mi bin planem tri blo mi, Wini i bin telem mi, "Long wei hemi stap tri blong Thomas, naoia yu gat tri lo plecia."

Many years ago, an Australian man named Thomas was traveling through Epau. Wini was pregnant at the time. When she went into labor, Thomas helped deliver the baby. Wini named her newborn "Thomas," after him. Australian Thomas stayed with Wini for a short time, and during that time he planted a coconut tree. When I planted my coconut tree, Wini told me, "Over there is Thomas's tree, and now you have your own tree right here."

Long Vanuatu mi larnem kokonas i gat fulap impotan. I save usum fulap kokonas long lokal kulja.

In Vanuatu, I've learned that coconuts are of great importance. Coconuts are used in the local culture.
Our language group and trainer pouring coconut milk on top of the bunia

Long Epau, mifala i bin mekem bred blo kokonas mo bunia. Taem mifala i bin kukem hem, mifala i bin usem fulap kokonas.

In Epau, we made coconut bread and bunia. When we were making them, we used many parts of the coconut.

Firs taem, mifala i bin usem stik o bus naef blong teikemaot outsaed sel. Taem i mekem bunia, mifala i bin usem outsaed sel long bus oven blong beikem kakae.

First, we used a stick or a bush knife to remove the coconut from its outer husk. When we made bunia, we used that outer husk around the fire to form the outside of our bush oven. 

Afta, i usem hea blong kokonas long tu wei. Yu save usem hea blong mekem faea o pul milk blong kokonas afta.

Next, the inner husk/hair can be used two ways. You can use the hair to make fire or to strain the coconut milk from the meat. 

Mifala i bin klinem hea long kokonas mo usem bus naef blong openem sel blong kokonas. Insaed, hem i stap wota blong kokonas gud tumas.

We cleaned the coconut hair off of the coconut and then used a bush knife to open the shell. Inside there is delicious coconut water. 

Our PC-issued coconut scratcher, but painted so it's Melissa-fied

Afta mifala i bin openem sel blong kokonas, mi bin usem samting blong skrajem kokonas. Yu save kakae mit long kokonas, o yu save mekem milk blong kokonas.

After opening to coconut shell, we used a coconut scratcher on the inside. You can eat the inside shaved meat, or you can milk it to get coconut milk. 

Firs taem yu putem wota long dis blong mit blong kokonas. Afta yu usem hea blong kokonas save pul milk long mit. Mifala i bin usem milk blong mekem bred. Motu yu save usem milk blong stopem pinim kakae lo lif.

First, you'll need to put some of the coconut water in the dish with the shaved coconut meat. Next, you use the coconut hair to strain the milk from the pulp. We used the milk to make bread. You can also use the milk to prevent food from sticking to a leaf (while wrapping it for cooking). 

Taem yu finis, yu klinem sel o livim long faol kakae insaed. Yu save usem klin sel blong drin kava.

When you are done, you clean out the shell, or leave it out for the chickens to peck clean. You can use a cleaned shell to drink kava. 

Ni-Vanuatu i usem evri pat long kokonas from Vanuatu hemi fulap tri blong kokonas.

The Ni-Vanuatu use every part of the coconut, as Vanuatu is filled with many coconut trees. 


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