July 31, 2003

Fighting SARS . . . With Coconuts?

In the Phillipines, latik is the term used to describe the residue left over when coconut milk is cooked to the point where it turns to oil.

In June, an epidemiologist in the Phillipines was reported to claim that latik may help fight the SARS virus. Here's the story from the Manila Times.

Well it turns out there are others exploring the use of coconuts and coconut products in the fight against SARS. Here are some recent headlines:

  • Virgin Coconut Oil Being Tested on SARS Patients -- 18 May 2003 -- Inquirer News Service, Manila

  • Can Coconut Drive SARS to Nuts? -- 19 May 2003 --- The Hindu, India

  • How to Make a Difference Among Those Troubled by SARS. TeamExpansion is a church group in Taiwan and this article mentions this:
    On Tuesday, some of our church people decided that at least we should go a pray and try to encourage the quarantined medical workers and SARS patients in a visible way. We had a banner made which read something like, "Dear doctors, nurses, staff, and sick friends: We know you're having a rough time. We will pray for you daily and ask God to protect your health and give you peace." We took the banner to Chang Gung Hospital (the most affected hospital in southern Taiwan) near our church, tied it between two coconut trees and began to pray and sing. Within seconds we were swarmed by local media, taking pictures and wondering what we were up to. It was a great opportunity to share our concern and the hope we have. We made the papers too.
    Well you just made a blog as well. :-)

Posted by brian at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

Ensiklonesia: An Indonesia Blog

Ensiklonesia.net is a blog focusing on life in Indonesia.

From tomorrow's blog entry (why, it's already tomorrow, August 1st, in Indonesia!):

Nothing quenches thirst on a hot blazing day quite like an icy cold bottle of teh botol. Teh botol, the Sosro brand in particular, is undoubtedly Indonesia’s most favorite tea beverage. It really is nothing more than just extremely well marketed lightly sweetened jasmine teh. The taste of the dark teh botol is not only eminently strong but also very exhilarating. To wash down a hearty meal without teh botol would be the unthinkable to an Indonesian.

Sounds like teh botol is to Indonesia as Lea & Perrins Worcestershire is to Salvadorans!

Posted by brian at 01:12 PM | Comments (1)

Montserrat: The Gray Pearl

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number one place I wanted to travel to was Montserrat. If for no other reason than because I'd read so much about the warm, friendly people; the beautiful scenery; the recording studio made famous by McCartney, Sting, and other stars; and last but not least, the goatwater stew (Montserrat's national dish) in Plymouth. With a name like "goatwater", it had to be good. I was determined to try a bowl of goatwater.

Unfortunately, the 1995 violent reawakening of the long-dormant Soufriere Hills volcano (the very one Jimmy Buffett once sang about) on Montserrat changed everything. Within a few years, most of the island was covered in ash and lava. Indeed, the town of Plymouth is gone.

Two weeks ago, another eruption occurred when the lava dome, which builds up only to collapse, once again collapsed, sending out more ash and covering the island once again.

Here's a Montserrat website with a large collection of video and still photos of this July eruption.

Reading dispatches from Montserrat these days is sad. For instance, from a recent Reuters article:

. . . the volcano's dome has been continuing to grow and then periodically collapse, spewing superhot rock and ash. Half the island is still off limits because of the danger, and rockfall from the latest collapse was limited to that uninhabited area.

Work crews were still trying to clear main roadways on Wednesday, shoveling the sun-hardened ash into trucks.

Residents were using so much water to scrub away the mess that rationing was implemented. The water supply is drawn from underground springs, and the taps are turned off daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. so the springs can replenish the storage tanks.

The heavy ash crushed flat tin roofs on a few small rum shops and garages, filled the coastline with dead fish and killed off doves and pigeons. It choked the fields, destroying 95 percent of the vegetable crops and leaving livestock gasping for breath and unable to find forage under the dust.

The eruption also may have wiped out the national bird, the already endangered Montserrat Oriole. "There have been no reported sightings since the explosion," Greaves said.

Here's a link to the full Reuters article.

Following the eruption, the governor of the island declared Montserrat a disaster zone.

In 1991, the Montserrat census showed 10,639 residents. Today, there are less than 4500 people left living on the island, which from the home page of the official Visit Montserrat tourism website, you'd never know was in such dire straits.

Montserrat's chief medical officer, Dr. Joseph Hawes, was recently quoted saying, "Montserrat is still safe, still nice -- not the emerald green but we are now gray pearl."

I still hope to visit the island some day. I'd love to know if they're still serving goatwater.

Posted by brian at 11:58 AM | Comments (3)

July 30, 2003

Latitude 13: a Guam Blog

Nicely designed blog called Latitude 13 run by Josie Moyer, a designer of an entertainment magazine in Guam. Great photography on this blog as well!

Here's a recent blog entry:

I don't consider myself to be much of a car enthusiast, but when Prestige Automobiles sends me an invitation to test drive the new BMW Z4 on the brand-new drag strip at the Guam Raceway Park, baby, I'm there.

My invite said to meet at the Prestige Automobiles Showroom in Yigo and be transported in luxury to the Guam Raceway Park. I expected a tour bus to be waiting in the parking lot to take us (me and a handful of other media and photography types) to the drag strip. Imagine my surprise when I was handed the key to a brand-new BMW X5 and was instructed to go on and drive myself to the park!

Posted by brian at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

Blogging Samoa

Andrew Hecht is a Peace Corps Volunteer working in American Samoa. He runs an active blog called American Idle (great pun, btw.) A recent blog entry:

It seems Chief Justice Patu Tiavaasu’e Falefatu has a full docket these days. There was a major drug bust at the Fagali'i airport. A 12-year old girl was nabbed with 9 bags of ganja attached to her person.

The airport where this happened is right around the corner from my house. I ride past it almost every day on my bike on my way to town.

It's just a simple airstrip surrounded by coconut palms and banana trees. There are pigs and chickens running around all over the place. It's hard to beleive that such nefarious activity (international drug smuggling) is taking place in such a bucolic setting.

Posted by brian at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

21st Century Molokai Connects Online

Five years ago this would have been noteworthy. Ten years ago this would have been fascinating. Fifteen years ago this would have been unthinkable.

Today, it's just normal.

A Molokai church pastor participates on a web message board, strikes up a friendship with a pastor in York, PA, and a year later, they're serving Kalua Pig, Poi, and Haupia at a luau on the churchgrounds in York.

Rev. Lon Rycraft is the pastor of a Kaluapapa Peninsula church on Molokai known as the Kana'ana Hou-Siloama United Church of Christ (link goes to a 2001 story about efforts to preserve the church, and includes a nice photo).

Rev. Elmer Scofield is pastor of St. Stephen’s Chuch in York, PA. They decided for their churches to become ""sister churches" a year ago. Just this past weekend, they celebrated the one-year anniversary with a luau at the York church, and the York Dispatch was there for the story:

The 30 or so people who gathered at St. Stephen's United Church of Christ in West York did just that, partaking in a luau, or Hawaiian feast.

Wearing leis -- flowered necklaces -- they ate Hawaiian dishes such as poi, a mashed potato-like food from the taro plant; haupia, gelatinous squares made from coconut milk, and imu, roast pork.

Someone might want to let the York Dispatch know that imu is the in-ground oven where the Kalua Pig is cooked -- it isn't the pork itself. :-)

Posted by brian at 06:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2003

Rarotonga or Bust

Mark Frauenfelder, his wife Carla Sinclair, and their two children really did it: they packed up and moved from LA to Rarotonga. Why? Here's their rationale:

We want to find out what it is like for us, an urban American family – accustomed to 24-hour supermarkets, multiplex theaters, top quality medical care, freeways, high-rises, thousands of restaurants in a 20-mile radius, and a daily barrage of media – to slow down. So we moved to the South Pacific. Our first stop is Rarotonga, a tiny island in the South Pacific.

. . .

Our goal, our experiment, is to see how simply we can live on an Island known for its simple, but pleasant and easygoing, way of life. In the United States, “simple living” has become little more than a style statement and a marketing strategy. We are going to pursue true simplicity. Besides immersing ourselves in the culture of Rarotonga, we are going to remember to enjoy being far away from our frenetic, crushing, overscheduled circumstances in Los Angeles. This is the time and the place to slow down and spend time experiencing life: exploring tide pools, connecting with each other, catching fish, buying produce from neighbors, hiking in the jungle, strumming the ukulele, and simply enjoying the sky, the sand, and the shore.

They've launched a blog called The Island Chronicles which each day provides a photo or two and a some new comments about what discoveries they've made during their stay on the island.

The L.A. Weekly has published the first of what it promises to be regular dispatches from Mark and Carla, offering more insight into their move and their new life in the South Pacific.

Posted by brian at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

Kerala Facing 'Acute Shortage' of Coir

News from Kerala, the Indian region known as the "Land of Coconuts":

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala, known as land of coconut, is planning to import coconut fibres from Sri Lanka in order to save the crisis-ridden coir industry.

Replying to questions, Agriculture Minister K R Gauri Amma told the state Assembly that the present crisis in the coir industry was not due to the piling up of stock, but due to the acute shortage of raw materials.

See the full story from KeralaNext.com.

Posted by brian at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

Bomb squad called for Coconut

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
July 22 2003 --- A bundle containing a coconut and two lemons triggered panic in a temple in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, bringing the bomb disposal squad rushing to the world heritage monument.

Read the full story here.

Posted by brian at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

Chagos Islanders Want to Go Home

There's an interesting story in the July 27th issue of The Observer about the plight of the original inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia who were kicked off the island to enable US/UK to establish a base there.

From the article:

A Colonial Office official called Patrick Wright wrote in a note to the British mission at the UN: '...there will be no indigenous population except seagulls, who have not yet got a committee. Unfortunately along with the birds go some few Tarzans and Men Fridays, whose origins are obscure and who are hopefully being wished onto Mauritius.'

Those 'Tarzans and Men Fridays' had in fact been on the islands for several hundred years, working on the coconut plantations, speaking a Creole tongue derived from French and English, and hunting and fishing for food.

The effect of the uprooting of the islanders from their homes devastated many lives. Cherry said: 'My father eventually went mad before he died. He spent too much of his life in grief.'

Read the Full Story at The Observer.

Here's a related (and more in-depth) November 2000 story from BBC News: The Chagos Islands: A Sordid Tale.

UPDATE: 31 July 2003... Here's a page with a huge amount of details on the lawsuits, the demands of the Chagos Islanders, and the latest news, from Ted Morris, the guy who runs a likewise huge website on everything you ever wanted to know about Diego Garcia -- at least, from the American serviceman's perspective.

Posted by brian at 07:21 PM | Comments (2)

Welcome to the Coconut Blog

Just in the nick of time, before the seventh anniversary of the Coconut website: the launch of the Coconut Web Log, or Coconut Blog for short.

The mission of this blog is to cover current events, issues, and insights into what's happening these days all over the tropical world.... wherever coconuts grow...

Posted by brian at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)