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the coconut tribe

2014 January 8
by Rachel Turiel

ki3-story avocado and friends.

ki2Stripping coconut bark to make cordage.

ki3Shaking a coconut to assess goodness. Two more coconuts bulging out of backpack.


Making friends with the guys who have machetes is key.


The processing of coconuts is somewhat like butchering – the peeling off of the skin, cutting of the raw coconut meat into smaller pieces, the celebration at the bounty.

Okay. I think we’ve figured it out. The meaning of life resides in a coconut. It contains nourishment, electrolytes, water, good fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, flour, antioxidants, medicine. So you’re pretty much set for life with a palm tree. (Meanwhile, in the “alternate realities” file, we just got a call from our housesitters who reported that due to extreme high winds the pilot light on our hot water heater went out, and because the hot water heater heats our house via loops in the floor, things were very chilly).

Dan and Col have been using all their powers to suss out ripe coconuts, which skitter under some leafy plant metropolis while your average tourist is Facebooking their vacation. Today Dan and Col went on a little “coconut scout” and came back with seven, which is pushing it even for us. But if we have to leave the kids’ clothes here on the island to make room for some coconut smuggling, well, that’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make.


Why yes, we did buy some of these roadside akule fish. Turned out to be pretty bony, so we made—wait for it—fish bone broth! Boy, was it good.

Watching the sunset is a nightly event. Us plus my parents plus longtime family friends Greg and Jo = a very pleasing adult to child ratio.


The danger of island life is you start feeling this hippie urgency to live your dreams, or, as the phrase goes: to do whatever it is you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail. As the ocean laps the shore, trivial things like, say, mortgages and retirement funds shrink in significance while we imagine living off coconuts (or deer sausage and dandelion greens) and the earnings from our creative endeavors…at least until it’s time to scrap together dinner while the kids exclaim over the volumes of sand accumulated in their cracks. Ping! Reality.


Rose is fierce enough to get in line with all the adolescent male boogie boarders waiting for the next wave. Dan gives her the high sign and that girl jumps on her board, riding it like a rocket to shore. (Also, inexplicably, the sea turtles like to hang out in these lines, all nonchalant about flippering their ancient scaly bodies around all these humans). Col likes the boogie board but also can be found engineering sand and digging covert traps topped with sticks and leaves. Both kids snorkel around without assistance – stalking the whimsical technicolor fish that could only have been created by the Kauai tourism board.

Hanalei Bay:



ki9Taro fields and the Hawaiian “nene” goose, back from near extinction:

Monk seals often haul out of the ocean to catch a snooze in the sun. Volunteers rope them off to keep Col people from curling up against their bellies and snuggling with them.ki11

The baby-est baby gecko (these guys click and clack pleasantly outside our window all night). Also, has rainbow loom swept through your town? We had never heard of it when we left Durango and, no fooling, at every house we went to this trip with kids, they were the Big Thing.ki12

Hike in Waimea canyon: ki15

Hard to see, but Col is holding Greg’s hand, who’s been a dear friend of my father’s since before I was born. Despite the age difference these two have a lot to talk about: engines, aircraft, and what happens when you shoot a flaming arrow at a block of wood your brother’s holding and other true stories that make a mother pale. It’s very special.


Beach yoga?


Thanks for indulging me all these photos and stories. Is it unbearable? Back soon with re-lighting blown pilots, ice-scraping and other winter adventures.

With love,



16 Responses leave one →
  1. January 8, 2014

    Thanks for your last line. Isn’t it sick how your mention of ice-scraping makes me feel better?
    Tricia (sitting at -35 F)
    The pictures are beautiful and mouthwatering!

  2. Caraway permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Wow!! I didn’t know you were in Hawaii. Looks like you guys are living it up, making the most of every moment, living life to the fullest! So great! And can you feel your bones getting stronger by the moment with all of the delicious vitamin D soaking through? :)
    Have so much fun and send our love to all. xo

  3. Ellie permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Not unbearable at all. I love seeing the hippies on the island. Also, yes, the Rainbow Loom has made it to the Bay Area. My second-grader is obsessed with it; apparently, it is the Big Thing for boys!

  4. Molly permalink
    January 8, 2014

    So pleased for all of you, and inspired to see about giving Hawaii a whirl, one of these days. Enjoy!

  5. Jaime Becktel permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Looks like pure heaven. :) So glad you guys were able to go on a family vacay to paraiso!!

  6. Auntie Jant permalink
    January 8, 2014

    You already know that Jack & Charlie love Rainbow Loom. David and a group of his friends are making and selling bracelets to raise money for a very worthy charity. I’m loving it! Have a delicious rest of your vacation. Sure could use some of those balmy breezes around here!

  7. LeeAnn permalink
    January 8, 2014


    Don’t fret about finding space in your luggage to stow coconuts. Instead, slap a mailing label on it and drop it off at the local post office. No packaging required, it will arrive home safely and getting a coconut in the mail is about the coolest thing ever. Enjoy!

  8. January 8, 2014

    1. You make this look like a great, easy vacation, someday when our kids are out of diapers we will do something like this.
    2. Rainbow Loom? Is that what it is called? My son came home from school with one yesterday (Wyoming).
    3. Your husband looks like a hunky surfer-type, especially in the photo where he is silhouetted! Woohoo!

  9. January 8, 2014

    You make this look like a great, easy vacation, someday when our kids are out of diapers we will do something like this.
    Rainbow Loom? Is that what it is called? My son came home from school with one yesterday (Wyoming).
    Your husband looks like a hunky surfer-type, especially in the photo where he is silhouetted! Woohoo!

  10. Hillary Ross permalink
    January 8, 2014


  11. January 9, 2014

    Watch out for the luggage x-ray…I was sweating hard, trying to be nonchalant about the contraband I’d packed away. Did the kids jump off the cliffs in Waimea Bay? Terrifying, but oh-so-rewarding.

  12. Becky permalink
    January 9, 2014

    loving being on vacation through your eyes…….especially since we are having this crazy 9 degree weather in North Carolina. Thanks!

  13. Andrea permalink
    January 10, 2014

    Unbearable? Never.
    If I put my face close enough to the computer screen I can almost feel the solar gain.
    What a treat. beaches, sand, and all that bright light this time of year.

  14. Emmanuelle permalink
    January 10, 2014

    I am thoroughly enjoying this post! And I confess that I would gladly snuggle against a monk seal myself. Or watch “nene” geese in the taro fields. And yes, eat a coconut fresh from the tree :o)

    And how about this grass-covered path in Waimea Canyon among ferns and oak-looking trees? I must be dreaming.

    Love and rainbows to you all!

  15. Melissa permalink
    January 12, 2014

    More, more, please, more stories of Hawaii!!!!

    And, yes, rainbow loom and all those little rubber bands have taken over our home. We have jewelry for the next 10 years.

  16. February 5, 2014

    Hawaii is already a wonderful place, but made even more amazing with your stories. So glad you guys had a wonderful vacation.

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