Witing Kelapa Katon Awe-Awe; The CoconutWhat happens when a coconut tree smashes through your roof?
My favorite Javanese song includes a line (the title of this post) that uses the imagery of waving palm branches as a signal to afternoon boaters that it’s time to return to shore. High above the ground (I would estimate as much as 30 meters), the weight of dozens of young coconuts and the branches make the tall trees incredibly top heavy. The tops do sway in the wind, and the palms do wave.
Recently, a coconut tree outside of my house waved a little too vigorously and came crashing down, completely uprooted. It brought a message that was less inviting than the one in the aforementioned lyrical verse. The top of the tree smashed straight through the roof tiles above my room and tore through the ceiling. The event left my room wrecked—alone in its fate amongst the rest of the undisturbed house. It was as if my room was chosen to be arranged as a solitary exhibit of the potential structural damage that could be incurred during some sort of Javanese natural disaster.
Thankfully, I had stored certain objects in my room in such a manner that they would be less susceptible to the hazards of earthquake—a rare but real threat in southern Java—or flood—a threat more likely brought on by a broken washing machine than a natural torrent. My external hard drives were stored on the second shelf (off the floor in case of flood) of a sturdy wooden bookshelf. The bookshelf did the job I hoped it would do in an earthquake. All major debris was withstood, and the hard drives were left in tact. My computer, however, was left vulnerable—completely exposed on my desk. It bore the brute force of at least one coconut and, by the looks of several dusty orange scratch marks, a roof tile. It’s done (though I think parts are still salvageable).
More importantly, nobody was hurt in this incident. My host family was in the back of the house, and I was on the front porch with two visiting volunteers. My friends and I watched the whole thing unfold with shock and—in some odd way—appreciation. Contrary to the environmental conditions one might expect for such a story—rain, lightning, heavy winds, and gray—the blue sky was smattered with only a few puffy white cumulus, and the breeze was calm.
My worst fear as I watched the tree fall was my host father’s car. It sat directly under the fallen trunk, spared only by the roof of the house. Roof tiles and a few bricks can be put back together in pieces, but there is absolutely no way the frame of that truck would have been salvageable under the force of that falling trunk. A back window was smashed by a falling palm leaf, but the rest of the car was fine. Amazingly, the house was put back together almost immediately. A crew of four or five men had clambered up on a ladder within an hour of the incident to begin repairs, and the whole room was back to normal in less than forty-eight hours. Now, the only evidence of the fallen tree is a patch of new roof tiles and a deforested side yard—which was curiously ridded of some, but not all, tall trees that could reproduce the same damage. (And I mean to emphasize ‘not all’ because there is still one coconut tree left standing that I can watch pinwheel at its base anytime I walk outside; I don’t know why it hasn’t been cut down).
I don’t have photos of the coconut tree’s collapse, but I should have plenty in a week or so. Elle dutifully photodocumented the whole event. Check out her blog post for pictures and and more on the story. My only two comment on Elle’s post: One, my bed didn’t take up half of my modestly sized room; it took up seventy-five percent of my modestly sized room. The math can be easily calculated based on counting floor tiles. And oh yah, my bed survived, so it still takes up seventy-five percent of my modestly sized room. Two, Elle remembers it being a little more windy than I remember, and it could very well have been. And a note to anyone else who has smartly detoured to Elle’s post but has now made it back here: I will share more later about the jeep rides and turtles that Elle eluded to.
<another photo from Elle’s tumblr> if the link still works
I can provide a snapshot of the recount I wrote in my journal-type-thing: