Monday, July 10, 2006
Your basic paradise
So this was our real destination - Katiet, population 400 or so, a surf mecca and your basic tropical paradise. Katiet has one of the world's most famous surf waves, called Lance's Right. You've probably seen it in advertising, even if you've never heard of it; it's one of those perfect, glassy tubes surfers love to play in.
Under the tree are Dave Jenkins, the guy who started Surf Aid, and Brendan Hoare, a consultant who was arriving for a pretty cool two-week study of agricultural practices to figure out how to help the locals achieve a more varied and healthful diet.
The staples here are taro and banana. They don't provide enough nutrition, so kids' growth is stunted. The interesting thing is, it's not quite clear why their diet is so limited. It appears the Mentawais were forest-dwellers until relatively recently. They may have moved to beachside areas like Katiet because the food in the jungle had been depleted, or they may have been rousted out of their former homes by a 1950s campaign to "civilize" indigenous tribes. At any rate, they aren't great fishermen, and they don't have a strong tradition of working with the soil to make it more fertile, so they aren't making full use of the resources around them. That's what Brendan is hoping to help them improve.