I Ela Kuai's Council (Mele Me) issues hammer struck Pitis coins at the following conversion: 4,867.41368 Pitis to the Troy Ounce of .999 Silver. Historically the conversion was 4,000 Pitis to the Spanish 8 Real coin. The coin set includes the same denominations that circulated in Brunei generations ago: 1/4, 1/2, 1, 5 and 40 Pitis. The 1/4 Pitis, the first in the series, is shown below:
I ELA KUAI
I Ela Kuai, meaning Turquoise or Azure Water, is a 2.2 mile long island, unbroken except for a small passage into the small lagoon. The island averages 600 meters wide. The outer edges of the island are cliffs, some 80 to 120 feet in height. This effectively blocks landing on the island from the ocean, however on the south side the cliffs subside to only a few feet above sea level. This is the location of the only entrance into the small lagoon. This physical feature has been a big benefit during cyclones and when tidal waves have threatened.
The island’s true claim to fame is the lagoon that appears turquoise. Aquatic plant life creates the deep turquoise look to the water. It is claimed to be one of the most lovely in the world and seemingly is a well kept secret.
Vegetation is limited to grasses, brush and coconut palms. Most of the island is sandy. There are no streams or springs. The small lagoon teems with fish.
There are 2 villages with a total population of about 750. The people are Polynesian mixed with some European blood. Many of the islanders have English surnames.
The people live a subsistient lifestyle. Homes are fairly typical thatch huts. A few taro patches and gardens provide food. Non-motorized boats are used for fishing along the fringing reef and in the lagoon. Rice, a staple food, is imported and consumed during most meals.
There are 2 small schools on the island operated by non-profit organizations. They provide a basic education for all children. One organization has a nurse stationed on the island in a two room clinic with few supplies.
There is no electricity, no roads, no telephones, no post office, no airports and no regular transportation to the island. Contact with the outside world is by radio on frequency 7875.5. The radio is monitored daily for 15 minutes to receive messages, including weather reports and news of any arriving vessels. The islanders can send messages at any time in the event of an emergency. 1 or 2 yachts visit the island annually. All incoming and outgoing mail is handled by the rare visitor to the island. Mail is typically carried when islanders arrange to receive rice and supplies and when yachts visit.
The island is considered to have good fortune among other distant islands. In World War II the island was never utilized. The lagoon entrance was too shallow to support large ships. As a result, the island went through World War II with little intrusion. The island has fared better in cyclones likely because food can be stored in dugouts on the ocean end of the island and the elevation helps to keep the island from being wiped clean of vegetation. Tidal waves have had little effect on the island.
One might think I Ela Kuai is somehow a paradise that can always escape harm. This gives the impression life is easy and carefree. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is not easy on I Ela Kuai. If you want to eat, you must garden and fish. If you can pull that off, now you can build your house of thatch and timber you harvest yourself. You build your boat. And you do all this without money. Since you’ll want some rice, you had better have something to trade for money or for rice. Whatever that is, you must create it. While you don’t have a work schedule or a boss, you certainly cannot quit your day job or you’ll starve.
Each of the villages has a chief and several ‘advisors’. Advisor is an unusual word, but there is a group of men and a group of women, generally seen as leaders within each community who make their wishes known to the chief who typically acts in coordination with the wishes of these folks.
Such an island would normally have a very distinctive culture and code of conduct, but the traditions and culture have either suffered in recent decades or never were that strong. The oral tradition is still quite strong and the local dialect is strong even though school is taught primarily in English. Songs, chants and dance are not well developed or have suffered in popularity over the years. The rigid social structure is even very relaxed. On most such islands, a chief is highly revered with people bowing to him. This has changed and the local chiefs, while still the governing entity, are viewed as people performing their tasks. They are treated no differently than an adult child might treat their parents. Certainly there is respect but there is no special attributes applied by the people.
Even Men’s Houses and Women’s Houses are not utilized in the traditional sense. Both such houses are seen more as a gather place in the community. It is proper for the opposite sex to come to the entrance and ask for an individual. This is vastly different from some cultures.
Outside influences are very minimal. As a result, society and culture evolves from within, not from outside influences. Very, very few have every been off the island. Looking for a way to buy the next sack of rice does not make one wonder if they might find work off the island. So few leave, the thought never crosses their minds.
Everyday life is fairly uneventful. Fishing, gardening and caring for the home and land is a daily routine with time for family and friends once duties are complete.
Like many small islands, a local toddy is made from fermented coconut milk. On many islands, the complaint is most men are drunk most of the time. Simply put, I Ela Kuai is a crowded island. If the population rises another 20-25% it will be difficult to produce enough food to feed the population. As a result, drinking toddy is not a daily affair but something reserved for a few times a year. It is doled out as if it was liquid gold. Cigarettes, on the other hand, are always in great demand. One can get a great deal for just one cigarette.
We have yet to learn details about a local currency. Certainly there would be little need for a local circulating currency so few coins or banknotes would be made for this remote island.
In 2013 a series of coins will be made available. The denominations are:
¼ Pitis, ½ Pitis, 1 Pitis, 5 Pitis and 40 Pitis.
The Pitis is pegged to silver with 4,867.41368 Pitis per troy ounce of .999 silver. Where trades outside the island are made, the value of the coins is pegged to the prior day’s closing price at the London Exchange.
Designs on the coin will relate to local values. We do not know for sure if prices are related across the board to the coin designs or if they represent a symbolic value.