Jean Michel Cousteau Resort, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands
I like the kava.
It tastes a little like wood and a little like dirt. It's an earthy, bitter flavor, with a peppery edge.
Yes it numbs the tongue.
Yes I got a very very slight buzz. Not as good as being narced, but better than near beer.
A trip to the fijian village. And dammit, I didn't write the village name down. I blame the kava. Sorry, guys, I can't believe I forgot the name of the place you live.
An odd experience. It ain't disney. But it ain't exactly real either.
Oh, it's a real viliage. Real people live there. Much of the resort staff live there. And you can tell these people are poor.
BUt there's still something weirdly staged about the deal.
A couple of the older staffers from the resort took us out to the villiage in a bus. A lovely drive down dirt roads through semi-jungle. When we got there, we were lined up -- men first, women behind. They chose the eldest man to be our 'chief' and lined us up by 'rank' on either side. How they chose rank I don't know. But we needed an evan number so they chose a boy of maybe nine. He seems vaguely proud to be a man, but also utterly confused by the whole deal.
We were given a detailed description of what was going to happen, whith notes on courtesy and what the ritual meant. We were reminded that we needed to remove hats and sunglasses.
Then we were trooped in to meet the chief.
Only the chief wasn't there. No one ever said where he was.
YOu hope to find teh viliage is all traditional huts and all, but it's more modern than that; the only people who can afford traditional huts with palm thatch now are the resorts, so the locals mostly live in typical shacks. It's a clean, neat place, not by any means squalor, but very, very simple.
We went through a complicated set of introductions and ritual, all in fijian. A gift of kava root was presented to whomever the senior man was (He was never introduced by name). There was a call and response deal between our guy and the head villager, and then a bowl of kava was mixed.
There's a hand-clapping thing; they dip a coconut shell bowl of kava, the highest ranked man claps once to show he wants some. They pass the bowl, you drink it off, and clap three times (Everyone claps) to show it's good. And then begin again for the next man.
Two rounds. I wanted more but it wasn't clear if it was polite to ask.
As said, it's wood, and dirt, and pepper. A bitter, mild flavor. The numbness was mild, also, and short-lived, but the buzz, which was faint but noticable, came quickly. It didn't last long though.
After drinking, music started and the village's pretty girls (Many of whom work at teh resort) grabbed us two by two, men, women and children, and led us through several dances.
Then there was a presentation of woemn's dances, very hula-like, and then a men's warrior dance; I realized that several of these warriors were in fact our dive masters from the resort.
After this, there was more ceremony. Still incomprehensible. And then -- shopping!
I bought a tapa-print sulu; it seemed to be a mix of locally made crafts and and a imported jewelry. An odd mixture of things, beautiful, locally made tapa next to some obviously cheap jewelry that had to have been made in india or pakistan or someplace.
But the sulu I bought is beautiful, and inexpensive.
After this, we were served refeshments (cookies and lemonade), more cermony, this one translated, basically an exchange of invitations and thanks and offers of frinedship, and all back on the bus to head home.
Odd. Much less moving that I'd hoped, but still, interesting.
And I liked the kava. Note to self -- buy more.