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Monday, February 28, 2011

No More Kava

                February 24. After breakfast today we took a hike into the village where we met the chiefs and had a proper kava ceremony with them. It was a 30 minute walk (in our sarongs) to the village and we had to cross rickety, skinny logs that were makeshift bridges in order to get there. I wasn’t looking forward to a hike today and distracted myself in talking to Olivia.

The high school clique started to fade when we arrived in Queenstown and by now our 2 groups have merged. I have gotten to know Claire, Ariana, and Olivia more than I had and they are all great people. Claire is incredibly confident and is hilarious because of her disregard for what people think of her. Ariana is a down-to-earth girl with a genuine kindness and a dorky, but positively upbeat personality. I have already stated that Olivia is kind, friendly, and a great conversationalist with a slight attitude (which brings a change to the conversation, but never a negative one). Yet, I’ve recently noticed that she is adventurous, relatable, and blunt (she speaks her mind freely and confidently).

                When we finally arrived at the village, we were greeted with enthusiastic “Bulas!” everywhere we walked. The village seemed undeveloped, but pure in its culture. Here, they take nothing for granted. They use every material they can get, which makes their houses look more like squatter-homes. We entered the chief’s home with relief, for it had started to rain during our hike. It was a simple home, but one of the more luxurious ones. It had several couches, mirrors were placed oddly around the room, and there was a curtain that divided part of the room to make a sleeping area. The chiefs were 2 withering, old men who were already sitting in their perspective places for the ceremony. One of the chiefs looked eagerly at us, clearly enjoying our visit, while the other gazed lazily outside, seemingly bored with the events. Before taking our seats around the “Mother Bowl of Kava” we introduced ourselves to the chiefs. They shook our hands, one more energetically than the other, and introduced themselves as we introduced ourselves.

                We sat down and began the ceremony. There wasn’t much difference between the other ceremonies than this one, except the chiefs were served first and were the ones saying “Taki” as we finished our first rounds. The chiefs were relatively quiet throughout the ceremony, only displaying their presence by laughing at a Fijian joke or clapping before someone had drank their kava. The mother bowl was enormous and took several “Taki’s” to finish the kava. I fought back a look of revulsion during my first high tide, but everyone in the group saw right through me and laughed. Then something much worse happened.

                They brought out a bowl roughly the size of a human skull. It replaced the tsunami and was about double its size. Andrew bet me I couldn’t drink a bowl of it. I had to sustain my dignity, for Claire, Olivia, and David had already had one already. I asked for the bowl and Oro’s face broke into a grin. He handed me the bowl and turned to watch (he knew I hated kava). It took about 10 seconds for me to gulp down the entire bowl. It was 10 seconds of repulsion. The bowl was so daunting I had even forgotten to clap and say “Bula!” before I drank, but nobody seemed to mind. Andrew looked impressed, but another ruthless expression crossed his face as he asked me to do another. So, I did another and one more after that because he had bet me again. It was a good thing that the mother bowl was empty at that point, because any more kava and I would have probably thrown up.

                My mouth felt completely numb as I said goodbye to the chiefs, each giving me an approving smile. I walked out while the others teased if I was even able to walk straight. Surprisingly, it was only my mouth that had become numb and even that wore off within minutes. The walk back was enjoyable enough. Most of us just talked about the ceremony.

When we got back to the farm, it was time for a quick lunch and then off to pack our things. I wasn’t reluctant to leave the farm. It was fun, but I was ready for a proper shower and a day without becoming completely dirty. We said our farewells and jumped into the trucks (I made sure I was in the cushioned truck for a change). We stopped for a while in Nadi where I was able to buy souvenirs for home. Then we rolled back to the eco lodge outside Nadi.

We spent the rest of the day in the pool and showers, happy to cool off and get clean. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, we are going to a beach comber island for our last few days, just as a vacation (not like this entire month hasn’t seemed like a vacation).


  1. Jimmy,
    Thank you for your wonderful posts. I find the first thing I do every morning is check to see if there is an entry. I love being a part of your adventure.
    143 dearly...Mimi

  2. Hey Jimmy,
    Your writing is fantastic! Your mom and I had an experience with kava at a "Polynesian Party" a friend of your mom's in NYC a few years ago. I can still sense the dirt taste my mouth and remember the rush and numbing feeling in my head... Keep up the blog! Dad