Based in Houston, Texas, GEV is a blog by The GreenEyed Venuist. Her posts explore travel and photography through her green eyes.

Impromptu Kava Cermonies for the Win

So...the night of the South Sea Island Fiasco, we were tired....so so tired. We had dinner at the hotel....which was not the best but it was beautiful and there was a band playing music and my toes were in the sand while I ate so I was content.

I was content but I felt like I was lacking the full Fiji experience. You see, I wanted to immerse myself in the culture during my brief two days on the island (but not that much b/c I'm still pretty bougie and need things like a/c and running water, etc). So, we stayed in a beach front bure - the traditional style homes on Fiji. But...I also wanted to try kava before I left. 

Slightly off topic rant: So, even though you know there are some places that you know you'll eventually come back to, like you have no choice b/c that place left some lasting impression on you, you want to get the full experience while you're there, in the present. Well, I do anyway. Thus, this is my creed, I try not to travel to a place I've already been until I've been to a few new places, if that makes sense. There are soooooo many destinations that it's nearly impossible to get to them all. But I have nothing but time and opportunity so I'm going to try. I'll get back around to Fiji -and other places- and spend a full week there at some point. Until then, I'm trying to set foot in as many different places as I possibly can - end slightly off topic rant.

Anyway, Kava is the national drink of Fiji. But, you can't just grab a cold bottle of kava from the corner store, as we would soon find out. Drinking kava comes along with a grand ceremony that includes the preparation of the drink, stories, community involvement, etc. Kava is an indigenous plant that is known for it's relaxation effect, among other things. The root is pounded into a fine powder and then mixed with fresh water. The end result resembles muddy water and tastes slightly bitter....and just to be honest....it didn't taste good at all....it pretty much tasted just like it looked. Murky, muddy, bitter water.

The kava powder and water is mixed in a huge wooden bowl (tanoa) and the mixture yields way more liquid than I expected but then again, they started out with a lot of water. (I just wanted to taste it! Sheesh). Also, I was no longer in for just a tas

te of kava. We were going to have to participate in the whole ceremony....So we watched as the cute guy from the hotel prepare the mixture. He pretty much kneaded this cloth bag, used to keep the grit out of the drink, over and over again, straining it, ringing it out, dunking it back in the water.....imagine what it looks like to was clothes on a washboard....it was just like that. As this cute hotel guy is mixing the kava, other hotel guests start to notice what's going on and randomly pulling up chairs and joining the circle. In my head I was thinking, everybody got their cups but they aint chipped in! (that reference that's eternally stuck in my head thanks to one Snoop Lion aka Snoop Doggy Dog).

After he made the kava, which takes a pretty long time to strain all the "good" part of of the powder, he scoops the liquid into small bowls called bilo, made from half a coconut shell, and passed the drink to my friend Alan. 

But before he drank, we were given instructions. You must clap once when it's your turn to drink and throw it back like a shot. Then you clap again and say BULA! After, you return the bilo and everyone claps three more times. So...I'm not sure if we did it all in this order but it was something like this. I know there was clapping and yelling. (photo cred to Alan by the way. He took most of these pics).

So....drinking kava is like getting your mouth numbed at the dentist. Within minutes, you start to feel the numbing effects. We were told that kava can be made in different strengths and the locals like theirs potent. As you can see from our faces in the pics above....it was definitely not the tastiest thing and the locals were tickled by our reactions.

Some of the other guests joined us and told stories about how the people in Fiji and Tonga drink kava all the time because it can't be detected by a breathalyzer. So basically, this drink that supposedly gives you a pleasant, mind clearing effect....which sounds alot like being high to me.....is actually a problem. People get behind the wheel of a car and lose their faculties but no one can prove it...lol.

Anyway, this speaks to the hospitable and generous nature of the Fijian people. Normally, they perform the kava ceremony on Saturdays at the hotel. As you can tell, preparing the kava is no easy task. It's not like you can just warm it up in the microwave. It takes a person to know what they're doing, who is knowledgeable b/c there's a whole story that goes along with it. So they literally set this whole thing up just because I asked. The cutie preparing it was talented too....he could prepare kava, crack jokes and flirt with three American girls all at the same time. 

Anyway, there's more to come about Fiji.

~There's no where to go but everywhere!

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