Kava, Coconuts and Cannibals

Welcome to the Fiji Islands!

I never intended do a strip tease in front of the Fijian village chief. Honest! I fully intended to keep my knees and shoulders covered and my head and feet bare, as prescribed, whilst inside the Mavua village’s community hall.

So blame it on the kava.

This wasn’t my first meke after all. The name for a village meet-and-greet celebration, it inevitably involves song, dance, food. And kava.

Pacific Potion

The making and sharing of kava, a ritualistic potion of the South Pacific islands, typically begins the meke.

Drinking kava in Mavua

Murky as the water of the Sigatoka River we’d travel upstream that morning to reach the village, kava is made by the villagers, who grind and strain the root of a local plant known for its sedative properties.

Most of the village of about 200 turned out to greet our tour group on the river banks that morning, among them a dozen or so children in their grey uniforms, big smiles, and bigger bulas.

Bula, the exuberant greeting Fijians thrust at visitors, is usually accompanied by vigorous two-hand, overhead waving and smiles that are the very definition of welcoming. The word itself can mean hello, bless you (when you sneeze), much or very, and life.

“A real bula is big, loud, and strong,” one Fijian man told me. “The stronger you say it, the longer you live.”  Read more of this post