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17th March 2015- Day 3

Once again I struggle to wake, but I force my eyes open knowing that I have to be at work at 8.30am and unsure if it’s considered rude to lounge in bed too long in a Fijian family, as judging by the noise I seem to be the last one to rise. I grab a quick shower and Mum calls me to tell me my breakfast is ready, so dressing hurriedly I join the family on the mat which forms their table. The food consists of omelette and veg, which seems a bit bizarre to me but I eat it regardless.

I hail a taxi to get to work, feeling quite business like, and head to the magazine office, where I’m shown to a desk and promptly sent to the Fiji Museum a short walk away, to gather information for an article which may get published on the magazine for Fiji Air. This all feels very exciting on my first day. Being useless at directions I almost get lost on the way to the museum but I manage to find it and am shown in by two friendly Fijian women. Compared to the huge, grand museums in London this one seems quite small, but the exhibits are interesting and I am soon absorbed in information.

Once I have gathered what I hope are sufficient notes, I have a quick look around the air conditioned gift shop, where I toy with buying a wooden turtle, and then head back to the office. I type up my notes and proceed to write my article, and soon it’s time to head home.

After I’ve eaten a delicious dinner of tuna curry, some of the other volunteers staying in a house just behind us invite me to join them for the evening. When I find out we are having a kava ceremony I have to grab my sulu and tie it around my waist a bit like a sarong.

The ceremony is held in a wooden gazebo like structure, with the familiar Fijian mats laid on the floor. We sit in a circle and the kava powder is poured onto a green cloth held above a large wooden bowl of water. The powder is wrapped in the cloth and rubbed in the water so that it diffuses and gives it a muddy colour. The leader of the ceremony, an older Fijian man, explains that kava is used to welcome newcomers into one’s house, and tells us about the prayers he is about to say in Fijian once the ceremony starts. It feels very surreal, I have never taken part in anything like this before. Two wooden bowls small enough to fit in the palm of my hand are placed in the kava. One is used to scoop the liquid into the other. As the bowl is passed to the first person in the circle, they have to clap once before accepting it and saying ‘bula’. Then after they drink the contents the whole circle claps 3 times. This process is repeated around the circle.

When it comes to my turn to drink I am slightly apprehensive. I have been told that the kava will make my tongue numb and relax my body, but have no effect on the mind. I clap, say ‘bula’ to the circle, and drain the cup. My tongue feels fuzzy and the taste is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, and everyone claps as I hand the bowl back.

After that initial round there are many, many turns of passing the kava around the circle, each time becoming more relaxed than the last, with people beginning to chat and laugh and sing. Hours later I decide to call it a night as I have to get up early in the morning, but it has been a very enjoyable evening.

 

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