I Was Hoping to Say I Kind of Tried Drugs: a Lesson in Kava

“It’s like pot” people said, “it will mellow you out.”

And thus, I was very excited for night of kava, or grog, a totally legal drink that might open my brain up to what light drugs were like (I’m not looking for light drugs, but scientifically, it would be good to relate to the cool kids sometimes)

Plus, according to Wikipedia:

“Despite its psychoactive effects, kava is not considered to be physically addictive and its use does not lead to dependency.”

Everyone in Fiji drinks kava, most daily, because it “helps after a long day.” It’s a social drink: everyone sits on a mat, around a big wooden serving bowl. As portions get despensed, you clap – once before you drink and then everyone claps three times after you finish. In between rounds people tell stories, play music, sing songs, it’s a really nice way to spend an evening. 

The drink is made by drying out the kava plant (you let it grow for 5-10yrs), pounding it into a powder and then mixing it with water. It’s looks and tastes like muddy water, with the added seasoning of pepper.

The kava plant

After the first drink, your tongue goes numb, kind of like you’ve gone to the dentist and they given you just a little bit of Novocaine, not so much that you’re slobbering and are not sure which side your tongue is hanging out of, but enough so that you ask “where’s my tongue? Oh, there it is.” 
As you keep drinking the numbness progresses to the back of your throat and you wonder if you have tonsillitis (having no idea what that feels like), and then your lips feel puffy. None of this is unpleasant, but I imagine if it were stronger you would start to like you got free collagen injections in all the wrong places.

As for the after effects, personally I didn’t feel mellow, I’ve never brushed my teeth with such vigor, and I’ve never wanted to send so many texts relating my night of not-at-all-badassery, but didn’t because my brain ultimately decided that would be lame. 

So, still don’t know what the cool kids are on about, but I can say that I’ve tried a drink that most the cool kids have never heard of. 


Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite” Sara said as I left dinner to take a shower.

It was inevitable. Having escaped the great bed bug invasion in New York a couple of years ago (when even Bloomingdale’s wasnt spared) my luck was bound to catch up to me. 

7am this morning, my hostel roommate, Sara wakes me up and asks me if her eye looks puffy. To be honest, I couldn’t tell. However, at breakfast, an hour later she proceeded to tell us how she felt itchy and then rolled up her sleeves and trousers to reveal giant red welts everywhere. 

We jumped back, raced to the room and inspected the sheets – sure enough tiny little bugs had migrated to the other beds. Photos were taken, clothes were gathered. The hostel sprayed the room and tried to convince my roommates (at this time, I was off hiking in the jungle, barefoot, less worried about bed begs and more worried about tropical dieseases) that it was safe to go back in. 

Luckily my roommates were no dummies and demanded different, upgraded rooms. 

So now we sit in our upgraded rooms, showered, laundered, and slightly itchy – hoping that we haven’t brought any with us, hoping that the red marks we are scratching are from mosquitos and not from horrible, horrible bed bugs. 

Note: as of now, I’m not infected 

Ghosting or Just Travelling?

Everyday travelling is like a first date, which means by the time I get back I should be medicore at first dates. Where are you from? Siblings? What do you do? Who would win in a fight, zombies or aliens?

That last question is actually important, do you actually think dead, brainless humans would win against space travelling aliens?

Most the time all of this is just asked because it is what you do when you don’t know anyone, but occasionally you feel a connection with someone and conversation becomes more than cursory and veers into the fliratious. 

If you have an over anxious brain, this means you spend time wandering whether it’s real or whether they are just talking to you because you’re on a tiny island and there aren’t many other options.

Anyways, I met such a person and at some point soon, we may be in the same city, so I asked for his contact details. He gave me an email address, which in travelling circles, is suspicious – unless you have something to hide (wife, girlfriend, kids, obsession with cats) you give out your Facebook info (easier to remember a face). An email address could be fake (luckily this one did not come with numbers and was not mrpeanut@aol.com) and never replied to – the person could just vanish away.

To sound like Carrie Bradshaw, “is it ghosting if it’s just passing through?”

Tips for Using Natural Water Slides

1. Wear clothes, they help you slide and keep you from developing “rock burn”

2. Wear strudy clothes, this will prevent inappropriately positioned holes from cropping up

3. Occasionally you will get stuck, they are natural slides, not engineered to be one size fits all, try not to think this means you need to diet 

Pushing myself out of a hole

Do You Have a Boyfriend? 

Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a husband? Do you have children?

One the one hand, these questions could be percieved as progressive, “Do you have a boyfriend and is he so awesome that he is okay with you travelling around by yourself for the year while he takes care of your three children?”

On the other hand, the one I use most, I think “Why are you asking? Are you interested? I rate your opening line as a little forward, but I guess the world is coming to an end soon and no one has time for “what’s your name?””

One of the first question out of Fijian mouths is “Do you have a boyfriend?” If I answer no, the follow up question is “Husband? Kids”? I don’t think it’s meant to be creepy but to a New York brain it does have a little bit of a “I need a wife” or “I am recruiting for this cult and I need to find unattached women who could bear children” air about it. 

I’ve been told that these questions are in fact because here people are constantly looking to arrange someone with someone they know.

According to my current host to fend off this potential hoard (my host has an exaggerated idea of how many times this happens to me) I am to say that I have a husband. For extra emphasis, I’m going to add that I have three kids, and am such a bad mother that I’ve abandoned them for a year. Where’s my ring? Oh, my fingers got puffy in childbirth and I havent been able to wear it since. 

Sidenote: 

I hope two things:

1. Someday soon people stop asking this question to lone travelling women (or anyone)

2. The world changes enough that women can answer this question honestly without feeling like they have just surrendered themselves. 

Good Ideas for Non-Award Winning, but Popular-ish Movies Starring Will Ferrell and Helen Mirren

​Master of Games 

Will Ferrell stars as lovable underdog Mitch who, bereft when his wife leaves him for an ex-Olympic medal winning athlete, feels the need to prove his manhood by signing up for the World Masters Games: held every four years, the global event featuring 28 sports, stipulates that anyone over 35 can sign up for any sport, no qualifications necessary. 

Previously only passingly good at the weekly Simpsons Trivia at their local bar, it will take everything Mitch has to train, compete and ultimately win back his wife’s heart (fittingly with a bow and arrow since he chooses to compete in archery)

Based on: Auckland is currently hosting the World Masters Games and one of my roommates was about to compete in Tennis, she was 60 and assured me (which the rules back up) that you need not have played tennis to compete in tennis at the World Masters Games. Why on earth are these not broadcast ??

The Birthday Retreat 
Helen Mirren stars as Annie, one of seven women who have converged on a tiny  remote island  in Fiji to celebrate a 70th birthday.

Unfortunately, they do not have the lodge to themselves, one loan 36yr old woman happens to have booked the same place. 

The women, mostly grandmothers decend to give the stranger advice on life: over card games, walks on the beach and swims in  the ocean, scandals are revealed, old wounds opened and truths discussed. 

Based on: my last three days on Nananu-i-Ra.