What a culturally infused day! After two lectures about climate change in the South Pacific and Fijian art, we had a free afternoon. The rest of the group swam at the Holiday Inn hotel, but my house was super lucky. We were fortunate enough to visit Walter’s village of Naku.
Daku is located about 40 minutes from Suva over the Rewa Bridge (fun fact: the original bridge was built by America during the first World War). Every man at a village is technically a chief, as each man has a role in the community. Walter has played a huge part in the climate change project that America has tried on select villages. He showed us the village plans and explained to us how they were able to drain the rising water from the village and how they need to raise the land by about two meters still. He just finished a proposal for funding.
Walter showed us the village church (every village has one) and school, and walked us across what I would call the village green, which children were playing soccer on. He said he was embarrassed because the grass was so overgrown due to all the rainwater, but I did not think the land was unkempt at all. We walked by homes, which were similar to any tin or concrete house one would pass along the side of the road. I was surprised, because when I hear “village” I think of something more primitive.
Walter lead us into a communal building with men from the village. Although his wife said it was against their religion to drink it, Walter surprised us with Kava. Kava is a crop and its roots are used as a ceremonial, political and social drink. For example, villagers used to sit around a Kava bowl, drink it and listen to stories about their culture all night. Kava relaxes the mind, and sometimes numbs the body, but sharpens the senses. I was excited we got to watch them make the special drink, which consisted of putting the ground root into a cloth bag, and kneading it with water in the Kava bowl.
Before drinking it, we had to choose a chief who would control how much Kava we consumed. Jordan decided to be the chief. So, before drinking began, the informant to the chief (Jordan) said opening words of thankfulness and welcomed us to their village. Then, a man waved his hands over the Kava to open the drinking. Jordan was presented the Kava in a small coconut bowl. Before drinking, the drinker says “Bula! (welcome)” and once she is done, everyone cups their hand and claps three times. The informant of the chief drinks next, and then everyone takes turns. We drank for quite some time, but the Kava was weak, so we did not feel anything.
In the above photo, you can notice Brian wearing a sulu, which is a customary kilt that villagers wear and is Fiji’s national dress. If we had known it was happening, we could have stayed for the village party that was happening later in the evening. Regardless, we were so thankful that we got to visit a Fijian village and soak in the culture.