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Monday
Mar262018

Kava with a  ‘K’

Flickr | Dave LonsdaleAs with all countries around the world, Fiji is stacked with its own local traditions, customs, clothes, food, behaviour and general ways-of-doing-things. One of these is Kava and the other night, we took part in our welcome ceremony with the family in Suva and boy-oh-boy did the Kava flow.

Now, a quick disclaimer. Firstly, this version of Kava is not the sparkling wine associated with Spain (thank you Wikipedia) as that one is CAVA. Secondly, it is non-alcoholic so perfectly safe and responsible to have a ‘Tsunami’s worth, more on that later.

Drinking Kava typically comes during a ceremony called Sevu Sevu, a tradition of gentle chat, clapping, laughing and blessings bestowed upon you and the Kava to welcome you into Fiji, the family and the community.

The drink is made from grinding down the Kava plant’s root into a very fine powder, wrapping them in a cloth of some sort and then essentially dipping the cloth into water. The resultant drink is a dark brown earthy colour that, it has to be said, doesn’t appeal to the eyes.

Once the Kava sharing process begins, you clap your hands to receive your bowl, say ‘Bula’ to everyone at the ceremony as a whole and then drain your bowl in one gulp before passing it back and clapping again. Everyone take turns in having their bowl and when everyone has drunk we all go for another round about 10 minutes later.

Sitting with Master, who is the grand patriarch of the Suva home stay, and Moses, another local leading man, they made an amazing account of the tradition of Kava and what it represents.

Moses went so far as to say that Kava is as important to Fijians as their own blood or the sea that surrounds their islands.

The effects of drinking Kava are said to build up over time, so for the older gentlemen present, whom have been drinking Kava extensively over the course of their lifetimes, the effects are quite something. Effects such as hallucinations, drowsiness and talking to oneself are common….. supposedly.

For us amateurs though, a slightly numbing sensation occurs on your lip which is the extent of it. Although, it’s highly recommended not to drink loads on an empty stomach.

Traditional Sulus are worn, Kava is presented by the guests to the head of the household and, theoretically, no-one can leave until all the Kava is drunk, so make sure to buy a small amount just in case you don’t take to it.

Whatever your feelings towards the drink itself are, you can’t help but be warmed by the experience of the Sevu Sevu that has nothing to do with the humidity. You can see in the eyes and actions of everyone how much it means to them that you’re there taking part. Fijians aren’t selfish or concealing with their traditions, unlike in many parts of the world. The more you want to take part in their way of life, the more they like it.

Everyone who comes to stay at the home stay in Suva with Frontier will have to take part in Sevu Sevu with Master and his family and, believe me, it’s for your own good as much as theirs. It’s not just being polite to our hosts, it’s immersing yourself in Fijian culture and isn’t that what it’s all about?

By Guy Bezant - Fiji Operational Support Coordinator

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