Kava is the tipple around these parts. Like beer and wine in Europe, it’s the one strand of commonality that runs through this disparate set of islands. Brewed (that’s probably not the right word) from the mulched up root of a tree, it looks a lot like muddy water and tastes like cold nettle soup, with some mud thrown in for good measure. I had a blast of it in Vanuatu and found it somewhat lacking in the taste department, although it did make my mouth go numb, which I suppose is a blessing if you’re intent on having a second helping. It’s served in a half coconut shell (or the skull of your enemy in less prissy times) and passed around from person to person with a CLAP before you drink and a CLAP CLAP afterwards. For years Kava was tapu (taboo) for woman to drink, although they used to have the job of chewing up the root before spitting it into the water bowl for the menfolk to then enjoy. Feminism, germ theory and the missionaries put a end to that noble tradition.
What effects, narcotic or otherwise, that Fijian Kava (other islands make stronger brews) has on your body and soul is much open to debate. From my experience, it makes you a little drowsy but that might also be the natural effect of it being late at night.
After a few stuff of the brown stuff, the taste becomes less obnoxious and it’s perfectly possible to drink the night away with good company. Sandy’s friends Peter and Ann provided that good company around at their place on Friday night. Peter is a Fijian and Ann is originally from Illinois, but has been here long enough to drink Kava like a local. After a few shells (for me – Sandy doesn’t drink), Sandy and I headed out into Suva to meet with CouchSurfing friends of hers in the Bad Dog Café, the epicentre of Suvan nightlife.
After Bad Dog, we headed over to I-Crave, a swanky little nightspot not far from the British High Commission (Fiji is currently suspended from the Commonwealth, but it still ain’t no embassy baby). Sandy left me in the capable hands of her mates and I set out to get rather squiffy with Cassie, Losana, Jakara, Cat and Kat. We ended up in a nightclub whose name has been lost to the vagaries of the beer vortex. I can’t quite remember how I got home to Sandy’s, but I’m jolly glad I just about managed it.