Our next Vanuatu kava experience - the end of the celebration day

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Thu 1 Sep 2011 09:28
An early end to our village participation...it is now just coming on 7 pm
and Dave and I are back on our respective boats.

When we got to the compound a bit after 4 pm....the men's sacred place....no
women allowed to even watch.....we found several small groups of men
collected around small fires.....everyone seemed very mellow. A couple of
village men came over to us and welcomed us; then then asked if we wanted to
try kava...."yes"... and had us sit on a log near the main entrance to the
compound. They said we would be invited later for the evening drinking of
kava. They said that kava drinking had begun about 10 am after the custom
ceremony had ended and everyone had left....the men had come back and
started preparing and drinking kava....and that is why we were seeing very
mellow people now.

Several men...some obvious elders of the community....and some middle
age.... and some in their 30's ....began speaking to the whole gathering in
their local language. We were told that they were explaining the customs and
traditions.....making sure that the currently "empty minds" of the younger
men and boys were filled with the proper understanding of the details of the
traditions/customs and specifics of what each aspect meant. This went on for
the next hour or 2....while kava was being prepared/chewed in a number of
the small groups.

A bit later, while this is going on, we get invited over to the group that
are gathered under the thatch porch of the hut where the 3 circumcised boys
had lived by themselves these past 2 weeks. We are told to sit on the log on
the left side of the fire; time passes....several of the men come by to
welcome us and introduce themselves.....and tell us more and more bits of
the whole days proceedings.

We watch as a very young boy is assisted in rinsing his hands with fresh
water and then seated on a stump where the kava cups are in place to receive
the strained output from the saliva/kava sputum as it is mixed with water
and forced through the fabric sack material. We then meet the father of this
4 year old boy who is working the kava....it turns out he is the father's
first born son....and the central figure in the whole day's ceremony. The
other 2 boys were just add ons as they were 2nd or later born sons.....the
whole basis of the celebration and the players involved in the day is the
first born son. His father explained to us that he had saved up so as to be
able to provide the animals for the feast ( our earlier blog entry spoke of
the pig, cow, goat). He explained much more but it is still a bit too
confusing in my head to now report for your consumption.

As dark was coming on, we were invited to stand up and step just outside the
porch to each receive a large cup of kava from the older men working with
the 4 year old in the kava preparation. We downed the kava in one
motion.....and then were offered hot food to follow the kava...roasted root
vegetables from the day's feast....still hot enough to almost burn your
fingers......and some roast beef from the cow that we had seen dragged in in
the morning. We were then asked to go back under the thatched porch but to
this time sit on the right of the fire.

From this vantage point, we watched all the kava prep going on in the small
groups around the compound....perhaps 20 or more men were chewing the kava
and spitting it out onto the wild kava leaves and then laying the piles on
leaves or mats for others to take to the mixing positions...with the 2
stools, container of water, straining sac fabric, and 2 large 1/2 shell
coconut bowls/cups. Clearly it was going to be a real kava drinking event!!
They had informed us that custom dancing would also begin while the kava
drinking was going on. Some other men brought over more beef and taro...but
we politely declined....and Dave and I decided that we should find a
respectful exit and leave the locals to their celebration...we had
participated enough.

On our way back to the dinghy, we decided to go into the Port Resolution
Yacht Club....it was all in darkness ...but we met the woman who runs it as
we were walking along the path to the dinghies....and she agreed to go back
and find us a couple of ice cold beers.......which we took to the chairs by
the side of the cliff and watched the new moon begin to light up the bay as
our yachts with their anchor lights twinkled below.

A fitting end to a most memorable day....an experience which we knew we had
been most fortunate to have had the luck of timing to be there for this
occasion.....and to have received the widespread welcome so as to have been
so fully included.

Good night from Tanna > next installment will be from Port Vila some days
from now.