Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting Stoned With Savages

A Trip Through the Islands of Figi and Vanuatu

After reading my first J. Maarten Troost book, Lost On Planet China I knew I couldn't quit with just one. So I set about persuading others to buy me such books as "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" which I haven't received from anyone yet and "Getting Stoned with Savages" which I did receive. Evidently drugs as a book subject is more acceptable than sex when given as a gift.

This book evidently picks up where Troost left off with his life in his previous book stuck in suburban Washington DC and dreaming of the life in the islands that he traded it for. His remedy was to persuade his wife to get a job in the South Pacific while he wrote about their first two year trip documented in "The Sex Lives of Cannibals". He was successful but only found out only on the day he was fired from his job in DC.

Troost and his wife, Sylvia, end up moving to the Island of Vanuatu, island of a couple seasons of the reality show Survivor and last known recorded incident of cannibalism just over forty years ago. While his wife Sylvia begins work for a regional nonprofit, Troost immerses himself into the islands culture, beginning with the drinking of kava on his first day there.

Kava, a drink that is traditionally created by young island boys masticating foots from the kava plant to grind it up and mix is with saliva. The resulting mixture is squeezed through a sock, mixed with some water and drank from a shell. The result is that it sedates and calms the consumer while still leaving behind mental clarity. The kava that Troost drank was ground with rocks but otherwise still the same stuff and he accidentally drinks himself into a temporary paralysis that lasts for the next two days. Upon awakening he comes up with lesson number one, Vanatu kava is much stronger than any kava he had known before. Other lessons he learns and writes about are about dodging magma from the world's most accessible volcano, experiencing his first cyclone and discovering what calcified leftovers from cannibalism looks like. He also answers the big question of cannibalism that has stumped him for a long time. Why?

About halfway through the book, Sylvia becomes pregnant and not wanting to give birth to their first born on Vanatu, they instead opted for Fiji which had just recently overthrown a political coup attempt. There while looking for a place to live before his wife arrives, he runs into a group of transexual prostitutes as only he has a way of doing. During his stay, he also experiences a mudslide when he wakes up to enjoy his coffee on his balcony teen feet above the ground only to see that it is now fifty feet and his backyard is now up against his downhill neighbors house, and of course his first son being born. From there, he slowly realizes that perhaps island life is not what is best for his son and he and his wife Sylvia pack up and move back to DC.

Although not really a travelogue and according to those who have read his first book, not up to par, I certainly found this book entertaining and enjoyed it tremendously. At 235 pages, it is a quick read and with his descriptive chapter titles, one never has to wonder what the next one will be about. But from the sounds of other reviews, this books is just an appetizer to his first book which some say was his masterpiece. Now if I can just persuade someone to gift me a book about sex and cannibalism....


R. Sherman said...

I'm intrigued. At the moment, Vanuatu is sounding pretty darned good.


TC said...

I'd guess it's not "sex vs. drugs" but rather "cannibals vs. savages."

Ed said...

R. Sherman - I'm not so sure but then again, I've read the book.

TC - There you go, savages is a much classier term!

Edelweiss Transplanted said...

I'm puzzled as to why Troost and his wife left the cannibals and transsexual prostitutes to go live in DC. They wanted more of the same?

As a resident, I can assure you that we've got plenty of both on Capitol Hill, at least in a metaphorical sense.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Haha I like Edelweiss' replied.
It's so easy to buy a man present isn't it? Just get him a book, or a pair of socks. No need to think much.

Beau said...

I'll take the islands just as they are, and I could use a visit to the sea... just the vista and relaxation would be more than enough, uh, fulfillment should we say?