Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Fijian Summer Games

Our third night in Fiji was an extremely long one.  And I mean that in a good way.  The night began in the afternoon, as most nights are wont to do.  And it began with some competition.  The first competition was spear throwing.  Holy injuries, Batman!  Or at least that was what I was thinking.  A bunch of college students, on break in Fiji, throwing spears for distance?  How is that not dangerous?  Not only were they spears, but they were all natural spears.  A.K.A. they were sticks with conical cork like tips shoved onto the end.  We were shown two different ways to throw, one with the whole hand, the second with the forefinger and thumb.  The girls went first.  We had two test opportunities, one for each throwing type.  My first spear, where I used the whole hand technique, went just about nowhere.  My second, where I used the other technique, went just a little farther.  After our practice throws we were each given the chance to throw individually, trying to make our spear fly the furthest.  I made a last minute decision to change spears, which apparently worked for me because that third toss went way farther than the first two combined.  I even made it into the finals, YAY!   I believe it was the top five throws that moved on. 

However, before we could compete in the finals, the men had their turn to test throw and then place into the finals themselves.  For just a few minutes us women were a little worried we would be competing against them.  I wonder who was going to win.  Oh, and did I mention that the winner won a free cocktail during happy hour?  We figured out fairly quickly that we would not compete against the men in the finals, a good thing too.  Seeing as how men have more upper body strength than women?  Yeah, they threw a hell of a lot farther than any of us.  I really wish I had a picture of the field to show you all.  Let’s just say it was pretty far.  Not quite a football field, but it was close.  The farthest throw from the men came in the form of Ryan Friesan.  He threw his spear the entire length of the field and into the bushes beyond.  If those bushes weren’t there it would have kept going.  Let’s just say everyone knew who had won before finals even happened.
The women finals were a tossup because I think every throw was a fluke.  My throw was, distance wise, in the middle of my first three tosses, not even close to winning.  And of course, Ryan won the men’s toss.  After spear throwing, it was on to tug of war.  The guys were split evenly, and so were the girls.  As we lined up to start, one of the natives was telling us to pull before go.  So we pulled, hard.  That really threw off the other side, though it wasn’t close enough to the actual start for us to gain anything by it.  We had to reset and start again.  When we started for real it didn’t take very long for our side to win.  And then we were informed it was two out of three.  Great. 
Both teams switched sides and set up to pull again.  And again, our side won.  It was pure domination.  Sadly, the winners of this activity did not receive a free cocktail.  Oh well.  The final activity was, of course a water balloon toss.  I mean, why not?  Again it was girls vs. girls and guys vs. guys.  And the girls were up first.  Now, these balloons weren’t specifically water balloons.  They were normal balloons filled to bursting with water.  This was going to be interesting.
We started by handing the balloon to each other.  Then we both had to take a step back.  And so on and so forth.  I believe myself and my partner, Kristen Brown, had a total of four tosses before she threw it short and it hit the ground.  But for some reason, every other team still in at that point also dropped or popped their balloon, except for one.  The winners were Carissa and Patience. 
The men folk were of course up next.  They did surprisingly well.  Although, the team that won ended up using their shirts to catch their balloon.  They would toss it and then use the shirt almost like a lacrosse stick to cradle the balloon upon landing.  Totally cheating.  But they won.  And those lucky winners were Jonathan and Jaime. 
The night continued to develop, from the games to happy hour to dinner.  From dinner we gathered round to watch/ partake in some native Fijian dances.  Now, these dances may have been for our benefit, but the dancers were definitely having fun.

After all the merriment died down, and the dancers went home, it was time for us to experience a kava ceremony.  What is kava you ask?  Kava is, by definition, “a crop of the western Pacific.  The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with sedative properties.”
For the ceremony, the roots were dried for many years.  It’s much like wine in the way that the more aged it is the more potent it is.  The roots were then crushed and soaked in water, almost like tea.  This was then scooped into bowls and passed out among us.  Personally I though it tasted like muddy water.  Our ‘guide’ Russ told us that if you drink enough kava it actually has hallucinogenic effects.  He also said that if you drink that much you’ll probably pass out before this happens.  I only had one bowlful so all I got was a slight numbing of the tongue for maybe five minutes. 

The ceremony continued for a while, eventually devolving into a night of modern dance and music, followed by a bonfire after the lights turned off.  Overall, the third day we were on the island was the most action packed, for me at least.  Hiking, camera drowning, spear throwing, tug of war, ceremonial dances, and kava drinking, just to name the most obvious.

Note: The pictures that accompany this blog belong to one Travis Roof because both of my cameras were out of commission.

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