After we got settled in, Berry (the activities director) informed us that a tour of a traditional village would be available. Most of the newcomers, myself included, decided to take part and we set off for a nearby village.
The tour began with a look in the school, followed by a glimpse at some of the play areas. Then we got down to business: running the gauntlet of some 12 ladies with products on offer.
Though the six Brits I came with shopped up a storm, I passed. I didn’t want to lug anything with me in my already too-full bag. More importantly, I wasn’t impressed with the merchandise. Everyone seemed to be selling the same stuff, and it was clearly machine made. What was special about that? I found myself thinking of it very cynically, imagining that none of these women actually kept inventory, that they were all just on commission. I felt bad when Berry said that all the purchases went towards the building of a community center, which was certainly far from complete a sorry state indeed:
Then I wondered if the women resented us. I’m sure they had better things to do than set out towels and sit around for some white people twice a week. But on the other hand, that’s the hospitality industry, and in a country with a per capita GDP of US$5,500, the largest share of which is made up by tourism, perhaps they should be glad that the gorgeous surroundings are a draw. Nobody holidays in Bangladesh.
Anyway, next up was a kava ceremony.
“Kava” comes from a plant which is pulverized, placed in a bag, and then made into this sort of stew. (Note the puddle-like look of the drink in the photo inset.) It’s not so nice looking, particular when it’s being made by an old-ass man who seems to pour as much of the water on his hand as the bag.
I was chosen as “spokesman” for our “tribe” with the other male in our group as chief. Then we participated in a quasi-traditional ceremony with the presentation of bowls all around, some “bula”s and some clapping. We had many rounds of kava, which has a mild anesthetic effect on your lips and tongue. I actually found it pretty gross, but you’ve gotta do it once.
Then most of the villagers danced for us, ending with a conga line in which everybody took part. That was actually the coolest part, but naturally I didn’t get any pictures because I wasn’t sure what protocol dictated.
Then it was time to head back to our island, just in time for me to grab some shots of the sunset en route: