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The Kava Ceremony

Known as yaqona ("yanggona") in Fijian and also simply referred to as grog, kava is a mildly narcotic drink made from the pepper plant (piper methysticum). It's used on both important and social occasions—notably in acceptance of guests or visitors—and is traditionally accompanied by great ceremony. Those partaking sit in a circle on the floor, a large bowl placed before the leader. The plant is pounded, the pulp placed in a cloth sack and mixed with water in a tanoa (bowl), turning a brownish color. The leader then soaks it up and strains it repeatedly using the cloth before a small bowl is filled and presented to be drunk in one swig. The drinker claps in appreciation a certain number of times before and after drinking, the number varying by region. Most people experience a slight numbing of the lips and tongue, and those who drink a lot generally feel sluggish the following morning. Traditionally the kava itself is supplied as a sevusevu (ceremonial gift) by the guests or party seeking favor of the chief and should be laid before the chief upon arrival at a village. Kava can be purchased at any open-air market.

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