A few months back I, as ITKT Editor, had pondered about what to do with the problem of finding a story about Vanuatu for ITKT readers. That’s not entirely true. I could find something about Vanuatu, just nothing from my personal experience or anything from any other writer contributing to ITKT. I eventually settled for a book review, a book review about Getting Stoned with Savages. It’s a fun book about a guy trying to make his way through the little understood Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, and later Fiji. it was a good read and accomplished my need to add something to our Vanuatu pages.
Recently, I had the same dilemma of trying to find material for another little known island nation. This time Kiribati (pronounced Kiribahs). I am not sure what I was thinking as nothing I had heard about the atolls out in the Pacific suggested a particularly inviting travel destination, but I root for the underdog.
Luckily, I found The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost. The same guy who wrote about his adventures in Vanuatu. Who would think it necessary to live in both countries for more than a stopover? Well, this guy did, and he is my travel hero.
This book is funny, just as much as the first book I read by this author(The Sex Lives of Cannibals is the first of the two travelogues by Troost). It offers clever anecdotes with an incredible backdrop of people, landscape and customs — I can’t help but be enthralled by the bubuti system of acquisition, the fine art of taking, while their crooked government confounded me. Overall, the awesome, and sometimes awful, descriptions of life on Kiribati made me want to hop on a plane. However, the most interesting thing I read is not how they live with their own culture, but how they have accepted the culture of the west, seemingly to the Kiribati people’s detriment.
With the availability of “disposable” products, like diapers and La Macherana, on Kiribati, folks used them with wild abandon without the consideration of a landfill (a Kiribati superstition prevents the burning of diapers). Readers will quickly get how this is problematic on an atoll in the Equatorial Pacific. It’s a fascinating hybridity of culture.
In the end, I must have dreamed the whole thing. As ITKT doesn’t have any Kiribati pages — as embarrassing and ridiculous as that may sound. I never needed to track down anything about the destination, it’s people, well, or anything. However, I learned something about this unique culture and the Kiribati pages will be a new addition to our site soon. I am hoping we will get some more information about this chain of islands soon, until then enjoy the book (yes, we offer it at our store).
Written by Devin Galaudet