Monday, February 04, 2008

Book #5: Getting Stoned with Savages

Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost
nonfiction/travel, (c) 2006, 256pp
rating: ***

A couple of years ago, I read (and loved) The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost about his time living on Kiribati, an atoll in the South Pacific. I found it extremely funny and engaging and was looking forward to reading this new book.

Getting Stoned With Savages finds Troost back in the South Pacific, first on the islands of Vanuatu, and then on the islands of Fiji. Troost describes life in Porto Vila, the main city on the main island of Vanuatu. He spends an inordinate time talking about the joys of kava, a hallucinogenic drug that is taken regularly by the men and women of the South Pacific. He goes in search of real live cannibals and gives us a little bit of history about the islands. The end of the book talks about having a baby in the South Pacific and the joys and struggles with that.

Overall, this book lacked the magic of the first one. Troost himself seems to understand that, and explains it in the last chapter. An atoll is the great equalizer - while he and his wife were looked at strangely in Kiribati, eventually they were accepted by the locals and were subject to the same whims of nature and the supply chain as everyone else. In Vanuatu and Fiji, Troost lived the life of an expatriate. I got the sense that he really had to go looking to find things worth writing about. His life in Vanuatu was not unlike the time I've spent in places like Nairobi. Sure, there are the trials and tribulations of a third world country (and yes, I am glad my data collection in Kenya ended prior to the civil unrest there), but there are also bars and malls that cater specifically to expats.

So, while this book wasn't bad, it's not as good as the first one.

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