Monday, April 2, 2007

Getting Stoned With Savages

Getting Stoned with Savages, by J. Maarten Troost
$10.36 at ISBN: 0767921992
This is another travel memoir, and it reflects a very common fantasy. Maarten is a commodities trader who lives in Washington DC. Like most people, he grew fed-up with the stress and crowds of American life, and decided to chuck it all in and move to the remote island nation of Vanuatu. Escaping to a tropical paradise is something we've all considered, but the actual logistics of doing it are somewhat daunting. How does one earn a living in Vanuatu? What kind of food is available? Leaving an industrialized country for a developing one involves escaping a lot of stress, but also giving up a lot of luxuries we've gotten accustomed to. There's no air conditioning, for example. Or beer.
The author is in his early 30s and seems pretty sexy. He brings his girlfriend, Sylvia, which is terrific for the story because it gives him another American to talk to. Living vicariously through them allows you to experience the fun of their experience without all the harrowing inconveniences they suffered. There are parasites in the water supply, some of the natives eat bats and go to war with one another. There are giant centipedes, sharks in the ocean, and active volcanoes threatening to wipe them all off the map at any time. No, the natives are not really savages. There have been rumors of cannibalism, but it hasn't been practiced on the island for a very long time. Officially. Everyone Maarten spoke to seemed very friendly.
So is it worth it? Consider their story for yourself and decide. Towards the end of the book the story becomes more complicated as Sylvia becomes pregnant. The South Pacific is great for jet-set 30-somethings, but is it really a good place to give birth and raise a child? The circumcision rituals Maarten describes witnessing are pretty brutal. I loved the hero of the story right from the first page, had no trouble relating to him. The story moves quick, and is on a subject that most people find interesting. This book is a great way to experience the islands without the gigantic insect life.

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