Seven children and youth members of the village crowded around Garrett's computer as he narrated his life in another world. "This is my friend Amanda…And this is the snow I ski down every winter. We get lots of snow like this…"
I dozed off nearby on my bed as each head fought for viewing space in front of Garrett's monitor. The world floated away for a moment until a voice awoke me with disgustingly exciting news.
"Lindsay, get up! I'm going to go slaughter a pig!"
Without thinking, I grabbed my camera, wiped the drool from my chin and followed the sounds of a squealing swine.
After working in Kuwait for the last year, one of the village men returned to his awaiting wife and beloved home, and in Nakavika, this is reason enough to take the life of a pig. Ben, our uncle (since we've theoretically morphed into the family of our hosts), donated his wee swine for the festivities that evening, and I thought it was my duty to watch one of these slaughterings if I was going to be a good carnivore.
On the trek in Kashmir, I asked the gypsies if I could take part in one of the chicken decapitations, hoping I'd see the gruesome side of being a meat-eater and really come to terms with the reality of the food chain. They never let me, and the pansy in me was quite glad they didn't. After seeing this pig slowly choked and sliced open, I knew I didn't have it in me - unless I was extremely famished.
The size of this young animal called for the termination technique of the slow choke, the slicing of the neck, and the severing and tying off of the trachea. The whole process took three or four minutes, all the while I sighed, "There's got to be a better way." Staring into the open mouth and fully opened eyes of the swine, I imagined her entire body pulsing with adrenaline and terror, her meat turning acidic from the surge of chemicals, her mud-splattered life flashing before her eyes.
The boys said, "This is the way we kill the piglets."
"Well, this seems awfully drawn-out," I shuttered and stepped back.
Abel and Paul carried the now-limp oinker from her final pool of blood to a nearby tree to singe the hair off her skin. Dangling from one hoof by a wire, dried coconut fronds ignited instantly to create an angry flame around her. The kids continued to poke her body with the fronds and whatever knives they found strewn about the grounds. As I talked to Bui, she spun her foot atop a machete and nearly wandered into the pig's blood. The kids weren't just unfazed; they found the whole process downright delicious.
Stained with washes of soot and ash, the pig received a bath outside at a nearby spigot, where once again children crowded around to prod and at least three adults took their knives to various areas of the body.
Garrett grabbed the camcorder from me and intently observed the dissection, exclaiming, "Lindsay! It's just like science class!" I gave him a thumbs up from my seat on a palm tree within viewing distance. The smell was a little too iron-rich for my blood.
"Abel, what are you eating?" Garrett stood confounded by Abel's munching jowls.
"Pig," he said. We stopped asking questions.
I have no idea what makes an animal killing "kosher," and I know pigs aren't considered a kosher animal to begin with, but I'm positive the manner in which the Fijians kill and dissect their animals doesn't follow any laws of cleanliness or order. I imagined a butcher watching on in disbelief or with disturbed interest, as he would a car accident. Regardless of the insensitive slaughter, the village folk enjoyed every bit they harvested - dipping them in salt, orange juice and chillies.
Later on in the kitchen, Garrett and I were given the opportunity to try some pig kidney. A hint of orange and dash of salt made it more palatable, but I found the taste to be reminiscent of the bloody, harsh smell of the pig aflame.
The whole experience came out of nowhere, seemingly, and after it happened, the flood gates were open. What other sorts of slaughterings, tastings, first time experiences will we have in the coming months? Gauging from our first couple days, this won't be the most shocking thing to break up our days.
Have you ever been witness to an incredible, gruesome, cultural display that was as intriguing as it was disturbing? Leave a comment and tell us about it.