The Power of “Hello, my name is…”

ImageMa in all of her glory

Only an hour ago I had one of those experiences that make you stop and think, “Wow, life really is a wonderful thing.”

After a hard day of work, we (the group of WWOOFers here at the farm and I) had hoped to go to the beach.  It ended up being overcast and drizzly, so we chose to forgo the beach trip and hang around. We were generally short on booze when I arrived, and after a bit of bumming, I decided that this downtime was as good of a time as any for me to replace what I’d used and contribute to future shenanigans.

One of the gals who’s been here for a little while was told by another WWOOFer who’d left recently that she needed to try Kava.  We had no clue what it was- only that it was a muscle relaxant and that there was a spot that sold it nearby.  I later found out that it’s a Polynesian plant whose root is commonly used for medicinal purposes.  We elected to go in to town together, grab the alcohol, and then give the Kava a shot.

The liquor store trip was uneventful, but the Kava shop was incredible.  It’s run by an older Polynesian woman with a very thick accent and a quick smile who goes by the name of “Ma.” Ma was quick to pour us a very large, communal bowl of Kava, and then content to sit and enjoy the cool weather- warm eyes and smile never leaving her face.

The Kava was very interesting.  It’s simply powdered root in water, and tastes like it. The powder numbs your tongue and throat on contact, almost like a novocaine gel, and after several minutes, mellows out the rest of your body.  There was a light, heady sort of feeling, and my nagging back pain, which I’ve been subject to for months, was kind enough to disappear while we were drinking, and for a bit afterward.

ImageThe bowl of kava and the coconut shell cups

I became curious about the old woman who seemed so happy just to be alive, so I introduced myself.  “Howdy ma’am, my name’s…” “People call me Ma.”  She picked up an old ukulele and asked if I could sing or play.  I told her that I could give the singing a shot, but I definitely knew how to play a few songs.  She listened, smiled, and occasionally rasped along with me when she knew the lyrics.  She explained that her lungs didn’t work properly, so she couldn’t sing much, and enjoyed listening to others now instead.  I’d hardly call what I do “singing” but she seemed to be enjoying herself, and I was having a pretty good time too!

Ma had me grab a binder near the table that she was sitting at, and flipped it open to a few loose pages of ukulele tabs with lyrics.  While she played, we sang together and laughed as we struggled through the song.

After we finished with the ukulele, we sat, sipped kava, and disccused life for a while.  She hit her stride for a few minutes and told me a few of her thoughts on life.  I made sure to take notes.  Some of it follows:

  • Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If someone is upset with you because you falsely advertised yourself, you should be ashamed.  If someone doesn’t approve of who you are when you’re genuine, you can hold your head up high, and should seek better people instead.
  • Give respect to the mother and father of any household you visit.  Always bring a gift for the lady of the house.  It doesn’t have to be big- something as small as a flower- but you should always bring something.
  • “The older I get, the more I know that life is too short to hold grudges.”

We parted ways a few minutes later.  I promised to return, and will be bringing Ma something the next time I visit.  I can’t wait for next time!

ImageThe interior of the shop and Ma prepping our kava

Have any of yall ever had kava?  What about an experience with an elder that left a lasting positive impression?



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