The Sex Lives of Cannibals Book Review
I’m pretty sure this book was written before the click-bait title was the default way for us to get all our news (fake or real!)… But as I was hanging out in Tuvalu for a week - on my own atoll in the Pacific, I wanted to know more about the history and lives of people around me, so I cautiously downloaded a sample. Soon, I got the whole book and couldn’t stop reading.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific is about a guy who ends up living on Kiribati with his girlfriend for two years.
I’ve never heard of Kiribati before. It’s an atoll in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific. Turns out, it’s pretty close to Tuvalu! In fact, I learned from the Tuvalu locals that Tuvalu used to be part of Kiribati. One of the local young women I talked to said her grandfather was from there!
So right away, I could relate to the book. Reading it in Tuvalu made it come alive! Take for example the airport:
“We had departed a country where children are swaddled in helmets and body armor, and only then allowed to ride a Big Wheel in a carpeted living room, and now we had arrived in a country where children play on active runways”
In Tuvalu, there is literally a pre-school on the runway! Kids play soccer and volleyball on it in the afternoons…
“Tarawa lacked a waste management system. There was no need for one until a few years ago, when goods began to arrive packaged in luminous and indestructible material. Before, bags were made of pandanus leaves, food was encased in fish scales, and a drink was held inside a coconut. When you were done, you simply dropped its remains where you stood, and nature took care of the rest.”
In Funafuti - Tuvalu’s main island, there is now a rubbish dump at the end of the island. My host drove me through it on my last day there to get to the very end of the island - the best beach is there! I imagined it would be a hole in the ground, but the garbage was just dumped everywhere. Everything from cars to microwaves to pictures to laundry detergent containers.
But what I found so interesting about this part of the book is learning why in some countries (including India), people just throw garbage on the ground. Growing up in America, it’s just unbelievable to see this! But now it makes sense. All previous materials, especially when you live on an island with nothing more than natural resources, everything is organic. If it’s thrown on the ground, it will simply decompose back into nature!
To illustrate this, one night in Tuvalu, the cousins from the family I was staying with were just sitting around weaving baskets from coconut tree leaves:
I immediately asked them if they were doing it for fun. It looked like fun to me! But instead, they explained that they were making them for real life! The killed a pig earlier in the day, and they needed the baskets to collect coconut shells to use in the earth oven (lovo) for cooking the pig. The next day, I saw them put the extra pig parts in it (it was a big pig!) and take it with them to someone else’s house to freeze and eat later…
This is where the evils of plastics on the environment came alive for me.
“it occurred to us that the essence of life is derived from the color blue—liquid blue, pale blue, deep blue, shades of blue separated first by the breakers that cascaded on a distant reef and then by the horizon.”
The blues are unbelievable!
But after reading this passage, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the school-children’s uniforms in Tuvalu. Such a beautiful blue!
These are just some of the example small observational snippets from this book that opened up my own eyes in Tuvalu. But even if you’re not going to a Pacific island any time soon, it’s still a fascinating and entertaining read.
Far from paradise, island life is tough and intense! I couldn’t help but laugh when the author ended up accidentally swimming in shitty waters…
So avoid the title and give this book a read! It’s fun, interesting, and entertaining. Full of cool little historical facts about the region. It feels like reading a history book you get to laugh through!