Papua New Guinea: Betel Nuts

Betel nut is the drug and pastime of choice for every mad and many women all over Papua New Guinea. Supposedly, provides a general state of intoxication similar to being stoned. A single nut costs 1 kina ($0.30) but that is the same as 2 kilos of sweet potatoes, so significant portion of everyone income goes toward the drug. Everybody chews the betel nuts, including police. It’s a whole ceremony of chewing it – you peel the nut, dip it into crushed limestone from seashells and then chew of some mustard plant. The combination creates a chemical reaction in your mouth whereby everything turns bright blood red. You don’t swallow – you constantly spit it all out. So everyone has a “bleeding” mouth and spits “blood” all over, and every building and ground is covered with “blood” as if a mass murder just took place. Limestone powder being acidic does cause the real mouth bleeding and cracks as well. Throat cancer is the number one clinical condition in men (guess why). I tried one nut but not long enough to feel anything whatsoever – it’s a very bitter taste, like eating a combination of oats and unripe persimmons.