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Keyan
04-05-2010, 08:02 AM
I have a short story set in Saipan; the protagonist is a young man who grew up in California after moving there with his mother at the age of six. He goes back at eighteen to discover his roots.

So he's not actually embedded in the culture, but he does have an understanding of it.

Is there anyone who understands the milieu and is willing to read my story for false notes?

Keyan

RJK
04-05-2010, 05:22 PM
I worked on Saipan for about six weeks back in 1995. Nicest people you ever want to meet. They are all BIG. Men and women are large boned, heavy, and tall. I shopped for a pair of jeans in the local K-Mart. The smallest waist size was 38 inches.
A large portion of the population suck on beetle nut (not sure what it actually is, but it gives them a buzz sort of like drinking a bottle of beer). They use a wedge of lime and a leaf and the nut, and slip the combination behind their lower lip. The lime juice does a job on their teeth.
While I worked there, my co-workers and I were invited to a wedding and a family birthday party. Like I said, very friendly people. Beyond that, I don't know much about their culture.

DrZoidberg
04-06-2010, 05:28 PM
I don't know anything about Chamorro culture, but I believe the nut you're referring to, RJK, is betel nut.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areca_nut

It's a bit like mild Valium with an extremely short effect, so users have to keep eating it all the time. It does't really make you happy. You just don't care that everything is shit, sort of high. It is to my knowledge not illegal in any country. Ubiquitous in India and makes long and boring train journeys, not quite as boring.

The lime thing is because the narcotic component in the nut can only take effect if it first reacts with something alkaline.

RJK
04-06-2010, 07:13 PM
Now that you've scratched my 15 year old memory, I remember more about the nut and how to spell it. The Chamorro greeting is Hafa dai. The guys would kid around giving the greeting a double meaning about how long some work assignment would take. Hafa dai man.
Lime juice would be acid, but you're probably right, it's needed to activate the betel nut's chemicals. It also covers the bitter taste. I'm not sure what the leaf was (I think it came from the betel nut tree) or why it was needed.

Here's a celebratory dance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftQv2Qn25vA)similar to one I attended while I was there IIRC the called it the Flame Tree Dance.

DrZoidberg
04-06-2010, 08:43 PM
Now that you've scratched my 15 year old memory, I remember more about the nut and how to spell it. The Chamorro greeting is Hafa dai. The guys would kid around giving the greeting a double meaning about how long some work assignment would take. Hafa dai man.
Lime juice would be acid, but you're probably right, it's needed to activate the betel nut's chemicals. It also covers the bitter taste. I'm not sure what the leaf was (I think it came from the betel nut tree) or why it was needed.

Here's a celebratory dance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftQv2Qn25vA)similar to one I attended while I was there IIRC the called it the Flame Tree Dance.

Sorry about that. My chemistry brain must have been upside down. Of course, it's acid and not alkaline. I thought right, but wrote wrong. Sorry.

The leaf is just a handy way to serve fresh betel. It's also pretty. It's completely inert. Betel is often served dry and ground put in handy packages. First time I had betel I, in my ignorance, swallowed the whole package. Apparently you're supposed to get violently ill and throw up. But I had no bad reaction at all.

Keyan
04-07-2010, 11:41 AM
The leaf is probably the betel leaf.

Many places in India have the same sort of thing, but complicated to the max. The north Indian variety from Delhi might have, in addition to betel nut (actually, areca nut from the areca palm, usually shaved into something vaguely resembling pencil shavings): lime; rose-jam; tobacco; syrup of some kind; fennel seeds; coconut.

It's considered a breath-freshener, and a mild stimulant; and because the chewed leaf turns red and stains the lips, something of a cosmetic.

(Except when the chewer spits it in horrid red stains on the corners of hallways...)