Today I tried pungu for the first time. Having deferred many times, I felt obligated after a guy climbed a tree to harvest some. Pungu, as it is called in Menya, also goes by the names buwai, kapipi and beetle nut. In the picture below, pungu are piled in the middle and in the video above pungu is growing in the tree. It is chewed throughout PNG in a fashion similar to tobacco in America–much spitting is involved. Typically pungu is chewed along with kangu (the longer green things in the picture below) and hikwu which is crushed seashells. Today I forwent the additional ingredients because: it was my first time; those ingredients are carcinogens; and they stain one’s mouth red (see the last picture below.) Maybe I’ll try them next time.
Chewing the pungu produced in my mouth an experience unlike any other. My mouth felt drier than it has ever been–almost numb–but simultaneously I was salivating profusely. It was embarrassing how much I was spitting–like someone coughing uncontrollably smoking for the first time. Despite my shame, I think I earned substantial dirt-path-cred.