Gauges and Betel Nut

Old indigenous minority lady preparing betel nut to be chewed.
Old indigenous minority lady preparing betel nut to be chewed.

Krung lady in Ratanakiri Province.

She had gauges before gauges were cool….

It’s funny how gauges are cool in the States in certain subcultures. Here among the Tampuan, Kreung and Jarai hilltribes, they’re popular among the senior citizen crowd. No indigenous teenager in their right mind would get gauges; that’s would be the American equivalent of wearing pleated, cuffed blue jeans and driving a Lincoln Town Car to breakfast at Hardees….only elderly people do it.

This lady wasn’t wearing her elephant-tusk gauges, but for special occasions she probably puts them in.

I photographed her at a wedding in a Kreung hilltribe village last week. She was preparing pinches of Betel to chew, carefully dividing the areca nuts and wrapping them in betel leaves for a future, mouth reddening chew. Areca nuts are like little coconuts, growing on slender, straight coconut trees. When mixed with betel leaves, they give the chewer a mild stimulant. I’ve heard some say that it’s like the nicotine from smoking a cigarette, but some say it’s more like drinking caffeinated coffee. I personally imagine it would give you a buzz, like drinking a Red Bull.

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