Here is one of favorite passages:
Who needs government social aid in such a culture? Troost goes on to describe how the local people avoid well-paying jobs (leaving those to the I-Matangs -- the outsiders, who can refuse bubuti) as there is no point taking a good job as the bubuti demands would leave one worse off than before.
Stealing, I was told, was a major offense in the I-Kiribati culture. I could see why. There is absolutely no good reason for stealing in Kiribati. That is because of the bubuti system. In the bubuti system, someone can walk up to you and say I bubuti you for your flipflops, and without a peep of complaint you are obliged to hand over your flipflops. The following day, you can go up to the guy who is now wearing your flipflops, and say I bubuti you for your fishing net, and suddenly you have a new fishing net. In such a way, Kiribati remains profoundly egalitarian.
I learned a lot, and it was a pleasant read -- a good summer travelogue.
:: this post is included in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books for June 30.