VIDEO: Davi's First Time ... Unleashing the dragon
'HELL NO!' These were the first words out of my mouth when I was told that the next assignment would see me learning how to be a fire breather.
I immediately conjured up images of my hair aflame, accidentally swallowing kerosene, or more important, having my eyebrows singed off.
With all these in the back of my head, we took the short trip from The Gleaner's North Street office to the Waterfront in downtown Kingston, where I met Sunny Motiani - a retired fire breather and fire spinner.
Having developed the skill about six years ago, he was somewhat of an expert. Sensing my anxiety, Sunny imparted three rules; breathe into the wind, breathe slightly up and away so that the fuel doesn't fall back on you, and finally - have fun.
I am all about having fun, but the fear of having to put kerosene in my mouth still threatened my peace of mind. However, my fear of being engulfed in flames somewhat diminished when I was told that we would be using paraffin oil instead of kerosene. According to Sunny, paraffin oil did not have that strong pungent smell as kerosene and it was not as hot when it burns. I took comfort in these small assurances.
While Sunny soaked his poi (equipment used in performances like swinging tethered weights) in paraffin oil to get them fully saturated to do his fire dance, he gave me some breathing techniques to ensure that my eyebrows and face remained unscathed.
"Don't look at the flame. Keep your eyes about an inch above the flame to aim and then blow," Sunny instructed.
Sensing that I was about to start panicking, he offered to demonstrate. As he took a swig of the paraffin oil and swished it around in his mouth, I could not help but show my disdain. He puckered up, flicked the lighter and exhaled - wooosh, a humongous flame lit up the night sky.
I was super impressed. Wanting to prove that I was indeed paying attention and that I was a quick learner, I took a big swig of paraffin oil, puckered up, flicked the lighter and - nothing.
The lighter refused to cooperate and I was left with no choice but to use a different one. By this time, the wind had changed direction and I was left with a mouthful of paraffin oil and no flame to show.
Not to be outdone, I tried again, and again and again. Each time, I was left sputtering, choking, and drenched in oil. By now, I had almost given up all hope of ever being a fire breather. But, Sunny calmed me down and insisted that I take a break.
The break consisted of me learning how to be a fire spinner and I hoped and prayed that I would have better luck with it than fire breathing.
Sunny lifted his now fully saturated poi into the air, lit it and put on a spectacular show.
I purposed in my heart to attempt the fire breathing technique one last time.
"You believe in me?" I enquired of Sunny. "Of course," he stated.
"Good, queue the Champion Boy riddim by Alkaline fi me," I said confidently.
Sunny adjusted my lighter. I took a swig of paraffin oil and immediately began to sputter. Undeterred, I tried again.
I forced myself to calm down. I flicked the lighter, focused on the flame and let out a huge gush of air. WOOOOOSH a ball of flames engulfed the night sky. I had done it! My first instinct was to scream, but, I still had some paraffin oil in my mouth. So I did the next best thing I ran around with my hands in the air, mumbling through my mouthful that I was an official fire breather.
I knew that if I did it once, I could do it again. By now, I was 'on fire' and my confidence was at an all-time high. I took another swig of oil, and just as how the big bad wolf attempted to flatten the house of bricks, I blew and blew and blew. Alas, all to no avail. By this time, I was a mess. My mouth was burning, paraffin oil was running down my shirt, getting into curves and corners I would rather not have it go.
Sensing that I was about to give up, Sunny, once again, offered to help. He had me take in the paraffin oil one last time as he flicked the lighter for me. I conjured up some more air from my lungs and blew. WOOOOOSH! A supernova appeared! By now, I was overjoyed, and officially over it.
After about one bottle of paraffin oil, and about 40 lighters, I was now an official fire breather! Though I had only got about three big flames, that was good enough for me. With my mouth parched, my lips burning and my top drenched in oil, I was more than happy that I had finally got to unleash the dragon within.