Sunday, January 24, 2010

To Tonga with Love - Mom, Larry & Jeff

Jenny asked if we wanted to be “guest bloggers” after our visit to Tonga over Christmas. I don’t know if I can be as entertaining as Jenny usually is, but we had an amazing visit and I’ll share our experiences as visitors to the islands.

We arrived in Tonga on December 22nd where it was sunny and probably in the 80’s. After leaving Alaska and 20 below about 30 hours earlier we were ready for the sun! We spent a few hours in Tongatapu before catching the ferry over to ‘Eua. Despite Jenny’s stories about horrific ferry trips, the trip was uneventful except for meeting our first fakalaiti and getting sunburned from riding on the roof of the Ferry. We docked in ‘Eua and although it was a short way to her house, we had so many pieces of luggage and boxes that we needed to find a ride – and soon climbed in the back of a flatbed pickup and were dropped off at Jenny’s front door safe and sound.

The first night in’Eua we were a little concerned about the rodent and spider population, and set the Rat Zapper before we went to bed. We turned out the lights and even though we hadn’t slept in 36 hours, we laid awake expecting rats, spiders or other creepy crawlies to pounce. It wasn’t long before the Rat Zapper started buzzing. What do we do? Jenny’s outside in the faletonga and I certainly don’t want to see a rat! Jeff wanted to see a rat even less and Larry was trapped next to the wall with me in front. The Rat Zapper just kept right on buzzing and buzzing, so finally I get up with my flashlight to see what’s in there – terrified to look. When I do, I’m relieved to see it’s only a cockroach! It’s still alive, but I’m just happy it’s not a rat, and that we never saw a rat, or even spider, in Jenny’s Fale in ‘Eua. We did lay awake at night imagining them though!

Memories from ‘Eua, Tonga:
  • The people were amazingly friendly and generous. Everyone brought us food – we had more mangos and bananas than we could eat. Christmas morning breakfast was wonderful – someone just came to the door and dropped off a tray with eggs, fruit and chocolate cake – Yum!
  • Hiking on ‘Eua – Jenny brought us on marathon hikes our first two days in ‘Eua. We were so grateful for the mango juice the neighbors brought over right after we got home! The island was rugged and beautiful – even though we weren’t as excited about climbing down cliffs and into caves as Jenny is. We climbed into Rat’s Cave and down cliffs to Fangatave Beach – she gave us a workout but the experience was definitely worth it.
  • Speaking of neighbors – I think the village was watching us closely. As soon as we would get home someone would arrive with food or drinks within minutes!
  • Church – the singing was such a wonderful surprise. The only comparison that I can think of is that they sing in church at the same intensity and volume that we would yell at a football game. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it that they praise God like Americans praise football players! Hmmm…
  • I really like ‘Eua and am happy Jenny’s there. I feel a lot better about her being out on a more isolated island now that I have seen it. The pace is slow but purposeful, they spend the time with people rather than accomplishing “things” and when you slow down and take the time for that you realize the value in spending time with people and in reflection. It was a great experience.
  • Larry was most struck by the Tongan kids and the beautiful quality they had. They were so friendly and just wanted to play. They didn’t whine or argue or complain about anything and just showed up in Jenny’s yard and waited until someone invited them to play something. The kids were awesome.
  • Jeffrey got a taste was what’s it’s like to live in a male-dominated society. He, as the oldest male child, was presented with a gift on Christmas Day of a large Tapa Cloth. Larry was asked to do a blessing and a speech. The girls were shy but Jeff was asked over and over again if he had a girlfriend, or wanted one!
  • I was pretty much expected to sit quietly or at least cry at the speeches, which the neighbor Lupe did. I had faux paus one night when I put on my pajamas and proceeded to sweep out the house. Men aren’t supposed to see women’s shoulders so I was pretty surprised to open the front door to sweep out the dirt and saw Tevita standing there and I was in my camisole top and pj pants. I shut the door as quick as I could. Jenny and Jeff had been at a youth meeting and met Tevita on the way home and he told Jenny I had slammed the door in his face! It seems noone knocks in Tonga – they just stand outside and wait for someone to look outside.
  • We were able to learn a lot about their culture, but we also shared ours. Larry and Jeff wore skirts to church and we all wore Tu’avolas, Larry gave a couple speeches, and we shared some gifts from America and were given gifts as well. In Tonga, the men and women don’t sit together in church, and Jenny wasn’t sure it was okay for men and women, and brothers and sisters to sit next to each other. But we decided to share our culture and sit together as a family.

Ha’apai --After 4 days in ‘Eua we flew to Ha’apai and took a little boat to Serenity Beaches Resort. There were 2 other couples there when we got there on Saturday, but by Wednesday we were the only ones there. It was incredible to be on a beautiful white sandy beach with this amazing turquoise colored water and to be there entirely by ourselves. It felt like you owned your own private tropical island. Wow – I just can’t think of a better vacation. The weather was fabulous every single day, and although the food probably wasn’t the best we’ve ever had, it was a great destination.

  • SPIDERS! Toward the end of our stay on Serenity Beaches spiders became an issue. There were webs along the path to our Fale’ and we had to have a spider search every night before we tucked our mosquito netting in around the bed and went to sleep. Larry was our hero and chief spider slayer. The spiders are not poisonous, but OMG they are big and ugly. Jeff woke up one morning with a huge one on the outside of his mosquito net and was captive until Larry got the spider out of the Fale’.
  • Aside from the spiders, the resort was amazing. It had no electricity in the Fale and had a “Garden Shower” which was cold water unless you laid your solar water bag on the beach all day to heat the water. You find out what you DON’T NEED and adapt to a different lifestyle.

  • What we did: read in the Cabana, sat on the beach, looked for seashells on the beach (they were all over!), kayaked and rode the waves in the kayaks, snorkeled, Jenny and Larry were scuba diving twice, swam in the “swimming pool” which was a sand covered area of the beach and ocean, had a bonfire on the beach, played lots of cards and board games, Jen played her Ukelele, and we enjoyed each other’s company.
  • I will try to load a video of highlights from the trip – a feast with the neighbors, Jenny giving a speech, Christmas Eve play with Jenny in it, slaying spiders, Serenity Beaches, and Jen and Jeff’s spoof on MTV’s Cribs video.

    It was the most incredible trip! If anyone’s thinking of visiting Jenny don’t hesitate – BOOK YOUR FLIGHT TODAY. You can’t pass up such a great opportunity to experience the Tongan culture and the beauty of the islands. We will never forget Tonga. Thank you Jenny for being so adventurous to set out on this journey and share it with us. We love you and thank you for sharing your adventures with us! Toki Sio and much love to you and all the people on the island.

Mom, Larry and Jeff

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