I am over half way through training! My Tongan is getting slightly better. It will take me a couple more months before I can actually have substantial conversations, but I have mastered the basics. I can introduce myself, talk about my family, explain different foods, and comment on the weather. My Tongan name is Lose (pronounced low-say), and I will often hear people asking “Fefe Lose? (Lose, how are you?)” as I walk around the village. I can usually have a small conversation in those scenarios, which is exciting!
I have been very involved in church activities lately. Next weekend is a big conference, so there have been lots of choir practices to prepare for it. I had a scary moment at one of the rehearsals when the choir director came up to me and asked if I sang “solo”. I was nervous that he was asking if I would sing by myself, so I immediately said no. When he looked disappointed, my host sister explained to me that he was only asking if I would sing soprano, to which I agreed. Turns out the Tongan word for soprano is “solo” and the word for solo is “sola”. Good to know for future reference!
Last weekend, I went to a big church dance. Several young men had just returned from their Mormon mission in America, so lots of people came out to celebrate. To honor them, families went up and gave them leis made out of various things like flowers, candy, garland, oranges, and even potato chips! The leis were stacked so high you could barely see their faces by the time everyone was finished. Afterwards, the family shared the treats with everyone at the dance.
A couple preliminary observations about church here in Tonga are that people cry a lot and they make do with what they have available. In reference to the crying, it is very common occurrence. At church this Sunday, anyone from the congregation was invited to go up and share their testimony. At least 5 or 6 of the speakers cried during their talks. It is just a natural thing for them to do. Regarding making do with what they have, Tongans lack many of the aspects of worship that Americans would find essential. There are no bulletins, water is used during communion instead of wine or grape juice, and all the songs are sung a capella. Yet this does not detract from the service, there are just less frills in church. It’s actually kind of nice.
Lastly, I put up some more pictures on facebook…here is the link to check them out!