Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween

Halloween is not a big holiday in Tonga. In fact, no one really celebrates except the tourists and expats who live here. But today thanks to a fellow volunteer, Ashley, some of the class one and class two students got to experience Halloween for the first time.

As part of their English lesson this week, these students learned how to say "trick or treat" and "thank you, happy Halloween". They also made butterfly and lion masks as their costumes, and learned to say either "I am a butterfly" or "I am a lion". The kids walked over to my classroom, decked out in their masks and carrying plastic bags. When they arrived, they knocked or my door and said "trick or treat" in their best English. A couple kids got ahead of themselves, and when I opened the door shouted "I am a lion". Regardless of what they said, they all did a great job and were rewarded with lollipops, a pencil, a toothbrush, and silly bands.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This week I was able to attend not just one, but two weddings! I still do not understand all of the elements of a Tongan wedding, but I will try to explain the things that I do understand. Also, there are many parts of the pre-wedding rituals that I don't know, so I will just stick to the day of.

Most Tongan weddings are done in two parts. First, the couple goes to the courthouse and to a minister to fill out all of the official paperwork for a wedding. For this part, only close family and friends attend. The second part is the couple's Sapate Taha (first Sunday). This is the first Sunday they attend church as a married couple. Lots of family and friends attend, and there is a big feast after the service.

The first wedding I attended this week was a mix of palangi and Tongan, which made for a super fun day. This couple was leaving for Australia the day after the wedding, so instead of a big celebration on Sunday after church, they did it all on the same day. There were lots of things that I am used to at wedding; exchanging rings, saying vows, cutting the wedding cake, bridesmaids and groomsmen, etc. However, it was undeniably a Tongan wedding, too. There were flower necklaces, gifts of traditional Tongan mats, roasted pigs, Tongan dances, etc. It was a great time!

The second wedding wasn't an actual wedding ceremony, just the Sunday service. At the service, the couple sat in the front, wearing white clothes with lots of fancy mats covered in shells, beads, and feathers. Their clothes were so beautiful! After church, we went to a huge feast at the groom's house. During the feast, there were fakamalo speeches (thank-you speeches) from many family members. During these speeches they offered well-wishes and advice for the new couple.

I'm so thankful I got to be a part of these weddings, they were super interesting. I have at least one more Tongan wedding to attend soon...the wedding of my friends Pa and Ashley in December. Can't wait!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Year

First year in Tonga was excellent. Here are some highlights!

Arrival of Group 76 in Tonga.

My training group.

Swearing-in ceremony.

My house in Vava'u.

My class from Pouono Catering and Hospitality School.

Dancing a traditional Tongan dance, the ta'uolunga.

Riding in a U.S. Navy helicopter.

The king and queen of Aloha Night.

My dad came to visit!!!

Celebrating the anniversary of Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College.

Kelana Social Night 2011.

Go 'Ikale Tahi go!

Group 76 Vava'u crew. 'Ofa atu!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Go Ikale Tahi Go!

A few months ago I posted an entry about the importance of rugby in Tonga. Well, one post was not enough because this past month has shown me that Tonga is even more obsessed with rugby than I originally thought. The Rugby World Cup started earlier this month, and I never anticipated the team spirit that would encompass the entire country of Tonga.

Tonga played in the opening game of the World Cup this year against New Zealand. At school, we were told to wear red to support the Tonga national team, the Ikale Tahi (Sea Eagles). Not only were the people at school wearing red, but everyone was wearing red that day. There were tons of spontaneous parades, all the high school bands played in town, and every person made sure to find a t.v. to watch the game. Unfortunately, Tonga lost to the All Blacks, but it did not lessen the excitement surrounding the event.

Last night was Tonga’s last game in the World Cup. The Ikale Tahi had too many losses to advance to the quarterfinals, but they certainly went out in style. The pulled off an incredible win over France, which was the biggest upset of this year’s World Cup. The after match celebrations here in Vava’u were fabulous. Tons of people got into vehicles and drove around beeping horns and blasting music. Those without vehicles watched from the street, cheering and dancing. There were fireworks being set off from the back of a truck, water being tossed on the crowd, and lots of make-shift drums. Even the police and fire vehicles joined in the celebrations, circling around town with their sirens blaring.

I had so much fun celebrating Tonga’s win last night. It helped me appreciate the pride that goes into everything Tongans do; supporting the Ikale Tahi, singing in church choirs, welcoming visitors. The list goes on, but I hope I can also learn to do things with just as much pride and enthusiasm.

Go Ikale Tahi Go!