Guest blog post by Rachel...enjoy!
1. There are animals everywhere
Even here in the main city there is an abundance of dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, and goats. Out hiking, you might run into a cow or horse if you're not careful. My favorite Tongan animal is the pigeon. Apparently one of the kings decided the city was lacking pigeons. He had them shipped in and now they are everywhere.
2. Tongan singing is incredible
All Tongans appear to be naturally talented musicians. Singing is very much a part of their culture. I had the chance to go to a po hiva, or night singing, where local choirs showed off their talent. It was amazing, especially considering that these were the normal Tongan choirs that are found all over the island.
3. Airport security is completely different than the States
When Charity and I flew on a domestic flight to the island 'Eua we arrived with plenty of time to deal with typical airport hassles. As it turns out, this was unnecessary, as not only were we not asked for identification, but the employee at check-in told us our names before we could say anything.
4. The royals are easy to find
From an American perspective, seeing royalty is quite exciting. However, in Tonga, the royals are out at the same restaurants and bars anyone else would be at. When I saw the princess I was quite excited but it was clear the Tongans were unfazed.
5. Everyone is a Christian
Tongan culture has been completely influenced by Christianity. Nothing is open on Sundays and it's a common question to ask what church you go to. The only religious diversity I found was a small group of Baha'i.
6. Tongan portions are huge
Charity and I were lucky enough to have some friends bring us some traditional Tongan food one Sunday afternoon. Despite that it was just the two of us they brought bananas, coconuts, fish, crab salad, root crop, potato salad, sausage, and lu. It was overwhelming. Thankfully, Tongans are also great at sharing and happily pass around extra food left over from these giant portions, so we were able to share food with our security guard.
7. Tonga is like one giant thrift store
In Tonga, almost everything is second hand. Cars, appliances, and clothes are all passed around. When you do go out to buy something at the market or fair, what you find is a delightful assortment of odds and ends that have somehow ended up in Tonga. This at least partially explains eclectic Tongan fashion.
8. Gold teeth and rat tails are fashion statements
Although it would look bizarre to an American, Tongans often display their status by flashing you a smile of gold teeth. Also bizarre is the prevalence of rat tails among boys. To each their own.
9. Tonga really is the Friendly Islands
Walking around town at first was almost unnerving because it seemed like everyone was saying hello. From the cheerful, "good morning" to small children yelling, "palangi!" (the word for white person) everyone is bound to say something to you. My favorite was the inevitable group of young guys shouting out, "You're beautiful!" or "I love you!" Thanks, Tongan boys.
10. Charity and I are now famous
After attending a church service that was televised, Charity and I are even more recognizable than usual. People will say "I saw you on tv!" All the Tongans (okay, at least some) now know Lose and Lesieli.
Tu'a 'ofa atu!