Monday, March 21, 2011
I'm a big fan of Tonga
So, it's Sunday morning and I'm dressed in my Sunday best, after battling the bad self telling me to stay home this week. It's a little before 10 am and already the humidity is rising. So, fan in hand, I'm heading off to church. Since it's the weekend and I don't have internet at home, I take my iPhone so I can get onto the Church wireless network and check email before singing hymns I don't know. While reading email, I find out that my counterpart at work is the choir director this week, so I offer silent support and sit behind the choir on the left side of church, instead of the right side where I usually sit. This, of course, leads me to exit by a different door than usual.
Since there are no coincidences in life, it is no surprise that I come to the door at the same time as a lady I've never seen before. She smiles, makes a complimentary remark about my Sunday best and I end up walking with her to the parking lot. We exchange names and that I am with the Peace Corps, etc. Without skipping a Tongan beat, she says, 'Do you want to come to my house with me for a kaipola (feast)?" Without skipping a Tongan beat to reply, I say 'malo' and silently say to self "show me the way to the spit roasted pig." After all, a respectable feast must have at least one roasted puaka.
As we are driving to her home, there's small talk about what I am doing here and why can't she get a Peace Corps volunteer for her business? I inquire as to what that business is and she says she has a retail shop. I clarified her name and made the connection to a prominent shop in town with the same name. She smiled, acknowledged they were one and the same and soon arrive at her house. It was the the most modern, well appointed, well maintained and beautiful home I have seen in Tonga, never having been in an embassy or one of the noble's homes. Long story short, she and her (new) husband were just married last week and his family is preparing the food for the kaipola in their honor.
It turned out to be one of those 'you always have the best time when you fight going' days. The family was gracious, welcoming, didn't bat an eyelash that there was a palangi hanging around. We were 40 hungry souls and the food was bountiful and delicious...puaka, otaika (raw fish in coconut cream), kumala, sweet and sour chicken, potato salad, manioke and all the other requisite feast dishes. The speeches were passionate and tearful and even propelled me out of my chair to lend my thanks for the hospitality and red wine and blessings to the bridge and groom.
One of the bride's family gave me a ride home. No matter that the muffler got pulled loose backing out of a bush driveway. We dropped a lady off a short way away, a couple of young guys pulled up, inquired as to the muffler situation and in the middle of an afternoon rain squall, they were able to quickly do Tongan repair and get us on our way.
We all know the jokes about always leaving home wearing good underwear in case you end up in the hospital. As I reflected on the day, I thought how important it is to wear your Sunday best. After all, you may end up at a respectable feast with at least five roasted puaka.
'Ofa lahi to the bride and groom. I'm a big fan.