Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The art of asking properly.

Recently, I had new neighbors move in next door.  An extremely nice multi-generational family, as most homes are in the Kingdom.  They graciously bring me delicious lu on Sunday and I have baked banana bread for them in return.  They enjoy the bread as much as I enjoy the lu, evidently, as Sio asked me for the recipe and then surprised me one day with a big piece of keke to try from her oven.  I should add that to call it bread in Tonga isn't well understood.  Bread here is only white bread from the local bakery.  Anything else in a loaf shape (whether made from banana, papaya or similar is cake/keke).

On a recent balmy night, I heard a whispering at my front door, 'Tevita, Tevita.'  It was the daughter from next door and after exchanging "malo e lelei" she broke out in rapid fire Tongan - and not just a sentence or two.  I was seriously trying to comprehend what I had done, said or needed to do.  She finally stopped for a breath and I admitted to her that I really hadn't understood anything she had said.  Without skipping a beat, she asked, "Do you have any lemons?"  I struggled to keep from actually guffawing and replacing a laugh with a smile, I said yes, gave her the fruit and life went on.

When replaying all this afterwards, I'm know what had transpired.  One doesn't just ask for something in this culture, it's like a form of prayer.  One gives apologies for the intrusion and a whole lot of supplication followed by abundant blessings and thank you/s to the party/parties involved.  Somewhere near the end of her request, I did hear Peace Corps, so I'm sure they were thanked for having me live next door.

I'll second that....thank you Peace Corps.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


The other day, I got a lift from one of my co-workers, a young man in his mid 20's. He's a genuinely nice person and as I asked if I could get a ride to do an errand, he replied, "You don't need to ask.  Just get in, David."

We soon came upon a traffic jam and I asked if he knew what is going on.  He explained it was for a funeral of someone from a neighboring district.  This prompted me to ask if he was still wearing black to honor the recent passing of the King.  He shook his head and matter of factly said, "respect".  I then realized he was from the same district as the deceased in the funeral procession.

The Tongan word for respect/honor is faka'apa'apa.  It's not just something you say or think about, it's something Tongans live by.

What a beautiful way to learn a language.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time Travel Faka-Tonga

Sundays in Tonga are pretty quiet.  It's traditionally a day for church, eating and sleeping.  That's it.  There are no restaurants open, except for a few.  How that happens, I don't know.  One can walk around, but not run.  One can ride a bike, but not fast.  No activity that exerts or appears to be work or play related, with the exception, of course, of cooking.  Oh, and one can go down to the beach but no swimming allowed. The exception here being that there are tourists resorts, off island, where you can do all the swimming you want. 

I respect Tonga's traditions and most Sundays can be found at home doing little things, as I was on this day, by sorting, labeling and organizing pictures.  Just me, iPhoto and images from many years of living.  So, on this particular Sunday, I traveled to Germany and happened upon the Wasserburg again.  Sunday is, indeed, a great day for church, cooking, sleeping and rediscovering our changing world. 

Wasserburg - Heldrungen, Germany, September 1976

In 1976 I traveled in Europe for 6 weeks.  Our first destination was a small town in East Germany, Heldrungen, in the Thuringen region.  The wall dividing Germany was still in place at this time.  I happened upon a picture I took of the town wasserburg (water castle), pretty much in ruin, but it was being talked that it would be renovated/rebuilt one day - they were actually doing that to all the old castles in East Germany.  I got curious and Googled Heldrungen, and lo and behold, the castle has been renovated and I was thrilled to see almost the same angle of a recent photo (2005) as the one I took 31 years prior.  How nice!

From all the sites listing hotels near the castle, it appears it is a major attraction and was home to a youth hostel.  Not sure if it still is.

There's a wiki doc here about the history of the fortress - it's been around for quite some time.  It's a google translation from German, so it may read a little wacky.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fafabulous Holidays.

One day, an old man went to the sea.
He'd always dreamt of a holiday Fafa away.  

So, he got on this

To go here

He stayed in this

and showered here

after spending the day here

with occasional breaks for one of these

He ate a lot of good things

Grilled red snapper with taro fries

He received a beautiful Christmas Eve present

He enjoyed some of this

And a fair amount of this

He was entertained by fire torches

and Tongan fireworks.  

And, all was good in that land fafa away.