Remember when I joked that school probably wouldn’t start until February as opposed to January? Well, as I suspected, it’s no longer a joke. It’s February and school is just beginning. My school is taking its time getting back into the swing of the school year and all the duties and responsibilities that come along with it.
The first week of school consisted of cleaning-up. Well, the students cleaned up, and most teachers hung out and rested. It was very comical to observe and take it all in. These children, ages eight to eighteen were sweeping, and landscaping with sharp machete blades which they used to cut each piece of grass on the school grounds. I'd see boys up in the trees cutting large branches with these machetes. There's something about seeing adults hand these sharp blades to small children that is incredible...our American kids just could not cut it.
During the first week I also attended faculty meetings- now these have been very interesting and have introduced me to a whole other degree of 'taimi fakatonga' (Tongan time/island time). I'll give you an example of what to expect if your principal announced a 12 noon meeting…First, you'd show up on time and no one would be there. Some people would slowly come in and then walk right back out. Others may come and sit but if they were men, they would not talk to you. You'd then go to the office and ask if there was a meeting and if it was in fact supposed to begin at noon. “Maybe it will start at 1pm?” The people in the office would say. At this point, you're hungry so you go home to eat, knowing that you will make it back to school before the meeting starts. You watch a movie and eat lunch then return to school. At this point it's almost 3pm. More people are sitting and waiting in the room so you decide to stay with some assurance that it must be starting soon. To your relief, the principal comes in and without an apology as to being late, things get under way. Five minutes later, the principal leaves and girls walk in with soda and loaves of bread- one for each teacher. A tasty snack you think. Why not? You begin breaking off pieces of bread while others eat out the insides and then pour their soda into the bread, letting it soak up the sugary liquid, before they bring it to their mouths. After fifteen minutes you turn to one of your co-workers and ask, 'Is he coming back? Will the meeting continue?' They respond, 'He's in another meeting.' We wait.
That is an example of what meetings can be like here in Tonga and it is rather comical. To survive it, you must practice patience- a lot of it. Have reading material or perhaps ‘Sudoku’ on you ALWAYS and most importantly, have a good sense of humor. You must remember to just enjoy yourself because it is not bothering any of the Tongans so, don’t let it bother you. This is their culture. They are so relaxed and they don't let time or responsibility rule their life, not even in the work place. You must admire them for this even if their lackadaisical work ethic seems too extreme. I am always learning from the Tongan people and situations like this remind me take a moment (or hours haha) and RELAX even if it is while at work. :)