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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Warm greetings from the South Pacific!

It's Sunday, and I have already gone to morning church, ate lu moa (chicken and coconut milk wrapped in lu leaves) from our underground oven outside, and have made my way to the PC office. Right now everyone else is taking an afternoon nap but it's the perfect time for me to 'sneak' away and break the Sabbath! I'm on a mission today to upload photos, update my blog, book my ticket home for Christmas (pause here for your utter shock, your jumps up and down, and loud shouts of joy)____________, and do I dare say...get some work done. But first, what I am most anxious to begin, is telling you all a little story about two crazy Americans from the suburbs who took a wild, wild ride to a little island in the middle of nowhere called, Tonga...

As you may have already guessed these two crazy Americans could be none other than my parents, and I was so lucky to have them as my guests for two weeks! My parents and I had a wonderful time and even though they got to experience the luxury of living on a beautiful Pacific island, I made sure that they were exposed to the Tongan culture as much as possible and to the Tongan way of life (this includes fetching water from my water tank outside and killing a cockroach here or there...)!

First, my boyfriend and I drove out to get my parents at the airport. We had picked up a kahoa for each of them (a flowered necklace) to place around their necks when they first got off the plane. I was so anxious to see them that Pa would tell you I had been literally nervous all day! It had been so long since we had last seen each other! I even peeked through the closed off doors to see if I could spot them picking up their luggage and such before they exited the terminal!

Seeing my family for the first time in over ten months was the most amazing thing! We couldn't stop smiling and embracing one another. My parents met Pa for the first time, which had been making me just as anxious as reuniting with my parents. They were so excited! As we put the kahoa on my mother and father they in turn reached into their bags and pulled out an offering which could not have been more appropriate....Reeses. It had been too long! At that point, I think I was more excited to eat the Reeses than to see my parents! Just kidding, Mom and Dad!

The trip from that point on was amazing! We spent that night at our hotel in Nuku'alofa (the capital city) and had late night Tongan-style BBQ before we went back to the hotel. The next morning was Sunday and my parents got to experience their first Tongan church service, where they prayed with the king, and listened to beautiful church singing. After, they got to eat from their first 'umu,' which means underground oven but my father will forever mispronounce the word as 'uma,' which in Tongan means 'kiss.' We still laugh at this all the time!

At the kai umu, my parents had lu moa, lu sipi, manioke, puaka, and kumala (cooked chicken & coconut milk wrapped in lu leaves, cooked goat & coconut milk wrapped in lu leaves, root crops and pig). Yum! My dad even sat and roasted the pig for a while!

After we went on a drive to check out some beautiful sights in Tonga before we flew to Vava'u!

In Vava'u we stayed at our wonderful resort not too far from town, and I had the luxury of staying with them and taking hot showers! We enjoyed using the kayaks to visit other nearby islands, snorkel and lounge by the beach. There were plenty of other guests that we befriended including the owners and their young, rambunctious, blonde boys who always wanted to play cards with my father. It was quite funny watching my father play with these three boys, trying to teach them sophisticated card games like Wist or Hearts. It then became a screaming game of 'He cheated! He cheated,' where my mother and I would then have to step in to referee, only to find that the cheater was 9 times out of 10 my father!

As much as we enjoyed the luxury of the hotel (especially myself!), we made our way to my village almost every day to visit my home, visit my school, test-taste kava (which turned into my father singing with the Tongan band in front of everyone at a local restaurant!), take a boat around Vava'u to some great dive and snorkeling sites, visit an elementary school and its village on an outer-island, attend a Tongan singing concert, and much more!

It was so great to have my parents meet my friends and family here in Tonga. In fact, my Tongan friends and family put on a feast for them their first night in Vava'u, where we all gathered at my closest friends' house, Talaheu. While we ate my friend, 'Ana, and I put on a traditional Tongan dance called the tao'alunga. Although 'Ana and I went a little overboard in our Tongan costume and drew with bright, red lipstick tribal drawings all over our faces. It was hysterical! I think my parents might have been even a little scared!

Although the whole trip was unforgettable, one of the coolest memories was when my parents came to my school. My mother had been working for months with her school to fund-raise books to donate to my kids. Together, her and her school, Ralph Talbot Elementary in Weymouth, MA, made bookmarks to sell in addition to collecting over six large boxes full of children's books. The money they raised from selling bookmarks helped cover the shipping cost of the books. It was incredibly generous and so well-received by my students.

My school held an assembly where my parents put every book on display and presented the gift on behalf of my parents and my mother's school. I cannot tell you the look on my students' faces when they saw the books! The kids couldn't wait for the assembly to be over so they could run up and look at the books, which they did! After that, my parents team-taught two of my classes and read one of the stories that they had come with from America. It was so great to have them in my class and I was so grateful for their visit and their gift.

My parents' trip was incredible and although it went by all too fast, I can't believe I'll be home in almost two months to see them again! I have already uploaded a bunch of pictures from their trip but stay tuned for one more of my father roasting a pig! We call this 'tunu' in Tongan.

As always, thanks for reading and please come out and visit me! I promise it will be an adventure you'll never forget!

'Ofa atu!