Friday, September 5, 2008
A little more on Tonga and some answers to questions that people have been asking...
Yes people live in shacks but there are some who also live in nice houses.
I have heard stories about monster rats and spiders out there, but I never saw them. Only a cockroach on our patio once. The house we stayed in in town was just a normal little house with running water, two bedrooms, living room and kitchen. It was all linoleum and was furnished primarily with patio furniture but we could hardly complain. Unlike many other homes it had a bathroom inside, screens, built in power outlets sliding windows and mosquitoes were never and issue inside.
I didn't know Loa could do that either...
He's never been one to brag or flaunt his skills but yes, he can scale a coconut tree and is as flexible as a gymnast, yes he can sail a boat if the occasion calls for it. He can work a machete like nobody's business, surf and kill a pig in cold blood, skin it and gut it without batting an eye. Same when it comes to fish.
Though I did have a drivers license I never drove because I just don't get it. Driving on the opposite side of the road to me is just off. Plus there are barefoot village pedestrians everywhere that feel jay-walking when you are 12 feet away from them is their god-given right. But Loa did almost kill us a few time in the round-abouts.
No, I did not eat horse. Here's the thing. They don't de-bone or de-fat their meat so a pile of bones are generally found at the end of a meal, even in restaurants. Not to say that the food is bad but I limited my intake to Lupulu, Taro, coconut water, granola bars, lemon tea (Loa made it from water, condensed milk and lemon leaves from the yard) and Fanta (yes Fanta). I was nervous that I would get the liquid poo (as Amelia likes to call it) so I drank and brushed my teeth with bottled water, kept my mouth closed in the shower and avoided uncooked foods. I was fine the whole time. Only once did I have to will myself not to gag when I was forced to try papaya that was cooked like squash. The family that raised Loa for a few years held a luau for me the day I got off the plane. They were very gracious and didn't want me to feel like I had to eat anything I didn't want to. Plus Loa ran interference for me a lot.
Everything is pretty expensive out there. Gas is like nearly 4 pa'anga a liter. One U.S. dollar is equal to 1.8 pa'angas. Lavalavas were around $45. A snickers bar is $3 each. We bought a fish at the market for $26. And the resort luau we went to was $80. I guess it is no surprise that people are always coming up and asking for money from you. Loa got it everywhere we went. But most people have their own gardens/fields where they can grow their own food, chickens and pigs as well as catch their own fish.
There are none. Instead there are mobs. We went to the bakery right before it closed one night and there was a TON of people there. We waited for our turn until we realized that if we didn't get combative that turn would never come.
They literally crowd a counter until they make it to the front. It's not like it was a cramped place. There was plenty enough room for a line and for all to keep their personal bubble in tact, but no. No joke. When we were finally up to the counter the lady behind was not only pressed up against my back but was resting her forearms on my shoulder blades. I couldn't even react. I mean seriously!
At some houses they have family burial plots in their front yard. They look like big piles of white sand decorated with fake flowers and blankets. But even more odd is this is where a lot of people hang out. Driving by you see groups of people, families, kids, young men, just hanging out on grandpa's grave, drinking, talking and just chillin. That brings me to the hanging out. It drove me mad. Scores of people, mainly men would just be standing and hanging out everywhere. We would see people stay in the same place for hours. WHY??!!
I drove Loa crazy trying to get answers from him. But when it is early afternoon on a Tuesday why do you have nine men standing around outside a cafe, a road-side stand, the market or an ice cream shop for hours on end. There would be times that I would get pissed about it because I couldn't wrap my head around it. That would be around the time Loa would slam on the brakes and say "Do you want me to stop and ask them??!"
Also I saw 9 year old kids running around naked at the beaches, yet among Tongans it is considered inappropriate for a woman to wear a swimming suit, rather shorts and a t-shirt. But at the resorts it was fine. We were the only ones there at most of the beaches we went to on the main island, so I only had to rock the shirt and shorts a few times.
We were in Fiji the last two days. Fijians are the kindest people I have ever met. We decided to go there with no plans or reservations anywhere. We literally just got off the plane, hopped on a bus that I am pretty sure was 46 years old, got off at the bus station and started walking. But within an hour Fijians from three different shops that we went into had arranged a killer deal for us at this brand new bed and breakfast as well as transportation. It was gorgeous and charming and the lady who owned it made us promise to spread the word. Fijians do love their kava though and made us drink some with them on a mat spread out right there in the shop before we left. We saw people drinking Kava everywhere, even at the airport.
What I miss...
The beaches, the amazing views, the sound of geckos, the ocean and Loa..