A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Take II to Tonga

Did someone just press pause?

I’ve jumped back in time, ten years in fact, when I lived on these islands. I’m now on Vava’u, my haunt back then, to visit the family who I lived with, and give myself a dose of the pacific, which time and memory has somewhat warped.

But it is all coming back to me now. The sights and sounds are familiar; crickets at dusk, a gecko’s chirp, cockerels crowing at ungodly hours, church bells ringing out for attention, palm trees everywhere, green green land, and ocean- lots of it.

It is so familiar that it’s almost as if time has stood still.

The pigs still torment the dogs, the dogs still torment each other.
The Vava’u high school uniform; deep wine, white shirts and the girls wearing bright yellow ribbons. They wave gestures of welcome. Malo’e’leli’, I shout, ‘Yo’, the reply.
Women in mourning, dressed in black, with traditional woven straw mats tied around their waists.
The shop fronts colourful, inside selling not much at all or overpriced imported goods.
A box of cornflakes is a treat. An ice-cream, pure indulgence!

Coming back I expected many changes, but what I see is not as dramatic as I thought would await. I see too many cars, too many plastic bags and more yachts in the harbour. There are some more shops, more restaurants… but not that many more. The market has moved closer to the wharf. There are a few internet café’s. The post office is looking more bedraggled. It still takes about 2 months for a letter to arrive from Europe, and that’s by airmail!
There is an ATM machine, which makes life a lot easier. The roads have been resurfaced; what once was like negotiating a deep ravine is now a smooth cruise (EU funding made it here).
The graveyards are even more colourful, with knitted quilts adorning gravesides.
The mosquitoes still bite.

The coral around my regular swimming spot has grown. I’ve seen new fish which I never saw before; in all a myriad of colour and stripes and shapes bringing new meaning to magnificent. The water is a warm bath, the snorkelling a meditation on diversity.

Yes, this is the Pacific.

The people are still big; big boned, big wasited. A heavily starch based diet- taro, tapioca, breadfruit, sweet potato, yam combined with coconut milk make this place a slimmer’s nightmare. Tasty but ‘waisty’. But then there is mango, passion fruit, soursop (a white fleshy sweet fruit), watermelons and pineapples so juicy, they dribble sweetness with every bite. These islands know how to provide.
I wander the streets and memories come back. Wonderful!

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