Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shifting Sands Art Show

A group of young adult artists held an art show that we had an opportunity to attend. Staged in a cafĂ© right by the ocean, it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a warm afternoon. We met two of the artists. They were so excited to talk about their work and share it. You can see by the photos how talented they are. We bid on a 3-panel piece in the silent auction, and got it! Not only did we love the colors and images, but it’s acrylic on tapa cloth, which has great cultural significance for the Tongans. The birds and leaves also echo traditional tapa designs. The artist had a quote attached: Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us. - Sargent Shriver Well, that hooked us. It was meant for us.

Having fun with body art.

Our purchase. Makes our cottage classy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Children's Day

May 1, 2011
A sea of white is what greeted us as we went into church today. All the youth had on white clothing under their kiekies and tu’ovalas. Some wore leis that had been given by their families to mark the importance of the day. Dressed in their best and all seated together, they presented a picture of community, faith, and the importance of family in the culture of Tonga. This was happening in every church all over Tonga this morning. From the 5-year-olds to the young adults, all took part in the whole service, from reading the hymn verses to the reading of the scriptures, verse by verse, individually. All of it was memorized and they stood in front of the congregation. They stood as a group to sing as a choir. Proud parents and families took pictures. A morning of excitement and good memories for all.
(A note on congregational hymn singing: It is the tradition here to read each verse of the hymn before singing it. It’s my guess that this started before the Europeans had made Tongan a written language, so that all could sing the hymns. Most of the congregation, though, know all the hymns by heart and rarely use the hymnal.)
Sitting together in church.

Presenting the scriptures.

Singing as a choir.

Our language tutor with her grandsons after church.

One of the beautiful flower arrangements that morning.

 In the afternoon the congregation reconvened for a program presented by the children and youth. This time they wore their best clothing, but it was colorful and fancy. Children said their pieces, sang, and performed in dramas, such as the story of David and Goliath.
All of it was memorized. Although there were microphones, the older students spoke loudly and with assurance without that help. They had wonderful presence. Bravo!
A Sunday School teacher with her class.

Saying their piece and waiting their turn.

An encouraging word.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A trip to the beach

Ha’atafu Beach, Easter Weekend

With a 4-day weekend, it seemed that we just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see more of Tongatapu. We hadn’t been to the far west end of the island, and located a Guest House near Ha’atafu Beach that had an opening. We arrived on Friday afternoon. From the porch of the Guest House we could just see the ocean, and also hear the waves. It wasn’t long ‘til we were on the beach exploring and snorkeling. The reef makes the water very shallow, and the only time to swim and snorkel was at either side of the high tide. We ate breakfasts and lunches on the porch, but took advantage of suppers at nearby resorts with restaurants. The weather was wonderful, and the starry night on the beach on Saturday night was the best I’ve ever seen. Truly awesome. We read, relaxed, and enjoyed. We walked to the nearby site of Abel Tasman’s landing in 1643. Sunday afternoon came too quickly. Photos, of course, never are able to do justice to the ocean and sunsets, but here are the best we could do.

On the porch.

The Guest House.

Supper sunset.

The landing site of Abel Tasman.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tapa cloth

April 16, 2011

Tapa Painting at Langafonua

What an opportunity—to learn from Tongans who practice the craft of tapa cloth  making and painting. When I heard about the class for palangi (foreigners, European descent) at Langafonua, I knew I wanted to attend. Langafonua is a handicraft center that sells Tongan-made crafts, as well as giving demonstrations and preserving the culture.

Tapa cloths are traditionally very large—50 feet long, and have been given for special gifts, such as for weddings and funerals.

There were 6 of us taking the class on Saturday morning. The instructors first told us about tapa, how it is made from the bark of the mulberry tree that is soaked and pounded into sheets. We learned that the red clay that is used to rub over the tapa to show the pattern on the board underneath, which is only found on ‘Eua. The boards with the traditional patterns they had were made from the wood of the ironwood tree. Tapa has two pieces of tapa (One is just the backing, with no design.), one glued to the other with partially cooked manioke root. As Jim said, it’s like a big glue stick.

They demonstrated and taught us, and then gave us each a small piece of tapa ready for painting. The black paint comes from the bark of the mangrove tree, and we used the dried flower of a variety of pandanus for a paintbrush.  We each came away with our own small tapa. Right now, mine is under the mattress for further flattening, just as they suggested.

A traditionally-made tapa cloth.

I probably didn’t explain it very well. Perhaps these photos will help.
Rubbing on the pattern from the board underneath. Notice the fabric in the background that has been rubbed with tapa designs.

A modern tapa design. Used for borders and small pieces. Notice the rubbed pieces underneath, ready for painting.

The brush we used to apply paint to the rubbed design.

Beginning to paint.
My attempt at tapa painting.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sport Week

April 19, 2011

Sport Week: Track and Field
This morning while at work I could hear cheering and yelling. It’s the beginning of “sport week” and the stadium where all the high school teams and students gather is about a 5 minute walk from here. It will last 3 days, and then there is a 4-day Easter weekend. Of course this looked like the perfect opportunity to see another aspect of Tongan life. Later that morning I enlisted 2 of the JICA volunteers to come with me and we walked to the stadium. I’ll show you the pictures, but you’ll have to imagine the energy, the noise, and the excitement.
There were teams from every high school, and the student bodies of each had a section to sit under tent roofs to cheer them on. They are dressed in their school uniforms. I heard a brass band from one high school, and there may have been more. I saw team uniforms from Vava’u and ‘Eua, too, so I’m guessing Ha’apai also had a team. One of the sponsors of the event gives a cash prize to the school with the most spirit, so the cheers rock the stadium. Both inside and outside the stadium there were vendors selling food and beverages. It had the air of a fair and a time to celebrate and enjoy. Here are the pictures. Just add the sound effects.

A few of the vendors.

Team ready to warm up and compete.

Receiving awards.
 The cheering and bands continued all 3 days. We could even hear it from our house, which is a good 15-minute walk away.