Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Sounds

At the same time as the King's funeral we had an opportunity to house sit for a Peace Corps staff member who was taking a trip out of Tonga. Wow, we thought: a real kitchen, air conditioning in the bedroom, TV (We never turned it on.), hot showers, and a washer and a dryer. What Peace Corps Volunteer would pass that up?

And it was wonderful, but. After the week was over and we were home again, I realized what I had missed. Yes, we were in Tonga for that week, but it wasn't my Tonga. What I missed most, I realized, were the sounds. At our house, the day is punctuated with familiar sounds of life.

Sounds of...
            Sione thwacking coconuts with a bush knife to feed the pigs.
            Pigs snorting, grunting, and squealing in the yard.
            Hens scratching in the dirt and cackling.
            Roosters crowing (at all hours of the day and night!).
            Churches' bells ringing (some days as early as 5 A.M.).
            Women pounding tapa.
            Belinda rustling and bustling around her kitchen (as early as 4:30 A.M.), talking                                     to family members, singing hymns.
            The neighbor's children singing in the back yard.           
            Water filling buckets at the sima vai in the yard.
            Dogs barking (especially at night!).

This is (my) Tonga!

Coconut-fed pigs.

Sima vai. Rainwater for our drinking and cooking needs (after boiling and/or filtering).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The king is dead! Long live the king!

On 18 March, 2012, King George Tupou V died while in Hong Kong. We had an opportunity to observe and be a part of all the events and traditions surrounding the death of a king of Tonga. Not only was there to be no entertainment, drinking of alcohol, loud noises, gatherings, or sports events, but everyone was to wear black for 3 months. (The new king, King Tupou VI, later shortened this to 10 days at the request of his brother before he died. However, many Tongans continue to wear only black as a sign of respect and for their grief.)

Stores, homes, and businesses were festooned with black and purple bunting.

When the King's body was brought back to Tonga citizens and school children lined the streets from the airport to the palace, which is about 14 miles. The day was very hot and humid, and we waited 2 1/2 hours along the road before the cavalcade came.

We attended the 3-hour funeral, sitting on mats. We had tenting overhead, while many sat in the very hot sun. Everyone wore black with a heavy mat over, and an aveave (made from pandanus) over the mat. This was a sign of humility and grieving. No sunglasses were allowed, nor hats, also as a sign of respect. Photographs were allowed only from one area of the cemetery.

There is so much to tell, and photos, I hope, will do a better job than words. So here they are:

Wearing an aveave in front of a building with black and purple bunting.

The basilica dressed in mourning.  

Hilliard teachers and students gather to go to line the road for the procession.

Waiting by the road.

Students line up while teachers talk and wait.

The new king rides in the procession to bring the King's body back.    
Some Peace Corps Volunteers gather to attend the funeral.

Queen Salote students line the tapa-covered path from the road to the tomb.

The new king and dignitaries sat in the tent with the crown. Tomb area is to the right.

Mourners sitting behind the Queen Mother's tent.

Honor guard.


Carrying the casket.

Carrying the casket.
The casket is lifted to the final resting place.

Tent for the band and some of the mourners.

Placing wreaths after the ceremony.