À la Recherche des Maoris (9): multicolored true Pacific (Suva-Nuku’alofa) HAPPY 2018!

I started writing these lines from (very) laidback Happy Tongatapu island, in Nuku’alofa, the capital city of the small kingdom of Tonga which is the home of 100,000 inhabitants in total, a good proportion of which is traveling or living elsewhere just to make sure their island is the true paradise!

I believe I found the true Polynesian soul in this happy haven (note the Christmas dress code of customs officers!)and my luck was that I chose a bed and breakfast instead of an international hotel and was welcomed by very the very insightful Saia Fonua, my host and his delightful wife Mary.

Saia who gladly introduces himself as a

“bullshit artist”

is probably one of the most connected Tongans and it means something when you know this small archipelago has one of the world’s highest rates of Ph.D. per capita, like his friend and partner in crime Leon !

Having “spied” my activities, he made sure from my first minute that I would get all the necessary information out of my 5 days there!

“All indigenous people except Tongans share the same experience of hierarchy, tatoos and colonization…”

Their incredible smiles, sizes (I am a light midget compared to these gorgeous statures!!!) literally fascinated me!

In this little paradise, each boy is entitled to 8 acres for bush farming and a quarter acre in towns meaning that life isn’t too hard to start with in this luxurious and exuberant tropical environment!

Probably originally Samoans…or vice-versa (Tonga means south for Samoans and tokalau means North), this tiny population of giants got world famous for being a Rugby giant, something that reunited their nation and which owes a lot to my host again!

The Palangi (Tongan for Farang…) welcomed Tasman and Cook yet politely declined any invitation to be colonised so Tongan is definitely their first language up to today!

People

Two things I will remember from Tongans is their immense smile…and impressive size, as well as solid appetite that unfortunately presently leads them to a diabetes virus!

Tongans, though quite aware of their exception to the contemporary rule of distrusting people you don’t know are still very open to the others in my short yet meaningful experience.

And one proof of their sensitivity is their incredible care for their dead! In Tongan terms you never die, our birthday, fathers or mothers days are still celebrated and if you can’t attend to your family’s tomb, the next neighbor will make sure that your beloved’s last dwelling is well attended!

Tombstones look like little mounds as they are covered with sand.

However this mellowness is mitigated by the endless conflicts with their twin Samoan archipelago. Saia mentioned a 1970s war against Samoans… I didn’t find any track of it on the net but take his word for it!

As for Gay people, they are well accepted in this open though quite religious society

Among the main objects of a traditional Tongan household are:

  • Copper boiler

  • Kettle

  • Cast iron pot

Whale, pork seafood are the traditional food accounting for the vigorous genes of Tongans!

Languages

If you are looking for a native language which successfully made it into the 21st century, look no further, Tonga is an amazing counter example of everything we know about indigenous languages! It is monolingual Tongan even if its population masters a certain level of English! Signs are in Tongan!

Alua: au revoir

Heritage

Saia showed me the fascinating Haamonga (Tonga Stonehenge)11th century AD Ha’amonga’a Maui trilithon

and the Ancient terraced Tombs (Langi) of Tongan Kings.

Nature

However is what amazes me there with its fishing pigs and in the streets, Flying foxes: (bats), blowing holes

And spectacular scenery and vegetation

Tourism

This largely authentic culture accounts for similarly authentic tourists who more often than not are open minded and respectful so let me just leave you with some impressionist glances over a wonderful society which leaves me hopeful a few minutes away from the 2018 New Year!

References :

On language http://www.axl.cefan.ulaval.ca/pacifique/tonga.htm

On Samoa-Tonga conflicts http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document//Volume_8_1899/Volume_8,_No._4,_December_1899/The_war_of_Tonga_and_Samoa_and_origin_of_the_name_Malietoa,_by_Rev._S._Ella,_p_231-234/p1

Relations with New Zealand https://teara.govt.nz/en/pacific-islands-and-new-zealand

Sport

https://i.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/98515720/historic-tensions-between-tonga-and-samoa-boil-over-ahead-of-rugby-league-world-cup-clash

https://www.rugbyrama.fr/rugby/coupe-du-monde/2007/tonga-l-equipe-qui-monte_sto1325118/story.shtml

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