09 September 2010

Wearing Sunday Best to work

My best outfit given me by
an 'Eua neighbor, which I found out
later in the day was a hand-me-down
formal uniform from Air Fiji. I love it!
Last week, I put on my best pule taha and kiekie, and left extra early to walk down the road to work; September 1st was the 33rd anniversary of Tonga Development Bank. The day before, everyone got emailed with special instructions: we were to wear our “Sunday best” that day, in the form of a tailored, matching pule taha, and a special kind of ta’ovala. The work day would go as normal, except for a special anniversary worship service held before work at 8:30.

The brass band
It takes around 10 minutes to walk from our house to downtown, so I left at what I thought was ridiculously early 8AM, thinking that I would be one of the first to arrive. To my surprise and initial horror, when I
walked up to the lobby at 8:10, 90% of my coworkers were already there, the brass band was playing, the lobby decked out in garlands and lace, and the guest of honour ensconced behind his lace-covered table! Another Tongan special event that “starts” half an hour before it really starts.

Beautiful decorations, held by the
illustrious PR manager, in a "Miss Heilala"
(beauty pagent in Tonga) pose
TDB’s main office is small by most US norms: a 40 by maybe 150 foot large room, divided into workspaces, with offshooting areas for lending, accounting, and IT. The lobby is at the main entrance, a high-ceilinged area that today was crammed with chairs scavenged from around the office to accommodate the roughly 60 people in attendance.

Pastor of Siasi Tonga
The lobby was absolutely beautiful: hand-made garlands of leaves were draped along the walls, dripping with bright tropical flowers, and backed by long strips of lace that looked like they could have been taken from an early 20th century table cloth. The important guests sat facing the crowd: the managing director, department managers, and the guest of honour, president of the Constitutional Church of Tonga. Under their feet were hand woven mats lined with colorful fringes of yarn, and the guest of honour put his feet on a painted tapa, or bark cloth mat.

Singing during the service
The service that followed was a shortened form of a typical church service: an opening prayer, hymn, message by the guest of honour, and closing Lord’s Prayer (sung in Tongan) and benediction. Because I was one of the last in and had to sit in the front row, I was nominated the official photographer, and so spent the next hour taking photos of the beautiful decorations and special clothing of my coworkers. In years past, the Bank has hosted a barbecue after work, but this year, they are paying for our lunches instead.

After having been a catering server at lavish, cheesy, drunken company events in years past in the US, I thought the way that a special event like this was celebrated was very interesting, and fully keeping with the Tongan importance of church and ceremony, even in a governmental development institution like this one. It made the whole work day especially bright, and no one was very motivated to get down to work afterwards.
Most of my coworkers (the two ladies to the right are in TDB daily uniform)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails