02 November 2010

Looking out for trade and breast cancer

Pasifiki Trade Fair jewelry seller
There are many weeks that go by that feel full of local events but wouldn't quite stand up to keeping anyone reading our blog awake for very long.

While I was posting about Mele, the artisan of Tongan crafts, I was attending days of the Pasifiki Trade Fair, a yearly mishmash of mostly Tongan businesses displaying their wares in the big hall in the middle of town. Several IT companies, t-shirt manufacturers, local crafts people, a coffee company, a NZ apple company, as well as many others spread out their booths for the city to examine.
Craft seller and booth

As the mornings turned into afternoons, hoards of exuberant school kids in their uniforms streamed down the aisles, making it impossible to navigate without avoiding some headlong rush collision of groups of talking and laughing teenagers.

Among acquisitions of soap, apple juice, and coffee, we bought a beautiful cloth that had been woodblock printed by the high school boys at Liahona, the Mormon school in town.

This was their first art sale of the whole fair, and by far my favorite interchange of the week:

Liahona boys art stand
Elena: (in Tongan) Wow, are you guys selling these?
Boys: Huh huh...huh... hehe...

[Sideways look to friends. Nodding all around]

Elena: How much are they?
Boys: Huh... huh.. heeeehee... uh..

One guy gets up the courage.

Boy 1: they're 25!

Quickly interrupted by his friend,
Boy 2: No, 20! I made this one!

Elena: They're really beautiful. Ok, we'd like to buy this one.
[Incredulous and happy looks all around, much poking in ribs and laughter]

Boys: Ok... huh huh... hehe...
I hold out the money to Boy 2. He promptly takes it and runs away, to much happy jeers and teasing from his friends.

We thanked them while laughing, and happily went away with some good art.

TBCS rep talking to trade fair goers
The month of October is also a big one here for the Tonga Breast Cancer Society, who had a booth at the trade fair, dutifully decked out in shocking pink.

There's a large support base for the society, which has grown over recent years, in a large part because so many Tongan women are killed by breast cancer. It's one of the leading causes of death in Tonga, along with diabetes. While women can get diagnosed here, there are no treatment facilities available, and so if a woman discovers it late in the game, she will often choose to stay home with her family rather than brave the lonely, expensive, long treatment in New Zealand. A local clinic here has been recently offering one day of free check-ups a week, which has helped many individuals catch possible breast cancer before it becomes a problem.
Tonga Breast Cancer Society logo: "Ofa ki ho'o mo'ui" or Take Care of Your Health

I've been helping out here and there with their website and by taking pictures at their events, and so we just had to go to the end-of-the-month celebrations this last weekend: the final Walk on Saturday and the culminating church service on Sunday.

Parading down Nuku'alofa's main waterfront road

The walk was in a huge loop around the city, at a parade pace, and led by the Tupou High School band.
Mark walking with friends of ours
I ran in and out of the throng, taking pictures and trying not to get underfoot. Tonga Breast Cancer Society's logo was the parade banner, which in Tongan reads "'Ofa ki ho'o mo'ui", or Take Care of your Health.

Alternatively, it could mean Love your Life, which I always like better, but the more appropriate translation is the former. The parade, which started at 8AM, was finished at 9, with nice greasy hotdogs and juice after a cool down session.
Kids looking cool in the cool down
The next day, we went to the final Sunday service of the month, which was in format very much like every other service we've gone to here, except looking as if the Queen of Hearts took her brush and dipped it into pink paint by accident.

We did our best to fit in, but could only manage maroon (on me) and white (on Mark). Afterwards, we had a delicious Sunday dinner at Leta my manager's house, who is also somewhat of a mentor and friend.
Leta, me, and Mark after the service. Leta and I should have stood on the steps.
Now October's gone and November is here, and we look forward to the upcoming first-ever democratic election in Tonga on the 25th, Thanksgiving, and our trip to New Zealand starting at the end of this month. Plenty to blog about.

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