27 March 2011

Puke and Rocket: Tongan names that catch foreigners off guard

What's in a name? He whom we
call Puke in any other language
would still smell as sweet.
When I first met someone called Puke, I was, to say the least, confused. My bewilderment wasn't at all diminished when I learned that puke (pronounced poo-kay) is the Tongan word for "to be sick," bearing an uncanny resemblance to it's English meaning. But Puke doesn't mind his name, which is actually a shortened version of a longer name, and the sidelong glances I kept expecting when people met him were just nonexistent. I was the only clueless foreigner snickering at my own tasteless joke. It just wasn't an issue.

20 March 2011

Shopping Trip on Bikes


In Tonga, you very quickly get used to seeing large baskets of root crop, coconuts, and huge piles of vegetables by the side of the road for sale. What you don't typically think about is how heavy root crop and coconuts actually are when you have to carry them by foot or on a bike.

Bicycles are fantastic for getting around, and they give you a fun excuse to exercise, but they usually do not come equipped to carry cargo right out of the box. For this you need racks mounted over the back or front tires, or a basket mounted on your handlebars. While in New Zealand for our early December vacation, I bought a back rack for my bike to allow us to tie things to the top and carry bags attached to its side. This has vastly increased the amount of groceries we can buy in one go, and for the first time since we moved to the main island of Tongatapu, we are willing to buy bags of root crop and coconuts (both of which are extremely heavy and difficult to transport in any quantity on foot, let alone by bicycle).

06 March 2011

Do-it-yourself: How to make a Tongan mat

Mark wearing a ta'ovala
Imagine you visit Tonga and see the beautiful formal waist mats (the Tongan equivalent of a suit) that people wear and the fine mats people give at ceremonies. You decide you want to buy one, but are surprised that most regular waist mats, or ta'ovalas, cost upwards of $100 USD! You are clever with your hands, so you decide you will make one yourself. After all, it looks difficult, but how hard can weaving a bunch of strips of... something... be?

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