14 August 2011

The earthworm and the whale

We sat in the plyboard entrance of Marco's Pizza, a long table full of volunteers sitting on a motley collection of plastic chairs, old bar stools, a bench, a cooler (me), and a paint bucket (Mark). However rudimentary the seating may have been, the food before us was five-star; antipasta with hand-cured salami, handmade sausage, and mozzarella cheese, large plates of savoury pasta with mushrooms and cream sauce, and thick, handmade pizza hot from the oven. Marco takes his cooking seriously.

"Do you want to hear the story about the earthworm and the whale?" Paul, a volunteer visiting from the island of 'Eua says from across the table. Immediately the table goes quiet after a chorus of "yes"s.  "I heard it from the TCC guy who drives around in that beatup van with no drivers seat," Paul continues. "That guy!" I exclaim. "He gave us a ride several times," referring to hitchhiking rides during our stint in 'Eua almost two years ago.

03 August 2011

Your cousin's mother-in-law's brother is my aunt's cousin's father

A military march for the King's birthday
When anyone first meets someone in Tonga, the conversation will most likely go like this:

"Hi. 'Ofa Fifita*?" [They have already asked who this new person is from several people around you]
"Yes, hi."
"Mele Maka" says new person.
"Do you know my cousin, Melenaite Maka?" they ask.
"Isn't she the daughter of Sikaleti Po'oi? Sikaleti's my aunt's father in law."
"From Kanokupolu?" they ask, citing a large town on the island.
"Yes, are you from there?" the new person asks. "You know the blue house right before the Chinese shop as you come into town? That's my family's place!"
* Names are completely made up

And the conversation will move on from there. I am always amazed at the huge genealogies that everyone in Tonga seems to carry around in their heads, effortlessly referring to them at any useful occasion. It gets even more confusing when, as foreigners, we ask how certain members of the royal family are connected to each other--because at almost every important event, the guest of honour will be royal, or at least noble. 

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