20 June 2012

First impressions of Tonga: Asa's visit

 After a ten-hour layover in Fiji that stretched to a full twelve hours to cap off his multiple-day journey to get here, my little brother Asa made it safe and sound to Tonga for an extended visit during his "summer break" from university in the United States.
Asa and Mark doing dishes- we put him to work already.

And are we ever excited to have him! After the last seven or so years of too-short holidays too infrequently, we're enjoying all spending some good time together. Asa's an avid reader of the blog, and so we invited him to be our first "guest blogger" to relate some of his first impressions of Tonga.

An editorial note: Asa mentions being able to get all sorts of items and be very comfortable here, which is absolutely true. However, he's also in the unique position of living with people who have already figured out where to get these hard-to-find items and restaurants, already know a lot of people, and have already figured out how to budget to afford the occasional - very expensive - cheese, wine, muesli, and other goods that may be normal to someone in NZ, Australia, or the US, but that are luxury to us and most people here. We've been enjoying showing him everything we've discovered over the past few years.

Avoid the miniature side of the road ponds!
Since I arrived in Tonga this last Tuesday, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people and go quite a few places. I’m Asa, Elena’s little brother and an MK as well who was raised in the US and in Brazil, and I’m going to be in Tonga until the beginning of September volunteering with Tonga Business Enterprise Center. Up until this point, I’ve been in my first year of university in the States, and being in Tonga is a nice change of pace from frantic student life, trying to balance studies, work, and social obligations.

On Wednesday, Elena took the day off from work to get me acclimated and show me around, and we literally walked in a circle around the whole city of Nuku'alofa. As we walked, I noticed that even though there weren’t big stores like the kind I’m used to from living in Washington state or in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (where I lived since I was 11 prior to returning to the US), all of the necessities were covered, so life is good. Even though there isn’t huge supplies of all kinds of everything, there’s more than enough to live on and be comfortable with. There are dealerships, super markets (two of them), places to get CDs, DVDs, or printer cartridges, a produce market, bakeries, coffee shops (three in town), restaurants - the most popular being Chinese, Italian, and Barbeque. You won’t go to a giant super-store to get food and other supplies, and you don’t necessarily need to do a Google search to find a person with specific expertise, or need to use Urban Spoon to find a fantastic Italian restaurant with amazing gelatto (the only in Tonga). Yet, all of this is in the capitol city of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, a city with about 24,000 residents, which is which is a little under two thirds the size of Bremerton, the little Navy town I go to Uni in.

The night I arrived in Tonga, Elena, Mark and I went out to go to one of their favourite restaurants - a little Italian place named Pizza Pasta, but which everyon just calls “Marco’s”. We were walking down one of the side streets and we saw this large white house with a bunch of people sitting listening to a speech after what was presumably the feast. Just as we were about to pass, Elena hears a “Pssst! Elena!” from the house. It turns out that they knew the people who were cooking!  We were promptly invited to come in and have some food, and after a little fussing, we were given a table with lu, roast pig, sapasu√≠, rice, salad, 'ota ika, kumala (sweet potato) and drinks. I was so surprised. We were treated to a small traditional Tongan feast on my first night in Tonga and I was not at all surprised that it was delicious.

1 comment:

  1. Malo e lelei 'a Asa,

    welcome to the far flung islands of Tonga. Have a great time and thank you for taking the risk sharing your gifts with my motherland. I met Elena and Mark not only thru this medium but also couple years back during Wesleyan Annual Conference. My cousin 'Asinate Samate and brother Kitaleoma done life together with Elena and Mark in the past. I am so thankful each one of you giving up your perfectly infinite possibilities of better life and spend your amazing gifts with my ppl.

    Blessing upon each on of you.


    'Ofa lahi atu...

    Sione Tu'uta


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