Where I found(-ed) a family in Tonga, and why a group called Seleka is so important to many -not just me

When you come to a new country where you know literally no-one, you need to make friends unless you are perfectly asocial or possibly a sociopath. Typically, friends and family are two different groups of people, but when you live 18,500 km from your actual relatives, some friends become family. “Brothers” and “sisters” are the most common additions to the family circle, even at “home”: we all have that kind of friend that’s a sibling from another mother, right?

Well, in Tonga I took things to another level. Or maybe things took me to another level. I now have 4 sons, 1 daughter, 1 grand-daughter and a mother. I also have an angel- not too sure where to fit “angel” in my family tree though-… and a Tongan French baby whom I didn’t make, but she’s French.

The first son happened sometime mid-2013, during a role play where this student and friend of mine had decided he’d be a small child. When another student asked him where were his parents as part of the game, he realised he hadn’t planned for that, and finally pointed at me. It was funny, and it stuck. When he married last year, I got a lovely daughter-in-law who is as committed to being part of the positive change in Tonga as he is.

The daughter happened shortly after. She was this beautiful, cheeky, sassy close young girl friend of mine, who started calling me mother when she saw I was caring and looking after her in all her naughty awesomeness. Not that she can’t look after herself, she does that very well on her own. But extra loving can’t be too much. Especially since she became the mother of a little girl, who of course is my grand-daughter and to whom she gives all she can, raising a member of the new generation of creative Tongans.

The Tongan French baby is my close friends’ daughter. She has been perfect since the day she was born, in October 2015. Her name is French, her first word when she was two months old was “oui”, and she used to love when I sang La Bohême to her when she was little, so in sum, she is obviously French. I found out recently that her mother’s aunty always asked her where I was when she sees her, referring to me as her “French mother”(I guess I’m a little part of the whole family…) I love Baby and how she’s so proud of having teeth. She’s incredibly fabulous.

Now that we know that I have friends outside of it, let me introduce Seleka so you can meet the rest of the family:

Continue reading Where I found(-ed) a family in Tonga, and why a group called Seleka is so important to many -not just me

Where the most trying moment for my conscience comes every Sunday in Tonga

The inner trials of life abroad: when your adopted culture couldn’t care less about what the first article of your nation’s Constitution reads. And it’s your business to accept it and adapt. No one else’s.

Pictured above, the Royal Tombs – and this sign: “forbidden to eat curry”. In my very first days in Tonga, it taught me two essential words: ‘tapu’ as ‘forbidden’ and ‘kale’ as ‘curry’. For those who wonder: I knew ‘kai’ already. It is the same word across the Polynesian world. Isn’t it beautiful? (hint: check this BBC article). It took me a few more days to discover what the Tongans refer to as “curry”. Definitely not something resembling a South Asian dish. Kale moa (chicken curry) is the cheapest dish available in the kingdom, making it a favourite take away order at nearby 24/6 budget restaurant Talahiva.

One thing leading to another, this sign has always given me the awkward feeling that the poorer eaters were directly targeted by the very particular restriction of this order. This misled feeling likely has everything to do with the excessively specific wording of the prohibition. Needless to say no food at all is permitted on the highly tapu (‘taboo/ sacred’) Royal Tombs ground. Actually, nothing and no one apart from the very few designated caretakers of the tombs is allowed there. A matter of respect to the revered passed kings and queen resting there.

This is but one tiny sample of what is tapu in Tonga. A lot of things are tapu, but let’s stick to what has immediate effects on my experience of what could otherwise be a nice, peaceful Sunday evening in the centre of Nuku’alofa: it is a noisy, boisterous evening. Continue reading Where the most trying moment for my conscience comes every Sunday in Tonga

Where luck is not what took me to the tropics – or what keeps me there

A brief account of how I came to Tonga three years ago, and the effect hearing “I’m so jealous!” has on me -and others who know what it’s like to make choices that are not conventional.

A few of my friends have told me to blog, implying that my life could be so interesting that people could actually want to read about it. I suppose that’s a compliment? So well, I ended up thinking “why not, let’s do this thing” but maybe not for the reasons they thought.

As it turns out, I live in the South Pacific. In Tonga to be less general. In Nuku’alofa, to be specific. That may be a hint as to why people think my life is wonderful… I don’t know, I find it quite normal. But I only assume it’s fair enough I find my own life normal. Right?

People overseas and visitors from overseas alike have told me repeatedly how lucky I was Continue reading Where luck is not what took me to the tropics – or what keeps me there