Where it’s too hot to think today, but…

When you randomly happen to share your art projects on a hot Sunday, and feel like they’re getting more real by the minute. If any of my readers should be interested to know more, get involved (if in Tonga) or help fund raise (anywhere on earth), leave a comment and I’ll get back to you asap! Feel free to share if you like what you read 🙂

It’s also ok to comment about the weather, or just to say something nice about my lovely broken English with a French accent: It’s too hot to get it checked today!

Prologue

Today is Sunday. It was so hot when I woke up at 7.30 that I couldn’t bear to read in bed for long. Although I do love to read the news in bed, especially in these troubled days in politics (French alert: this weekend we’re voting in the first round of the left wing Primary for our upcoming presidential election). I eventually steered up to turn the fan on, and went back to reading in bed.

But it proved insufficient, and I did what I never do on Sunday: I got up before 8.30. Maybe because my very bad sunburns from the 2.5 hour bike ride yesterday made me so uncomfortable. Or maybe because I could feel this was going to be a productive day. Yes, a productive Sunday in Tonga, in spite of burns that make me want to stay in all week.

Incipit

Long story short, after an impromptu visit to the hospital and leaving it with my friend on a spontaneous Tongan Sunday lunch invitation by her husband when she was eventually sent home by the doctor, I  discovered that her new neighbour was the Australian volunteer I wanted to ask to model in a photo project I have.

After lunch, I spent a fair deal of time chatting with her. I was her spontaneous excuse for a break in the house chores, and despite the heat, the ants crawling on us and a baby centipede I had to kill on the veranda, we somehow had one of the most productive conversations I’ve ever had on such a spontaneous mode.

Body

We talked about how awesome the Seleka art group is, and their art, and how we’re trying to raise money so that 3 of us and another Tongan artist can attend an exciting Pacific artists gathering in Tahiti in June (I’m the interpret/ photo documentarian/ artist assistant/ secretary etc.)  (the flights are not cheap) and how that could contribute to the great work done at Seleka in the arts and with the kids (see previous article on this blog, about “family”), and Tonga’s promotion to the world.

We talked about my little documentary project about unsuspected historic bounds between France and Tonga, and about this other project I have to start a local photography initiative -I’m part of the Nuku’alofa Film Festival team, that aims at developing local film awareness and encouraging film production, so why not photo as well, with equally no equipment, no training available and no money, but a lot of potential in the people?

While talking about it, I introduced her to the wonderful 24 Hour Project that aims at documenting humanity across the world for 24 hours, with Instagrammers shooting and snapping in their home city on the same day. The date for this year has just been announced: 1st April. Not an April’s fool thing! She’s keen to be part of the adventure, so with me that makes two. I’d like to have a small group of enthusiasts so we can do something fun and really insightful together some time during the day, so it’s a good start!

We also talked about fitness, and how she plans to attend boot camp twice a week for the next two months, and how I’m back on wheels and should consider wearing more waterproof/ sweat proof sun screen. Yesterday also taught me I may actually benefit from a boot camp so I can ride my normal ride to the west in 1h45 and not feel half dead, so I guess I’ll be with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays…

Denouement

We also talked about how Tonga is such a wonderful place to be when you want to be active and don’t mind creating your own opportunities. A place where you get to meet amazing people that would be completely out of reach in a big city like Melbourne or Paris. And on that we couldn’t agree more. Although I have Canadian temptations, I know I have much and more left to do here with wonderful engaged Tongan friends.

When I picked up my bike from their house, my friend and her husband were fast asleep, catching up with the rest that had eluded them over the past two days. I got home and ate some ice cream, and sat to write.

Epilogue

It was all hospital visit and food and chat, but it felt like a tremendously productive day. Probably because it’s too hot to think.

Oh, I also dyed my hair and did some laundry before going to the hospital, but shoosh: it’s very naughty on a Sunday!

Oh and while I’m at it, maybe I should ask you if you want to join in or support any of these projects? The comments below are a great place to start a conversation 😉

The wine bottle garden at Seleka, overlooking Fanga’uta lagoon
In my backyard. No cloud, nowhere. 17.30 (5.30pm)

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