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)
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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 I try to define where is home but get side-tracked by identity and Charlie

{Sometimes things just need to be vented out. I thought I was doing something but then these things just caught up with me. And I had to push till the end of it, through the tears that were burning my eyes and in spite of the final roughness of this piece of writing. Emotions took over me, emotions that I thought I now had in control. I’m on my way back from a long travel that took me to France and to other places I’ve called home at some point of (my) history. A trip that I thought would help me solve some of the “home equation” and that allowed face to face discussions of the painful memories with my friends who had been in my thoughts and my Facebook messenger the previous year and a half (more than ever before), which is what I probably anticipated the most for my healing process. But considering the amount of crying I went through during the writing of the second part of this, I still have a lot of healing left to do.}
{there is a lot going on in the links. Things that I didn’t want to spell out for concision, or because it hurt too much}
Is home the same thing as where one comes from?

In the many years and places I have lived outside of my birthplace, I have often heard questions such as “when are you going back home?” or “don’t you miss home too much?” and it has always seemed unexpected of me to call the place where my actual home is, “home”. I mean, yes I come from France. But does that prevent the house where I live in another country from being where I feel at home? If I’m correct about the original English meaning of the word, that’s really what it means: the place where I sleep and eat and shower and relax and have friends over, and cook and do my washing and so much more, is home. Where else in the world could home be, I ask you?

I have lived in Tonga for 3.5 years, most of that time in the same house with the same landlords and neighbours and the same Chinese falekoloa (local grocer) around the corner. I had no obligation to stay in that house at all or even in the country after the initial 2 years I had come for, and if I didn’t feel like this was home, I would not have stayed. As I have done all my adult life. But I chose to remain in Tonga because I feel at home in Tonga. Now, would I like the falekoloa to be stocked with cheese is an entire other question.

Not exactly my hood, but close enough

Do all French people miss cheese when they are not in France? I don’t think so. Some don’t even like it. I personally don’t smoke, don’t like wine and don’t drink black coffee and it doesn’t make me any less French – a whole lot less stereotypical to foreigners, yes. I don’t really miss cheese either. Not that I’m not going to gorge on it as soon as an occasion arises, but I don’t miss it daily. Not having cheese in your fridge comes with the choice of living overseas. Would I love it if brie was readily available in Tonga and at a decent price? YES! Would I feel offended if it were a small, tasteless, pasteurized, chewy dairy product from Australia/ New Zealand and presented to me as a French product? Yes!

Can cheese be part of one’s identity?

Continue reading Where I try to define where is home but get side-tracked by identity and Charlie

A little chat with a sensitive monster cyclone

Dear TC Winston, thanks for having changed your track –again.

You are the most inconsistent entity I’ve seen since Sarkozy, when he declared he was

2020520day20track
Winston’s track, when I wrote the draft last night

back in politics to save France after he said he’d be out of politics forever if he was not elected for a second term as President of the French Republic. Yes Winston, your eyes are reading it right: I am comparing you to the most annoying, pretentious and BS-prone French President ever. As much as I’d like to blame his dangerously stupid person on being human and therefore imperfect (especially given his obvious Napoleon complex of the short guy who wants to be bigger than real life), in your case, I can’t find any excuse for you.

Wait, what? Did I hear “climate change”?

Are you insinuating that you were forced to change your track again (!), that it is not just because you wanted to be bigger and more damaging? That, seriously, I could understand. A Category 2 cyclone that goes around half of the South Pacific and doesn’t even kill one or two humans, or destroy for large areas of cultivated land for years to come? That’s a lame outcome. Growing to Category 4 and backtracking, but missing Vava’u anyway, that must have made you angry, so you went ahead to hit Fiji –real bad, too. You nasty attention seeker.

So now, you’re trying to make me believe that you’re not such an evil little cyclone eager for attention, but that global warming made you do it. Are you suggesting that (human) world leaders that don’t give a rat’s ass about environment unless it’s profitable are to be blamed for the likes of you? Continue reading A little chat with a sensitive monster cyclone

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