We arrived in Tonga one week ago this morning and this will be just our fourth night in our home stay, but it feels like we’ve been here much longer. This has much to do with the adjustments we’ve had to make to our daily routines. Here are some reflections on what big shifts we’ve had to make.
1. Some comforts of home don’t feel so important as we acclimate to Tongan life. Cold showers are not a big deal in a tropical climate. Refrigeration is not that important when most food is consumed the day it is prepared. And what goes on in a home, the quality of the relationships and the interactions, is so much more important than the quality of the building.
2. Some comforts of home are sorely missed. Our home has no sink for washing hands and brushing teeth, and having one does not seem important to most of the families we are staying with. Hot – or at least warm – water is good for washing hair when you are a girl.
3. Regular meal times are not a part of this village’s culture. It does seem like the big meal of the day is often dinner, but sometimes it’s closer to mid-day or mid-afternoon, but it could as easily be at 9 p.m. The feast yesterday was at 3 p.m., but since most of the food was passed on to others their meals occurred somewhat later. And our family had another meal later in the evening; Kathy and I were not interested at all.
4. It’s amazing what can be prepared in an earth oven. Our host mother will be baking cakes in one tomorrow morning for the church’s youth group to sell as a fund raiser.
5. It’s great to live in a culture where your shoes are just not important at all. Life in sandals and flip-flops is just fine by me.
Tongans do not place great importance on money. They share most everything. They look out for each other and take care of someone else’s children if that is what is needed. Our host family moved here from a nearby island just two months ago; he is a Wesleyan minister and apparently the practice is to move every three years or so to a new church. As we are getting to know them we have learned that they did not bring their refrigerator with them because someone there needed one. They left their chickens with their former church, and other items were left for various other reasons, so they are living without. That’s the Tongan way.