Friday, November 6, 2009

The Misinale

October 29
We’re finishing up our third week of training; one more week of primarily language training, then we move to four weeks of program training. We’re all struggling mightily with the language and worried about not having ongoing language training. Hopefully we’ll set up some study sessions during our free time.

So much for my comment last week about being well. My asthma was much worse over the weekend, and Kathy ate some bad ice cream Saturday in Pangai and spent Sunday and most of Monday in bed dealing with the usual results. She’s better now and my asthma is also settling down. So hopefully we’ll stay this way.

We had our second practice session for our ma’ulu’ulu (seated dance including both men and women) this afternoon, and it’s starting to look like something. We couldn’t practice with the music because the village is in official mourning for a native son who died Monday on some other island. No music or dancing for three days (although there has been plenty of music going on in homes.

These next few days are the concluding days of the church’s Misinale, which apparently is the primary fund raising activity for the church, kind of like the annual campaign conducted by charities back home. Each family is expected to contribute what they can, and the amount each family contributes will be announced by the mother at a public meeting/celebration on Saturday. So naturally there is some competition involved. The church youth have been doing their part, and they are going to perform a concert tonight to conclude their fund raising efforts. It sounds like they are finally ready to go; it was advertised to begin at 7 and it’s now 8:15.

October 30, 2009
So the dance was fun. When I went over to the hall last night (which is about 50 feet from our room) there was a group of men gathered in one corner around the kava bowl, and one of our female trainees was acting as the tou’a, who has the duty of ladling out the kava into bowls which are then passed around to those in the circle. In the opposite corner a group of children were gathered, and along one wall were the mats on which the various other spectators and participants were gathering to sit on. I sat with the kava group and enjoyed my first real bowl of kava since arriving in Tonga. Several of the young men were gathered around the stereo system; it appears the delay was because they actually had to go get it in Pangai and for some reason no one been able to get it until it was actually needed (this was most likely a transportation issue; somehow when a trip actually must be made transportation becomes available, but otherwise can be very hard to arrange).
So once the sound system was figured out, the town officer announced the beginning of the event, the faifekau said the obligatory prayer, and the festivities began. As best as I could figure out each dance involved a family, and as family members danced spectators would approach and stick money on them, either by sticking it on their oiled skin or tucking it in their shirt. This is called fakepale, I believe, a common practice in traditional dance that has bled over into this definitely less traditional form. When the Me’afo’ou family’s turn came Kathy and I were obligated to join in, and I collected $11 pa’anga in fakapale!

After each family danced, they collected all the fakapale and turned it in to the money counter, and the result was announced.

There were actually a few performances of the more traditional variety including 5 young men doing some kind of more traditional dance while dressed casually, but very few dancers dressed in traditional dance garb; this was a youth organized fund raiser and not a more formal event.

Tonight the various family groups (there are five) of the church gathered to finalize their contribution for the Misinale. The group our family is part of will be able to contribute almost $5000 pa’anga (about US$2700), most of which is being provided by relatives living abroad. Our modest contribution was the only one made by check; in these Tongan villages there is not a lot of money and very little need for checking accounts or credit cards. There are no ATMs on the island, and the only bank is in Pangai is eight miles (that might as well be 80) miles away and not open on Saturdays, the only day we have time to go there, so we were not able to get cash.

The big day is tomorrow, where everyone will reveal publicly at a church service the amount of their family’s contribution.

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