Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A day in the life: Pangai, Ha'apai, Tonga

The first thing you do when you wake up on a beautiful morning in Ha'apai is to fold and put away the bedding you used for sleeping.

Pictured: beautiful fala (mat), handwoven by my wonderful mum Palolo, plus the pillows and blankets we use to sleep at night.

Then, if it's still before 7, you stretch, walk outside, and climb up to sit on the fence while you admire the beautiful sunrise. You smile with gratitude to be there, listening to the village wake up, seeing the kids getting ready for school, and hearing village boys calling the pigs to feed.

From there, if you want to start your day with a shower, grab a bucket and start filling it. 

Rainwater, as long as you have it, is cool, refreshing, and versatile. It works as bath, cooking, drinking, watering, and washing water. 

It might seem a bit cold at first, but you'll wake up quickly. Here's your shower. You might be surprised how easy it is to bathe from a basin.

Just remember to close the bathroom door. :)

After your shower, you should probably eat breakfast. If you have a sore throat, try squeezing some kola (a type of lime) from the bush into hot water. Drink that with your biscuits and butter--lovely and tart. 

But be warned, you'll have an audience while you eat. 

When you're ready to do something, there are lots of things to occupy yourself with during the day. 

(But there is no mirror, so if you need to look nice when you go out, just check your reflection in a window pane. Or a picture frame will do. Makeup is wholly unnecessary.) 

You might decide to go on a walk. You're lucky if you get walking buddies like mine. 

cousin, brother, cousin. love them so much. 

You could pick oranges (dodge the spiders), 

A monkey we found in the bush... :)

You can't see them in this picture, but I promise there are oranges up there.

practice braiding with Lusi, 

she said we looked like Elsa :)

visit a friend, 

(there was a funeral going on, hence the mourning clothes)

stay home and watch the boys work out, 

or go to the beach.

Playing with cousins is always fun. 

But tiring. What with the heat and the pace of life, you're probably going to need a nap at some point.  

our communal sleeping 

(even supermom takes a rest sometimes)

If you're lucky enough to be in the Kingdom on a Sunday, going to church is a must. 

The ringing bells and singing choirs can't be missed. 

And when you get home, if there was any lu sent from Vava'u on the boat and you were lucky enough to get some at the market on Saturday, you can look forward to some special food for lunch. 

Lu is a special and typical Tongan feast/Sunday afternoon food. It's made by wrapping meat and usually onion in Lu leaves (something sort of-kind of-but not really-like spinach) with coconut milk, then cooked in an 'umu (underground oven). This is the first step laid out on the kitchen table on a Sunday morning. 

fish the brothers caught the night before. 

Manioke (tapioca root). A staple.
The 'umu the brothers made out of the top of an old drum, buried  in the dirt and filled with burning coconuts.

Other days, if there is gas, you usually cook on this stove. 

When there's not, you cook on a fire outside. 

The finished Sunday meal. Lu (in the aluminum foil), manioke, kumala (sweet potato) and ufi (yam).

If you're lucky to have a brother who loves you as much as mine loves me, you might even get some coconuts to drink.

Your flavour essentials. Masima (salt) and vai polo--a spicy salt water seasoning made with hot peppers, fresh coconut, and sea water.

In the off chance that you get sick while on the island, rest assured, there is a hospital there, and depending on how sick you are, they might actually even have the resources to help you. Plus, the hospital itself has a great view. 

And, again, if you're extra lucky like me, you'll have some great company to stay with. 

(don't worry, I just had tonsillitis. I was released after four days) 
In the evening, you'll probably spend some time playing cards with family and friends, watching movies on a laptop, or just sitting on the road or on the fence in the dark or laying on a table or the ground outside, looking at the stars, singing songs, laughing, and talking. Remember to bring a flashlight/torch, because the electricity only works in two rooms. Some nights, you might even drag a fala outside and sleep on the grass. The best part of the day will be kneeling with your loved ones at the end, looking at them with bowed heads, while someone offers a prayer of thanks for the food you had to eat, the protection from storms, and the health and energy you had to work and live that day. Blessings will be asked for family members far away, and thanks will be given for the time you have together. 

When you have to say goodbye, you'll cry, as you always do, to leave some of the people you love most in life. I'm so grateful for this family--my family--in Ha'apai. They make my life so rich. 

Life is a great reason to rejoice!
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  1. Beautiful, Kasia! Thanks for sharing! Your writing is the next best thing to being there.

  2. Loved your post! Beautiful, just beautiful. Love you.