The first weekend of May in Tonga is dedicated to a celebration called Faka me or Children’s White Sunday. I found out that this holiday is primarily celebrated by the Wesleyans and not so much by the other churches in Tonga. Basically, it is a day to celebrate being a child? In my opinion, the definition of “child” and “youth” is very vague here. It appears that you are considered a youth until you marry someone. As a result, you’re technically still a youth even if you are 35 year old man? In Tonga, it appears so.
My new friend Alex from Germany stayed at Matamaka for a week with a traditional Tongan homestay family. Alex is an intern for VEPA (Vava’u Environmental Protection Agency) working here in Vava’u for the last two and half months. He wanted to experience outer-island life before he returns to Germany. I asked my neighbors if they would like to have a palangi guest for a week. Tankina and Loui were more than happy to welcome Alex for a homestay experience at Matamaka.
Photo: Tongan feast for Faka me.
Alex and I went to the Wesleyan church to celebrate Faka me. It all started out with the 6 AM church service and lasted until about 3 PM (I left early). It was definitely a new cultural experience even for me, even after living here for seven months now. There were different types of religious “performances” which consisted of children making speeches and singing. It was really long, but I enjoyed watching all the different presentations. Furthermore, we were invited to the kai pola or Tongan feast. As the Peace Corps of the village with another palangi, we were obviously seated upfront with the village chief and important people of the village. We attempted to sit with children, which did not last very long because they made us move. All of the food was amazing of course and I felt that Alex had a good experience with the Tongan feast. In addition, we drank kava with the men. It was Alex’s first time and I was not quite sure if he really liked the taste of kava or not.
For the rest of the week, Alex observed at the school and taught a short German language class to all of the children. Guten Tag! We also did a long hike around the island of Nuapapu to the “haunted” beach according to Ma’asi. The beach is located on the northern part of the island near an ancient cemetery. To be honest, the cemetery was a bit creepy and reminded me of a real life Disney haunted house ride. Regardless, the beach was beautiful and the corals were absolutely amazing.
Photo: Alex and I pretending to fall in the water at the hidden beach near Nuapapu.
The week ended with a Tongan feast that Alex’s family put together for him. I was honored to be invited to eat with them all at their Tongan fale. It was very nice and I could tell that everyone was really happy with the entire set-up of the homestay. I hope to look into possible future Tongan homestays at Matamaka for visitors in Vava’u. It will be a great way for families in Matamaka to have access to extra money and also be a great cultural exchange for everyone involved. We could look into volunteer project opportunities around the village or the school for the visitors? It is all on the table and we will look into it for a possible future endeavor for the village to pursue. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions about Tongan homestays or volunteering at the outer-island, I am more than happy to hear them all. MALO :D
Photo: Alex and the whole family after the Tongan feast.