Friday, February 18, 2011

T is for Tonga

Last year we had the opportunity to go to Tonga. If we were going to make the trip, we wanted to stay a while to make it worth the expense, and since we had the availability at the time to go for a whole month, we decided to jump on it. So the last week of June we packed our bags (maxed out our luggage allowances), and hopped on a plan to Cali, then connected to Samoa. When we landed in Samoa we took stairs down directly from the plane to the ground and then walked into the airport waiting room, where we spent the next couple of hours before boarding again to continue to Tongatapu. On the main island Taiyo’s auntie picked us up and drove us to the domestic airport. The international airport in Tonga had one rotating luggage line but was still really small. The domestic airports are even smaller! There’s a little room with a desk where you can go get your tickets and check your luggage, and then when it’s time to board you go outside to the landing area and take stairs up into the tiny plane.
Taisoni was generally really good for the whole trip up to this point, but by the time we boarded a plane for the 4th time to go from Tongatapu to Vava’u he had had enough and let us know. Luckily that flight was short. We were so excited to land in Vava’u and see all of Taiyo’s family waiting there for us! We said our hellos and then they drove us to their house in the village Tu’anekivale. They had reserved a bedroom in the house just for us. At first I felt bad for intruding, but I came to realize that even when we’re not there, the bedrooms (and beds) often go unused because almost everyone prefers to sleep together on the floor in the living room or kitchen.

Throughout our 4 weeks on the island, we visited places on the island, including my favorite beach, ‘Ene’io, hiked up a mountain to overlook the island, harvested peanuts, spent a lot of time in Sina’s store, and I experienced Tongan cooking and ways of life. Soni was spoiled and he had a wonderful time discovering a love of fresh coconut and the island life.

We even planned the trip around Soni’s first birthday so we could celebrate with the family there. It was a big party! People from the whole village came and we had TONS of food. Party preparations started 24 hours in advance. Unfortunately, half way through the party, the powerlines decided they couldn’t handle the party strain anymore and the power went out, so the party was cut a little short. But shortly after we followed up with a dance at the village church. It was definitely a memorable birthday party! And Soni looked so cute in his formal Tongan wear!
It was sad to leave. There were a lot of tears that day. We had left a lot of things that we had brought with us there for the family, but we were also taking home several goodies and keepsakes. Unfortunately the beautiful turtle shell we were bringing home was confiscated in California. L But the officer let us at least take a picture of it . It was a great trip and even though Taisoni probably won’t remember it as he gets older, we have lots of stories and pictures. We miss our family in the islands. I'm grateful for a loving in-law family who welcomes me with open arms and loves my little family as much as we love them. I hope we will be able to visit again multiple times in the future as our family grows!

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