|Welcome to Tonga|
about mid-day Sunday. I
just finished the meal that my neighbors brought to my house: lu sipi,
lu pulu, breadfruit, taro and tapioca.
Actually, I only made a small dent in the mountain of food that
was piled on my plate; the leftovers are stashed away in my fridge like
Thanksgiving Dinner. Outside
my kitchen window I notice clear blue sky beyond the row of banana trees
and the large bread breadfruit tree in my yard; the
air—remarkably—feels almost cool. I usually spend this time writing letters to friends and
family back home... that is, if I haven't already escaped to one of the
secluded beaches that awaits, only a lazy bike ride away.
are, by law, a day of rest and quiet; no unnecessary work or loud noises
allowed. I often question
this when, at 5:30am, the raucous sound of an oxygen tank being struck
with a crowbar vibrates through my head like a throbbing migraine.
Situated in the middle of a sleepy village, hidden outside the
capital of Nuku‘alofa, my house sits almost directly across from a
small Methodist Church. I
thought by now, after nearly two years, I could sleep through the
clamor; but so far, that has not been the case—they like to ring that
bell long and hard (perhaps so God Herself can hear).
And it's not just in my village.
I can hear the faint ringing of at least a dozen church bells,
echoing from all parts of the island: an entire orchestra of chimes
sounding off in unison. . .
tiny blemish on the face of the South Pacific, Tonga lies almost
directly in line with that strange enigma that somehow separates one day
from another: the International Dateline.
The fact that this line isn't actually straight—that it makes a
detour around Tonga—makes Tonga not only the first country to see the
new day, but I've been told, also accounts for the many peculiarities of
this place: the apparent disregard—or lack—of any time constraints
may be the most noticeable (this is affectionately referred to as Tongan
Time). Roosters crow all night and day, oblivious to the rising and
setting of the sun; dogs and cats mingle together affably; pigs and
chickens wander the road in reckless abandon of the speeding traffic,
apparently in no hurry to get to either side; and the toilets… they
flush in the opposite direction! (Oops,
I think that one has something to do with the hemispheres.)
Tonga can seem like a strange place at times; but it is also beautiful and full of wonders: from the friendly people and their culture—their colorful past—to the natural beauty of the land and sea. I could go on and on about this lovely little archipelago, but like many things, my humble words can go only so far in portraying this place that I love.
I think I have always enjoyed taking pictures. But it was in Tonga that I first realized my interest in photography. Most of the photos in this gallery are nothing more than snap shots, or vacation photos. They are the type of photos we bore our neighbors with when we return from a trip. Never-the-less, I offer them to you with the hope that they may add color where my words fail.
'Ofa 'Atu, Ken
|people places tofua volunteers|