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Welcome to Tonga

It's 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.

Sundays 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. . .

Welcome to Tonga!...

tonga_map.jpg (140182 bytes)A 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


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