Greetings from Tonga. We always attempt to learn a few simple words in each country. It is so nice to be able to say hello, thank you and how are you, in the country's language to a local resident. It often gets a bright response. So "malo e lelei" means hello.
Many of the words are quite long and every syllable is pronounced. Several letters though, have different sounds. For example a "B" is a "P" and a "D" a "T" and a "J" is pronounced with an "S" sound. If you can remember all that and the tricky "ng" - you can speak or at least read Tongan. The names of places are very long and on the charts – the islands are often smaller than their names.
The fashion of the Kingdom of Tonga is also quite interesting. It is a very modest country – probably because it is so religious. The national dress of Tonga is a skirt called "tupenu." It is worn ankle length by women and knee length by men. Women often wear a highly decorated waistband known as a kiekie. For working in offices or on more formal occasions, both men and women wear a "taovala" - a woven mat at the waist with a woven sennit cord. We have seen these woven mat skirts on both men and women around town and they look quite uncomfortable to wear. But wearing them is a sign of being "dressed up" and connotes respect for the royal family. When we walked by a local school all the students wear uniforms. The boys wear a blue skirt with white shirt and is the girls had a jumper in blue with a white short sleeved blouse underneath. The teachers were all attired in the long skirt (men and women) and many had the woven mat over the skirts or at least the decorated waistbands. It is quite a different look than we've seen on other islands so far. It is always so interesting to see the local dress and customs.
We try to be more conscious of being more properly attired when we go to town. Shirts, covered shoulders and covered knees are more appropriate here There is a fine for any man who is shirtless.
Over the last few days, we've toured around the town of Neiafu which is filled with small shops, restaurants, cafes and crafts stores and markets. We've found oil for the engine – which Michael continues to work on – changing the oil yet again. Hopefully we're sneaking up on a permanent repair. We've enjoyed some local ice cream ($1 (TP – about .60 US) a scoop; had a local beer Mata Maka, went to the veggie market; and explored the various cruiser hangouts. We also signed up for the Vava'u Regatta.
This morning (Wednes on this side of the date line!) we left Neiafu for one of the anchorages in the islands. We are now on a mooring in an idyllic location – Port Maurelle on the island of Kapa. It is the classic picture perfect South Pacific island – white sandy beach, turquoise water, palm trees and a surrounding reef. Lovely. There are five boats here.
We will enjoy being away from the town for a few days and get into the water for some underwater exploring. We may even see some humpback whales here! Michael saw one as we were heading here.