Sunday, October 28, 2012

Calm O'ua Island

We left the rough and tumble of Ha'afeva and calmly and slowly sailed about 10 miles to O'ua island on Saturday. It was good to be away from the constant rocking and rolling of the boat. We had good directions into this "lagoon-like" spot behind O'ua island. The light was good enough to see the reefs and we weaved our way through reefs, bommies and shallows to a very sheltered anchorage. It was as flat as a lake – and we were grateful.

Our friends aboard "Superted V"* invited us to go ashore with them for a walk followed by burger night aboard their boat. We were also joined by the folks from "Victory." The two dinghies were met at the dock by about eight children – all eating raw fish. There were these small fish on the dock that they were nibbling on with great delight – as if they were a favorite candy or potato chip. They had terrific smiles and were all very helpful tying up our dinghies. We weaved our way up a path and then didn't know which way to turn until we were told to climb a short fence (with stumps to help you step over) and walk through what looked like yards. The fences are all up to keep the many, many pigs in their owners' areas. After one fence there was another with a woman telling us to come through her yard. It was all quite funny with the six "palangi" (foreigners) walking through these Tongan people's yards. It had rained a lot the day before so it was quite a muddy trek. That, along with the many mango trees that were dropping fruit, it was a squishy walk.

We found the "main road" - which was the only muddy road - and walked up and down it. Jean was in search of bananas, onions and eggs and we were told there were a few stores. Very few people on this island speak English – so it was quite difficult to communicate. But lots of arm movements, smiles and laughs, we would be pointed in various directions. The most fun was watching Jean imitate a chicken and then a chicken laying an egg to make the point about getting some eggs. The stores are little pantry-like rooms with shelves. They have a small window with wiring over it so you don't go in and look – you ask for things and are given them through the window. Jean got some oil at the first shop. We were then directed to a house with banana trees for the bananas and without getting the price the woman just chopped a big bunch of bananas from the tree It ended up being $15 pa'angas for the large stalk – so the three couples split the bananas and got a good deal for $5 pa'anag each (about 3.90 US) Then came all the other stuff – they brought us cucumbers, a huge bag of yellow bananas, and a papaya for the cost of the bananas. Then Jean did her chicken imitation again and bought six eggs. They were $10 pa'anga but Jean ended up trading some fishing supplies instead. On our way out of town loaded down with good fresh stuff, Michael stopped at another shop. The 20 year old woman there spoke quite good English. Her name was Rachel and we bought some flour from her. On the way back to the dock we were gifted with several coconuts as well. A young boy climbed up a very tall coconut palm to fetch them. He was quite a climber and did it in no time. Our little parade of six white people and at this point about a dozen children made it to the dock. We handed out pencils to all the kids who seemed grateful and told us what they were called in Tongan "penru"(our phonetic spelling).

We had a fun evening aboard Superted V with burgers and sausages and a tasty apple crisp, coleslaw and all the fixings. And we came back aboard and had the first really good night sleep in several nights. It was flat calm and comfortable.

On Sunday morning (today), we decided to go to one of the local churches and that turned into yet another great adventure. Rachel at the store invited us to her church where she said they had the best singing on the island. It was to start at 8:30. So Jean from Superted V joined us as we dinghied in. Being Sunday, the docks were all empty as were the streets. We found our way to the "blue and white" church around 8:20 – and there was absolutely nobody there and no activity. Then Rachel came over to tell us the bells rang ealier announcing that it wouldn't start until 9 am. She invited us into the church and we were joined by about six children all dressed in their Sunday clothes. All very traditional with their woven mat over-skirts – both boys and girls.

Well, 9 am came and went and the children and us are in the church talking – as best we could. Many of the children speak a bit of English – they counted to 100 for us; they told us their names each saying "My name is...." We told them our names. Then very suddenly all the children ran to the front three pews of the church and sat very quietly. We realized a very stern looking woman was approaching the church. This was their Sunday school instructor. Now it was well passed 9 and we were still in the church listening to a lesson in Tonga. At one point we heard the word "palangi" and all the children turned and looked at us. The woman was quite a task master and had a long stick that she would poke or swat the kids with if they weren't paying attention. Ouch. We decided to sneak out and take a walk. After about 15 minutes we heard the children singing - so we headed back inside. Then the bell rang again – this time it rang non-stop for about two minutes. Nobody sleeps through Sunday morning on this island. People started to finally arrive and some of them started singing. It was lovely. The service actually began about 10 am. The service had lots of singing which was very nice. There were about 13 people in the "choir" and they sang quite loudly filling the small church. They harmonized quite well with tenors, sopranos, bass and altos all having their parts. The sermon itself was quite long and it was not a happy sermon – no humor – more hell, fire and brimstone like from a very passionate minister. By about 11 am the service was over . At the end, one of the ministers invited us to join them for a meal. These are people without a lot and they are very generous to share what they have. We saw that the day before with all the fruit and vegetables we were given. We thanked them but passed on their offer as we had not come prepared with gifts to give them in return or anything to contribute to the meal. There are four churches on this small island – how they support them all is amazing with such a small population. We think we did pick the one with the longest service – as we saw the other churches let out much sooner. And we heard from some other folks who attended a different church that they seemed to have a "happier" sermon...though they too couldn't understand a word of it. Listening to Tongan spoken though is quite lovely.

It was a great experience and something that was a very local event – not done for the "palangi" but something they do weekly. Everyone is dressed up in very nice clothes (heels, make-up, traditional mat skirts and long dresses on the women). Everyone was very friendly to us and seemed grateful that we took the time to share in their spiritual service.

*Superted by the way is an old British cartoon character much like Superman or Mighty Mouse – only this one was a teddy bear!

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