My first few days have been, well, busy. My home was absolutely empty for the first four days, since all PCVs shipped their belongings on the ferry, and the ferry arrived several days after we arrived. Since I was unable to cook for myself, and since I was being “integrated into the community” (PC-talk), my neighbors took turns feeding me. Households would bring me food of I would go to their homes for almost all my meals: fried dough balls for breakfast and fried fish, fried chicken, kumala (a sweet root crop), corn, ‘otai (a sweet coconut and fruit drink), eggs, and lu (a traditional dish of meat and coconut cream wrapped in a spinach-like leaf and cooked in the underground oven, the umu) for lunch and dinner. I’ve been able to meet a number of people in my village that way, though I have trouble remembering everyone’s name.
Since church is such a big deal in Tonga, I’ll be going to church every Sunday, if not more frequently. There are four churches in my village: Free Church of Tonga, Church of Tonga, Wesleyan, and Mormon. I went with a woman in my village to the Free Church of Tonga, and, after church, I went to her house to eat with her family. There are about 15 people living in her home, and, despite asking how everyone is related, I’m not sure what all the connections are. (“This guy is the nephew of her mother’s sister’s husband’s grandmother, but he was adopted by his father’s eldest sister when he was young so he doesn’t live here; he’s just visiting.”)
When I eat at most homes, I’m shown the same kind of respect I was shown at the beginning of my homestay in Fangale’ounga. I am seated away from the rest of the family, sometimes in another room. Whereas the rest of the family’s food is presented as it comes out of the umu, mine is cut into bite sized pieces. I’m fed before everyone else, or others just watch me eat. I try to tell them I’d like to eat all together, but they insist on their way. Maybe after some time, they’ll feel more comfortable with me, and we’ll eat together, like in Fangale’ounga.