Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nuku'alofa: The Big Pineapple

Peace Corps from my group went to Nuku’alofa (above) for In-Service Training (IST). This was my first trip to the Big Pineapple (not the Big Apple) since December, and I noted some differences between my humble island and Tongatapu.

In Ha’ano, everyone says hello to everyone else. We call people by name, since we know them, and, for the Tongans, they’re probably related. In Tongatapu, no one knows who you are. Even as a palangi, they don’t pay attention, since, if a palangi lives in or visits Tonga, they probably are in Nuku’alofa.

In Nuku'alofa, is it absolutely necessary that pedestrians look both ways before crossing the street. On Kauvai, there are only three cars on the island, and, as another PCV said, "You'd have to be a complete idiot to get hit by a car on Kauvai."

There are multiple restaurants in Nuku’alofa, compared to the two in all of Ha’apai.

Girls wear shorts (showing their knees!) in Tongatapu. I saw a girl with an open-backed tank top, and it was quite scandalous! In Ha’ano, in public, we wear long skirts and sleeves. Always.

In Tongatapu, everyone would speak English to me. I would respond in Tonga, but they would press on in often near-perfect English. In Ha’apai, except for with some Chinese store owners, I speak only Tongan. Not at all near-perfect, but Tongan it is.

In Tongatapu, you can find almost anything you want to eat or cook. Certainly, it’s at a price. A box of cereal might be $7.50 USD, but if you want cereal, there is cereal. In Ha’apai, we make do with whatever the stores have. No jam on my island? Ok, just peanut butter and crackers for breakfast. No bread? No butter? No eggs? That's Ha'apai.

Everything that is imported is much cheaper in Nuku’alofa. My island charges $5 pa’anga ($2.50 USD) for milk, but it’s only $3.80 in Nuku’alofa.

I’ve been away from my island for almost two weeks, and I’m very ready to head back. I can’t wait to see my dog (hopefully my neighbor actually fed him) and get back into my comfortable, quiet life. Enough of this big city business.

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