Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Completely Foreign Concepts

On the Tongan radio, of which I am so fond, there is a new program – the morning traffic watch. Listeners are asked to call in and tell what they see on the road. The radio announcer encourages people to say anything about the “traffic” on the road, most of which turns out to be a chicken, a group of pigs, or nothing. Many mornings I think of what I would say for the Ha’ano traffic watch.

“None of the three trucks on the island is on the road, so dog and horse-and-cart traffic are flowing freely.”

“No need to take a detour, folks; the child walking on the road has gotten off the road.”

A few weeks ago, Radio Tonga One did a “New Zealand-style” traffic watch about the traffic on Tongatapu, the main island. It was similar to my Ha’ano traffic watch.
Even before the traffic watch program began on the radio, I’d thought of how I would explain, in Tongan, my brother’s job. Could Tongan’s grasp the idea that, in some places, there are so many cars on the road, that people go up in airplanes to look at how backed up everything is and find a solution?

Another non-Tongan, but highly-American, concept I’ve explained is babysitting. In a country where 2-year-olds wander around with minimal to no supervision and 5-year-olds bring machetes to school to sharpen their pencils, how do you explain that, in America, if the parents are busy, they’ll pay someone to watch their kids?

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