Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back in the Big Pineapple (Part I)

While John and I were in Nuku’alofa waiting for our flight to leave to New Zealand, we took advantage of being in the big city to get some work done for projects we have planned in our communities. John talked with the hospital about an outer-island health education program and I worked to get supplies to paint a map of Tonga in my school.

But I also got to have some fun in the city. It was the start of the Wesleyan Church’s annual conference, and the minister in Ha’ano invited me to come to the feast and eat with his family – and about a thousand other people.

I walked to the location of the feast by myself, and, as I was swamped by people on the streets surrounding the feast, I wondered how I would ever find anyone I knew here. Then, amid the throngs of bodies, I see Kimami, the minister. We duck around the masses and enter the tented eating-grounds.

This was more food than I’d ever seen in my life. There were dozens of tables lined up and then piled high with food prepared by the family seated at the table. This isn’t like an American Thanksgiving feast. This is literally plates on top of each other, teetering between the roasted pig and my lap. I cringed as I thought of how much saran wrap, foil, and styrofoam would be burned after this lunch.

I must have been late to the festivities because most people at my table were replete and in a food-coma daze, moving piles of food to find a place to rest their arms. As soon as I sat down, a teen girl jumped up, found a clean dish, and began piling it with foods I might like. She passed me the plate and a coconut, and then she proceeded to offer me food that was individually wrapped in to-go boxes: sweet and sour chicken, sapsui, crab salad, canned vegetable mix.

After eating more than my fill, the table asked me to take some food with me.

Me: Oh, I couldn’t, I’m so full!
The Table of Wesleyans: No, please. Want pork? How about some chicken?
Me: Ok, I’ll take this and this. Thank you for finding helpful things. (That sentence sounds better in Tongan.) I am so full! I’m going to go sleep because I’m so full!
Table: Good! So, do you want to come to the feast this evening?

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