Friday, March 18, 2011

Giving 'Till It Hurts

One of the best and worst things about Tongan culture is the endless giving. Do I need any cassava? How about a breadfruit?

I’ve tried to reciprocate with little things like cakes or cookies. Tongans love both since they rarely bake anything themselves.

A friend came over last weekend to bake a couple of cakes. We were going to eat one ourselves, and she was going to take one back to her dad. We had one cake finished and the other in the oven when three women (aged 45-55) came over. These women had never been to my house before, not in 14 months. “My, that’s strange,” I thought to myself.

I asked them how they were and what they were up to. “Nothing, just walking around. Ohh, Pele, are you baking a cake?” As if they had no idea. One of the women was my cooking partner’s mom. “Pele, can we just have a taste?” Grown women.

My friend and I went into the kitchen while the women waited in the living room. I offered my friend a knife to cut the cake so the women could have a taste. My friend rolled her eyes and carried out entire thing.

Soon the women had tasted the whole cake. They tell me it was good.

After the women left, my Tongan friend commented on how she didn’t like that the women came to eat our whole cake. I didn’t like it either, but I also wouldn’t have given them the whole cake to eat. I guess that’s just Tonga. Being generous even when you really don’t want to be.