Lola & Toni in the Tonga

Laka and Conference
June 24, 2008, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So it has been a while since I posted, and yeah, this is Toni.  Lara is a very busy person at work, so I hope no one is getting sick of hearing from me.  Anyway, there have been a couple big events here in Tonga recently that I thought would be interesting to mention.

First of all, Parliament recently opened after the recent elections here in Tonga.  Like everything else in Tonga, it was a huge event, and you could feel the anticipation in the air.  This is also a reason for many people not to go to work.  They call the opening of Parliament the “Laka”.  Laka is the Tongan word for marching or to march, and so many other things, but in this event it was the march to parliament.  So, for the opening of Parliament, all the secondary schools in Tonga participate.   Just a quick note, brass bands are very big in Tonga, and all secondary schools have brass marching bands.  Anyway, the morning of the Laka we could hear brass bands practicing and people gathering on the street to the point that we knew it was starting.  Since we live so close to the palace, our street was a waiting point for one of the schools, and all schools seemed to pass by our house at least one time.  So, we got dressed ran out to the end of the street and as far as the eye could see in almost every direction were secondary school kids marching in formation like the military with their teachers following.  I didn’t realize how many kids were actually in Tonga until this event.  It was quite amazing to see them all gather in an organized manner , not only to march, but to hear the amazing marching bands that were playing.

What I thought would be a morning affair turned into many hours.  The schools all marched, then they stopped on the side of the road in some sort of order to wait for Parliament to open.  Once the Royal family arrived with their entourage, the marching started again.  As as soon as a group approached the front of the Parliament building, they all dropped to one knee and said something in Tongan that I didn’t quite catch.  When Parliament closes, the event happens again, except that the primary students will march instead.  So anyway, it was an incredible cultural event and a good way to spend a day off.   I mean, everyone loves a parade…..don’t they?  Pictures have been posted as well.

Now, the other big event that is still going on is the Wesleyan church conference.  It is the yearly international event of the church where people come from all over the world.  They have meetings to speak about the future of the church, elect the officials, and some other stuff…..  But the real draw of the event is that there are Kaipolas (feasts) everyday.  I am not talking a little thanksgiving feast, but gigantic displays of food, and this happens four times a day during the conference.    There is a breakfast meal at 10 am, lunch at 12:00, Dinner at 5:00 pm, and finally supper at 10:00 pm.   Since there are Wesleyan churches in all the villages, each meal of the day is prepared by the members of different village churches.  Each family will prepare and provide a meal.  Funny thing is that the families who prepare the meals don’t get to sit down and eat, but just to serve and watch people eat.  It also seems like a kind of competition to see who has the best table, and food.  There are also baskets in the middle of the table that contain goodies for the guests to take home.  Usually fruit, candy, soda and other things.  These baskets are always empty by the end, and if you are lucky, you are going home with some good fruit, candy or soda.

Since we know quite a few Tongans here in Tongatapu, we were often invited to their feasts.  Of course we don’t want to upset anyone by not taking their invitation, we have attended quite a few meals.  In fact the first Thursday of the conference we attended the lunch, dinner, and supper feasts.  I was almost in tears at the last one because I didn’t think I could eat another bite.  Out of respect I put down quite a bit of food, even at the last feast of that day, and we went home with enough food to feed us for the next couple days as well.   Anyway, the feasts are still going on until Thursday of this week, and we have at least one more to  attend on Thursday.  We have posted some pictures of the conference feasts as well.