Saturday, December 14, 2013
We thought that all of the kids would go home with their parents yesterday after graduation --- wrong!! This morning at 6:00 the boys in the dorm started screaming and laughing. They must have been watching a rugby game on TV. By 6:30 we gave up and got up. So much for sleeping in. It rained a lot yesterday and cooled things off a little. In the night it got hot and humid. We were hoping for a cool Saturday and a morning that we could sleep a little longer. Oh well, we got the work done before it got to hot.
Yesterday at graduation Ensimore, a lady that works for the FM, told us that they had come to our house and taken our standing fan to use at graduation. She said that they would bring it right back. We are sure that she must think the FM bought that fan and put it in the house, but they didn’t. We bought it and I can’t live without it!!! They didn’t bring it back and by the time we got the housework done this morning, I was dying! Someone had better bring it back and FAST!
Tonight was a once in a lifetime experience. We were invited to a Tongan family celebration. A young man received his Master’s Degree this spring. His mother threw a traditional Tongan celebration for him. His father is a pa’langi and he lives in America. He didn’t come to the party. The mother is Tongan. The mother’s relative, an uncle to the young man, represented the mother’s family. The father’s relative, an aunt, should represent the father’s family. In this case the auntie had to be a pa’langi. The father didn’t have any relatives living here, so his cousin, a man we know at Liahona, asked me to stand in as the Auntie. I agreed and we went to the celebration.
We sat at the head table and I sat next to the uncle. When they were ready to start, the young man, Andrew, walked in. He was dressed in a tradition Tongan tavala, a mat that wraps around a man’s waist. It was beautiful and then there was a mat-train hooked to the back of it that was 100 feet long! It took 8 people to carry it. He walked to the other end of the room and sat on a tapa mat. Then they did a full Kava ceremony. Alan loved that part. He never got to see one of those while he was here on his mission and he was excited to see how it was done. They make a drink called Kava from the branches of a Kava tree. They pound it and then mix it with liquid in a big Kava bowl. When it was ready they served it to the honored guest and then to other men who wanted some. It was interesting.
Then next part involved me. They brought in a HUGE -DEAD - PIG! ( the estimated weight was 800 lbs) It was placed in the middle of the room and I was to walk up to it and touch it. The stomach was cut open and the liver was sitting on top with a branch sticking out of it. I touched it up close to the head. Everyone started clapping, like I had really done something important. Then I returned to my seat. When I got back they told me that the pig now belonged to me. I could do anything I wanted to with it. (It was half cooked, and dripping blood on the floor. It had been in the Tongan heat - who knows how long. I didn’t want to do anything with it!) I told them I would like them to divide it up between the members of the family. They were really thrilled with that.
After that part of the ceremony we ate dinner. It was a Tongan Feast. All Tongan food. I have never been so grateful for the Tongan root crops. They don’t have a lot of flavor, but I knew that they were safe. Because we were at the head table, we were served. I had to ask the uncle what I was eating. There was sea weed, clams, raw fish, pig, lupulu, ufi and Tongan yams. I tried a little of everything, but stayed mostly with the ufi and yams. We had a big bowl of watermelon and pineapple on our table, but the table was right under a light and there were termites flying around the light. When they got too close to the heat, they died and fell on our table. (this was happening during the opening ceremonies and we couldn’t move the table until that part was over.) The waitress came and took the fruit bowl away because it had dead bugs in it and she never brought a new one back. We were counting on that being a big part of our dinner!
During dinner there was a band playing so loud that you couldn’t talk to the person next to you. It made for a great headache by the time the night was over. Once people were through eating, some started to dance. We danced a couple of times and then we planned to leave. Silongo, the man who invited us said, “No, you can’t leave yet, there is more to the ceremony.” We stayed about another half hour waiting for it to wind down. The MC took a microphone up and we thought it would be the conclusion of the evening. Wrong! He started to sing. He had a beautiful voice but now he wanted to do a whole floor show. Most of the people were not members of the church and some of them were pretty happy by this time. After about 5 songs, people began to leave. Silongo went and talked to Andrew’s mother and then things started to happen. She and some other women brought out a lot of gifts that we assumed were for her son. They brought out two room sized mats and a huge tapa cloth. The tapa cloth is made by pounding bark into a thin mat and then hand painting it. They are very expensive. Next she brought out 3 king sized quilts. One had the Tongan Crest on it. They were amazing! She was speaking in Tongan, so I couldn’t understand anything she said --- until she said, “Sister Webb”. Then everything was gathered up and brought to me! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was totally speechless and I started to cry. All I did was sit at the head table and touch the pig and they gave me thousands of dollars worth of gifts. It is the Tongan way.
I tried to thank them, but they just kept thanking me. They helped us get everything outside and into the car. All the way home I felt so guilty. Those gifts had to have cost a fortune. The pig alone was $3,000.00 pa’anga. I was told that Andrew’s mother has some money, but still, the relatives are all expected to contribute to things like this and then they give it to a total stranger. It just isn’t right. I can’t even imagine what the whole night must have cost and it is all just for show. They gave the uncle a huge basket filled with all different types of alcohol. Probably 8 or 10 bottles of very expensive “Hooch!”. He also received a mat and a tapa cloth. I didn’t sleep all night worrying about these poor people and what they had to sacrifice to do that. Alan didn’t sleep worrying about how much it is going to cost to get that stuff home! I won’t be taking all of it home. It is just too much!