Peace Corps Videos

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Eating the Queen’s Food

In Tonga, all land is owned by the King and is either controlled by the Royal Family or a Noble. In exchange for being allowed free use of the land, the Tongans agree to provide some of the crops they grow to the people who control the land. In Fua'amotu, where I stayed when I first arrived in Tonga, the land is controlled by the Royal family. There is also a palace in Fua'amotu, just above the beach. And while the current King apparently doesn't visit this palace, it is still often used by his mother, the Queen.

When the Queen is in residence, the people of Fua'amotu provide her with food and several of the women will spend the night at the Palace in case she needs anything during her visit. I spent this weekend in Fua'amotu as did the 82 year old Queen. She stayed at the palace and I stayed with my home-stay family. We never met, but that didn't stop me from eating her food.

My home-stay father, Tau, is the spokesman for the King in Fua'amotu. This is also called being a talking chief in Tongan society. When there is an issue involving the Royal Family, Tau is the guy who communicates the wishes of the family to the people of the village. His wife Sia helps out by cooking and occasionally sleeping at the Palace when the Queen is there. That was the case this weekend. Tau and his brother caught a lot of fish and one of the biggest and best was cooked for the Queen along with some pig and other Tongan food. Like every meal in Tonga, there is always more food than anyone can eat. So after the Queen had her meal, the fish came home with Sia and Tau. It happened to get there about the same time that Justin, my room-mate during home stay and I arrived in Fua'amotu. The fish was certainly "fit for a queen" and delicious. Never did I think I would eat "Royal Leftovers" in Tonga but that's exactly what I did. Actually we had a lot more than just leftovers. I think all we did was eat all weekend. We did get to the beach and Tau, Justin and I spent some time lying on a mat outside the house just talking. (We were outside under a tree because it was a lot cooler than being inside) Quite a nice way to spend the weekend and I will certainly miss my Fua'amotu family once I move to Vava'u at the end of next week.

***Other News***

I got my third haircut in Tonga, but this time I went to a barber. My first hair-cut was done by my Vava'u home-stay father, the second, by my friend and fellow volunteer Scott. This time, I stopped during lunch at a small shack that houses a barber. He never asked me how I wanted it cut and after I sat down, he just went to work. He cleaned the shears with a toilet brush before he started. Of course, I'm just hoping that the brush has never seen the inside of a toilet bowl. Then he trims me up with scissors and finally gets out a knife and uses it to shave any loose hairs. This blade looks like something you would see in a slasher movie, but fortunately, he never drew blood. When I got done, I asked him in Tongan how much it cost and he replied five dollars. I looked at my money and found I had four ones and a twenty so I handed him the 20. He couldn't make change. So he took the four dollars. When I got back to work, I borrowed another dollar and took it back to him. I sure he had no doubt that I would actually return and pay him the rest of the money. As I've mentioned many times before, Tongans are very honest and credit is freely extended if someone doesn't have enough money.
But as you can see in this photo, that wasn't the end of my hair-styling. This weekend in Fua'amotu, Tevita (That's David in Tongan) decided I needed some additional help.

There was a major increase in the cost of electricity here this week and Vava'u, where I will be living is the most expensive place for power in Tonga. Rates there increased 20.7%. Tongatapu has a lower rate, but got a bigger increase, with bills on the main island going up 21.4% per kilowatt hour. Many of the volunteers have to pay for their own power so this is a big hit. We live on less than $10 US Dollars a day. We've heard rumors that we might get an adjustment because of the higher bills, but nothing official yet.

Tina, a woman who lives next door to my home-stay family gave birth to a baby boy on Saturday. She was home from the hospital on Sunday proudly showing off her one day old baby to all the neighbors and family. We got to know her during our stay in Fua'amotu.

***Notes***
There are a bunch of new pictures in the photo album. Don't miss the one of Justin as Spiderman!

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