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The Kingdom of Tonga


sunny 89 °F

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. All together, the islands occupy 300 square miles scattered over 300,000 square miles of ocean. It doesn't look like a tropical island, as the palm trees are mostly covered by vines and deciduous trees and there are no sand beaches. We toured the island of Neiafu in a Chinese bus that was likely 60-70 years old. You can see the upholstery below. The buswindows were wide open and as we traversed the lanes, tree branches whipped into our arms and faces. Almost all of the houses had a motor vehicle in the front yard - missing a hood, or wheels, or a door. These seemed to serve as storage sites or perhaps the "parts shop." Some houses had working vehicles as well.

Our charming guide Leyte took us first to Holy Hill, where, she explained, the Holy Spirit had descended one day in 1834. What happened then, we asked. "The people sang and danced and raised their hands and spoke in languages we did not know." It must have had a powerful effect because there is a church on every road. The country is deeply Christian; the established church is the Free Wesleyan, and there is even a little Anglican parish, St. Andrew's, with 30 members whose mission is to provide fresh water for their neighborhood. The Roman Catholic Church has unusual windows in the chancel; they look as if giants are standing outside peering in. The cemeteries are flamboyant with large banners picturing the deceased and giving the dates of their "sunrise" and "sunset." Finally, we learned that Sunday is indeed a Sabbath Day. Anyone who is caught working is jailed.

We visited the Kilikilitefua wall, a low heap of stones that is so overgrown it is hard to see (look carefully in the green photo below). Until about 1920, the wall was the census; that is, every time a boy was born, a rock was added to the wall (girls got small stones).

We also saw a cave and the Department of Revenue Services, but the island really has no tourist sites. Neiafu is a fascinating glimpse of beautiful and happy people who fish and farm and make crafts. There are no fences or barns. Our guide said that Tongans would never confine their animals. Cows, pigs, sheep and chickens run free and everyone knows to whom they belong.

Posted by HopeEakins 20:50 Archived in Tonga

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