Monday, August 30, 2010

Tonga Part 2: Cultural Show, Church

After cleaning up from the day of whale watching we walked down the beach to a resort that hosts a cultural show and buffet with traditional foods.

Our cultural buffet
If you like protein and starch the food was fantastic! There were more potato varieties (Taro, Kumala, and others - which are popular crops among the islands), meats, salads, a few stir fry options, and a pig that had been roasted on a spit.

The dancers started after dinner and performed traditional island dances from across the South Pacific (including the Hula from Hawaii and the Haka from New Zealand). The energy was really high and the dancers seemed to be enjoying themselves which infected the audience with the excitement. Fire eaters and dancers that spun flames on poi finished the night.

The excitement from the dancers worked it's magic and all of us felt the need to go dance in town. We piled into a van and headed to town to try the “tourist friendly bar” – Bill Fish.  Instead of calypso island music, it was songs were from the US Top 40, with a few old songs thrown in. The only difference was that they weren’t the mixes of the songs I was used to hearing, and after about an hour or two we knew the tracks by heart.  There were Tongans at the bar but there were just as many tourists (with sunburnt skin and bad rhythm they weren't hard to spot).  It was the most fun I've had dancing in awhile.  (We met enough people there that when we turned up the next night we felt like regulars as we waved to the familiar faces.)

Lindsay in her favorite hammock
Saturday was spent lying around and generally relaxing on the beach. The day was gorgeous and we took full advantage of it with naps in hammocks, reading on the sand, and snorkelling. It was exactly what I was hoping for on my vacation.

Sunday morning I crawled out of bed early enough to get some breakfast before we went off to church.  As many know, I'm not a particularly religious person so this would be my first time at a church service in years.  But it's a big part of the culture in Tonga.  In fact, everything shuts down on Sundays (even the taxis stop running) and work isn't permitted.  Tonga is primarily a Christian culture.  We found our way to the Free Wesleyan Methodist Church in a small village past our lodge.

Free Wesleyan Church
At 10am when the church was still almost empty we were a bit worried that we picked the wrong one in this small town (there were three to choose from).  But at 10:15 the bells rang and the people started to fill the church.  It was island time afterall.

It was well worth the wait and the heat for the experience.  The music was incredible!  Each voice alone may not have sounded spectacular, but together the congregation was awesome.  An older man in front of us turned around and handed us his hymnal (he knew all the songs by heart) so we sang along with the choir and conducter in Tongan - or at least attempted to sing along.  For that hour I didn't feel like a tourist as much as I felt like part of the culture...even if I couldn't understand a single word that was said or sung, I got the meaning.

More to come:  Bike ride to the blow holes, a Tongan send-off at the airport, Photos

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