Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gift of Tongues?

Well, it was bound to happen and has probably happened frequently as I have tried to pick up some Tongan here and there. It appears that when you are learning a foreign language sometimes what you think you are saying is not what you are actually saying. Well, I had a big "Oh crap" moment this week (for those of you offended by the oh crap ... Becky has worked hard to get me to say "crap" and "manure" so please be thankful for that).

One of the cute little guys that adopted me
 as his chosen guardian.  He is "faka'ofo'ofa"
As we are out and about among the people of Tonga I am often trying to communicate with people who don't speak much, if any, English.  I break out all of my best Tongan small talk and have told many mothers that their child was "faka'ofa" thinking I was saying pretty or beautiful.   I have received several strange looks from parents and children as I proudly displayed my Tongan ignorance.  Well, I learned today that "faka'ofo'ofa"  actually means beautiful, handsome, or lovely (genderless).  Which is what I thought I was saying ... notice the difference?  My version, "faka'ofa" means; pathetic, sad, wretched, or pitiable.  I guess if nothing else I now know that all those strange looks I was getting was not because they were impressed with my command of the language or even my accent.

See ....  we do have extreme weather conditions  in Tonga.  (I guess
you can't believe everything you read on the internet.)
A few of you may have already seen some of the stories I have posted in the "Stories of Faith" section above.  I suppose I could have titled it a little bit different as many of the stories are life lessons learned through the years. We don't really have a lot of time to focus on writing but when we are home waiting for the next appointment or phone call I can write a little bit and it seems to add up.  It also give me something to do when I am awake at night.

It has been fun to reflect on my life and relate some of those experiences.  I think I am the master of the , the... and (parenthesis) but I guess since they are not being published anywhere besides here I get to do whatever I want, so I write how I think (which is full of -'s ,'s ... and (parenthesis).  If some of you have suggestions I am willing to listen and learn.

We had zone conferences this week and Lepeka and I spoke in each of them.  She continues to extol the virtues of drinking vai (water) and the importance of cleanliness in all aspects, personal hygiene, Missionary Quarters (inside and out - including spraying for bugs) as well as not eating undercooked meat or food that has been sitting out.  The missionaries are getting much better but some still have a ways to go.  We have bribed them with candy and cookies and most are improving.

Sister Matakaiongo and Elder Pakilani sing.
We also did a quick activity with them where we had an Elder and a Sister stand back to back and each sing a different hymn at the same time.  This would cause quite a bit of confusion as you might imagine especially when I gave the rest of the room the cue to join in.  We would then stop and have them both sing a different hymn, this time the same one.  Of course, when we gave the cue to join in this time everyone knew what to do.  We talked about how this is what happens when the missionary and their hoa (companion) aren't getting along.  How it can be confusing to everyone they teach and how much better it is if they can work through their differences.  And emphasized the importance of praying, studying and planning together.  The missionaries are amazing and we quickly develop a deep love for each of them as we get to know them.

The three white shirts are our guys,
from L-R,  President Tui'one, Elder
Waddoups, and Brother Parr. 
There's always many groups here in Tonga from various parts of the world performing service projects.  The LDS Charities group recently participated in the renovation of one of the primary schools (grade school equivalent in the U.S.)  You can read more about it in the Churches News release by clicking here.  This is where President Tui'one attended primary school prior to his family moving to New Zealand where he resided until his call as Mission President here in July 2016.  The village of Fasi is about as close as you can get to downtown Nuku'alofa.

Fasi Primary School
The School also raised funds to help with the renovation by holding their concert.  This school is one of the government schools and is not sponsored by any of the religious organizations here in Tonga.  Children wear uniforms to school here and schools have their own colors.  This photo does not represent their school uniforms.  This was special dress just for the ceremony.

We have mentioned the one of the other projects sponsored by the LDS to build homes for some of the local families.  The photo below is the final home being built for this year located in Puke (Pronounced: pooh kay).  This was taken on day three so they are about half-way done at this point.  They are not large homes but frequently have large families living in them.

This was the last of four home that were built this summer by the Youth
organization.  They bring in a group of about 12 youth and a few parents
and leaders.  Each group spends one week and completes a home from
start to finish ... assisted by a few paid workers.  Lepeka is talking with
the  Stake President who had stopped in to assist.

Handwritten license plate.  Not uncommon here.

Mission Presidency L-R,
President Fatani (1st Counselor), President Makai (2nd Counselor), President Tui'one (President)
These next few photos are pictures of one of the local artist, Tevita Pola'apau, we purchased few of his paintings and he gave us permission to take a few photos and share them on our blog.  Tevita is headed to an art show in San Francisco in about 2 weeks to display some of his work.  We have been helping him develop a simple website and business cards.  Something he  has never had previously.  You can learn more about him by visiting his website (which is still under construction) at  Tevita is LDS and has an interesting history which you can read on his website.  He does most of his work on Tapa cloth prepared by his wife Uku who also runs the business side of things.  Tevita feels it is his duty to capture the history and culture of old Tonga so that it does not get lost.  Tevita and Uku are wonderful giving people whom we have grown to love.

Tevita Pola'apau Art
Pounding Tapa cloth and typical Tongan design patterns.

Tevita Pola'apau Art
This is one of the photos we purchased from Tevita.  You can easily see the texture
created by using bits of Tapa in his paintings.  This painting represents how the
missionaries used to be treated.  They were allowed to stand in the front of the
boat with the pigs and goats as they traveled from island to island.  There would
be no place for them to sit. We love hearing the stories being his paintings.

Typical Tongan patterns used on large Tapa Mats.  Different patterns may represent
a village, an event, or perhaps a specific family.  Tapas are prized possessions and
one is considered poor unless they have a large collection for different events.

You can see the texture of the Tapa cloth quite well in this painting.  The ink
is made from the mango tree by cooking the sap and providing a few additives.