Monday, January 16, 2017

Immersion Week (by Becky)

Monday started with a lot of trepidation on what we had signed up for.  Kenny and I knew our limitations and were hoping that Sister Pulupuna understood them as well.  We should not have worried - what an amazing week!

Our week was packed with not only language training but also cultural education.  We had the most amazing volunteers who spent their week helping us fall more in love with not only the Tongan people but the culture.  Here is a list of some of the things we did:
  • We studied the language - Thank you to all of our volunteers for helping us figure out sentence structure and correct pronunciation. (Lupe, Alex, Sister Pulupuna, Sepi and Paki Ngatuvai.)  
  • We learned the finer points of Rugby so now I can watch a game and have an idea of what they are doing.  We can even tell you the names of all the positions - Thank you Le’o
We learned about the dances and the costumes. Notice the ‘head-tic’?  It is a part of the dance and is either choreographed in to the dance, or the dancer just feels when it is appropriate. Absolutely beautiful - Thank you Alex (see the video below).

We learned about the generational differences and came to appreciate what a wonderful, compassionate and respectful people the Tongans are - Thank you Sepi and Paki.   We met with Bishop Tavanā who has the most amazing life story. He took time out of his busy schedule to help us learn etiquette.  He also gave us the best advice we received all week - if you want a coconut, get one of the young boys to climb the tree, pick and open it for us.  That way, we will be sure and come home with both of our arms.  Hopefully we will remember all that he said.

On Tuesday, we attended a Tongan language class at the Y.  We thought it would be easy, we would sit in the back and just watch and listen.  Seems the teacher had a different idea.  We ended up participating in the class.  That was a stretch.  But, it was also a lot of fun.  Found out the teacher is a cousin to our mission president and he took a picture and sent it to him letting him have a glimpse of the ‘greenies’ he was going to have to work with.

We had a field trip every day.  One day, we went to a Tongan store and found out we really like the cookies. (Tim Tams - you can see them on the table in the photo of lunch below)  They are shipped in from Australia, but that doesn’t matter - they are really good.  So are the twisties, which are a lot like our Cheetos, but just a bit better.  They also make food there on Thurs., Fri., and Sat. and planned on eating there on Friday, but the schedules didn’t work out.

At the end of the week, we went home exhausted, but with amazing memories and an education that really started us out on the right foot. 

A week later, because schedules didn’t work out the week of our immersion we went back down to Orem, invited all of our new friends to join us for lunch. We got some of everything that they cooked.  We ate:
  • ‘Ota - raw fish with coconut cream and chopped vegetables
  • Lu sipi - mutton cooked with coconut cream and taro leaves
  • Sapasui - clear noodles with chicken
  • Lu kapulu  - corned beef with coconut cream and taro leaves
  • Siaine - banana cooked in coconut milk
  • Taro - cooked in coconut milk
The one thing I wanted to try, but didn’t get to was the ‘Otai, which is a drink made with coconut milk, pineapple and mango or watermelon.  They only make that in the summer, so I guess I will have to wait a few more days.  Seems there is a trend here - everything has coconut cream or milk as an ingredient.  We feel in love with everything.  When we got home, Kenny purchased a couple of tools that will help us get the coconut out of the shells (not sharp ones).  We may even try making our own coconut cream.  

We are not sure how we can ever repay Sister Pulupuna for the week she put together for us.  She was over the top and raised the bar for the rest of the language instructors!  We both feel that we have made friends that will be a part of our lives forever.   

L-R, Sister Kapp, Sister Pulupuna (our language instructor), Elder Kapp

L-R, Sister Pulupuna, Sepi Ngatuvai (holding her granddaughter), Paki Ngatuvai, Alex Finau, Lupe Toa


  1. Hope you like coconut and raw fish! Very interesting! We love hearing about your experiences! Thanks for posting. (Cody and Sharice)

  2. Also, pork, chicken and lots of fruits and veggies. Definitely coconut milk and cream on almost everything. I do like coconut so thats a good start.

  3. Can't wait to visit you! My goal is next year...Then I will most likely stay. (my chickens are going to love it! No more snow!)