Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rockin' the Tupenu

L-R ... Elder Cho (Taiwan)
Elder Tai (Los Angeles)
Elder Tei (Malaysia)
Today is Sunday Feb 26th.  We had the office missionaries over for lunch after Church today.  Elder Cho from Taiwan and Elder Tei from Malasia.  An additional Elder (Elder Tai – from L.A.) was visiting with them from Ha’api and joined us as well.  He has a football scholarship to BYU when he gets off his mission (MLB) and we did our best to help him put back on some of the weight he has lost while here.  They seemed to enjoy the ham, rice, carrots, lui (tastes and looks like spinach when boiled) chips and guacamole (see photos of avocados below, they are bigger than softballs and we just pick them up when they fall off the tree out back).  In traditional Becky fashion, we also had cupcakes and ice cream.  We really enjoyed our visit with them.  The missionaries always bring a special spirit with them.

How do you like the size of them avocados?!?!?
The big event in Tonga this week was the passing of Mata'aho the queen mother (click here to read about it).  She was beloved by the people of Tonga and was known for her charitable work especially with the physically and mentally handicapped.  Her funeral will be held on Tuesday or Wednesday (we’ve heard both days) and the streets are lined with decorations of black and purple in her honor.  It is really something to see.  School students line the streets painting, weeding and cleaning up everything.  We included one picture but it doesn’t do justice to the scope of all the efforts and decorations.

The past few days have been very hard to take with temperature hovering around 76 and humidity around 50%.  There’s not much different between days and nights temperature wise.  We did have several days this week where we didn’t get home until after 10:30 P.M.  The other days weren’t quite as long but we enjoy getting out to do our work through the days and there is enough contrast between our two different areas of responsibility that keep things interesting.

I keep saying this but the people here are so wonderful.  They really treat us well and genuinely try to make sure we have everything we need.  We have to be careful that we don’t mention some of the things we miss or they may just go out and find them for us.

Things are pretty much in full swing now for both of our callings as we care for the missionaries with the standard ailments here (headaches, tummy aches, boils and diarrhea etc. One case of constipation that is unheard of here.) and work on making progress related to technology in the meetinghouses (some outdated equipment, untidy data cabinets, unreliable circuits, missing components, etc.).

Elder Bingham from Plain City on far left.
We were able to attend a Tongan baptism yesterday where they asked us to sing with the missionaries on the program (in Tongan).  We’re starting to do better with matching the words to the melody now as long as it’s something we recognize.  There are several Tongan hymns that are not our regular hymns and the Tongans have a unique sound when the sing which is very enjoyable to hear.  They really do invite the Spirit with their heartfelt singing.  It makes me wonder what they might think of our hymn singing in the U.S.  (I’m trying to do better with my heartfelt singing now).

L-R ... Sister Pauni, Sister Kapp, Sister Moeata just before the papitisimi (baptism)
Toppled tree that just sprang roots
from the branches ... now growing
on its side.
While visiting some Elders on the far side of the island we did take a few minutes to visit Ha'amonga a Maui (see photo below blog).  It is a historical monument that was built about 1200 A.D. by Tu’itatui, the eleventh Tu’i (king) Tonga. The two vertical stones are about 5m high, 4.25 m wide and 1.4 m thick and weigh between 30-40 tons each.  The lintel stone is about 5.8m long, 1.4 m wide and .6 m thick.  It is believed to have been a lunar calendar.  We also drove along one of the beach areas and took a couple of photos looking out at nothing sPacific  You can see that lots of small islands are everywhere and many are uninhabited.  Kids swimming or bathing or both, some trees along the coast that had been toppled but just sprang up new roots from the branches and continued to grow.

Friday night we went to dinner with the senior missionaries to say goodbye to several who are leaving soon.  We will miss them and have grown to love them in the short time we had serving together.  We had pizza and listened to a local 3 piece band play music.  It was an enjoyable evening and it was fun to hear a Tongan twist on John Denver, Don Williams, Neil Diamond and various other artists.  I did capture some of that audio and will find a way to share that soon as well.

Saturday morning (5:00 a.m.) Becky attended a session at the temple.  She figured she would be safe from the missionaries for a couple of hours at that time as they should all be tucked safely in their beds.  The temple is beautiful, but very small.  There is not chapel so you wait in the dressing room until it is time to go into the session.  The session was packed (50 people) and they made room for her so she didn’t have to wait until 6:00 for the next session, even though she was okay in doing that.  They were all very gracious about her invading their session as she was the only palangi in the room.  When she got home at about 7, there was already a text.  So much for that thought.  The text wasn’t anything serious so everything worked out.

Since we have been here a month, I decided to wear my tupenu and taulava (picture below) for the first time in public.  Since almost every male dresses like this for church, I didn't feel out of place of self conscious at all.  I was missing my suspenders but survived the day.  Unlike at our house after our farewell, there were no comments like ‘nice legs’, or ‘you look ridiculous’.  Guess I really do look like a Tongan Tu’i.  I had the missionaries check before we went to church to make sure I had it on right.  It is quite a bit cooler than pants and I think I could get used to the 'breeziness".  Maybe I will become a trend setter when I get back home.  

Lui - talo leaves used to make wraps but we boiled it
like spinach.  I'm not sure if I could tell the difference.

Part of my finger, Becky and
Ha'amonga a Maui (lunar calendar)

President and Sister Tui'one
We have grown to love them and their family in a very short time.


  1. I love reading your blog! Oh, and for the record, I anticipate seeing you in your new church outfit when you get home!

    1. We will definitely be in full regalia when we return. I may not actually "Rock the Tupenu" as I can make a $1000. suit look like $20 bucks ... but most men over here wear them daily and they do "Rock the Tupenu".

  2. sorry for saying you look ridiculous in a skirt! Mothers are supposed to say you are beautiful no matter what right? You don't look tongan though with the white skin and hair. Mom loves you no matter what. Becky you look like you are enjoying the tongan life. Love you lboth you are still glowing! Just read that Dusty got engaged yesterday! mom

    1. I always expect the truth from my mom ... you have taught me the truth my whole life! Especially, the tall, handsome, strong virile, intelligent parts. It will look less ridiculous when we return since I will have earned the right by then (hopefully).

  3. Those are some huge avocados! I personally like the skirt. I got several lava lava's from members in Los Angeles in my mission - but I never dared to wear them in public! :-)

  4. Maybe when I get back you and I can start a trend.