Okay, so it’s been a while… Life has been great, it’s been awesome, it’s been CRAZY!!! I’ve been trying to catch up on a few projects going on around the house. I’m planning for my daughters birthday in the middle of May. I’ve been planning some fun giveaways. SNAP! couldn’t have been more inspiring and more informational.
So in the middle of all this craziness, I still need to let you all know what’s going on in my life. If any of you have seen my last name, you’ll notice it’s not a typical last name. It is Fekitoa, pronounced Feh-key-TOE-ah. My husband is from the Kingdom of Tonga. He was born and raised there and his mother is still living there with most of his brothers and sisters. He comes from a VERY large family. There are 7 boys and 7 girls and he is the third oldest. The youngest is our oldest sons age. In fact, they are 3 weeks apart. We are so blessed that we have the opportunity to go and see them every few years. It is an expensive and long trip so when we go we stay a long time, at least 4 weeks. Luckily our kids are in year-round school, so it makes it easy to figure out when we can make that happen.
This last time we went, we decided to go over Christmas break. We decided that since our Grandma was going to be turning 80 years old, we’d have a family reunion! I don’t think that all the kids have ever been together being that there is such an age gap between them all. There is one brother in France playing rugby, two siblings in New Zealand, us, and a sister here plus 2 siblings that passed away when they were young. So if you lost count (I don’t blame you), there are only 7 siblings left in Tonga. Our father also passed away in 2006 from liver cancer. Our mother is fascinating. She has been doing this alone with no job, no help, just alone and we’re always helping her financially whenever we can. She doesn’t ask us for anything. I know without the Gospel, things would be a lot harder in her life but she’s such and inspiration, truly.
About 2 weeks before we left, we got word that our Grandma was sick with pneumonia. The doctors weren’t doing anything for her so we were all hoping that we’d be able to get there in time. Unfortunately we didn’t. She passed away a week before we were supposed to leave. We were so looking forward to seeing her and talking with her but God had a bigger plan.
When you go, you can fly through Fiji or Samoa. Samoa to get there faster but Fiji is usually cheaper. However, when going through Fiji, they only go to Tonga on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Make sure that you remember they are a day ahead! If you leave here on a Sunday, you’ll get there Tuesday! We had a 10 hour layover which is average, I guess you get what you pay for, lol! I’d rather save $400 a ticket for 5 of us and spend 10 hours in an airport. It’s worth $2000 to me.
Finally, we were off to Tongatapu, the main island. This is where it is at. They have grown so much since we first came here in 2006. We stayed the night in a hotel called Little Italy. They have an Italian restaurant downstairs and some pretty great rooms upstairs. The room was around 200TOP. A great rule of thumb is just remember that the USD is pretty much half of the TOP. In reality our room was an average of $100. A pretty great deal if you ask me.
The next day we were off to my husbands island of Ha’apai. The plane is small and the airlines are small so the communication was hard. We ended up having to take 2 separate flights, the girls on one and the boys on another. It’s about a 30 minute flight and it was just the worst. This plane sat 7 people and one of them had to sit in the co-pilots seat. We were all laughing and just saying “only in Tonga”. Now I have found out that the plane has crashed, it looked like the landing gear and I’m not surprised one bit.
We arrived and the island is just beautiful. It is small, it is serene and just not very developed. They have about 7 main stores downtown but they all have the same stuff. They do carry Tip-Top ice cream and that was really the only important thing! My husbands home is very Americanized considering that most Tongan homes have one main common room that everyone sleeps in and an outdoor kitchen. Our house had a shower, a flushing toilet, a bathtub, an upstairs, 5 bedrooms and 2 family rooms. It’s very large. When my father-in-law was alive, he worked for the LDS Church. I was told he made around 13,000TOP and that’s very good over there. Could we survive over here with that? No way!
Those first few days we spent focusing on the funeral. Tongan funerals are no standard funeral. You wear black, you mourn, you wail, you cook like crazy, you eat, you make sure that everyone is taken care of, and you don’t rest until that happens. We were so very fortunate to have this woman in our lives. She raised our father as a widow since he was 6. She lost her own daughter as a baby. She did eventually remarry to a wonderful man, Malakai Tua. She will be forever missed.
After the funeral, we spent vacationing. The kids went to the ocean any chance they could get. We would go into the bush and harvest coconuts to drink from. Word to the wise, don’t buy the off the road coconuts. It makes a huge difference when you drink the fresh ones! I feel like I’m such a know it all when it comes to Tonga. Truth is, I know nothing. I pretty much know all the bad stuff and what not to do.
Our second trip in 2009, I was pregnant with our third child and that was what I call “my trip from hell”. It was probably my worst life experience. I dreamed about cheeseburgers, I had to go to the hospital and it took all night to give me one bag of IV fluid. I counted mosquitoes in bed, got the WORST sunburn complete with blisters… I just have to emphasize that it was the worst. It was our joke this time that my expectations for this trip were so very low. Needless to say, my mind has been changed! I will for sure go back, lol.
On this trip we really spent time getting to know our cousins and brothers and sister-in-laws that we’d never met before. I’m so impressed with who our family has chosen. If you ever have a chance to spend any time with any Tongans, you’ll learn very fast that they are a culture who love to tease each other. It is never out of malice or ill intentions, it is solely out of love. You really have to know how to take a joke. We spent a lot of time laughing and teasing like no other. How fun it is to have family that we can do this with and the in-laws, including myself, just joined right in.
I learned some Tongan cooking about making keke (kay-kay), lu pulu (lou poo-lou), otai (oh-thai) and my favorite, chop suey (soo-ee). We had brought some things over in a 8’x4′ crate that we sent on the boat in October. Lots of food and clothes. We had brought some food that we know the kids would have wanted to eat. One day we had made spaghetti but they don’t have ground beef over there, so we made it meatless. Well, my family likes meat. We had a lot of leftovers that first time. The next time we made it I found some hot dogs, let’s just say the kids went for that one. Four packages were gone within 30 minutes. We had my mother-in-law making rolls with all the kids one night. They loved it and she was so patient. That would not have been me, I would have lost it.
For Christmas we didn’t have a Christmas tree. The best part was is that we cut a branch off a tree and stuck it in a hole in the ground. We used scrapbook paper and cut snowflakes and some lights I got on clearance last year. We tied some balloons on with yarn, it ended up looking great and we all had a part of making it. We played games on Christmas Eve and it was a blast. We did some Minute to Win It games. We did the one with the Oreo on the face where you have to wiggle it to your mouth. The kids had a dance off.
We all just spent many nights outside under that tent reminiscing on the 2 who weren’t able to make it there and the 2 siblings who passed and especially our father. We are so very blessed to have our health and happiness. Everyone has beautiful children and are working hard to achieve their dreams.
We had a dance and invited the village to come. There were family members that came from as far as you can come on Ha’apai. It takes about 30 minutes to reach from end to end. We danced and had trains and my nephew did a pretty great impression of Will Smith, circa 1992. He matches the ears, smile and everything.
This is their summertime so it was really hot. When it rained, it got hotter. The humidity is out of control. You basically sweat in places you didn’t know you could sweat from and you smell like sweat all the time. You’re dirty all the time. You get used to it. Tonga is right on the International Dateline. They get the first ever New Year! It’s pretty awesome to experience those things there. When and if you can, I suggest you stay over that time. When could would you be able to have an opportunity to experience that?
The ocean here is like something you can only dream of. The sand is white and the water is clear. The beach closest to my Husbands home is called Houmale’eia and there is a sandbar that moves all along the coastline. It reaches probably a 1/4 mile into the ocean and you’re able to walk out there but if you step off of it, you’re a good 15ft. deep into the ocean. The palm trees swaying in the breeze are pure perfection. Add your family, a bbq, some otai, some chocolate cake and it’s going down!
I really have to say that this trip really exceeded my expectations. We had so much fun and it left us loving our families so much more. The Tongan people are so giving and so willing to share whatever they have no matter how large or how small. It really opened my eyes how much we have when I can really do with so little. I’m spoiled and I’ve always known that. I need to learn to change my ways. I have exceeded my wants and that’s what I’ve seen has seemed to be the American way. I know I am so fortunate to live here and to have the opportunity that we have here but it is such a grounder to go there and to see what we can really live without. I’ve never felt the Spirit stronger and love better than being there in Tonga. My husband was raised by some pretty amazing people and the Tongan people are some pretty amazing people. Also, apparently your eye can swell if you’re allergic to mosquitoes!
I hope you learned something from my trip to Tonga! We took so many pictures that I’m sure I will be posting again with more and more.