The Tongan Adventure

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A cold and miserable winter

It's winter in the Kingdom and in my almost three years here, I have never been so cold.  In fact, the people that have been here for years don't remember as winter as cold as this one.  Granted, it is the south pacific but temperatures have dropped to some 14 degrees overnight.  I've had to put my blanket on the bed and have turned off the fan.   In fact, one night when Mary and I got into the truck after work, we both immediately rolled UP the windows and I turned on the heater.

There has been a lot of rain (good for the garden and water tanks) and a cold southerly wind coming up from New Zealand, and the Antarctic.  Everyone in town is bundled up, and I have been wearing long sleeved shirts to keep the chill off.

Over the past  couple of days, some of the whale watch tours have been cancelled due to high winds and choppy waters; word is that it will continue to be gusty until the middle of this week.

The one good thing is that there hasn't been any snow.  I'm hoping by the time Stephen arrives (19 days from now), the weather will have improved somewhat or he may want to cut his trip short and head back to the final days of summer in Canada.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Doctors, Dentists and Vets

In July we had a visit from some Australian vets.  There were here to spay and neuter the cats and dogs (Bob Barker would approve).  Since we only get vets here about twice a year, their days were quite busy.  We decided that we should get our boys, Scooter and Big Red, fixed even though they're not really ours, they have just adopted us and have become our bar cats.

We had no luck at all getting Big Red into a cage for transport but were a little luckier with Scooter.  We got him into the cage using some smoked marlin pate that Mary had prepared a few days earlier and headed to the truck.  He was really well behaved but at the moment I put the cage in the back of the truck he started to push at the cage door and within seconds he escaped.  Perhaps he knew what was awaiting him and he thought "no way"!

Needless to say, we had to call the vets to cancel his appointment .  Perhaps we will have more luck the next time the vets are in town, whenever that may be.  In the meantime, Scooter and his brother are free to father more kittens, just what Vava'u needs.

We also had a visit from the "Pacific Angels", a multinational group of doctors and dentists that were here for a week doing clinic visits for the Tongans.  They saw nearly 800 patients per day and by the end of the week they were running out of medication.  It was great to have them here and, obviously, their services were greatly appreciated by the local population.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Conferences and Festivals

Shortly after my return, the island of Vavau was invaded by some 3000 participants to the Annual Free Wesleyan Church Conference.  It was a week long event and the town was abuzz with people and traffic.  It was good to see so much activity but it was also nice to see everyone leave so we could get back to our sleepy little existence.  

Combined with the church conference was the Tu’i Vava’u Festival and the arrival of the King for his birthday celebrations.  The Festival included a youth talent contest held in the hall beside the restaurant.  The show started at 7:00 each night with performances of traditional Polynesian dance and singing.  Mary was asked to be a judge on Thursday night, and then the finals were held on Friday.  We heard most of the rehearsals and believe me, some of the younger kids sounded absolutely incredible, lots of talent there.  The Crown Prince was impressed as well.

There was a Kid's Day on Saturday after the Talent Show finals down at the small boat harbour and everyone seemed to have a great time there.  There were water slides, bouncy castles and other fun activities for the kids.  Some of the older kids (i.e.: adults) wanted to participate too but there were a little too big for most of the events.

The week after the talent show, the Miss Vava'u Pageant was held with the finals on Thursday night.  The pageant turned into being an absolute nightmare for us at the restaurant since we had to listen to the rehearsals all week.  The music got so loud, and was so disturbing to our customers that we decided to close for the week.  Not only that, but all the woven palms that are on the side window (looking into the conference hall) got ripped down so people could see inside without have to pay the $2 admission.  Some of our tables and chairs were destroyed and it was general mayhem - I was not happy.

On the day of the King's birthday, there was a big parade through town, lots of spontaneous partying in the streets and a special cocktail party in the evening.  The King turned 55.

Most of the churches and major businesses erected arches along the streets wishing the King a happy birthday, the most spectacular (and blinding) one was put up by Tonga Power; at night it lit up with thousands of flashing lights.  We were all hoping that nobody in town had epilepsy as the lights would have  certainly given them seizures.

None of the arches were anchored so we all had bets on who was going to be the first person to drive into one and knock it over; fortunately this never happened.

Although we didn't really get any extra business with all the festivities, we did get an order for Mary's meat pies (6 chicken and 6 beef and mushroom) from the Princess (the King's sister).  The feedback we got was that they were excellent so we thought we should add "official pie makers to the Royal Family" on our business cards.  We have since received another order for 12 more when the Princess returns to Vava'u in August.  Now that's good publicity!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Canada Day in the Kingdom

We celebrated Canada Day at Poolside with a special Canadian menu of burgers, poutine, Tim Horton’s coffee, and Bloody Caesars.  I had brought a kilo of Timmys back with me and brewed up a pot and offered it for free to anyone who could prove they were Canadian.  But it was Caesars that were the biggest hit.  A bartender friend in Ottawa had told us about powdered clamato mix that was available on line so I had ordered about 25 packages of it just for the occasion.  It tasted like the real thing, and with the addition of a spiced green bean, it was almost like being at home for Canada Day, without the fireworks.  The Caesars have now become a regular cocktail item, and even the non-Canadians like it.

Beauty and the Beast

On Monday, I went down to customs to pick up the shipment that I had ordered online from New Zealand, this included a new display fridge for the bar, as well as some other bar equipment.  Mary had made arrangement for few strong Tongan boys to put it into the back of the trunk and get it into the restaurant. 

This wasn’t an easy task and Mary and I just stayed outside the bar area and let them do their work.  We heard lots of banging and crashing, a bit of swearing and saw lots of sweating but after about an hour or so, it was done – the Beauty was “home”.  The same guys that helped with Beauty had also helped Mary with the Beast in May.  The Beast is a four compartment stainless steel refrigerator for the kitchen that Stephen and I had ordered from New Zealand before we departed Vava’u in late February.  

From what we were told, the whole pick up and set up of the Beast was even worse than Beauty so I was glad not to be around when that happened.  Thank goodness for the strong Tongan boys, we wouldn’t have been able to get it done without them.

On a separate note, the “cop” that had stopped me on Thursday was down at the customs building the day the Beauty arrived and I guess he was pretending to be a customs officer that day.  I didn’t pay him much heed.

I am NOT kona

On my first Thursday back I went over to the Bounty Bar quiz night to meet up with some of the folks I hadn’t seen since my return.  I stayed for a little while but was quite tired with everything going on so I made it an early night.

When I hopped back into the truck, this man, who claimed to be a police officer although he wasn’t wearing a uniform, asked me why the truck registration was not on the windshield .  I took it out of the glove compartment to show it to him and then he asked me for my driver’s license, which I showed him.  I guess since there were no obvious traffic infractions he decided that I was drunk (kona).  I told him that I wasn’t but he insisted I was (I had had three beers over the course of the evening) and he was going to take me to the police station for a test. 

He jumped into the truck and proceeded to give me directions to the station – it’s just around the corner, and I know exactly where it is but he insisted on giving me directions.  Oh well, we got there, he got out of the truck and went to talk to another fellow.  I heard the word kona again, and I yelled out the window “I am NOT kona."  After a few more minutes of conversation he came back to the truck and told me to go home but I should be more careful next time and take a cab home if I had been drinking since the driving laws are the same in Tonga as in New Zealand (I guess he thought I was kiwi).

I mentioned the incident to a few people the next day and it was brought to my attention that if I had been drunk, why did he tell me to drive to the police station?  I hadn’t thought about that but it was a very valid point.  I also learned that one of the yachties had a similar experience with the same fellow the night before as well whilst walking back to her dingy.

As it turns out, he is a little “masoli” (retarded) and the police had offered to look after him and give him odd jobs to keep him occupied and out of trouble.  I guess that night he decided he would be a police officer and hassle all the palangis for fun.

The whole experience was a little unnerving but I was glad to hear that it was an isolated incident.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Home and back again

As mentioned in a previous post, Stephen and I left Vava'u in late February and spent a few days in Sydney before heading back to Canada.  We arrived home on March 6 to a very cold night (it was the winter that never ended) and crashed the night at Dad's place.

After shuttling around for a few weeks between friends and family, we managed to find a medium-term rental in a hotel attached to Stephen's office complex, and right across the street to mine.

While it was good to be "settled", it wasn't quite being home as the house is rented out until July 1.

Stephen returned to work at the end of March, and I started back on April 1.

We had a couple of great months at home, but on May 31st I left Ottawa again for my return to Vava'u.  For those of you who didn't know, Stephen will remain in Canada for a bit, and so we will be doing a lot of back and forth for the foreseeable future.  As it stands now, Stephen will be visiting here at the end of August for a few weeks (I can't wait to see him), and then I will head back to Canada for a few months in October/November and returning to Vava'u in January.

I spent a week in Auckland doing some touristy things (not quite the same without Stephen) and getting some shopping done for the restaurant.

Due to all my purchases, I had to buy another bag and that brought me to three, plus a carry-on.  The morning I checked into my flight, I was told I was overweight (no surprise) but after a few minutes of repacking, I was declared good to go.  The flight to Tongatapu arrived on time and after quickly checking into the hotel, I grabbed a taxi to get to Immigration so I could collect my VISA.

Fortunately, it was ready when I got there and didn't have to wait, so now I am valid for five years.


The next morning I went back to the airport for my flight north to Vava'u.  Again, due to luggage and weight restrictions, I was deemed overweight and had to pay about $150 CDN in excess baggage fees, it was well worth it as by this point, all I wanted to do was get back to Vava'u.

We arrived back on time and Beth was at the airport to pick me up.  She drove me home, I dropped off my bags, changed my clothes and we then went down to the restaurant.  Throughout the course of the day, I think everyone in town came to see me and to welcome me back.