We have just returned from Tonga after two months ‘eva and it was one of the most interesting and enjoyable times I’ve ever had, living a bit far away from the capital at one of the villages, and looking at how people in Tonga handle and are perceiving political and social happenings in our Kingdom.
Politics: About 45% of the village people had no interest at all or are just ignorant of what’s going on in the partliament and their upcoming election, other than predicting that ‘Akilisi will again be elected by the people, and definitely Clive is wasting his time. I guess, that more than 50% of the village have not registered to vote, which is one of the suggestions for government to enforce people to register to vote. This is one way of hearing their voice in governmental issues, simply by voting. Here in US, celebrities and key people around the communities stand up and beg people to vote. This will give al ot of political satisfaction to one’s mind knowing that he or she voted. The outcome of one’s vote may vary, however, but the sense of nationalism, sense of belonging to one’s country by voting, has alot more to it. I’m still torn between the line, I cannot vote in Tonga because I live in America, and I cannot vote in America because I’m not a citizen. I guess, that Tongans should count their blessings that they can register to vote “freely”.
Services: Unfortunately, the electric power was a bit unreliable in December, the time for partying and refilling ice-blocks in the freezer. But lighting up candles gives a lot of romantic feelings in the house and our good old maama matangi (lantern) brings back the good old memories of growing up in Tonga. The telelouniu in Tonga is still alive. I’ve heard the neighbor complaining of the power failure simply because the Shoreline politicians do not want Tonga to view certain programs in the T.V. at certain hours, however, Tonga has a lot more choices to get their information from than just watching TV. There are more than enough newspapers where they can catch up with the current political news. The fun of living in the village is that, my house is crowded at all time with neighboring kids watching cartoons not news or political debates but in town, I guess everyone has their own t.v. and they can freely watch their own program
Media: There are lots of poor reportings in some weeklies. Unbalanced reporting is one of the major weaknesses. Please bring views from both parties, its up to the reader to decide. I thought that our main purpose of reporting is to inform, educate and entertain readers. Do not put words into readers mouth and keep in mind that everyone is entitle to his own opinion. On the same token, if the other party wants to verify their points, they should also open their latched doors to media too. The fun of reading newspaper in the village is that, after the adults reads the paper, the kids made beautiful kites with it.
Services: The best services I’ve experienced in Tonga is at the fleamarket (fea) and Talamahu Market. People want to sell their products to customers, and a big smile and malo lelei ko e ha e me’a teke fiema’u from them is the best way of inviting people to one’s booth. Vendors at the fea, and little booths along the street were the least people you expect to be friendly and know how to sell. Some of the stores, restaurants, but not the banks though, are still clinging on to the good old and rotten mentality of “I have a job but not you” and never flash a smile or just hand you the plastic bag to pack your own groceries. Waitresses at some of the partly foreign owned restaurants are trained well as to how to welcome their guests and settle them comfortably with a glass of water before the main course. I’m also proud to see alot of locally owned small businesses in Tonga and are running well. The fun of staying in the village is that, there is no services expected, because every Sunday, and Christmas mornings, you woke up to a plate full of food from the neighbor, they watch your pets for you too, and still asking for a some sugar, salt, and use your phone is still practicing in the village.
Infrustructure: Now we can drive from our village to town in ten minutes, thanks for that great development. Most of the villages they’ve raised funds to upgrade their own side streets, and with great help from villagers from overseas enabled them to upgrade their streets, beaches, town halls etc. The fun of living in the village, the neighbor don’t bother to catch a bus anymore, they ask for a ride in your van all the time and once they know you’ll be heading off to town, all the kids packed in the van ready for an ice-cream.
Overall, the fast pace of living overseas has no comparison to the beautiful life in Tonga. We are still blessed amongst other neighboring countries for we still have buckets full of mangoes from the neighbors mango tree, and our fridge is full of puaka tunu from the neighbors fakaafe, and not forgetting, the friendly smiles and helping hands of some Tongans they offered unvoluntarily at all times.
Last but not least, I am entitle to my own opinion, and Tongans here and abroad should be proud that they can voice their opinion freely.