I am in my early sixties now, and I left Tonga when I was 26. I therefore can say that I have lived away from Tonga for more than half of my life. I don’t know whether that’s significant to anyone else but me. I have kept in touch with relatives and friends, and go back to Tonga almost every year, every time I go back I nostalgically think about these tiny little islands, my roots!
I think of my days growing up, and it is much more important to me now for I know it is a time that has passed and will never be experienced again. I remember being taught how to behave, the spoken and unspoken rules, the do’s and don’ts. It was a time when lore and mores of the day were observed, usually unquestioned. It was a time when we operated more from the heart than from the head (Tonga mo’unga ki he loto.)
Life was much simpler then, for there was structure. There was genuine regard all around of people to their ruler, to the royal family and nobility, to the leaders of church and village life, to the heads of family and extended family, to brothers and sisters, to friends and to visitors alike. This genuine regard was reciprocated from the top going down, from the ruler and royalty, from nobles and chiefs, from church leaders, from village and extended family heads, from brother and sister to each other, to friends and visitors alike.
The buzz word was “enough”. There was usually enough to fulfill one’s obligations. Needs were very simple. With the home life, there was always enough for the table, kiki may have been twice a week and Sunday, but no one complained. Meals were taken as a family, usually every one sitting on the floor, around a table that was no more than a foot tall, mother dishing out and father at the head of this table. Grace before every meal was a must. When meals were over, one was left with a feeling of contentment and wellbeing.
The emphasis was to educate the children, fulfill church obligations, be prepared for family obligations, no matter how small one’s contribution is. The understanding was that when called upon all members of the “family” would congregate and collect whatever was available and once again that was “enough”. The priority was still to educate the children.
Thirty plus years later, the children are educated, church monetary obligations are $$$ and on the rise, family obligations are huge and extravagant! One foot tables are replaced by dining tables and chairs, meals are made up of two or three kiki everyday, dinner conversation is of politics, of complex and complicated issues, of every one’s rights and wanting more, and when dinner is over one is left with the feeling of discontentment and a lot of indigestion! The buzz word is no longer “enough”.