It is always a blessing to be in Tonga for the Po Le'o and the Uike Lotu. I cannot describe the warmth in my heart to walk up once again to the front of my village church and fe'iloaki with the kau Malanga Pole'o as well as everyone else in the village church. My generation has got grey hairs and become fatter with grand children while those before me are with the assistance of walking sticks and it is always difficult to recall the generation behind me. But be it as it may, it is always pleasing to hear the words "'Uuummmaa, kuo ke fu'u lahi mo fo'i talavou, etc, etc." That may always be true for those from NZ who have a slightly better color than their counterparts from Ozy and the US. But after a week or two in the heat of the Kingdom the true colors of the Tongan returnees can be seen. Firstly, the hinehina from muli is gone. Secondly, whatever dollar they brought with them is gone too and they are back to the true colors of being parasitic (or mai ange) on their cousins and kaingas. But cousins don't mind, for in the true Tongan way, the blood is more important than any materialistic possessions that we have.
An opportunity to drive around Tongatapu can reveal many things. Migration is quite obvious with the many number of empty houses with the grasses growing way too long and are eyesores in the villages. Roaming pigs, I believe is an on-going major environmental problem and all the village beautification effort by women groups, Health, Environment and Tourism Depts etc, etc will not be as effective unless and until this problem is adequately addressed. It may be that the education system has improved and people are more educated but littering in public places does not reflect this improvement.
And as one drive through the villages, it is also apparent that most dwelling houses are becoming old and not properly cared for in many places. To me, it means that this generation (with their higher pay and better access to cash and capital) is not able to maintain and build on the good work that our parents have done for us. Hoko e fau moe polata! And as you drive by the village cemmeteries, your heart goes out to those who have taken the lead. They laid the foundation for today and we should always be thankful for their perseverance, sweat and blood.
And as you start to pack your bag for the return, the cousins show up with yams and taro for a puha 'umu and a special haka for your last meal in Tonga. Oilei Tonga! You may be behind my new adopted country in some ways, but you are still the best. You are still home and that's where my heart will always be.
Sailosi Finau, Auckland, NZ
sailosifinau [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au