Sunday, November 2, 2008

Best night in Tonga -- Birthday party for Earl's 60th and son Andrew's 12th

All things happen for a reason.  If we had not turned around during our first attempt to sail to New Zealand and returned to Nuku'alofa then we would have missed what turned out to be the most enjoyable night during our entire visit to the Kingdom of Tonga. 

Sixtieth birthday parties are a big deal in Tonga.  Cause for elaborate celebration.  Saturday was Earl's 60th birthday and it was quite the celebration.  Earl's son Andrew also celebrated his 12th birthday on Saturday.  How nice that both father and son celebrate their special day together.  Earl is married to Big Mama and they own Big Mama's Yacht Club on the small island of Pangaimotu near Nuku'alofa.  Pangaimotu is where all the cruising yachts are anchored.  There are 50 boats now here at Pangaimotu waiting to depart for the passage to New Zealand as soon as weather cooperates.

Earl and his son were dressed in traditional Tongan celebratory attire.  The mats wrapped around their waists and hips were made of the finest woven matting material that we have ever seen, very fine weaving and very white in color.  They also wore scarlet red clusters of beads and other materials around their necks and waists.  They looked magnificent.  Andrew was very solemn throughout the evening.  I think that this was culturally expected behavior for a male for a 12th birthday.  Earl was dignified and extremely gracious.  There were about 300 people at this party.  A delicious traditional Tongan feast was served and 2 fantastic chocolate cakes.

There was a 12-piece band comprised of the local Tongan police force.  Glenn on THE DOROTHY MARIE joined the band and played his saxophone.  Steve on ORCA III also joined the band and played his harmonica.  The band sounded pretty good to us but you must remember that it has been a long time since we have heard a live band.  The crowd was dancing the night away and it was a great evening.  The place went nuts with dancing when the band played "Achy Breaky Heart."  It was so odd to hear country music played by a local band in exotic Tonga.  Not what one would expect to hear, but they did play quite a bit of country music.  Also darn good with blues.  The Tongan women had a ball dancing and the cruisers really got into it. 

Two young Tongan girls danced one of the traditional dances with all the graceful hand, hip and head movements.  They were wearing traditional dancing costumes and their bodies were oiled.  Most of the cruisers did not understand at first what was going on but Bill and I knew from our previous visit to Tonga what was expected.  Bill gave me a small denomination pa'anga (money like a dollar bill) and I went up and stuck it on the shoulder of the youngest girl.  This prompted others to do likewise and soon both girls had money stuck to their oiled shoulders and arms.  By the time they finished their dance the bills were falling onto the sand and their older women relatives were standing nearby to collect all the fallen money for the girls.  The youngest girl was about 7 years old and did not know the dance movements well and constantly watched her older sister to mimic the movements, but the oldest girl knew exactly how to move.  It was so nice to see the local traditions being continued with the youngest generation. 

This was a special evening and we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to share it.

Friday we had gone into town for lunch at Friends Cafe and to walk several miles just for the exercise.  We brought a laptop and logged onto the internet while at Friends.  It costs 5.50 pa'anga for one hour internet access (about $2.80 USD).   We tried to log onto our bank's website to check recent activity in checking account and VISA card charges since it had been weeks since we last checked on this.  We waited 37 minutes and the bank logon webpage was still trying to load, so we gave up. Others had warned us that the connection at the restaurant was so slow that by the time a webpage loads you are ready to kill yourself --- painfully, painfully slow. 

Friday night there was a Halloween Party at Big Mama's and the regular Friday night buffet.  About 20 cruiser kids were running around wild while their parents stood around chatting.  Most of these little cruiser kids are extremely well-behaved because they have had to adapt to living in very close quarters on their boats.  But when a few of the not-so-well-behaved kids join the group then they all start acting like little hellions.  They do need to run off some of that young excess energy but the restaurant really was not the place for that and the parents should have made an effort to divert their little darlings outside.  Some of us present at the party who do not have little kids did not appreciate being knocked about by running kids and getting sand all other our clothes.  Sort of reminded us of being in casual restaurants in the West U area at home where the parents think anything their little darlings do is okay and to hell with anybody else.

For the buffet meal we shared a table with 2 couples whom we had not met.  One couple from Canada and another couple from England.  These were the first anti-Americans that we have met out here.  I was somewhat taken aback and did not know how to respond when the very first words out of the Canadian woman's mouth were:  "I have never liked Americans.  But then we sailed down the west coast of America and stopped in many small harbors and met lots of Americans and I realized that the Americans aren't really bad people; it is just your government that is truly horrible."  Now, what are we supposed to say in return to that kind of remark!  I said nothing and Bill told her that all governments do things that some of the people being governed might object to.  The English woman was equally nasty and unpleasant and critical of anything American.  Bill tried to make some humorous comments during the meal to lighten the tone but was not very successful.  How silly this attitude seems.  And how superior these people felt themselves to be over we low stupid Americans.  This was as silly as the Dutch guys in Papeete telling us that the worst problem in America was the fact that we allow people to own guns.  Yeah, sure.  The worst problem in American isn't illegal drugs, poor education, lack of jobs, racial division, poverty, poor medical care, etc., etc., -- the worst problem is that you can buy a gun.  Don't you love the way the "intelligent" people of the world judge a country they have never visited and know nothing about.  And we are supposed to be the stupid ones.  Thankfully one rarely encounters such uninformed judgmental people and can avoid those few who do pop up now and then -- which is exactly what Bill and I will do with both these couples. 

Still hoping to depart for the passage to New Zealand tomorrow morning.

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