Tonga Tales

Tonga Tales
Elder and Sister Wally Smith

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Leaving Tonga to Come Home

Tonga Tales August 2nd 2012
The Trip Home
We have been home for two and a half weeks, and I am finally finding time to write the last blog for our mission.  We left Tonga at 12:15 pm on Monday the 16th of July.  All the Senior missionaries and several of the teachers and the Bishop and his family came to the airport to say goodbye.  The excitement of starting the trip home overcame some of the sadness at leaving.  It was HARD to leave Tonga and the friends we had made there. 

Elder and Sister Ronnenkamp met us at the airport and took us to the same hotel where we stayed when we came to New Zealand 18 months earlier.  This time we were on the side of the hotel, that faced Auckland.  The view of the sky line at night was really pretty.  It was cold, especially for us and as we walked down town it was really not very comfortable.  We did not have coats, and I could not wear my shoes.  It was hard to believe all the cars, traffic, people and stores with so much in them.  ( I will digress here to say that we are finding shopping in the US a bit frustrating.  Take Home Depot for example,  you know they have what you are looking for, but the store is so big you can never find it.  In Tonga you could see much of what a store had in stock from the front door.)

We gave our report to Bruce, Wayne, Jared and the Ronnenkamps on Tuesday. We were together for about four hours counting lunch.  There was some discussion about our doing a second mission with S&I.  All that we could say was that we loved what we had been doing, but we also love our life back in the US.

On Wednesday we went to Hamilton and went to a temple session.  The missionaries from the New Zealand MTC were there, so we got to see Brent Makeheli.  It was fun to see him.  We had our first real almost American hamburger at Burger King.  Funny thing happened.  When we went to pay we wanted to use our credit card.  It seems that in New Zealand if you want to use a credit card now you need to have a pin number.  We do not have one.  So I told the boy at the counter to wait while I went across the street to an ATM.  About that time a nice younger New Zealander walked up to the counter and laid down a 20 dollar note and said “Here let me buy you dinner.”  I tried to get him to wait while I got money, but he just smiled and walked out.
On Thursday we drove around New Zealand to see some of the country.  We were able to go to the West side of the island where we could overlook the Tasman Sea.  We were high up on some cliffs so it was really impressive.  We had lunch and then headed to the airport.  For the first time in many flights, I could not sleep.  We did get to watch the Hunger Games during the first part of the flight.  The plane from San Franscio to Salt Lake was delayed about an hour, but we finally got to Salt Lake at about 8:15:

All of the Utah Grand Children and their parents were there to greet us.  (Eric was in Australia) They had a big banner and many small signs welcoming us home.  Levi was the first to run to us to greet us.  It was so much fun seeing them all again.                                    

The stake president had set up a meeting for us that same evening, so about 10:00 pm, we went to the stake center to meet with him.  Pat went with us.  We  talked for about an hour, then he released us.  We were sorry that we could not meet with Chad Wilkinson, but his brother the new State President was great.  It was a very spiritual meeting.  At the end he read the letter from the Mission president and then a second letter from Wayne.  Then he released us from the missionary service.  We came home and crashed, but as expected we were up way to early the next day.

We had our home coming on the 29th. and we also got a family reunion in that week.  The only two members of our family who were not there were Jeremy and Ethan.  Jeremy had been out on a ship and Ethan is in the MTC.  All three of my sisters came to the Sunday service, and we had four of the senior missionary couples from the mission there.  It was so much fun to see the Cards.  We have really missed them.  The Bains, Rawlins and Bowdens were also there.  There were several members of our Centerville Ward and from Teri’s service mission at the Joseph Smith building who attended.

A few thoughts:
1: It sometimes feels like we never went to Tonga.  It is like it was a dream or a book that we read.
2: I cannot stand to wear shoes.  My feet do not fit into the toes of the shoes
3: Corn on the Cob is the best.
4: I can get all the Diet Dr. Pepper I want
5: There seems to an unending line of boxes to unpack and get stored so we can live again.
6: There are so many details that we have to take care of:  phones, TV service, medicare, doctors visits, shopping, new clothes, etc.  It has been two and a half weeks of work, and were are still not complete.
7: Americans drive too fast.
8: I cannot find the turn signal in the car.  I have yet to get in the wrong side of the car, but have found myself driving down the wrong side of the road.
9: I can no longer rest while a file is down loading on the internet.
10: We love the e-mails from the teachers and friends in Tonga.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tonga Tales July 9th. 2012
Goodbye to Tonga
After The Grand March
Flowering Trees next to our Home
            This will be our last Blog from Tonga.  In just a week we will get on a plane and fly to New Zealand to give our mission report at the area office.  Then after a couple of days we will be headed back home.  We will miss Tonga, most of all the Tongan people who have been so friendly, helpful and who have helped us to learn so much during the months that we have been here.  We will leave a part of us here.  When we left Utah 18 months ago, it was hard, but we knew that one day we would return.  Who knows if we will ever come back to Tonga?
Acient Tongan Arch
          We thought the last two weeks would be relaxed.  We would complete all our classes by the 29th. of June and the students are out for the break. (Like our Christmas break at home.)  But is seems the bishops, teachers and school leaders want one more presentation, workshop, fireside etc. before the Smith’s leave. We have given several, but I think we are finally finished, at least the prep part.

Beach by the Land Bridge

Last week about 2,000 Tongan youth from the stakes here on the main island met for a three day EFY.  Sister Smith and I presented one of the workshops.  We were asked to talk about Education.  We knew that we would have about 250 in each workshop and that we would present the workshop four times.  I must admit, we were concerned about teaching a group that large.  How do you keep their interest?  We prayed a lot about it and came up with a plan that really worked well.  First we taught them a cheer.  On signal I would lead the boys and they would shout out “I can be”, and  then Sister Smith led the girls and they would say What I want to be.” We used a power point  presentation with music, videos and pictures to hold their attention.  Toward the end, we showed them a video of radio control planes crashing into the ground.  Then we asked if any of them thought they could fly a radio control plane.  Several volunteered and we had them come to the front and they all tried and all failed to fly my radio control simulator.  The simulator was shown on the screen, so the kids could watch these students attempt to fly and fail.  Then I showed them how to fly the plane. That led to a discussion of why I could do it and why the others could not.  Of course the point was, without an Education, you cannot do much of what you want to do, but with an education “ you can do what you want to do.”  We think the kids got the idea, as several of them repeated the cheer when they saw us after the workshops.
Start of the Grand March, we are directing the Prince

            This week we also attended the Marriage Ball for the Crown Prince (Tupouto’a) and his Bride. (Sinaitakala)   The plan had been for Teri and I to teach them to so the Waltz and Foxtrot so that they could start the dance after the Grand March.  As it happened they were out of the country and only came back the same day as the ball, so we were not able to teach them the dances.  So when the time came for the grand march, Teri and walked up to the Royal Couple, bowed and asked them to come to the dance floor to lead the Grand March.  As the Crown Prince he led the march, but it was my responsibility to tell him when to turn, where to go, to control the speed. Etc.  Teri and I walked right behind him so that I could talk with him as we walked.  As it turned out there were so many people who joined the march as we went around the room, we soon could not move.  Then when it came time to dance, the Prince and the Princess left the floor and it became the responsibility of those of us on the floor to get the dance started.  The Prince is about 6 foot 4 and the princess is as tall as I am.  What an experience. 

              We will miss Tonga,  most of all we will miss these great Tongan people.  We have learned so much from them.  They have been so loving, helpful and friendly.  They have a faith that puts the rest of us to shame.  When we left Utah, we were sad to leave those that we love, but we knew that we would be back in 18 months.  We know that when we leave Tonga we will most likely never return.  We look forward to seeing our children, grandchildren and friends, but we are sad to leave Tonga.
Scattered across this Blog you will find some of our favorite places in Tonga


Rocky Coast
Blow Holes

Monday, June 18, 2012

More On The Tongan People

The Tongan People

Coming Home From the Api
          We just want to share a few things that we have observed about the people we have lived among for almost 18 months.  It has been a blessing for us to get to know them.  There are things we do not have and cannot get here in Tonga but we are very comfortable. 

Planting Taro
          Once in awhile we get a glimpse of how many live here.  Most do not have washing machines.  They do their laundry in a 5 gallon bucket.  I don’t know how they do it but everyone always looks neat and clean.  A teacher might casually say as part of a lesson, “My husband gets up early to start a fire to heat water so that we can wash up in the morning.”  Another tells us that she doesn’t have a frig, her brother does and they share.  Electricity is very expensive.  Children know that kerosene is used in lamps so that they can have light in their homes.

          Seventy percent of the people in Tonga are unemployed.  However, there are many people who work in the bush (farm) or are fishermen or who weave baskets or do other crafts like Tapa.  There are many who do not call that work.  But believe me it is hard work. 

Weaving Baskets from Coconut Plams
          Tonga is very much a communal society.  It is part of the culture to go to family and say, I need money.  You want to give your money and you are expected to give it.  They share all that they have.  I have seen many who did not have much to share and still they give it away.  It is part of Tongan Faith.  They trust that Heavenly Father will take care of them and they trust that when they need something the family will help. 

Taking the Bark off Limb to Make Tapa Cloth
          But there are draw backs to this philosophy.  If you are trying to save for something like a house and every time you get some money put away, someone asks for it and you give it to them.  You will never get a house.  A teacher in one of our schools is trying to build a house without a mortgage.  Her husband is a good fisherman.  I have seen the huge lobsters that he harvests from the ocean.  One year he was able to catch a lot of sea cucumber and they put a lot of money away towards a house.  But people knew and little by little the money disappeared. 

Doing the Wash in a Bucket
           So the next year instead of putting the money in the bank, she bought blocks to build the house.  When people came to ask for money, she told them it was all gone and it was.  Now her husband is in Australia doing construction work.  They are buying the wood and the tin for the roof and the wire and sand so that they will have a paid for house.  He will be gone for six months but it will be worth it.

          It is interesting to get to know a Tongan family.  They may have five, six or seven children and two or three others are living with them. Sometimes they just live with them so that they can go to school.  Or they have adopted them.    Generally adopting does not mean going through all that legal stuff.  It means that you have them in your home and you take care of them.  They are part of the family.  They just want to make sure that the children have what they need and that they are cared for. 

          We are reminded of some of the closing words in The Other Side of Heaven.   Elder Groberg was talking about people in the Niuas who still live as they did in his movie.  Things are much better on Tongatapu than that.  Still his words are often true. “These people have nothing and yet they have everything.” 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Children of Tonga

Tonga Tales June 4th, 2012

The Children of Tonga

This blog will be mostly just pictures.  We have seen some wonderful sights, and have met some special people during our time here in Tonga, but of all the sights and people that we have gotten to know the young children are without a doubt the greatest blessing.  Very few Tongans have washing machines, yet each day these young children go to school dressed in clean pressed school uniforms.  Their hair is braded for the girls and the boy have short hair cuts and white shirts.  All this washing is done in a five gallon buckets.  Anywhere you go in Tonga you will see a clothes line with white shirts hanging out to dry in many different sizes.

These children are happy and love to wave at the Palangis as we walk or drive by. They smile and those big brown eyes sparkle.  They seem to stay this way until they get to be about 12, then you see them becoming more serious, and withdrawn.  I think it has to do with the way the Tongans treasure little children then as they get older they have to get into the work world and the control that the Tongan Culture practices on keeping the males from the females. It seems to take much of the creative and spontaneous actions away from the youth.

Please enjoy these great pictures.  
Toa and the Twins

What you want Bub

Lupi Loves Sister Smith

That is a knife that young man is holding

Playing in the Yard

One Year Old

Riding to the Blow Holes with Lupi

To Cute to Miss

On the way to School
I'm going to be Sealed to my Parents

This is my Sister

The Seminar Teachers Daughter

Trick or Treat American Style