I am officially known as Kona, pronounced Co-Na. The Tongan alphabet doesn’t have an R in it so it is hard for some Tongans to say Connor. So when they do say it, it sounds like Kona, so at the recommendation of some current volunteers I took Kona as my Tongan name. Many Tongan names are words (I think that’s true). Anyway the funny thing is that when you look up Kona in the dictionary, the definition is, “to be intoxicated or poisoned” lol. It has really caught on here in Ha’apai so I’m going to run with it.
After 6 days in Nuku’alofa, we finally departed for Ha’ apai. I’ve been in Ha’apai in the village of Fo’tua for two days now. We landed on the only airstrip which is literally the width of the island. It goes from one side of Pangai to the other. If the plane didn’t slow up in time then it would go straight into the sea. Fotua is attached to Pangai by a single lane, man-made concrete road. It has so many potholes and is supposed to be rebuilt soon by the Japanese government. Only one car can cross at a time. It has to be one of the worst roads in the world. It is covered in potholes and you can’t go faster than 10 or 15 mph on it.
In my village there are three other volunteers. We will be having our language lessons together for the next couple of months Mondays-Thursday at our language instructor’s house. On Fridays we all travel to the next village and meet up with the rest of the volunteers in our group. There are a total of 26 of us. The island is beautiful.
Today and yesterday we spent a couple of hours diving and spear fishing in the coral reefs. Today I caught my first fish. The first was a pretty pathetic 6 or 7 inch fish and then I caught a squid which was pretty sweet. Especially since I thought it was a big white fish until I shot it and black ink sprayed everywhere. Today I went with Sean (the other male volunteer here in Fo’tua) and Semi and Pita. Semi and Pita live next door and are 19 and 20 respectively. Yesterday they took me and Charity (Volunteer living next door at their house) into the bush. It was pretty cool eating the fruit we saw as we walked and drinking coconut water. We were also showed how to climb a coconut tree but they weren’t too keen to let me try. The last thing they want is a Palangi falling from a tree and getting hurt while on their watch.
Palangi is a white person. Everywhere you go in Tonga you hear people referring to you as a Palangi. It takes some getting used to as an American because we would never refer to someone as “black guy” or “Chinese guy” right in front of you. Nothing is meant by it but it does take some getting used to. I actually think it’s kind of funny. Lateki, the 2 year old here in the house, will just follow me around and saying Palangi until I look at him, at which point he giggles and starts talking Tongan.
My host is great as well. Their names are Lei (the Mom), Laukau (the Dad), and two sons, Lateki (2) and Semi (8). Pretty much everyone on the island is related by blood. For example next door is Laukau’s brother’s house where Charity stays. Then the other two volunteers live down the road at Allani’s house and his Sister’s house. Allani is a cousin or something to Lei I think. It’s hard to keep track of the relationships.
The lifestyle here is so slow and laid back, it’s great. Most men here in the village don’t have jobs and work in the bush. Whenever you are tired you take a nap, which suits me fine. Here everyone lives on Tongan time so meetings can get cancelled at the last minute, planes leave hours or sometimes days late, and nobody seems to notice or care.