‘Ahopanilolo students give us a ‘royal’ farewell


11 Ma’asi Tuesite

And now… for the afternoon student extravaganza

Building the royal command performance space

Building the royal command performance space

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before…

Lord and Lady Muir

Lord and Lady Muir… well for the afternoon anyway

Being garlanded with kahoas...please note my lady in waiting to my left!

Being garlanded with kahoas…please note my lady in waiting to my left!

Mats, tapas, drum kits, gifts wrapped in colourful paper, costume bits and pieces, leaves and flowers were ferried all morning into the assembly area as the students transformed the assembly rooms into a ‘royal command performance space’ for our very special farewell concert.

choir

The 'island' hatted choir punching out their Kotoni Sonia songchoir

The ‘island’ hatted choir punching out their Kotoni Sonia song

Tau'olunga traditional Tongan dance

Tau’olunga traditional Tongan dance

It was like having your own exclusive Oscars party, being part of a Glee episode or sitting in a Box at the Royal Albert Hall but all with a Tongan twist. I am still not sure which it was but it was so fantastic.

The ‘show’ kicked off at 1.00pm with a rousing hymn and a prayer. I had tears trickling down my cheeks and we hadn’t even had the first welcome speech.

alexio and cecile

Ceclie (with her Lion makeup) with Alexsio (head student)

The student’s farewell program was diverse, hilarious, serious, colourful, creative and moving… all packaged into an afternoon of pure delight.

We were garlanded with perfumed floral kahoas as we were seated on a ‘royal’ ‘stage’ surrounded by tapas and mats brought in by the students. In front of us were drinks and munchies and napkins (thank goodness as I needed them to mop my tears).

boy students dressed as girls for fun item

boy students dressed as girls for fun item

Fashion students doing a group dance in beautiful tapa costumes made that morning

Fashion students doing a group dance in beautiful tapa costumes made that morning

Loni does the hula shake shake shake

Loni does the hula shake shake shake

so many wonderful handmade gifts

so many wonderful handmade gifts

thanks

malo aupito ~ thanks you with an uma (kiss)

malo aupito ~ thanks you with an uma (kiss)

We spent the next two hours being serenaded with songs, listening to original poems specially written for and about us and being entertained. Each class prepared an item as a prelude to presenting us with gifts . Each student then came to personally say goodbye and rub cheeks or give us a peck and a hug. It was so moving and now I have a little insight into the life of a revered royal.

Saimone ‘Diamond’ also sang my favourite song in his repertoire “Sweet Caroline” it was electric.

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Dancers performed the elegant traditional tau’olunga and more upbeat hula. Some of the guys even dressed up as girls for a humorous ‘royal’ audience participation number. Loni did a guest appearance with the fashion students and shook his booty beautifully!

boogieing with the 'girls'

boogieing with the ‘girls’

a hula about to happen

a hula about to happen

Cecile, the French volunteer had her group dressed in their chef’s gear draped in greenery as ‘jungles’ to perform The Lion Sleeps Tonight in French… c’est magnifique!

cecelie jungle 2

It was a unique and emotional afternoon and I lost it a little when Kotoni and I gave our little speeches. Tonga we will never forget this year and ‘Ahonapilolo you are etched on our memories like tattoos on a sailor… there for life.

hugs of thanks and farewell

hugs of thanks and farewell

Kotoni speaking from the heart

Kotoni speaking from the heart

Watch this space for the teacher’s farewell tomorrow night (our last sleep in Tonga as we go home Thursday).

A I am giving away our friend Timm’s last gifted computer today to ‘Ahopanilolo it may be sometime until you get to see what happened… stay tuned I know it is going to be awesome! I can’t wait!

So many beautiful gifts, flowers and words

So many beautiful gifts, flowers and words… we are overwhelmed with gratitude for what Tonga and ‘Ahopanilolo has given us.

Christine wows the ‘unseen’ crowd


11 Ma’asi Tuesite

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The day kicked off with an inspirational guest speaker: Christine a fellow volunteer

Christine Casey is another Aussie volunteer here in Tonga. She is just like us… here for the year but… is totally blind and has been so since birth.

Having no sight has not stopped her getting a university degree, teaching music in both special and mainstream schools, volunteering last year in Fiji and now living with a Tongan family for a year. Christine spoke about the opportunities she has had and encouraged students to embrace opportunities given to you, create their own opportunities and give opportunities to others. It was humbling yet inspirational and I admire her courage to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Ofa atu Christine may your year be as amazing as ours.

Bye bye Saane & a Pot Luck surprise


10 Ma’asi Monite

Saane never stops working!

Saane never stops working!

We popped in to say goodbye to our landlady  Saane… she was mowing the lawn when we arrived and crying as we left. Saane has been such a major part of our Tongan experience and helped to make our year so culturally enriching. I left with a bunch of coconut ‘tails’ as a gift from her so I can make a Tongan broom when I get home… if they get through customs! :-)

This was our very last Pot Luck dinner and how amazing it was. The food was fantastic and we shared our table with Norbett a German anthropologist and Cecile and Delphine – two delightful French volunteers.

The band was superb as always, Chris was a polished MC and the surprise act of ex-student Sarabi doing a guest appearance lipsync made it a memorable farewell.

We felt so proud of our students and their wonderful dedicated teachers.

Our fellow volunteers came along to wish us farewell and support the students. They squeezed us with hugs, showered us with kind words both written and verbal… and we even had a few tears.

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If you happen to be in Tonga between March and October on the second or last Monday of the Month you MUST go to the ‘Ahopanilolo Pot Luck training restaurant… you won’t forget it!

Malo aupito to EVERYONE.

avocado and bacon salad

divine and delicate avocado and bacon salad

Fish and gnocchi

mahi mahi fish and homemade gnocchi

Simply perfect awesome melt in your mouth pear and almond tart

Simply perfect awesome melt in your mouth pear and almond tart

Sarabi

Sarabi… you still have panache

a special hug for a special ex-student... guest surprise appearance by Sarabi

a special hug for a special ex-student… guest surprise appearance by Sarabi

a wonderful performer even without the gown

a wonderful performer even without the gown

Moi, Cam, Tajeen, Meg & Haylee... just some of our fellow Aussie volunteers

Moi, Cam, Tajeen, Meg & Haylee… just some of our fellow Aussie volunteers

Tears kick off the countdown, big night out & a little car drama


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5 Ma’asi Pulelulu
We are becoming overwhelmed as our d-day (departure day) approaches.
Today a group of last year’s graduating students came to school to shower us with farewell thank yous and gifts of tapa cloth, fabric, jewellery, carvings, wall plaques, a  fan, tapa tie, tapa handbag… So beautiful and accompanied with warm delicious words that brought tears welling in our eyes. Heaven help us next week.
I spent a lovely couple of hours interviewing Maletina, the Deputy Principal as I want to include her story in the next edition of the Rural Women’s Network newsletter… Oh my I must crazy to be already thinking of work… Like a sky diver the ground rush is accelerating and before I know it I will sitting at my desk pumping out paperwork.

6 Ma’asi Tu’apulelulu
Had our last volunteers luncheon at the Pot Luck restaurant.

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Kotoni and Moni with the waiting team

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Kotoni and I with Tajeen

Kotoni and I with Tajeen

No power for a couple of hours as the high commission’s generator was being repaired. We ended up at the other residence on the compound where Scott and Nicola live with their two kids. It was nice to spend time chatting, eating cheese and drinking red wine by candle-light until the power kicked in. As happens at such impromptu gatherings we ended up trying to fix Tonga and the rest of the world’s problems!

7 Ma’asi Falaite
Farewell drinks with the ‘Ahopanilolo teachers, volunteers and ex-students started at the Billfish bar with cocktails followed by dancing at Naughty Ruby’s another bar at the wharf. We declined the pub crawl in town but dropped off a few bods in the town centre which was heaving with drunken people spilling out onto the streets. We took the better option and were home tucked up in bed by 11.30pm. Well we had started at 5.00pm and somehow even lost time to have dinner! It really was a lovely evening and many of the staff became quite melancholy as did we! They are all quite young and as we bailed I did highlight to them that we had been married longer than most of them had been alive… sobering but unfortunately too true.

Atu, moi and Leni

Atu, moi and Leni

Ceclie (French volunteer), Kotoni and Reimoni

Cecile (French volunteer), Kotoni and Reimoni (ex-student)

 

Tevita, moi, Nia, Leni, Sarlie, Moni and Malakai

Tevita, moi, Nia, Leni, Sarlie, Moni and Malakai

Kotoni, moi and Harri

Kotoni, moi and Harri

League of nations volunteers: Monique (Aus), Melissa (USA), Delphine (France) & Virginie (France)

League of nations volunteers: Monique (Aus), Melissa (USA), Delphine (France) & Virginie (France)

The whole 'Ahopanilolo crew

The whole ‘Ahopanilolo crew

 

 

Moi, Leni and Kotoni

Moi, Leni and Kotoni

8 Ma’asi Tokanacki
International Women’s Day dawned with some drama for us.
We zoomed off to collect Tajeen a fellow volunteer. The plan was to go and watch a Fakaleiti netball team go through their training paces with Haylee their dedicated Aussie volunteer coach. A good plan for a wet start to the weekend as the stadium was indoors.

Hmmm kick starting the car was a group effort

Hmmm kick starting the car was a group effort

Well we made it to Tajeen’s no problem as the rain came bucketing down. She jumped in and then ‘kerthunk’ – the car would not start.
The battery was flat as a tack.
After a futile attempt to do a jump-start in second gear we went to plan B and I stayed with the car while the other two went to the Fab car rental office which was not too far away to borrow a car and some jumper leads.
A few minutes later Kotoni arrived in beat up old maroon BMW that stalled and conked out. We were getting desperate as we thought we would now need a car to start the car to start the car!
Luckily we were in front of a house where I spied a bloke who came to our rescue and helped us. At home we would just call the NRMA roadside assistance mob but here one has to be creative.
Before we knew it we were sorted and on our way to the car place to get a new battery.
Don’t you hate it when things like this happen. But in true Tongan style we took the grateful perspective and thanked god it was not Sunday when EVERYTHING is closed… Or that it happened last night in the middle of the main street surrounded by the rousing rabble. We even managed to see some of the netball game.

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Haylee giving Tajeen and Kotoni some pointers. She coaches the national team

Haylee giving Tajeen and Kotoni some pointers. She coaches the national team

At 1.00pm I raced out to collect Maletina from her home to join us for a little luncheon back at our fancy housesit. Sisters Kieoma and Anuncia also joined us for this special afternoon. We ate fresh spring rolls, thai chicken curry, pawpaw pancakes and freshly baked ‘rabbit’ shaped shortbread. A nice way to show our gratitude for all they have done to make our stay wonderful.

Maletina is having baby number six in July and asked us to come up with a name that combined our two names… so ‘Sotoni’ – whether a boy or girl you will always have a place in our hearts and has created a life long connection for us with Tonga… seems we will be parents after all these years. We were incredibly touched and humbled by the gesture.

Maletina and I were like twins... well nearly!

Maletina and I were like twins… well nearly!

We had been invited to dinner at the New Zealand Hugh commission compound with Jordan and Tahlia but spent a few not so pleasant hours surrounded by screaming kids at the hospital as Kotoni had massively swollen ankles and a mysterious rash which I insisted we get checked out. After triage we sat in a long corridor awaiting our turn.
Happy birthday Tania – my darling sister… This time last year we were celebrating at your home in the Blue Mountains on the eve of our Pacific adventure.

‘umu’ sunday with the Tongan bunny nuns


9 Ma’asi Sapate

Our last umu at the convent with Kotoni's 'girls'

Our last umu at the convent with Kotoni’s ‘girls’

Our last Sunday in Tonga was spent doing what every other Tongan does… eats umu with family.

Our ‘family’ umu was very special as we shared it at the convent with Sisters Kieoma, Anunsia, Makalita, Loyola, Sofia and Paolina. They prepared a lovely meal and Sister Makalita made a beautiful speech which has us all reaching for our napkins to dry our tears.

We were also presented with a lovely Tongan tablecloth and coasters so we shall be able to re-live this moment every time we use them to share food around our own table back home by the fire.

Kotoni made some of his wonderfully mouth-watering shortbread in the shape of bunnies as a prelude to Easter. His ‘girls’ really enjoyed them!

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Sisters Makalita and Kieoma

Sisters Makalita and Kieoma

Sister Paolina

Sister Paolina

Sister Anunsia and Sofia

Sister Anunsia and Sofia

Sister Loyola

Sister Loyola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a brief siesta we headed to the New Zealand High Commission compound (the only part of Tongatapu that has a hill!) for afternoon tea with Jordan and Tahlia before flopping into bed early contented that our last weekend closed with our bellies full and cheeks stretched from all the smiling and laughter… Ok and our tear ducts had a little cleansing too!

This time next week we will be preparing to return to work… but I don’t want to think about that!

walking along the Nuku’alofa waterfront


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last kayak and snorkel


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Camera play

Camera play

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Cyclone Kofi bites Fafa

Cyclone Kofi bites Fafa

4 Ma’asi Tuesite
A picture hold one thousand memories. Our last kayak round the island followed by a good old snorkel… Fafa we will miss you.

Happy birthday Vaughan