Friday, March 11, 2011

TIT: Transportation in Tonga

Transportation in Tonga should really be a spectator sport or maybe a math problem.  The truck rolls to a stop; 4 people, a dog, and three chickens hop off and 3 people and a pig hop on.  How many people are in the truck now? Who knows?!?  But mo’oni [really!], transportation in Tonga has been quite the adventure thus far.  My trips to the big city [which I think may only consist of about 1,000 people] begin and end with an always interesting transportation adventure.

On my way into town, I usually hitch a ride with my town’s school bus.  There is no high school in my village so the kids are bussed into Neiafu each day.  This transportation adventure commences around 6:45 when I hear the ‘warning whistle.’  I am still not exactly sure of the schematics, but it seems as though each week some lucky kid has the task of being everyone’s alarm clock.  Aforementioned lucky kid, runs around town with a big whistle alerting everyone that it’s almost ‘taimi alu!’ [time to go!].  About 15 minutes later, the bus starts honking its horn and it is really time to go!  I hurriedly finish my oatmeal and scurry out the door. 

Sometimes I get the honor of sitting up front with the driver.  The kids all pile into the back of the bus, which is actually not a bus at all.  It is a giant flatbed truck with benches and a big tarp protecting the kids from the ‘vela la’a mo ‘uha’ [hot sun and rain]!  We begin our journey out of town honking along the way.  It is quite humorous to watch as the ‘tomui’ [late] kids come running out of their houses as we drive by.  If the driver is feeling extra kind, he’ll stop the bus.  If not, it’s time for a little ‘fakamalohisino’ [exercise]!  The kids get a little extra track practice by performing a run, leap, and land to get on the bus! 

This picture was taken a few months ago during Pre-Service Training.
It was one of our first suto 'hitchhiking' experiences in Tonga!
The real fun begins when I attempt to ‘foki mei kolo’ [return from town]!  There is a big market in Neiafu that is the hub for Saturday morning shopping and gossip.  It is also the unofficial suto pe [hitchhiking] headquarters.  I usually make my way to the market around 11 am hoping to catch lots of people returning home.  Some days, I arrive and am immediately plucked up by some kind soul and plopped in the back of their pick-up truck.  Whenever this happens, I feel as though there has been some divine intervention on my behalf.  Glorious!!!!

Most days though, it goes a bit more like this. Today, Nola arrived at the market around 11.  I chit-chatted with some ladies from my village who work at the market.  They listed off a few people who had just recently departed.  Naturally, I arrived after a parade of cars had just headed back home.  After this discovery, I hung out playing with the kids, watching for people from my town, and then attempting to remember their names.  Finally, the market began winding down and a very kind lady said ‘Nola, ha’u!’[Come with us!].  I hop in the car, happy to be heading home.  A bit of laundry, lunch, and ‘malolo’ [relaxing!]  were now only 20 minutes away.  Or so I thought.  Two hours later, I finally reached my front door.  We had stopped at about 5 different stores, stopped to chat with friends, stopped to do a little passenger ‘musical chairs,’ stopped to help a stalled truck get moving, and [naturally] stopped to let some cows cross the road. 

Transportation it seems, like every other part of life in Tonga, moves along to the beat of a unique drum [and the tempo is just a bit slower than I’m accustomed to].  So, I have realized that there is no such thing as a direct drive from point A to B.  However, there is usually certain to be at least a little adventure between A and home.  …and if no adventure, an invitation to the family’s Sunday meal makes any sweaty 2 hour trek well worth it!

side note 1: new pictures are up!

side note 2: We are all safe and sound in Tonga.  We had a Tsunami warning, but Vava'u is
one of the safest harbors on earth!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nora- This is explains so much. Things in Tonga move at their own pace, for sure. Thankfully, you are a patient person! This would give your Uncle Randy a massive heart attack!
    Be safe!
    Love to you always-
    Aunt Dee

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