Saturday, October 20, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatballs

There are no street lights in Fatumu, except for those that dot the only paved road. This street is not one that I frequent, as my api (home) is located closer to the 'uta (bush), so traversing at night can sometimes be difficult. The unpaved roads mark an additional challenge - they are full of potholes, large rocks and puaka (pig) droppings - and my eyes have to adjust quickly when the only light provided is that of the moon and stars. Last night, I was hyper aware of the need to see because my arms were filled with food to bring to Tiani and Una Lahi.

Mark, Alissa and I made dinner for our host families at Sione and Vaiola's -the home where Mark and Alissa stay. This meant that I would need to walk across the village to bring them food. Una Lahi was putting in a late night at her falekoloa (store) since today is Sunday (and no stores are open on Sundays). As Una and I turned the corner, we saw Tiani and Una Lahi sitting behind the falekoloa at a picnic table. A single light illuminated the area and I watched as Tiani, who wore a San Diego Chargers jersey from the 1980's, sat and smiled at his wife while she told a story. They turned and noticed us immediately and in my novice Tongan I said, "Na'a ku kuki me'akai Amelika kiate kimoua." (I cooked American food for you both.) Their faces lit up and then I realized that while I had remembered to bring the food, I had forgotten to grab forks to eat with. I guess it didn't matter because Tiani and Una Lahi dug in, eating it with just their fingers. They thanked me for the food and asked how I made it. After 15 minutes, the only thing that remained on the make-shift aluminum foil plate was one lone meatball. I watched as Una Lahi tried to keep it away from Tiani, laughing, hissing like a cat (when people in Tonga don't like something this is what they do) and swatting at his hands. He was laughing too, enjoying the game that they were playing. It was somewhere in this moment that I realized how much I was going to miss my adopted family.

Tiani and Una Lahi (and Una too!) have been more than accommodating the last two months - they have accepted me, shown an interest in who I am and have made me feel so comfortable here. Their kindness is a reminder of why I am here - to serve the people of Tonga, to help them, to learn from them. Just like my adopted family has done for me.

Next week I won't be sleeping on a bed whose mattress is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, I won't have Franny nibbling at my toes begging me for food while I shovel root crops into my mouth and I won't be able to sit behind the falekoloa with these people and laugh because I accidentally switched the words for "underwear" and "sour" around again (for the record, they both translate to "mahi" in Tongan). I will miss this place. I will miss these people and I am so grateful that they were a part of this story, this journey.

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