Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Musings.

The sky was a solid grey when I awoke this morning. No distinguishable clouds could be seen - no sun attempting to poke through. Just grey. The coconut trees outside my bedroom window were still. The air, cool. Cooler than what I have become accustom to living here in the South Pacific.

I put on my puletaha (matching top and skirt) and walked slowly to church.

I sat down quietly in the pew and started observing those around me.

Church in Tonga is much different than that in America.

Depending on where you are in life denotes where you sit in church. The men sit together in the back. The adult women (already married) make up the middle and the children and youth sit in the front few rows. At least this is how it is at the Wesleyan Church down the street from my house. This morning one of the grandmothers was sitting amongst a group of children. She was all business as she used her huge Tongan fan to cool off the little ones sitting around her. At one point a couple of the boys close to her quietly started talking and the fan instantly became a disciplinary tool - a swift whack on the head from Grandma put the boys back on track. At least for the next five minutes.

Discipline is everyone's responsibility here. Throughout the 90-minute service I watched as multiple people took the same misbehaving child outside.

There was no eye-rolling or huffing by the other parents. No giving a "why can't you make your kid behave?" death stare. It became everyone's problem. A child isn't doing what they're supposed to? Doesn't matter if he/she is yours or not ... put them right.

About 30 minutes into the service I took out my fan and started to cool myself off. Trying my hardest to focus on what the feifekau (pastor) was saying, I had my attention turned to the pulpit. That's when Mele, a sweet little 3-year-old decided that I needed company. She crawled up into my lap and made herself comfortable. She then took my fan out of my hands and started to attempt to cool me off while snuggling against my chest. She played with the grass parts of my kiekie that are coming undone and in rapid fire Tongan said something about being talavou (pretty).

I had an a-ha moment then. A moment of acceptance, of integration ... I'm not sure what to call it.

But whatever it was - it was good.

Mele stayed cuddled against my chest until her fan-thwacking Grandma turned and gave her the "why are you bothering the palangi?" (white person) glance. I mouthed to Grandma "Sai pe ia!" (It's okay) and she smiled. Mele stayed next to me for the next 30-minutes and then decided that she needed to go exploring.  

That's when she got taken out of church. It's pretty pau'u (naughty) to go exploring during the sermon. I could have told her that. But my Tongan isn't quite there yet.


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