Friday, June 20, 2014

Birthday Celebration for the King: The Beginning

His Majesty, Tupou VI, King of Tonga is celebrating his 55th Birthday in Vava'u.
I've heard that this hasn't happened since 2002, so it's been a very special few weeks preparing for his arrival. Along with his birthday, Vava'u is also hosting the Wesleyan Conference for all of Tonga next week. This means that the population of Vava'u will grow from 11,000+ to 16,000+. For the next 7 days there will be two feasts a day and starting a week from today the Tu'i (King's) Vava'u Festival will commence.
There will be a week of competitions (rugby, cute baby contest, beauty contest, etc.) and pagentry (a ball, a show put on by every student on the island, a children's carnival). It promises to be a very special time here on this little island in the South Pacific.

And today it started with the King's arrival. He landed at the airport around 1pm and by that time every student on the entire island was positioned along the route from the airport to his palace in Neiafu (about 5 miles). Along with cute kids waving, each high school constructed a matapa (door) that arched over the road. Each school was so creative and presented their sentiments to the king in unique ways.
Before the King arrived in town I helped position my students along the road. The Ministry of Education officers then pulled up in a van and asked if I would like to be their official photographer and go and find the king. I said "of course!" and jumped into their van and we rode to find the tu'i (king). Here are some images from today.
Decorations galore!
matapa (door) by one of the secondary schools
There goes His Majesty! 
More decorations!
Catching a ride back to town after waving to the king!
Kalo getting so excited to see the King!

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