After about two months of practice, our weekly gatherings at the school field in town came down to yesterday. Part of the King's Birthday Celebration was a celebration put on by the Ministry of Education. Every primary and high school on Vava'u Lahi came together to wish his Majesty a happy 55th birthday.
|'Atu (my principal) and I waiting for the show to begin.|
At around 8:30am we all arrived by bus, truck, or foot to prepare for King Tupou VI's arrival. My neighbor sewed my a brand new puletaha (dress) for the occasion and my principal brought a taovala (grass mat) for me to wear.
I've spoken about taimi fakatonga (Tongan time) before and how it's been one of the hardest things for me to adjust to here. If a meeting is set to start at 7pm, many times things won't begin until 8:30-9:00pm, but I guess when it comes to royalty that's different! At exactly 10:00am the king arrived flanked by soldiers and the royal family. As he was driven onto the field all 1,000+ children waved to him.
The welcome prayer and speech were said and then we all sang "Happy Birthday" and "Happy Long Life" to him. We bowed to him and as we bowed the kids created the Tongan flag out of their bodies (which is where ta fuka - draw the flag - comes from).
|Gifts for the King. My drawing is directly to the right of the two Tongan flags.|
|The King (he's the gentleman wearing the sunglasses sitting beneath the tent).|
After our 6 minute song finished we marched off the field and each high school had an opportunity to share their birthday greetings with the king through...
...taolunga (traditional female Tongan dancing),