The North East Americas are a confusion of riches and ravages, no different from our Islands except possibly in the extremes of wealth and poverty.
In the North American traditions of high school graduation we share the simple flowers of Hawai’i’s, bringing another dimension of the Pacific to the Atlantic. Of course it would be remiss if we weren’t wearing sunglasses (a strange fad with Tongans overseas, although I have been informed by medical staff that this is a smart idea.)
Of course we arrive from different walks of life (even within our small island culture) and some of us have much finer jobs than others, there are those with management, clerical, labour, but we will always treasure the importance of the extended family both in the times to rejoice and times of sorrow.
Of course our most valued traditions incorporate food, and oh how we love sharing these with friends. You’ll find that we go to extremes to ensure nothing is missing, and there are side dishes on side dishes. When we do get together, we do love to play the part of the host, and it is extremely rare to find the quiet Tongan who wasn’t a closet entertainer just waiting for a crowd of awed spectators. Mind you, the food may just explain why we tend to be extremely large?
We carry the traditions of seating on mats, which solves the problem when you’ve invited too many neighbours and guests to the BBQ. And again, the danger of putting Tongan girls together is keeing the volume of laughter down.
The spit roast pig is difficult to get in “modern economies” which is just fine by us as its a great chance to hang out and talk while the pig spins. Neighbours are generally excited to watch the drudgery, which just makes the feeding frenzy more exciting. Yes, the neighbours love the eating just as much as the fireside conversation.
The North East is full of wonders for a Tongan crossing the borders. The tall pines, lush greenery so high. Canals flow here and there, with the modern architecture left behind when you come across derelict factories that once was the centre for many families. The tight roads are a real worry, even for one brought up on the Tonga traffic.
There are sizable, well-stocked libraries in every town, banks on every corner and bowser/petrol stations all over the place. Houses have two, three, even four vehicles parked outside belowing to the household. There are even things called TV rooms.
There are still very few Tongans in the North East region and one really needs to go looking if one wants to find the token Tongan.
[ref: Photographs © and used courtesy of Salome Finau]