By Sepiuta Tukia
It was January 22, 1999, I was wearing a light green blazer as I got off the plane at Fua’amotu Airport. What immediately hit me was a rush of heat and humidity. So this is Tonga. Although I had been here 3 times before, this trip seemed to be a decisive one. It was my time to come back to a land that was once lost to me.
I was born here in Tonga, baptized at the Centenary Church and my parents were raised in Kolomotu’a. I left Tonga 28 years ago, a few weeks before my 1st birthday and was basically raised in America.
The beauty of this place is remarkable. To look out your window and see all the greenery. To look out MY specific window and see the richness of historical monuments ’ Mala’e Kula. To look at blue, clear waters as the breeze wafts against your face. All this, I appreciated with great affection. How would anyone want to leave this place?
I moved to QSC and moved in with Latu Mavae, one of the Deputy Principals. The house was a cozy two bedroom and Latu was the dearest of hosts. I went to the first staff meeting and the only staff I remembered were Tae, Latanoa and Uinise because they made sure I remembered their names.
The first assembly, I was a bit anxious. I looked out to the crowd of girls who sat facing us tutors as we were on the stage. One of the staff went before them and started them on a hymn. The first bars of their voices took me aback. They sounded like angels singing to heaven. I had this twinge in my heart and my eyes were a bit watery and I felt the sounds of their voices take me away.
The girls in my classes were wonderful. Always inquisitive, always wanting to know things about America. I had to get used to asking about things that I didn’t understand because I know that teaching here is a lot more different than teaching in America. Christopher helped a lot in that and guided on schemes, etc. Of course, there is my 3S Form class; a bunch of brilliant yet naughty adolescents who I adore immensely.
I was made the Head of the Music Department. I was to teach English in Forms I, II and III as well as music classes. I was very grateful to Sesuluni and Saia for taking over the band and having me sit this year out. I think it was good for me to see how everything is run.
My birthday came shortly after I arrived here in Tonga and I was feeling a bit sad that I was away from all my family back in the states. But QSC made me more than welcome with a dinner at Petani. My relatives came and brought me food and more relatives came to take me to another birthday party where I received a blessing from the late, great Sione Kami. I felt that I was truly blessed to have so many wonderful people to care for me here.
Walking to church on Sundays is always a splendid event especially on a beautiful, sunny day in the kingdom. Well, even on a rainy day, I liked it. I enjoyed walking alongside the girls as we marched to the Centenary Church. Them, in their Sunday whites, tutors in their Sunday best. We would arrive at the church and sing hymns until the service commenced. Dear Viena was there to tell me what number each hymn was.
Sports Day was spectacular. An ex-student had fondly told me that QSC is always the loudest school there. She wasn’t kidding. To be in the fray of 500+ cheering girls was so fun and exhilarating. I think the girls sang every song there was on the radio. Even as one of our athletes (or even those of Tupou College) zoomed by us, we would stop mid sentence to cheer them on to victory.
The death of Prince Tu’ipelehake, though a sad event, was also a moving experience for me. I felt so honored to be a part of a school that was a consequential part of the royal activities. Not only the funeral but also the Opening of Parliament, wherein, I donned a band uniform along with Latanoa and Sesuluni as we marched along with the girls. And we sat regally at the palace and watched as all the secondary schools in the kingdom waltzed by us.
Fundraising had never been so jovial for me than to travel along with our Senior Band from town to town doing our concerts. Each town was special in it’s own right and each town had a special person/persons that entertained us all with their bombastic and energetic ways of dancing. Playing and singing along with the girls made my heart race. I have very fond memories of Te’ekiu (the town of my ancestors) who brightened up a somewhat dreary hall with life and laughter. And I mean lots of laughter.
I became involved in our National Quiz Team who were a group of 6 beautiful, intelligent Form 6 girls. Early in the year, I remember remarking to my uncle that we were going to meet Tonga High in the finals (him being an ex-student of THS) Which in fact, both my parents are as well, but by being here at Queen S’lote College, I have swayed some of their allegiance to Queen S’lote College. It turned out that we met up with Tonga College in the finals in September. The intense game ended up in a draw and both schools were proclaimed Winners. Though special circumstances occurred afterwards, I think we kept the real spirit of competition alive.
What I find especially amusing is the connection with Queen Salote College and Tupou College, our brother school. Trips to Toloa were greatly anticipated throughout the year. When we went to Toloa for their Sivi Hiva and heard their divine voices and socialized afterwards; when we once again went for an ako lotu where we performed the service. There is definitely a deep affection between the two schools. Before QSC, for me, it was only Tonga High. That’s because that’s all I knew. Being here in Tonga, I discovered that Tupou College has been a vital part of my family as well. The feeling the girls have for Tupou College has definitely been contagious and my feelings have now become theirs. I think fondly of Tupou College, not only because of my rich family history there, but also because they are one with Queen S’lote College.
Everyday I must thank the Lord for giving me the blessings of being alive and giving me this opportunity to be here at Queen S’lote College. With each passing day, I know that Queen S’lote College was the best choice for me. I thank Sela Na’a and Mele T and Latu for welcoming me to this school. To Fahina for introducing me to Tonga. To Siueti and Salome for the early morning walks. To Latanoa and Leisia, the happy twins, who always make me smile because I like monkeys. To Sesuluni and Falati for the endless Fai kava. To Hingano for being the brother I don’t have here. To Johnish for being the little sister I don’t have here. And to all the staff for making this year a most memorable and enjoyable first year for me; a perfect end to this millennium.
Although the family I grew up knowing all my life is thousands of miles away, I am greatly comforted by my other family that is as close to my heart as they are - Queen Salote College.
[ref: ’ Sepiuta Tukia 1999]