Sai aupito aupito: our first week in Tonga

Photos are too hard to load so am afraid we shall be just doing a text blog while here unless the internet improves!!

Tuesday 12
We made it!!!

Off the plane into a van with our 100kgs of luggage intact. Together with our five colleagues and a truck full of bags following, we zipped (Tongan pace) towards Sela’s guest house… Our home for the week.

Mini briefing, move into our simple ensuite room, turn on pump, have a cold shower and find some undies before flopping on the bed to the sound of our fan and the rooster next door. Not sure why he doesn’t realise it s midnight??!!
No idea of our bearings… Too hot even in undies so down to the buff… but it is bliss!!!
Wednesday 13
Up and out the door for a walk to the oceanside. Managed to get lost momentarily. Breakfast of cereal, eggs, toast, pawpaw, banana and watermelon at sela’s guest house before spending 2 hours opening a bank account at westpac. We now have tongan phone numbers as well but will try and use wifi when we can as exy to phone overseas. Terrific lunch at Friends cafe: marinated fish and breadfruit chips for Sonia, classic fish and chips for Gordon washed down with  Fresh coconut juice.
The afternoon was spent driving around looking at rental places… All pretty basic with some having bizarre features like Italianate bulky dark heavy furniture and columns that wouldn’t look out of place in Naples… A bit over the top. After a siesta walked into town for a fabulous Italian meal in a backstreet restaurant run by Marco from Modena. We wanted to try his homemade gelato but the royal family had got there  before us and bought the lot.
Thursday 14
Malo e lelei… Language lessons this morning and singing the alphabet to frere jacque .. Cute language but not sure we have grasped it yet!
Then yummy Indian meal at Olinis before meeting Sister Annuncia who took us to check out Ahopanilolo college… Classes were in action and everyone was divine. We have great vibes. Everything is very simple but we will be fine.
Have found a house to rent.. Not much available. This one is in a compound with Saarne as our landlady who is very obliging. T$800 per month. Has a few bits of furniture and needs a good clean but we reckon it will become a nice liveable abode. Dinner was with all the other volunteers who are here… About 25… Wow what an interesting bunch. Dined at Little Italy on the waterfront. Nice breeze off the water and along from the palace.
Friday 15
Kicked off with language lessons then town orientation and lunch at Waves near fish market. Gordon bought a tuvalu for church… Picture to come!  We drove 30 mins. to Oholei beach resort on the south eastern side of Tongatapu (main island) for a Tongan food feast which featured seaweed and coconut along with taro, baby clams, suckling pig among a huge array  of traditional dishes. The restaurant was virtually on the beach. We then walked along the sand to a cave and watched a fabulous professional yet amateur dance and cultural show sitting behind the royal princesses who just happened to be there as well.
Saturday 16
Was the start of our home stay weekend. First there was language
Class then food cooked by Poli’s son…. Omelette, scrambled eggs, toast. We all rode in the back of a truck to Poli’s plantation… Taro, coconuts, cows, pawpaw and yams. The rain came down in torrents so we had to scurry into the back of the truck and make a dash for home… Arriving soaked. The afternoon program was spent weaving strands for a kie kie and making a basket from coconut fronds. Dinner was more root crops and tinned corned beef and spaghetti. Gordon and I stayed the night with Poli watching a b grade horror movie with the kids after a walk to the waterfront. By otai.. Lots more rain.
Sunday 17
french toast with chives… Then getting dressed for church wearing borrowed tupenu and taovala (woven mats) … Not very flattering! In royal company at church with king Taupo the 7th and his wife. Home for umu coked by the volunteers and Pili and Poli… Fish marinated in coconut milk, root vegies, taro wrapped lamb, tinned corned beef, beef all cooked in coconut milk complimented with otai watermelon, passionfruit and coconut milk. Fakapikopiko all afternoon before heading for Sela’s guest house. Chinese dinner at the Emerald … Only place open.
Monday 18
Moving into our new house! After language collected goodies from bank… Cards etc. lunch at Escape cafe… Very nice then collected our gear and moved into Saane’s house… Spent couple of hours settling in and bits of cleaning…Saane had done floors etc which was lovely. At 7ish walked into town…maybe 10 mins walk for a pizza at Marco’s then managed to get lost going home but made it…eventually!
Tuesday 19
Up before dawn to symphony of roosters, dogs and other birds… Will take a little while to become accustomed to these newby sounds! Popped over to landlady Saane’s to tell her our lounge room light was not working…ended up staying for breakfast of cheese and onion toasties with fried banana… as you do! Walked to guest house to meet others and have our last language lesson with Poli. Spent the afternoon shopping for food and fans… and sorting out transferring funds from Australia to our Tongan Bank account… all easier said than done but we got there… eventually and have a few more grey hairs as a result. lunch at friends cafe for free wifi (20what a joke.. Couldn’t get connected… Welcome to Tongan). Yummy chicken rice paper rolls plus spicy chicken stir fry and rice.  The food is surprisingly good here. Got a call from Jason another volunteer… He’d bought a huge bag of crabs and wondered whether we’d like to join them for dinner at Saane’s house. Oh and if Gordon could cook the crabs!!! Ended up with a feast of breadfruit, chicken and crabs…  6 blokes, Saane and I at each end of the table… All washed down with fresh orange cordial made from her tree. All good as long as you didn’t look too close to the kitchen  hygiene!!  Kotoni (Gordon in Tongan)  is coping..just!!!
Wednesday  20
Bike building workshop at our house… All three bikes now operational with no bits left over!!! Walked to Ahopanilolo for briefing with Sister Annunica at 2.. Looks like Sonia will also volunteer there as well helping with English and computers or whatever emerges. Walked into town for a coffee and coconut juice at Post Office cafe… Shopping then called at Joe and Anne Letoa’s house… Friends of Emily’s friend Barry. Joe is tongan and has returned to be a minister at one of the churches in town. Crab noodle soup made by Kotoni washed down with peppermint and lime cocktails christened Saane’s surprise. Surprisingly few bugs although we did see a huge cockroach on our first night which was a good reminder to keep food covered. Kotoni has made a gecko his pet as well but we like him as he can eat any insects that may venture through an open door.
Thursday 21
Kotoni up early to iron… Was one here which is good as they cost about $70 to buy… A toaster is $150. Seems mad when we can buy them in Australia for $10… I think we can live without toast!


Thursday 21
Kotoni up early to iron… Was one here which is good as they cost about $70 to buy… A toaster is $150. Seems mad when we can buy them in Australia for $10… I think we can live without toast!
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21 thoughts on “Sai aupito aupito: our first week in Tonga

  1. Mary Givney-clark March 25, 2013 — 11:01 am

    Found your blog! Great to hear your news. Isn’t it good you love fish & coconut milk…but for how long! You will need the Internet to google recipes. What’s the temp range? Certainly sounding hot, Gord’s probably thinking careful what you wish for! Definitely no jumpers in sight hey! But you have left your readers with an image of yourselves in the buff flung on the bed .. With a promise of photos!! Hee Hee. Am thinking Last minute ideas for fancy dress costumes for wknd..but it always comes together. Take care xx Can I post you a toaster? Sarah’s 9th birthday last Sat plus Down syndrome awareness day, lots of celebrations & Mick 20 this week!


  2. Well done Sonia and Gordon- now you can understand why it always looks like everyone is taking everything and the kitchen sink on a plane to the pacific islands. Love the food- beautiful and fresh straight from the sea or kitchen garden. Wish you well with your adventures, Sally Nick and Anna.


    1. Thanks Sal… Biggest challenge so far is the slow internet!!!


  3. glad to hear you arrived safely and all is going well, and that Kotoni is ironing!! All the same here so far but we all miss you. Sounds like food is big part of Tongan life! cheers xxxLesley


  4. Reading this in the train, taking yr 12 to Sydney for photo excursion, but your excursion sounds better, thanks, timm


    1. We are coping ok despite the cut off feeling with slow internet… But very much a first world problemo!


    2. Thanks mum… Glad we have been able to chat at least once!


  5. Veronica pansaru March 21, 2013 — 3:47 pm

    Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! Xx


  6. Patrick Barrett March 21, 2013 — 8:41 am

    Great to hear all your news. Wow, talk about a gastronomic feast. You’ve missed on all our political news…..or have you re leadership challenge this afternoon? Love Tania


  7. Carol and Tom Grosskopf March 21, 2013 — 8:07 am

    What did Kotoni get up early to do? Considering the fact that the heat is making you shed your clothes and the the locals are unlikely to have seen anyone iron before, I hope your new abode has blinds.

    Tom and I have spent a couple of holidays in the Pacific (Tahiti and Tavarua), you’re right it takes a while to get things done but generally there’s no where to rush to anyway. I guess it will be easier to get used to than the other way around when you come back to this rat race.

    When we were in Tahiti we met a group of young guys who in a combination of English and French (we didn’t realise that the Tahitians spoke French until we got there – bloody ignorant Australians!) told us about all the versions of coconut. I think there’s about 7 from shoot to old dried out nut. There are also some spectacular ways to open them. Perhaps you could keep us up to date with your progress in coconut opening as well as your progress in developing ‘dog guts’ in response to the layed back hygiene standards.

    Thanks so much for blogging your experiences in Tonga I’m keen for the next exciting installment.


    1. Thanks are more advanced in the coconut knowledge than we are!!!


  8. Hey Son and Gord, Glad things are going so well for you. I note you havne;t mentioned the spa treatments yet?? Things are a joke here – Gillard just called a leadership spill and won – no one else stood. Thinking of not voting at all this time. They are all tossers. Also thinking about my costume for Easter – plenty of time still to go – 7 days – ater having 359 days to think about it! Hope the bike survives its first use and that all continues to go smoothly. Let us know if we can send anything over to you. Jann xxx


    1. Thanks Jann… Couldn’t you resurrect the dagwood dog??!! Will miss you all at easter.


  9. Thanks so much for your wonderful newsy update. Mouth watering all the way through…. had to take a break and ravage fridge. promise to bring toaster if we manage to visit. Sounds like the food is fab and there is a range to keep you interested. Great you have your own place and bank set up, even if annoying and difficult. As long as they get the numbers right eh!! please send your mailing address details ASAP so we can write and post goodies XXX Sending lots of love Tracey


    1. Thanks Tracey… Save your pennies and come visit… Very simple life here though so our house is no resort!!!
      C/- Po Box 1074 Nuku’alofa Tonga


  10. Vaughan Davies and Helen Snodgrass March 21, 2013 — 5:35 am

    How wonderful! Kotoni will have the entire population ironing first thing in the morning as a matter of cultural development. Did we miss the translation for Sonia? I imagine it starts with Gorge and ends with Ousness. Shimla absolutely beautiful with distant snowcapped mts and a noticeable greening every day at the onset of Spring. Only this morning our booking for tomorrow was confirmed on the two trains that will replace the planned return to Chandigarh by DeathCar. over DeathRoadsNarrowAndWiiiiinnnndyWithNooooooRoadRules though they will take about 8 hours for about 160km, the latter portion of which is straight and fast. Just lovinit as we can tell you are too. Be well and AA E!


    1. You sound as though India has met expectations!!!


  11. Hey there adventurers!!!! I hear you are eating well. Glad you couldn’t upload pictures as the story of you in your undies was enough – All had a good laugh. Glad you found a house which you can call home for the next 12 months. You’ll get used to the wildlife around you in time and get sleep or I can send you a really good recipe for Curried Rooster Hot Pot LOL!

    Happy Harmony Day, Pizza for us here in the office and we wish you well until next time. DEEWR Orange


    1. Thanks guys…gord at work but will let him know you sent a hello… I am catching up on 2 weeks worth of Internet while i have a little time to wait wait wait!!!


  12. So glad to hear about your time there…Was worried we’d lost you to the laid back Pacific lifestyle. Love the name Kotoni…What’s Sonia in Tongan?

    Am doing a VC at the moment on Ethics…glad I can still access the computer as we have started 20 minutes late and it is very basic so far…
    It must be so exciting to be there. Love the description of the food and lifestyle.
    Enjoy that new home.


    1. Thanks Gina… sonia n Tongan is…. sonia… Gordon is Kotoni because they don’t have his letters in their alphabet!


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