Easter eve at ‘Ahopanilolo college Tonga

Wed 27 March
The internet is very frustratingly slow and exy… we are still trying to get our head around the various plans and what will be best. In the meantime we are just forking out the cash but at this rate we will need to apply for a loan to pay off the download bill!
We palangis (westerners) have become so obsessed with being in touch instantaneously. Being in a place like Tonga is certainly emerging as a lesson for me in experiencing how outback people often feel with their lack of adequate communication services that most of us take for granted and expect as the norm. Saying that the old mainstay of writing a letter doesn’t come cheap here either… oh well back to my book!
School started with a segregated ‘pep’ talk for the female and male students about sloppy dress, better discipline standards and lack of respect. Wednesday is mufty day but modesty is still paramount especially for women… Keep those knees, cleavages and shoulders covered girls!
Lessons were thrown in a bit of disarray but I did spend time helping the Deputy Principal Nia to develop a fire wardens plan before lunch arrived cooked by Gordon’s class: chicken subways and stir fried chicken with carrots, cucumber and rice. The students usually sell what they make for a couple of dollars.
We got an early mark as the kids were spending the afternoon cleaning the grounds for Easter.
Into town for an internet battle (still trying to sort out the bank transfer) then coffee and a warm shared brownie at cafe Escape.. They know us by name there now and some of the staff are ex students from ‘Ahopanilolo.
We ran into Volunteer Sally who is at the Environment Ministry and has had a trying week with office politics but seems to be taking it in her stride. Walked home on dark and sitting here being serenaded by our evangelic neighbours who are shouting their lungs out… Sounds good most of the time except when this one guy is really off key… Or they just start yelling out all at once… Quite bizzare.

Thursday 28 March
Our Tongan Easter began at ‘Ahopanilolo College this morning with the usual prayer, roll call and assembly. We then joined the 100 or so students and walked to a large hall near the cathedral which is on the college grounds.
Over the next hour we took part in a very moving ceremony that felt a bit like a truth and reconciliation experience… So simple, so effective:
Each class sat on the tiled floor in a circle with a teacher singing beautiful songs that I assume were hymns (well the college is run by the Catholic church)
A wooden cross flanked by two candles was placed in the centre of the hall. The Principal, Sister Annuncia gave a short welcome and introduction on being thankful, asking for forgiveness and expressing love and gratitude. She then told the groups to contemplate this within their circles and share personal feelings with each other.
Two students then lit the central candles and proceeded to go to each group passing on the flame until everyone had a lighted candle in front of them.
Soft music played in the background as each group held hands in their circle contemplating their task. Slowly individuals randomly and in turn began to openly express their gratitude and ask for forgiveness to the group.
It was truly moving to see students ask teachers for forgiveness for past bad behaviour and teachers in return asking for forgiveness for having to be stern and raise their voices.
Tears streamed down many of the faces of both female and male students and teachers.
As time moved along groups moved around the hall to join other groups, shaking hands, hugging and asking for forgiveness and peace.
One male student in our circle introduced himself as coming from a small island and told Kotoni (Gordon) he wanted to work hard and be like him. After less than a week this was a very touching statement.
The room pulsed with generosity and we could do with similar processes for many a workplace, community and family.
The smaller groups continued to interact with other groups in the room culminating in one large circle around the perimeter with everyone holding hands and singing in lovely harmonies.
Whether you are religious or not this was a truly beautiful ceremony and we felt privileged to have been included.
It has hopefully cleared the air especially among the students who had had a bollocking yesterday for becoming less caring in their behaviour also allowing their dress code to slip. The timing was perfect as everyone now has an extra long weekend to reflect on what was said to and by themselves to others.
The rest of the morning involved a walk across the college grounds singing and going through the easter stations of the cross journey to tableaus where student performed various roles and read from the bible. The heavy rain threatened and we managed to get through all the stations before the clouds burst and a tropical downpour drowned the garden and drummed so hard on the roof no-one could converse for at least 10 minutes.
School finished early and we walked into town for some lunch catching up with Sally another volunteer who had been at work since 6am… She is working at the dept of environment and their morning was spent cleaning up the foreshore …I think we had the better morning easter activity!
Home in the rain via the bread shop for some fresh hot cross buns and a TOASTER! Yup we found one for $49TOP so grabbed it… Maybe we cant live without toast afterall. It seems a bargain after seeing others for $150TOP. Thanks for all those kind offers to send us one!!! Tomorrow we will celebrate good friday with eggs on toast!

For those who have asked for it… our postal address: c/- D. Wyler PO BOX 1074, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

3 thoughts on “Easter eve at ‘Ahopanilolo college Tonga

  1. Wish you an amazing year in Tonga. Your blog is making me very homesick. Look forward to your updates


  2. Your story of Easter blessings and forgiveness is truly beautiful So moving. so many new experiences for you to collect. So happy you have a toaster. So sorry that you are finding the Internet so costly and frustrating. Its ok to leave us wondering for a while though XXX TT


  3. Vaughan Davies and Helen Snodgrass March 29, 2013 — 11:29 am

    Your account is so clear. We really look forward to it.


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