Monday 29 April
It started out like every other Monday… Until Kotoni got to college… Father Mateo, a young parish priest passed away last night. Classes were abandoned as students were conscripted to make wreaths and prepare food for an evening service.
Kotoni and I made our family speciality ‘windmill’ pastries to contribute to the convent table…. and 3 batches were produced on our wonderful new stove while we also entertained another volunteer Camille and our landlady who both dropped in.
At 5.30pm we headed off to the cathedral with our goodies. It was packed to capacity …we reckon over 1500 people. The actual mass formalities started at 7pm with lots of preliminary stuff going on around us as we sat in a side pew with students and teachers… Trying to keep a breast of what was happening. There were a lot of top brass church hierarchy involved and again the sining lifted the roof and was truly magnificent.
Everyone… And I mean EVERYONE wore ta’olvas (mats) including us…borrowed from a teacher.
The evening finished with queues lining up to kiss Father who was in an open coffin. Neither Kotoni nor I could quite come at that but we did bow our heads to pay respects up very close and personal.
We road home along the waterfront well after 10pm sitting regally on a plank of wood in the back of a truck as rain gently sprinkled in what was anything but a typical Monday.
Tuesday 30 April
Part two: at college by 7.30am donning our usual funeral garb of tupanus and ta’ovalas. This mass was again very beautiful with a few extra trimmings like incense and holy water sprinklings and a representative of the royal family sitting in front of us.
The coffin was now closed and covered in ceremonial mats and tapas. it was perched on a virtual sea of woven mats that were littered with typical Tongan floral tributes. The aroma was quite heady from some of the blooms.
Yesterday Kotoni was conscripted into a student/teacher flower threading ‘workshop’ at college so contributed to at least one of the bouquets.
Some of the teachers and students spent the night on the floor of a classroom as they didn’t finish their various duties until well after 2am. Buses stop here at 5pm so transport can be a real impediment to evening activities if you live in an outer village beyond walking distance, don’t have a car or rello in town.
We emerged from the cathedral around 9.30am to drenching cold wind and rain. Kotoni and I declined to go to the cemetery this time, had a coffee at our local and wandered home to dry out!
It is actually a bit chilly… I still cant believe I actually need a wrap for my shoulders after so many hot hot hot days… but those in the know need to feel assured that Kotoni is still jumper-less!!!