25 Okatopa Falaite
The concept sounded fairly familiar… invite several groups to a fund-raising evening consisting of singing and prizes to be won… unless you live in Tonga! The sight of 300 men sitting on grass mats crossed legged, under a large marquee in the grounds of Tongatapu‘s main Catholic Basilica was a far cry from any fund raising nights I had been to.
Our school had organised this annual event as part of their overall calendar to obtain funds for various projects and was run with professionalism and respect given to the entrenched tradition of drinking Kava throughout the night. Kava is served by females so in this case the role fell to ‘Ahopanilolo girl students with the blokes doing the mixing and carting.
The evening started to gain momentum around 6.30 pm with the Kava starting to flow freely to the early participants who sat and chatted to each other… It was a prelude to later in the evening when things really started to warm up.
Kava is made by mixing a pre-prepared ground plant root with water. It is stirred before being passed through a strainer. The final result looks like dirty dish water of the Thames on a sunny day. after even a small sip I felt the numbness start to take over my mouth. Kava is drunk in most countries in the Pacific with each country having their method of sharing, potency of the brew and rituals. In Tonga it is all about men, singing and staying up for hours.
The ‘meat’ tray being auctioned for the fund-raising part of the evening were prepared by the ‘Ahopanilolo catering team of students and teachers who spent the entire day hard at it. They featured the usual food items that we have come to expect at special Tongan events, and of course plenty of it. One tray took four strong men to remove it from the van and place it on the display table. I could write more details about the ‘meat’ on the tray but may leave that up to your imagination as I don’t want to upset anyone that may go outside their house and discover something is missing.
The staff and students worked very hard throughout the 13 hour marathon event and were well rewarded for their efforts and so they should because although Sonia and I went home at midnight everyone else finished at 7am!!!