13 Novema Pulelulu
‘Ahopanilolo Graduation day has dawned at last.
Arrived at staff room to collect very decorative wedding ta’ovala mats brought in by Malatina one of the teachers. Unbeknown to me Larnie the sewing teacher had also made me a pule taha outfit during the night. So off went my two pa’anga skirt and I quickly popped on the true blue Tongan gear. It was a little oversized but once the mat was tied tightly around my middle it didn’t really matter too much. More random acts of kindness.
Mass was enchanting with the glorious singing. We sat on the boys side behind three Fakaleitis who were decked out to the nines from the top of their heads … think elaborate hairdos, extended eyelashes and heaps of makeup… to the tip of their painted toes in strappy size 14 stilettos or the ubiquitous thongs!.
Dr Ana, the Minister for Education, and only female parliamentarian was the guest of honour at the formal ceremony held at the Dateline Hotel on the edge of the CBD. She presented the awards and gifts for outstanding students and relayed a moving story about her father teaching her a lesson in humility under the motto: Every heart needs to shine.
It was lovely to hear my three speech efforts spoken out loud… The outstanding student speech by Leimoni brought many to tears. He has been living with the Parish priest while studying at Ahopanilolo and spoke with great emotion as he thanked everyone including his two ‘mothers’… one who gave him birth and the other Sulia a teacher from school whose family has adopted him! Leimoni won lots of individual awards as well as the grand prize so was presented with heaps of gifts. We asked him later what did the booty include. He replied, “I don’t know as I gave them all away to my family… except the knife set .” Now I wonder how often that would happen in the more ‘developed’ world.
Kotoni and I got a special mention in Sr Kieoma’s annual report which was very humbling. After the VIP guests took their leave parents and friends garlanded the students with flowers and lollies that in some cases so overwhelmed the recipient that it was hard to tell who it was!
The whole graduation was a warm emotive and moving ceremony where the students were made to feel extra special and the parents extremely proud.
Tomasi, an ex-Ahopanilolo student we have befriended on our visits to Keleti beach made Kotoni, Vicki and I aromatically scented garlands… He is so sweet.
After a very late lunch at Friends cafe we headed out to Keleti but being to rough we sat up at the ‘resort’ sipping wine until the sun no longed created a sparkly blanket across the vast blue ocean below.