Tonga: Church on Sunday

We’re getting in a kayak when our mate from last night hops over the fence to the resort to tell us lunch is almost ready. We thought we had another 2 hours to kill but I guess the service ended early!

I’m excited to be attending a Sunday afternoon at a Tongan church. Sundays are a mega day of rest here. No shops are open, no one works, not even lucrative whale watching for tourists. The country goes into rest mode, and everyone goes to church. We run up to our room and try to find our nicest clothing for the occasion. I thought I’d only brought t-shirts but find a nice white and blue flowy long sleeve top in my bag which churches me up a bit. I think as long as my shoulders and knees are covered I’ll be okay.

We still have our silly bag of chips that we tried to bring as a token of our appreciation to the Tonga v Australia game last night, when we still thought we were going to someone’s house. We bought two bags of chips and two large soda bottles, and ended up snacking on just one bag of chips at the school. We felt weird leaving it behind when no one seemed to want to bring it home, but also felt weird bringing it back to our fancy resort. The owner was eyeing it up as he greeted us last night and I felt like I was smuggling in contraband.

Anyway. We still have it. Should we bring it now? It sounds like it will be a big feast so it might be nice to bring something to contribute, but at the same time it might make us look weird af.

Thank you for inviting us to your Sunday feast. Here, some cheap junk food from the convenience store, for you.

We decide to leave the chips.

There are kids running around the church in adorable little outfits (one actually looks a bit like a wedding dress) while the adults set up a loooooong table with all the food. The table isn’t long enough to accommodate everyone in one straight row, so an extra attachment is brought in and connected at the side to create an L shape. Dishes upon dishes upon dishes are brought in. It looks like it’ll never end! So much food that there’s barely any space for our own plates to perch safely on the edges of the table. Chesney and I go to sit in two empty chairs but are asked to move because we’ve been invited to sit near the head of the table. I’m not sure if there’s any significance behind this, we very well could have just been sitting in someone’s favourite place, but it’s nice to have been “invited” to sit somewhere specific. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

An elderly man says grace and we all bow our heads, then dig in once the “amens” have settled. I can’t explain how much food is on this table. Directly within our reach we have a gigantic crab salad, baked fish, cured fish, potato salad, huge slabs of baked taro and another unidentified fruit or root vegetable, pineapple, a stuffed chicken dish, and something we expected to be a Tongan version of sweet and sour pork…but is actually deep fried bread balls covered in sugar syrup. That’s just what’s directly within my reach. It would have been absolutely ridiculous of us to show up with a measly bag of chips to this homemade potluck.

When a whole roast pig is brought out I can’t believe my eyes. Half litre sized cups are available for any of the various juices going around the table, which include fresh watermelon, pineapple, guava, and maybe passion fruit? I’m not a juice expert. Someone pours us each a glass of pineapple juice and somehow manages to find space for them on the table.

A whole pig leg is placed in front of us and we try to cut it up but our plastic fork and spoon won’t do the trick, so we resort to pulling it apart with our hands (which we’ve noticed others doing, don’t worry). The meat is salty and slightly tough, unlike most pork I’ve eaten before. I dare Chesney to eat the foot but he won’t do it. Weak.

After I’ve eaten WAY more than I can handle, everyone starts packing up and asks if we want any leftovers. I would love to but we’ve got dinner arranged at the resort tonight and I don’t know how else we’d take them with us once we leave the island tomorrow morning. There’s so much leftover I assume that’s what everyone must eat for the rest of the week. I also noticed all the wild dogs that are patiently waiting outside, looking hopeful.

We retire to the resort where we basically go into a food coma.

There’s still lots of day left and the sun is shining so once we’re able to move again we walk back over to the sheltered beach on the other side of the island and Ches brings some snorkel gear. We’re not the only people here this time which is a bummer but fine. Some yacht family has set up a whole thing on the beach with umbrellas, beach chairs, blankets, and cool bins included. They have a screaming kid that won’t stop saying “mama mama look mama mama watch!” So we walk as far from them as possible.

Finding a nice shady spot beneath a tree, we go to sit and settle in, but a swarm of wasps isn’t into it. At least 10 come buzzing down and it’s too late. Before we can grab our stuff, Chesney has been stung. That’s both a jellyfish and wasp now, if you’re keeping track. He’s also maybe sprained his thumb getting out of a boat, and gotten a wicked sunburn. We do everything together, but I have somehow come out unharmed except for the sunburn. To be fair my burn is worse. I’m starting to wonder if he’ll make it off the island alive.

Totally unfazed by the sting, he grabs his snorkel gear and goes straight to the jellyfish water. You won’t catch me in there anymore, thank you. I’ll hang here and write on the beach. He’s just obsessed with fish. An actual fish nerd. Not into fishing or whatever, just heavy into snorkeling. He’s out over the reef for at least an hour, and comes back so excited about all the fish he saw, describing them to me.

Later, once we’re back at the resort where we have wifi, he’s pulling up a Google list of pacific fish and showing me all the ones he’s seen. I didn’t know he was such a marine life enthusiast until now. I personally, am not, but some of the fish are pretty cool. The earth is weird.

Dinner rolls around and I’m still stuffed but what are we gonna do? Say no to our last fancy meal? Absolutely not.

We’re the last people in the resort for the whole season. We get some seemingly random pea and mint risotto which I low key think they found in the back of the fridge and were like, these pov kids won’t know the difference. Which is true. The only thing that gives it away is that it comes as one of the sides to TWO. GIANT. FISH. A whole fish each?! After a starter? And with sides? And dessert? After the lunch we had?????

Remember how two blogs ago I joked I’d lose 10kgs here? Hahahahahahahahaha. Cute.

They’re each a different colour of parrotfish which is funny because Chesney was just telling me about all the lovely parrotfish he saw swimming today. They taste amazing and super fresh.

Again, I dare Chesney to eat an eyeball and he won’t do it. Weak. Well that’s not entirely true (I have to say so cause I’ll ask him to proof read this), he says he’ll do it if I eat one too and while I WOULD, he’s eaten one before and doesn’t make it sound too delish. Another time, perhaps. Tonight I’m here to enjoy a nice meal, not ruin it with an eyeball.

What a wicked last day to spend on this island. We’re leaving in the morning and back to the backpacker life, but I really think we couldn’t have done any better with our time here!

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