Tonga: Passports and Royalty

We have been picking up some shells to bring home because Tonga has some rad shells, and they’re free souvenirs. One from yesterday keeps going missing. I found it in the corner of a shelf last night and thought maybe it had rolled away so I put it back with the group. When we found it on the floor this morning, half way across the room, we realized there’s a little guy livin’ in there.

With some hours to spare in the morning before our flight home, we go back to my favourite beach and bring our little hermit dude with us, to release him back into the wild. Imagine we’d brought him all the way to New Zealand? And he wouldn’t be able to communicate or make any crab friends there? Too sad to think about. img_2688

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We’re meeting up with the only other guy in our hostel, who happens to be on the same flight as us back to Auckland this afternoon. He’s an older British guy with a big camera and he’s very excited that the Royals are here. Yesterday he went to the tourist information centre to ask about what Harry and Meghan will be doing during their visit. They had no information and suggested he go to the royal office instead, which he tracked down by asking locals on the street when it wasn’t on his map. He arrived at the office and made his inquiry, was told to sit down and ended up waiting for 20 minutes (I’d have left by that point I think). Eventually, an officer came back with a 5-page photocopied version of the entire agenda. Like, full agenda.

Things like:
4:00 – depart from VIP lounge of Airport
4:20 – arrive at Villa
Princess welcomes Duke and Duchess
Refreshments to be served
5:15 – Princess, Duke, and Duchess depart from Villa to Consular House

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Not information for a regular civilian. It seems that the officer he spoke to either confused him for one of the media, or just isn’t very good at his job. Imagine he were a crazy stalker?! Or an assassin?!
Luckily he’s harmless, but very excited about it.

We’re spending our last morning at the beach, he’s spending it following the royal schedule. Right after we dropped him off in the centre this morning, the royal convoy came speeding past, and Chesney and I see them for a split second in the back of one of the 10 vehicles. Then, after leaving the beach, they drive past us again. If you couldn’t fathom how small Tongatapu is before, maybe that will put it in some perspective.
We decide not to tell our mate unless he also catches a glimpse of them today.

After the beach we drop our car back at the rental place. I have NEVER been so happy to sit in silence. That music video feature in the car only had about 15 songs on it and I think we listened to each of them at least 5 times. Maybe more. It’s all blurred together and I don’t think I’ll be able to listen to any of the songs ever again. It was an early 2000s playlist anyway so it’s probably for the best.

We meet up with our royal enthusiast and call our taxi to the airport. At the check-in desk I’m asked for proof of departure ticket from Auckland. I’m like noooo I live there? She keeps hitting a bunch of buttons but it always prompts her for the proof of return. Then it hits me. I’m using my UK passport…

I’m a dual citizen; born in Canada but Mom was born in England and I could get the passport relatively easily, which seemed like a grand idea pre-Brexit. It’s been great because it allowed me to live in Spain, but generally the Canadian passport is just as powerful and what I always use. The only reason I came as a UK citizen to Tonga, is because my Canadian passport was sitting in Wellington at the immigration office waiting a work visa extension. It was approved 3 days ago, which means I should be allowed to stay and work in New Zealand until December 2019.

I explain the situation and offer my Canadian passport number, email with letter of extension approval, and my current work permit. Two women at the desk start speaking in Tongan and walk off with both my phone and UK passport while I stand at the desk, confused. I’m told I have to pay 20 pa’anga for them to contact the immigration office in New Zealand and ask me if that’s okay. Like, YES that’s okay please call! You could have asked for 200 pa’angas and I’d have said yes.

I wait for a few minutes before I’m invited back to an office behind the desk, behind the checked luggage conveyor belt, and down a hallway. I am handed a phone with a New Zealand Immigration Officer on the other end. Somehow things have been misconstrued and he thinks I’ve lost my Canadian passport. I’m like homie nooooo you have my passport! He puts me on hold for some time and finally comes back and says I can get on the flight. Hallelujah. Was beginning to get a wee bit nervous.

From the waiting lounge we can see straight onto the tarmac, where there are lots of cameras and people dressed up in traditional Tongan attire. There’s a band, a woman dancing, and a line up of school children sitting on either side of a walkway leading up to a chartered plane.

I guess Harry and Meghan are leaving. Looking around the lounge I can see half the passengers look like they’re part of the media. They’re all carrying giant cameras and are flicking through royal photos on their laptops, or taking more photos out the window.

Our flight boards late, and then sits unmoving for another hour, after the pilot announces we can’t have the engines turned on when “such VIPs” are on the tarmac. Forget the children sitting on the floor, the dancer and her band…. because yes yes, the priiiiiince. Let’s delay the 500 people on this flight.

To be honest I’m not really that bothered, I’m in no hurry to get home, but it just makes me contemplate the whole concept of royalty. We’ve literally just decided these people are important. Not because we love their role in a movie or music (all of which I would also take issue being delayed for, to be fair) but just because they were born? We haven’t even elected them. I don’t get it.

We do make it home eventually, and start talking about were to go for our next trip! Nice to know we can travel together – didn’t want to kill each other even once.

Tonga was incredible and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to go on holiday without being surrounded by other tourists. You can swim with whales, drink, eat, and sleep for cheap, relax on beautiful secluded beaches, snorkel over incredible reef, and immerse yourself in a beautiful culture.

5 thoughts on “Tonga: Passports and Royalty

  1. can’t believe you were delayed bc of H & M – agree with your point that how ridiculous their needs supersede those of the 500 people on your plane! royalty is such an outdated construct.

  2. WOW Tonga sounds amazing. Crazy what you had to go through at the airport but at least you got on the plane *wink* Makes me want to go there, especially when you mentioned snorkeling. Yes please!

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