The Princess and The Feast

For many Tongans, life revolves around the Church. And when the biggest Church in Tonga has its annual conference, it’s a BIG event. For the past two weeks, the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga has been meeting in the Capital City of Nuku’alofa. The Church is a sister of the the United Methodist Church and its conference is International due to the large number of Tongans who live in New Zealand, Australia and the United States (Mostly in California.).

However, this annual conference is NOTHING like the annual conferences I used to attend as a child when my father was an active Methodist Minister. This Church conference is really a huge feast. Not just one feast, but four feasts a day for two weeks. The first feast starts early in the morning, followed by a mid-day feast, a late afternoon feast and a supper feast at night. There are thousands of people at each feast and there is no way anyone will leave hungry. In fact, most people take food home with them. This is just one of probably 50 tables this size covered in food. The food is stacked in layers on the table and it is some of the best food you can get. Depending on the day, you will find Lobster, Crab, Octopus (my new favorite Tongan food) and always full pigs spread out snout to tail.
Once the first group of guests finishes, more Tongans will sit down to eat the leftovers.

Wednesday, Tonga Princess Pilolevu attended the conference, sitting at the head table being fanned by two young girls to keep her cool.
I took this photo from a respectful distance. While there were no security guards or fences to keep people away from the Princess, Tonga is a very respectful society and no one would approach the head table unless invited.

After the feast, I walked around with my friends Craig and Sione, taking photos and playing with the kids.

I was in Nuku’alofa on Wednesday to meet with someone from the US Embassy in Fiji who was visiting Tonga. I had to sign some papers to get my Peace Corps passport replaced. It was stolen from the (Not So) Friendly Islander Hotel the last time I was in Nuku’alofa along with many other personal articles. The passport is the last item I need to get replaced. I have now received the replacements for my other stolen items and a check is on the way from my insurance company to reimburse me.

Special thanks to my parents who shipped me all the replacement items and also to the staff at Peace Corps Tonga who helped navigate the package through Tongan Customs and then get it to me in Vava'u.

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