Sunday, May 31, 2009

Parliament Day: Parades, Pomp and Ceremony

May 28, 2009 celebrated the opening day of Parliament, a blend of British pomp and ceremony with Tongan traditions. Status and rank were highly evident and but there was much laughter and humor too. Ambassadors were there in all their finery, including Japan, China, New Zealand, and Australia. Judges in their wigs and long robes walked in a stately manner into the building. There were cannon salutes prior to the arrival of the Princess and last of all King George Tupou V. Neither acknowledged the crowds of people, however. This tiny South Pacific nation is the last kingdom of the Polynesians to have a monarchy.

Boom dah dee rat-a-tat-tat echoed  throughout the  Liahona campus where we live! Ten hours a day of drums and brass practicing, practicing, practicing for weeks to prepare for opening ceremonies of Parliament Day in Tonga.  Sectionals practiced under the breadfruit tree, on the streets, the grass, or in the band room with open doors and windows.    Then, the entire student body of over 1000 students and teachers marched behind the band around the square preparing for the parade. 003007 Our friends, Semiti and Sera Leqakowailutu,  march along with the students.  Sera is an English teacher here, and Semiti is a retired teacher working in the temple.  This is their last year at Liahona before returning to their home in New Zealand.  We're blessed to have them as friends.Sera Semiti There were banners, pompom girls, twirlers with batons made from white enamel curtain rods, flag twirlers, and all the students marching in sets of boys and girls.    Havelu girls practice with plastic pipes and sticks:112 Ahopame, a teacher at Havelu Middle School, instructs students on their marching technique:Ahopame' instructs boys at Havelu Middle School120It all paid off when LDS schools of Liahona High and Middle Schools, Havelu Middle School, and Pakilau Middle School with over 1800 students and teachers displayed the joy of music and dancing for the big parade in downtown Nuku’alofa.   We were so proud of the kids in our schools as they followed the Liahona Band along the parade route.100 Numerous Nuku'alofa police were wearing their ceremonial uniforms"008 The Parliament Building was festively decorated in fresh greenery and flowers:The Parliament BuildingInside the Parliament Building:  (King's chair hadn't arrived.)Inside Parliament Pacific Area Authority Seventy Sione Fineangnofo visits with Elder and Sister Hawley.  He is there to represent the LDS Church.Area Authority Seventy Sione Fineanganofo visits with Elder and Sister Hawley Scouts will prepare to stand at attention when the parade begins:032  Nuku'alofa Navy and other military lead the parade:Nuku'alofa Navy058 Japanese ambassador stands at attention while his country's national anthem is played:Japanese ambassador stands at attention while his national anthem was played New Zealand Ambassador smiles warm greetings:New Zealand Ambassador A judge enters the building:A Supreme Court Judge Students and bands from across the island parade through the streets past the Parliament Building and the palace:075 077 085 The princess enters quickly:091 After donning his crown, so does King George Tupou V:Puts on his crown 107  The Prime Minister of  Tonga enjoys the parade:Prime Minister 149  We were all standing directly across the street from where the nobles were seated in front of the Parliament Building when I was surprised to see Mele Funaki seated there under the canopy. She beckoned me to come and sit next to her. I turned to look for Elder Hawley but he had gone to sit on the steps of the gazebo for a minute--we had been standing for several hours. I felt hesitant at first but couldn’t resist such an invitation. After letting the Sings know, I crossed the street to join her. Mele is a bright and wonderful English teacher at Pakilau. Until then, I hadn’t realized that her husband is the Minister of Tourism for Tonga, Fineasi Funaki.  Needless to say, I enjoyed my time there. (Mele is seated next to the empty chair where I sat during part of the parade.)153163 Miliary--Royal Guard Teachers join students in the parade:239Vika Kaufusi is the Liahona Middle School principal and what a delight she is!  So many of the schools were led by laughing and dancing “cheerleaders”--teachers and parents. Often spectators would join in as they came by. Vika Vika and Makelita Satini (librarian) are magical when they dance and they exhibit such joy and beauty.   My cheekbones ached from smiling and laughing so much.  Elder Hawley and I are blessed to serve the Lord here with such a beautiful people.208Liahona drummers displayed fantastic skills as they tossed drumsticks back and forth and played each others drums without missing a beat.  With such talent they wowed the crowd.212

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Intercollegiate National Games and a Princess

Welcome to the three-day Tongan National Intercollegiate Games held in the Nuku'alofa stadium each April.  It is an entertaining world of Harry Potter with all the various houses--colleges, high schools, and middle schools--throughout the Tongan islands competing in the track and field events as well as cheering competitions among the schools.   As guests, we missionary couples arrived early to avoid the heavy traffic and crowds.  003 Tongan culture is founded on rank and has a three-tiered class system:  1. royalty 2.nobles 3. commoners. A special Tongan language is spoken only to the King, another spoken to all other royals and nobles, and the regular Tongan language spoken among commoners. This area is prepared for the king and his family.Preparing the Inter-collegiate National games for royalty002Tonga's Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita arrives for the games.  There are definite rules to follow here. I guess we can be excused because we are Palangi’s. 008Let the games begin!018

020 111A missionary gathering at the games:  It seems the young elders earned a free day because during their home inspections they all earned a "Celestial House of Order" reward. Elder Karrati (sp.) in the middle top is from Pleasant Grove not far from Britt's neighborhood,  and the elder left of him is from Spanish Fork.A missionary gathering at the Nuku'alofa gamesOf course the young elder missionaries are never without purse and script Tongan style:Elder's Scripture BagThe athletes work hard to get here and many of them do not have shoes or socks for the competitions.   But it is a big deal! Two of the winners from each event will have the opportunity to represent Tonga in the Olympics.  During the opening ceremony the teams march  around the track.054 061 014030031The CES (Church Education System) Saineha High School students from the island of Vava'u  were impressive competitors!  Sister Heimuli said that during practice the trainer gives their athletes a bit of honey in the palms of their hands to eat just before they run. It gives them energy. Then, too, the different departments in school take turns feeding the athletes a good lunch daily a month before the big competition. 039 The Pain of an Athlete:  Liahona students did well, too.  For the past month the athletes have gotten up at 4 A.M. to train, and the student  wards asked for donations to help feed them. It’s difficult, grueling work considering they don’t train all year. Ola Vaitai, Liahona PE teacher and our bishop’s wife,  said the kids suffered during training but persisted. She shared with the athletes that she saw their pain but it was nothing compared to our Savior’s pain. She taught them the power of the Atonement, that He wants us all to win and we must never give up. One young athlete in  our ward said, “The pain of running in the sun was not like the pain our Savior suffered for us.” They are a simple beautiful people and spirituality is prominent in their lives.042 051 061

048Before competing,  these Liahona athletes bow in respect to the Princess: Liahona kids bow to the Princess before competitions081114082Tongans cover their heads with anything including tree branches to keep their heads out of the sun:083 Food for the judges:091099 Check out the strength in those arms:100 Medals are awarded:102Liahona high school band members prepare to lead the parade of athletes in the closing ceremonies:  We were so proud of them!  136 161