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

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Wow!!!!! So what are you guys going to try out High Jump?, Running? ;)