A Tongan journey
By Robin Fraser.
Whilst my time spent in the remarkable kingdom of Tonga was only seven days, the journey that it began is one that a timeframe cannot be placed upon. It’s tempting to pull out a thesaurus and to use every relevant word under the sun in order to try and sum up my thoughts. But even then, I find it hard to believe that words could do justice to my experience and the journey that has started. Nevertheless, attempt I will!
Upon meeting everyone at the airport it quickly became apparent that the week ahead would involve being surrounded by people who have warmth and love radiating out of them. When arriving at our home in the village of Kolonga, the same thought sprung back into my mind as the lovely family that was hosting us, affectionately embraced each and every one of us palangi kids as their own. Was this really my first time doing life with these people and my first visit to Kolonga, or was I returning to a home filled with loved ones unknowingly?
It was with this warmth and love that I witnessed our team partake in unfamiliar cultural practices, work hard on projects that would provide no direct benefit to themselves and learn how to do things in a different manner. I witnessed our hosts (newfound family more accurately) patiently share their traditions, teaching us how to do things the Tongan way and consistently provide us with the best of everything they could offer. There was not a single soul that didn’t leave behind differences, put their own needs last and do what was best for those around them. All the while forming strong and profound relationships.
On returning back to New Zealand, I unsettlingly noticed how much knowledge I lack about the different cultures that make up our beautiful multicultural nation. While I have always considered myself a person who shows respect to other cultures, is this enough? It shouldn’t take me leaving my own country to learn and take on board another cultures method of living and viewpoint. If I too wish to radiate love to all I meet, I need to be more than just respectful, I need to embrace and celebrate all cultures. If I too wish to serve others in the way I witnessed in Tonga, it needs to be in a manner that is meaningful to whom I am serving, celebrating them as a person in their culture of significance.