Odd Customs - Tonga

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Tonga  , Tongatapu,
Friday, October 19, 2012

 I'm beginning to feel as though I belong on the sea. Like traveling by train, a ship has that perpetual-motion feel to it. Then we dock somewhere and the wonderful movement stops. After six days of being on the ocean, all my fellow passengers seem anxious for dry land. I'm the opposite. I've never been so calm in my life as I stand staring at the mesmerizing waves and get jittery at the thought of solid ground. Soon this journey will be over and I can feel a big pit developing in my stomach. Elenka says she likes being on the sea as well. But I can see it in her eyes, it's not the same.

Speaking of movement, as Elenka and I tucked into our breakfast this morning we weren't able fend off the conversation that was going on at the table behind us between a couple and an 82 year-old single white male. For five full minutes the three talked about the effects of bran, versus stewed prunes, versus prune juice. The woman finally explained that the best solution was lots of water. “It's like pouring a bucket of water down a bunged toilet,” she said. “Clear ya right out.” By the time we finished, the SWM, who is a still practicing California lawyer, moved on to his preferences in the opposite sex. He told the couple, who may have been older than him, that he'd given up on 30 year-old's and had now found pre-pubescent 13 year-old's more to his liking. After some hearty guffaws the other male started telling young-girl jokes. Elenka wasn't able to finish her fruit salad.

The people in the town of Nuku' Alofa on the island of Tongatapu, in Tonga are quite different than the Samoans to the north. While the Samoans are large, rather pudgy, and not so friendly, the Tongans are large, not at all pudgy, but very friendly. As Elenka and I walked the streets of the small Tongan town we began to feel exhausted from all the smiling and hellos. At one point, three tall guys dressed as women shouted greetings from across the street. Then it happened again. When we got to our destination, the local dive shop, we asked the Dutch Divemaster about the openness. She told us that homosexuality is heavily frowned upon in Tonga. But that gay men can get around the ostracization by dressing in women's clothes. She said that provided they conform to the dress-code they are treated as equals.

I'm not sure which is more odd: Burying your loved ones on the front lawn, as the Samoans do, making some boys dress like girls, or traveling on a boat and being able to say and do whatever the hell you like without impunity. I'm not going to think much more about it. After all, I've got my sea.
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