Well - we did not sail as planned. The window for departure closed, with south east winds making a southerly passage potentially unpleasant. This has allowed us to get to know some of the locals better and to do a bit more exploring on the island. We found a lovely small country road that runs along the slopes of the volcanic ridge, which dominates the center of the island. The road serves small plantations where taro is planted under the partial shade of banana palms. We exchanged greetings with an old man on a horse with his grandson riding behind him and a bag of firewood slung across in front.
We have learned a few words of Tongan - hi, how are you?, fine thank you, yes, no, 1,2,3,4... Rani as usual is the linguist and has made several friends on the island. We are often greeted by children as we walk through the villages - Rani gets a big hug from one little girl, who she says reminds her of herself when she was a child in India. This is the first place where we felt it appropriate to donate some older clothes, which were distributed around the island by one of the nurses. We also delivered stationary supplies to the primary school in our village and had a nice conversation with the principal. She was weaving a lovely pandanus taovala (apron), decorated with shells and seeds, while she taught 4 grade levels - true multi-tasking!
Yesterday we had a triple feature - the third anniversary of the 2009 tsunami, an inter-village rugby tournament, and arrival of the supply ship from the capital in Tongatapu. The government official in charge of constructing 73 houses to replace those lost in the tsunami gave a speech. This was followed by blessings and readings from the heads of two churches. Then the rugby matches began with second string teams followed by first string ones from each of the three villages. 'Our' village won the tournament, beating the much larger village of Hihifo. I played 'rugby' in the field beside the game field with some of the smaller boys as well as Elder Jenkins, a young Mormon missionary who has been in Tonga for 15 months. The boys had great fun playing with Palangis, as we are called here.
When the supply ship arrives everything stops and people from all the villages arrive at the wharf near which we are anchored. They pick up cardboard boxes and bundles - supplies sent by their extended families from the big city. Fuel barrels were filled on the wharf with diesel and gasolene, and dozens of propane tanks were delivered to the families who use these for cooking. A half dozen giant plastic cisterns were rolled of the ship and loaded on small flat-bed trucks - presumably the last cisterns needed to complete the post-tsunami construction. In addition 2 of the 6 small fishing boats sent by the government to replace those lost in the tsunami were lifted by crane onto the back of other trucks.
But the big event, for us anyway, was the unloading of the ice cream. We placed our order and after a couple of hours, we and a few other families who could afford the 10 paanga (6 dollars) were rewarded with square 1/2 gallon tubs of 'Meiraku' vanilla ice cream. Not having a freezer, we hurried out to visit our friends on 'Picara' where we quickly downed two bowls each, accompanied by red wine. Not the most balanced meal - but a real treat after a hot and sweaty day.