Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tongans (1)

One of the main reasons why Tongan men seem so laid back: kava!
Climbing up to get a coconut. The young men are wearing their school uniform: a white polo shirt and a black sarong. The building behind them is the Dateline Hotel. Don't stay there.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tongans (2)

At the ice cream store on main street.

The only Tongans I saw laughing are the school children. In their beautiful uniforms, they are flowers in a bleak landscape.

I wish I had taken many more pictures in Tongatapu, so I could tell you many more stories. If you go there yourself, be prepared that you are going to a Third World country. All of the other islands I saw, Tahiti and her sister islands, the Marquesas, the Cooks, and Niue, they are all more beautiful, cleaner, more able to provide decent accommodations for tourists. Tonga has issues that run deep in the locals populations' psyche.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tongan Markets (3)

They are headed to the flea market whose wares looked suspicously like the clothing we discard in containers over here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tongan Markets (2)

Downtown Nuku'alofa has a covered market building where the women sell produce and crafts.Clothing is often traditional: black because there is always a time of mourning for a dead relative if you have a large extended family. On top of a black tofenu (sarong), a mat is worn (ta'ovala) which is held in place by a rope (kafa). the mats are woven with pandanu leaves. Younger people like surfing shorts, jeans, polo and t-shirts.
She sells taro root which grows huge on Tongatapu.

Inside the market hall, an entire corner is dedicated to craft sellers who are usually the producers as well. Tongan women do excellent work weaving pandanus leaves, producing and painting tapa.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tongan Markets (1)

Tonga's main island Tongatapu is dotted with small stores run by Chinese immigrants who are deeply resented by the local population. The Chinese were sold Tongan passports - one of those numerous Tongan government schemes to make money in a bankrupt country. The Chinese protect themselves by putting iron bars at the front of the store. When I bought a soda there, I was always served by one of the teenage children of the store owner who interrupted her/his studies to serve me.Fish sold right off the boat.
These ladies are trying to make a buck at one of the are tourist spots. If you wonder about their sweaters: it is winter in Tongatapu and the breeze from the ocean is fresh.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tongan Cemeteries

Tongans have extensive ceremonies centered around death. Their cemeteries are among the brightest spots in a morose society.

We happened to pass a funeral at night. It was an elaborate affair which looked to me like a subdued beer tent festivity, there were so many guests, tables and food. A small open tent with palm leaf walls and floor was reserved for the older relatives of the dear departed. They sat there quietly in their black clothing topped with palm leaf skirts.

The royal family's cemetery is built in the European tradition: a grassy expanse, stone monuments, real flowers, none of that tacky plastic good enough for the clod hoppers from the hinterland bush. (I gleaned that attitude of superiority from a Tongan message board.) Note that it is fenced in. The nice small churches also had fenced in yards. It took me a few days to figure out why.


Scenes from Thanksgiving
Wild turkeys in our front yard

Man, you are lost!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tongan Beach

FaFa is a tiny beach resort in the bay adjacent to Tonga's capital Nuku Alofa.
As you may notice in the following days, I have very mixed feelings about Tonga.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Big Jump to the South Pacific

Our resort put on a show where its employees danced. The fire dancer is from neighboring Fiji.
This group danced at one of the other hotels. Notice the tapa cloth behind the stage.Tongans don't do any of the wild gyrating hip movements seen in Tahiti, at least we never saw any of it.
It's a tradition to stick paper money on the female dancer's bodies. It seemed very tacky to me.

Ten Steps from Our Home

The view our neighbors across the street enjoy. The dam seems to hold back the water in the retention pond. Since there is a wetlands on the other side of the dam, plants have started to colonize the retentions pond's edges.

The proper Floridian term for a wetlands area which changes from dry to wet depending on rainfall is 'prairie.'

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Laundry Room

Our tropical posters: Marquesas Islands to the left, generic jungle to the right.The mirror got a silver spray job to match the other frames and fixtures. Watch out: spray painting is addictive. :-) There is great beer in Tahiti: Hinano (which means 'flower').

Friday, May 15, 2009

At the Entrance to Legacy

We are lucky to have this Spanish-Floridian stye commercial building at the entrance to Legacy. It could have been a metal shack like at some other places.The parking lot has large magnolias and palms, but the detail work is still missing.
The first tenant is an Allstate insurance broker.
The second tenant will be a seafood-steak restaurant and cafe. We are all very curious how it turns out to be. A nice cafe with outdoor seating would be cool during the mild weather which turns out to be in fall, winter, and spring.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The lanai is our favorite living room.
The planter has a small pond and a tropical theme with Alpine and Arizona touches.
Arrowhead arum and yellow canna in the pond.
Persian shield at the bottom is supposed to grow hip high.
One day, the planter outside the screen will be filled with butterfly attracting flowers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Before and After

Same view, the reference point is one large live oak that was not chopped down
December 2004, before construction
April 2007, after construction

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009


A month later, the gaillardia blooms its head off and produces seeds.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Last year's gaillardia = blanket flower produced sterile seed (what kind was that anyway?) and only one of the sprawling plants came back. I like this replacement. The Meyer lemon tree bit the dust. Only the wild growth beneath the graft came back with a vengeance. The new guy on the block is still tiny: a sambokan lemon.Our Chinese fan palm was successfully set on its way to plant heaven by "you know who you are." I managed to finish it off. Now, its spot is graced by a calamondin orange which grows as a bush and is supposed to survive temperature drops if we believe one book or will die if we believe another book. Calamondins become marmalade.
Calamondin oranges are more sour than lemons. I was secretly declared insane by the nursery owner who ordered the plant for me. Secretly because she is a Southerner who would never ever make impolite remarks to anybody's face.