Monday, November 23, 2009

Familiar Sounds

The noises of Tonga here in Ha'apai have become familiar to us. We sleep in later, not being awoken anymore by the ever-crowing roosters, grunting pigs, and many loud dog fights. Around 6:00am or so the neighbor kids spill out of their house, yelling, crying, singing songs, banging on any piece of metal they find. We used to yell "quiet!" at them through the louvre windows, but now just roll over and fall back asleep. We also hear our sima vai gushing out water in the early morning hours just outside the bedroom window, everyone on our housing compound uses our sima vai tank for drinking water because it's the cleanest. On Sunday mornings we hear church bells quietly in the distance, and the rythmic deep resonating sound of the Church of Tonga wooden drums, all calling people to the morning church services. Soon afterwards, we can hear the church choirs and congregations singing, all accapella. Some of the tunes are familiar from English church songs, but all the words are sung in Tongan. At church, the ministers shout out their sermons to the congregations. Every other morning instead of church music we hear the neighbor's radio blaring out traditional Tongan songs, old American songs, Christmas music sometimes mixed with odd songs like rap or the Macarena, or news mostly in Tongan (with about 10 minutes a day of English news). And so our day begins.

Walking through town during the day we often hear kids yelling "Nio, Nio!" (Brett's Tongan name), many of the local kids know him from school. Once in awhile someone will yell out my name, usually we don't know who all the people are that are calling out to us, they know us because we're the foreigners in town. Sometimes we'll still get Tongans yelling out "palangi!" (white person), and Brett will respond back "Tongan, Tongan"! Kids will also yell "Bye!" as we walk by - not understanding that it's not correct in English to just say bye as people pass by. We'll usually respond with something in Tongan if they do this. As we walk down the middle of the roads, we can hear cars approaching from far off and move to one side of the road. We also usually notice the sound of the plane coming in once or twice a day. If the DVD store is open near our house, they always blare really loud music to make sure people know that they are open. In fact, at any local events the music is always at the loudest possible level.

During the afternoons and evenings the sounds in our house are Brett playing his guitar, he's learned many new songs since being here. The oldest neighbor boy is trying to learn guitar now too. We'll often have lots of kids and dogs running through our house in the afternoons, so lots of noise again. Sometimes we'll shut the door to keep them all out, and play music or movies on the computer. Even then there are still little noises inside the house - the little mokos (geckos) that live inside on the ceiling and walls make little chirping noises, almost like a bird. One of my favorite sounds here are the waves breaking on the beach onto all the loose shells and coral peices, kind of a swishing noise as the waves pull the shells back and forth. From our beach we also hear the Pulapaki twice a week, the only ferry boat now that brings all the supplies to us here in Ha'apai. We can hear the engines of the boat coming into the wharf from our house. Later in the evenings we hear a steady, low voice calling out "ma...ma...ma", calling the pigs to come and eat. Every Tongan calls his pigs this way, every pig knows it's owner's voice and comes to that sound to eat the coconuts that are being cut open.

At night things quiet down. We hear the waves crashing louder now on the beach. And anytime anyone tries to approach the property we hear all the dogs going crazy, barking outside. The barking goes in a line, passed from dog to dog up and down the street. Some nights we hear the men at the kava club singing, just in front of our house a few hundred yards. Once in awhile they have a couple of guitars as well. Other nights we can hear one of the church choirs practicing, singing in unison perfectly, almost fooling me into thinking it's the radio. I can never pick out what they're singing, but it's always pretty. Tomorrow night one of the church schools is having a candle light singing procession of Christmas carols. And now as I finish this post, I can hear a church choir practicing somewhere off in the distance, and echoes of dogs barking up and down the street.

2 comments:

Pablo (yo) said...

Great blog!!!
If you like, come back and visit mine: http://albumdeestampillas.blogspot.com

Thanks,
Pablo from Argentina

myrab said...

I enjoy your blog and look often. I'm Stan's mom (Group 73). Now that Steve has left I plan to count on you two for Tonga updates! Peace. Myra