Thursday, March 14, 2013


Yesterday I was sitting in my loving room, attempting to prepare lessons for school the next day. It was lunch break, and two girls, one 5 and one 6, we're sitting in my doorway. Because they weren't annoying me, but rather, we're talking in hushed tones and only occasionally staring, I allowed them to stay in my doorway.

One of them, the 6 year old (whose name is Mateaki and whom I often consider my very best friend on this island, seriously), kept saying in her very high and almost unreal sweet and sugary voice, "Faka ofa", which translates to "how sad" , or maybe more closely to, "have pity" or "how pitiful".

[An aside: As I mentioned, Mateaki has this high, sweet voice. It is really just darling, especially when mixed with her tiny frame and long braids. She is adorable. But, after the first few weeks we lived here, I started to notice that around me, her voice got even sweeter and higher. Sweet and high to epic proportions that started to annoy the ear at times. In fact, I noticed that all the girls (ranging in age from 3-25) said my name in a very high, sing-song fashion that really started to grate on my nerves....."Liiiiiiiii-siiiiiiii", they would sing, and it was just like nails on a chalkboard. One day as I wandered around contemplating this annoying phenomenon, I shouted a greeting to a Tongan friend, and it clicked. It seems that, when I talk in Tongan, if possible, my voice (which is already sweet and high to unsatisfactory proportions) gets sweeter and higher! I am making a strong effort currently, but I found the whole thing quite funny.]

"Faka ofa", she would say, while shaking her head sadly. She kept repeating it and shaking her head, leaning towards her friend who nodded her agreement. They looked like two old ladies, just sitting there on the porch, utterly disapproving of something. Finally, I had to ask, "what's so sad, who are you taking about?".

Mateaki pitifully smiled at me, all the while shaking her head, and said, "koe. Oku ke nofo tokotaha. Faka ofa". (you. You stay here all by yourself.). It's hard to explain...but Tongans, apparently young and old, male and female alike, are very concerned anytime I am by myself. I am constantly asked where Mark is, and if I am "tokotaha"- walking tokotaha, staying tokotaha, etc. And then there's just this ebb and flow to Tongan language, that makes this story so hilarious, the delivery of her words, and the tone they were delivered in...just priceless.

Oh, it doesn't translate well, but I got such a kick out of it. I laughed and laughed and then told them all the gossip I knew, because, 6 year old girls are the most patient with barely proficient Tongan speakers.


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