After our things were loaded onto the boat, everyone walked to the edge of the wharf and formed two lines. Then, weeping, we made our way down the lines of people for a goodbye fe'ilo'aki and 'uma (hug and cheek kiss) with every single person on the wharf. As we stepped, tear soaked, onto the boat, the village waved and softly sang a hymn of farewell as we sailed away. It was an unbelievable send-off, absolutely unlike any goodbye we have ever experienced.
I was again moved to tears as we rounded the bend, and all of my old students from the school at Matamaka were standing at the edge of the sea, singing and waving goodbye with palm branches.
Later that day, another PC volunteer remarked how different it must have felt saying goodbye to an island, and literally sailing away from everything and everyone we knew so well in one place, disappearing in the distance. When we said goodbye in the States before we came to Peace Corps, it was a very gradual farewell. It happened in stages, as we said separate goodbyes to people at work, church, family, and friends. Never in our lives had we experienced such an overwhelmingly emotional, totally communal goodbye. So hard, so wonderful, so fitting, and so Tongan.