Tongablog

Join our adventure in The Kingdom of Tonga

the bike, the beach, and all of the travelers…

I decided that I had to share the latest drama here in Ha’apai.  If you are wondering as to the location of our internet access here, we are able to tap into the world wide web courtesy of the Peace Corps office.  The space is about the size of a walk-in closet, but there is a computer and stacks of books and movies for our enjoyment.  As you can imagine, I spend a fair amount of time at the office.  Usually I just park my bike in the grass a few feet away, and occupy my time catching up on emails, contacting literary agents, and blithely searching myspace, perezhilton, and msnbc.  You can imagine my utter shock last week when I stepped out of the office to find out that my bike had vanished.  At first, I thought that there surely must have been a mistake.  Yet my dismay was shortly replaced with anger when I accepted the fact that someone had stolen my bike.  By the time I returned home, I was fuming.  Scot and I promptly stormed over to the police station, where I filled a report.  Let me tell you, Ha’apai’s finest were on the job in no time.  Lets just say that there isn’t a whole lot of excitement on our sleepy little island.  The case of the stolen bike was big news, and roused the officers into full-on police mode.  Within moments, they had hit the streets to find the missing bike.  A late night stake out mission was planned for the wharf that evening, because a boat just so happened to be scheduled to leave Ha’apai that night.  We left the police station still dejected, but somewhat encouraged that maybe justice would be served.

We wandered down main street Pangai, and about two minutes later, a girl who appeared about thirteen years old rode by us.  She sat on a bike that looked identical to mine, with her braids blowing in the wind.  Scot and I looked at one another with astonishment, and I quickly yelled out, “Tuku ta’ahine,” or “Stop, girl!”  Yet she did not stop, and seemed to peddle off into the distance even faster.  I then broke out into a furious sprint, in an effort to stop her.  The chase continued for about five minutes, but I was no match to the girl with the wheels.  We decided to walk over to our friend Phil’s house (in the next village over) to share my woes.  As expected, Phil was both angry and sympathetic about the situation.  I tried to forget about the mysterious girl on the bike, and convinced myself that perhaps it didn’t look all that much like mine.  Yet as we walked home, we spotted the girl again.  This time, she was stopped by a group of police officers.  They even had out the fire truck, to scout the streets for the bike.  We joined the commotion, and saw that it was definitely, 100% my bike.  Although in the hour or so that it had been missing, it had already been disfigured.  In an attempt to camouflague it, the red basket on the front had been torn off, as well as the handle bar cushions.  Several tire spokes were broken out, possibly caused from putting her foot on the wheel to pull off the basket. 

First off, I could not believe that a thirteen year old girl with braids was the thief.  Secondly, the fact that she managed to trash the bike absolutely stunned me.  I expected the girl to humbly apologize, but no.  She looked me straight in the eyes, and made up an elaborate lie about how she had borrowed the bike for five minutes, and was on her way to return it.  The story infuriated me.  It is true that Tonga has a very different perception of “personal property.”  Many items are simply considered communal.  Yet the fact was I had already chased the girl down the street yelling “stop,” and she sped off into the distance.  And if she truly intended to return it– why dismantle it?!  The motive of it all baffled me as well.  I could understand it if I happened to have the one bike in all of Ha’apai, and she couldn’t control her envy.  But bikes are everywhere here.  They are a central mode of transportation.  It was all just too much to fathom, and right there in the street– I burst in to tears.  Which now I realize was a very “faka Tonga” (or Tongan like) reaction.  Tongans are notorious criers.  As the tears spilled out, I told the girl that I was so sad that she stole the bike, and lied, and that I had come to Tonga to help children, and I was very, very sad.  She just listened and nodded, while looking down at her feet.

The police made her parents pay to have the bike fixed, and I got it back today.  I really appreciated their help with the matter, and honestly hope that the girl learned her lesson.  The whole ordeal left me a little drained, and longing for the beach.  So we spent the weekend relaxing in the sun, swimming, and snorkeling.  It was heavenly.  Our friend Phil caught three fish spear-fishing, and we ate the freshest sushi on earth. 

Despite being such an “off the beaten path” travel destination, Ha’apai has had a fair share of travelers passing through our island.  This week, we hung out with travelers from Australia, Germany, Canada, and France.  Politics is the main item of discussion, and we always spend the first few minutes of the conversation reviewing the fact that Scot and I are Americans— but we didn’t vote for Bush and we are against the war.  Once that is established, only then can the conversation flow!  It’s nice to have some perspective on global opinions of our government and the upcoming election.  Even here in Tonga, all eyes are on the Presidential Primaries!

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1 Comment»

  John V wrote @

Hey guys!

Had a great time talking politics and hearing about all things Peace Corps on Uoleva and Lifuka with you guys! I really loved Tonga, despite the lack of amenities, and am so glad you have this blog so that I can keep in touch and hear all the latest! I’ve been watching season four of Lost since returning to Canada yesterday, and am feeling so sorry that you guys are limping along so slowly through season 3.

John


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