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Sunday, December 9, 2012


The green is still that new, "spring" green, even under the
trunk of a fallen tree. 
It is spring here in Tonga.  The grass is that bright shade of “new green”, and the crops are maturing at an incredible rate.  We have green mangoes – so called because they never really turn pink – and golden pineapples once again.  And I’m already salivating because the avocadoes are coming on the trees.

Outcroppings like these can be over very shallow or very deep water,
and the beach is very different at high or low tide.
We enjoyed exploring to a new place the other day, and watched a Tongan family play in the water at a beach that was only about 40 feet across, framed by coral outcroppings.  The parents and five children (ranging in age from about 16 to 3)  jumped into the water, raced the waves up and down the beach, swam through the surf, and tried (and succeeded) to catch a few sea creatures.  One boy caught a  creature of some kind – it had a shell, but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.  He was quite excited to put it on the wet sand, watch the creature flop toward the water, then grab it again and move it back up on the shore.  He finally wrapped the creature in some aluminum foil, and took it home with him when the family left.  The crustacean will probably become part of the family’s dinner tonight.

The most fascinating moment when the youngest daughter, about 8 or 9, finally freed a crab from an abandoned net the family had dragged out of the water.  She took it over to her 16-year old brother, who talked to her about it for a few minutes. Then she handed him the crab, which surprised me, because she had not let any of her other brothers take the crab.  But she willingly handed the crab over to her oldest brother, and he in turn lobbed the crab back into the water.  Then the family began gathering together, and decided it was time to go home.  Within minutes the beach was quiet, as the last of the family waved goodbye to us.  The rest had already disappeared into the mangroves.

I was fascinated with the conversation and the actions of these two siblings, because they demonstrated to me a change in traditional family dynamics here in Tonga.  Most of the time authority rules here; fathers are feared more than loved, older siblings get their way at the cost of the tender feelings of younger siblings.  But not this time.  This older brother chose to teach his sister about this crab.  Perhaps he explained that it was not edible, or that it was too small.  In any case, her accomplishments and tender feelings were honored, and she in turn honored his greater knowledge, and allowed him to rescue the crab and return it to its saltwater home.  And both she and her brother were happy.  It was like watching a bit of “new green” in family relations here. 

We sat under a mangrove tree like this one.  
What a lesson.  It was an honor to watch this family enjoy each other’s company today, parents and siblings taking turns helping the little three-year old get used to the strong surf, younger brothers and sisters cartwheeling and flopping in the sand, and the older ones jumping into the water from the outcroppings.  Jim and I were blessed to be witnesses as this family shared a simple yet profound expression of love and joy in each other’s company.  As the season of spring continues, it is wondrous to watch the growth in the people of this tiny island.  

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