A Little More of Pangai Town

On our next day’s stroll we explore the other half of town. Turning right on the main drag instead of left leads us down South. There’s hardly anybody on the streets at around fife thirty in the afternoon, but today the reason for this is a different one. We pass a little shop at the side of the road and see it packed with people sitting on the floor and a bunch more clustered around the doors and windows. The Y chromosome is overrepresented and everybody stares at a small TV set on a milk crate in one corner of the room. Every now and then arms fling in the air and a collective roar emanates from the place. It’s Rugby night. “Tonga is playing whom?” we ask a pair of boys further down the road. “Tonga and Falenque”, is their response. Our persistent inquiry into where that mysterious Nation might be located is clearly in vain. “I don’t know!”, the taller of the boys repeats more and more anxious and the two finally accelerate their pace to escape the intellectual torture of our persistent questions.

We had hoped to attend a presentation of local dances at a church hall towards the end of the town. A group of four girls with braids of thick black hair is our next victim of forceful conversation in the foreign language of English. After our questions about the whereabouts of the location and the starting hour of the event are followed by intense consultations amongst themselves in Tongan. Every now and then they look at us and gesture down the street, angling their slender palms to the left and to the right with some not very convincing words of “yes” slipping over their tongues. We’re left on our own again and continue along more houses and big churches. It turned out that the dance night had fallen victim to the televised session of militant but tightly controlled patriotic fervor. The name of our adversary clearly does not matter, as long as he wears a jersey of different color.

A young girl is sweeping the roadside just ahead of us, while another plucks weeds in the adjacent garden. A gray haired lady shouts angry orders at them, probably to speed up their chores to get them done before the night falls. The grumpy shouting makes them duck their frolicking heads. When approaching her she directs her attention to the two intruders to her world and quickly adorns her face with a completely different attitude. A soft smile now emanates from between her bony cheeks and through a couple missing teeth she goes: “Hi, my name is Lorei and I don’t speak English very well!” It sounds like very properly regurgitated classroom English but the smile makes all but up for it. Her shoulder long hair is yellowish white, combed mushroom like over her tall skull. She sports a bathrobe that must have been white some times ago. Its little white embedded squares provide the dress with an erect stiffness that holds her frail bones in proper position. “Not at all, Miss”, I enter the round of proper human interaction, “your English is quite flawless!” “Bye now!”, she abruptly ends the conversation and treads away on her meager and flip-flop clad feet. She goes right back to barking at the girls, her face change completed and approved by her very human strain of acute self-awareness. How diligently skilled we are, no matter which place or walk of life we’re from, in making sure that each and everyone of our carefully nurtured pretensions are met with respect and dignity!

By now we have reached the southern end of town where it feathers out into yet another graveyard and side streets running off into the bush. The blood red sun has set behind a hazy muck of grey and dusk is spreading out it’s veil over a couple of flying foxes gliding back and forth between two tall palm trees with silhouettes of giant bats. A small house next to the hospital prides itself to have been the birthplace of King George Topou I, who was, according to a big-lettered sign in front of it, the founder and architect of modern Tonga. His present heir apparently has left the traditional palace in Nukualofa, the nation’s capital, and built himself a modern villa on a mountain close to the airport, while his previous incarnation borrowed a couple billion dollars from the national treasury to gamble on the stock market, with disastrous results, impoverishing an already anorexic economy to the point of collapse. So modern Tonga lives to a very great amount on aid money poured in from around the globe. New Zealand, Australia, the European Community and, of course, the mighty China all send their envoys here pretending to lend a hand, while their other one silently sets stakes of ownership in the shifting sands. The Chinese with their insatiable appetite for all kinds of weird delicacies are buying up sea cucumbers and exotic mollusks, and even the rare black coral, protected by international law, is ransacked by the locals, eager to make a couple desperately needed bucks to keep their families from falling off the gravy train of modernity. I’m not too sure if that’s what this royal architect of times past had in his undoubtedly noble mind. Maybe Reverend Baker’s slithery tongue had been whispering something into his also noble ear from over his shoulder as he was writing down the new law of the land.

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One Response to “A Little More of Pangai Town”

  1. Angela Zawadzki Says:

    Lo sospechaba pero no me imaginaba que los chinos estuvieran arrasando hasta tal punto con los productos naturales de esa esa nación. No me extraña. Esto se está poniendo peliagudo. hay que recordar, sin embargo que la gente empieza a hacer algo cuando ya no puede más. .Por fin se ven las reacciones de verdad de este lado…la gente ya no puede más.Newy york, oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, ¡se está poniendo muy buena la cosa!
    Un beso,
    Angela

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