The second assignment for the same class:
The audience I hope to reach with my project is anyone unfamiliar with and curious about the culture of Tonga. This will probably include friends and family, but also people I don’t know very well who want to know what living in a place like Tonga is like. Some of this audience has never even heard of Tonga, some of them are Tongan themselves, and some may not really care about Tonga, they just feel like they should know what’s going on in my life.
Tonga is a small island group in the South Pacific, northeast of New Zealand, east of Fiji, and south of Samoa. Vava‘u, the island I stayed on, is a forty-minute plane ride north of the main island, Tongatapu. It is twelve kilometers at its broadest length and is dotted with small villages and farmland. It is a developing country, which meant that we did not have wifi, we showered with a bucket of water, and the roads were filled with potholes. I lived with a young family of six. The oldest girl was six years old, and the three boys were five, four, and two. Most of our days were spent volunteering at primary, kindergarten, and high schools to teach English, finding and making food, interviewing, learning from our host mom, and attending dances.
I want my audience to understand what life is like beyond what we are accustomed to here in western America. There are so many people who do not have what we have; it is difficult to keep this in perspective, but allow me to reiterate it throughout this paper and the ones I write in the future.
Another thing that has been impressed upon me after this trip is the importance of going abroad, something I want my audience to recognize. Keep in mind that I am not referring to going abroad for a two-week vacation—that can never be enough. To be completely immersed in the local people and their culture is something of eye-opening nature. The challenges I had in Tonga were so drastically different from the ones I experience here. In Tonga I worried about my next meal or dancing too many times with one boy. In Provo I worry about whether I’m wearing the right sweater, or if the paper due tomorrow will impress my teacher enough to scrape an A. Entertainment there was rugby or a handful of rocks, not bowling or Netflix. And all the time I was thinking, they have no idea. They have no idea what my life is like back home, or all of the other things and possibilities in the world. And I am lucky to be traveling and discovering what life is like in a different part of the world.
Finally, I hope to convince my audience of the resourcefulness of the Tongan people with regards to their plant use. Initially I believed that the people there were very clever: they used all sorts of plants for all sorts of activities. But I found that more often than not, as I asked more about different processes, they were nearly as unsure as I was about why they did certain things. For example, the old leaves form the Fiki plant, or fig tree, are used to heal those that are “sick with a bad spirit from old people” (My host mom, Uini). Initially this kind of took me off guard, but I accepted the words and asked more about it. How did it work? What made it different from the other plants growing around the yard? Uini was not sure—it was something she had learned from her mother and had not thought to question. So maybe everyone in Tonga learned things from their parents and were never quite sure why things worked out the way they did. And on such a small island, where everyone knows everyone, change is difficult and too noticeable.