Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tonga - Epilogue

Waking up at around 9am, I waited around for my ride to the airport. As it turns out, Eddie and I are on the same flight back to Auckland, with Dave taking a flight later in the day. Perhaps we could even meet up in Auckland once we are all there. Since my ride isn't for another while, I sat outside with Eddie and a Frenchman filming an interview with him for his travel blog. He ended up with some pretty good footage, as just after talking about how the pace of life in Tonga is slow and nothing exciting happens, I heard a loud thud behind me and felt the ground shake a bit. As it turns out, an extra-large breadfruit fell just about a metre or two from us. It would have hurt if that fell on someone's head!

As 10 or so rolled around, Eddie and I boarded the van and Peter drove us to the airport. We waved good-bye to everyone as we departed, including the Tongan who served us that kava the night before, now busy washing one of the guesthouse vans, an old Japanese van that has found a new life in Tonga. As we arrived at the airport, the day was just starting to get hot and humid. It seems that there is a perpetual crowd at the airport. As we checked in, I was surprised to find that even at the international terminal, the flight board was nothing more than signs holding printed sheets of paper, or sometimes even just sheets of paper with marker on it taped over the board. After checking in, we went to look for some food. As we walked around, Eddie was intercepted by the taxi driver who picked him up a few days ago, who proceeded to chat with him for a while. Eddie mentioned that we stayed at Toni's, to which the taxi driver immediately responded that "Toni's a bad man!"

Although there was a small café downstairs serving some pies and sausage rolls, I caught a glimpse of another café upstairs, so we headed up the surprisingly wide the gloomily dark staircase where a bunch of kids were playing. These stairs brought us up to the observation deck where many families and foreign travellers were waiting for the flights. Unfortunately, it turns out that the café also served only some dried goods, coffee, pies, and sausages. We tried to spend some of our leftover pa'anga, and I sat for a juice, pie, and flat white, while enjoying the view of the runway amongst the lush green grass and palm trees, while chatting and comparing passports. As it turns out, the Finnish passport has a thick plastic layer on the photo page, which prevents the document from being bent.

After watching two airplanes land, a Pacific Blue flight to Sydney, and our Air New Zealand flight, both departing at the same time, we headed in to go clear security. Outbound customs and security was quite relaxed, and we were through in no time. I was actually quite glad to feel air conditioning for the first time in Tonga, a welcome relief from the ridiculously humid weather. After browsing the few shops in the waiting area, we sat to wait while I enjoyed listening to the announcements made in Tongan. Seeing the sunny weather outside, I commented on how unlucky I was to have half a day of sun on the day I arrived, half a day of sun when I departed, and rain all throughout the middle!

We boarded the steaming plane and found that we were sitting across from each other. We chatted, and I even mentioned that he might be able to stay with me in Auckland, exchanging our contact information. As we took off, I caught a last glimpse of the lush green island in an ocean of blue from both the ocean and the sky. I reflected on what I had seen in Tonga. Although I had learned to value money less and life more after living in New Zealand, visiting Tonga had made a deeper impression on me. If I could live on a tropical island, have all the food I need, have all the time in the world to spend with my family and friends, do I really need that much money? Would I choose that life over one in a developed country where money is king? How many Tongans would choose to trade their life with life in the developed world? Well, there was a lot to think about, but for now, during our descent, I am just relaxing and enjoying the views of Great Barrier Island and the beaches north of Auckland I am quite fond of. Plus, I'm just happy that I'm on my way back to a hot shower and some dry clothes.