Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best of both worlds

Started this post on Valentine's day and just now have time to finish and post it.

All I can say to-day is that I'm glad yesterday is over!  You know when you have one of those days where everything goes wrong from sun up to sun down.  And it was Valentine's Day for Pete's sake.  Well into sun-down though, things gradually got brighter.  With my two youngest girls pampering me with waffles and kisses until my world light up with laughter and gratitude.  It all ended in jubilee and when I close my eyes to sleep, I welcomed the abyss of darkness and rest, allowing my body and mind to embrace nothing but the bliss of a deep goodnight sleep.

This morning I woke up refreshed and grateful.  Never appreciated my roots and where I came from more to-day then ever before.   Back in the island we weave our mats as tightly as we weave the bonds that bind our families together.   One that can not be unraveled by time and runs deep as the ocean that surrounds us.  We are Polynesians and we're unique and unmatched when it comes to taking care of our families, immediate and extended.

Yesterday, I truly questioned myself as a mother because it felt like I disappointingly SUCKED at it.   Perhaps because I measure how good a mother I am by the behaviors that reflects from my children.  Which I know I shouldn't.  Any may be, just may be because I'm too Americanized and forget to instill our Tongan ways, (anga faka-Tonga) to my children.
"Just because we are here in America, does not mean you forget about your roots and your culture!"  I reminded my daughter
"Then you should have born us in Tonga", she cuts in.

We came here because we wanted a better life for ourselves, our parents and our children.  A better education and an opportunity to improve our way of living.  While we seek these things, we struggle to retain our identity as Tongans and keep our traditions and cultures because this is what defines us as a people. 

The very CORE of our Tongan culture branches out in two-folds: KINSHIP and RESPECT.  Our family circle does not end with mother, father, sisters and brothers.  It includes aunts, uncles, cousins etc etc etc.  Your house is not only your house, its' your "kainga's" (relatives) house as well.  Our house was always full because my mother brought many of her relatives to live us so they can go to school at Liahona High School.  She worked and provided for us and them because that is just the way our Tongan custom works.  You take care of you family and your relatives if you are able to.

Respect of elderlies and respect of parents and others is the epitome of our Tonga culture.  Children are taught to respect those who are older then them and honor their parents.  When parents speak, children listen.  There's no back talking or murmuring.  I don't ever remember talking back to my parents. I respected and love them too much.  I might not agree with what they're saying, but that doesn't mean I have to disrespect and talk back to them.  This is just part of honoring our parents and our culture.  Moreover, children are expected to take care of their parents when they get old.  It is the way it is.  Not put them out in some Senior Citizen facility when they are old.  It is very very rare that we see any Polynesian putting their parents in rest homes.  Very rare indeed.  We take care of our old.  

I have made a drastic mistake in not teaching my children our Tongan language.  Perhaps this is the gravest mistake I made.  When we loose our native tongue, everything else is bound to slip away.  Slowly but surely.  My children blames me for this.  They long to learn how to speak Tongan.  My son is determine to have us speak in Tongan to his children.  I'm obligated to live by his request because I have error in not teaching them the language.

Our generosity as Polynesians knows no boundary.  Sharing and giving has always been our way of life.  There's no "me, myself and I".  It's always, "we, us and ours".   There's no such thing as "independent" for our 18 year olds.  You live with your parents until you're good and married then you can go off and build a shed somewhere and live there.  Here in America, parents can't wait to push their children out the door when they turn 18 and then 18 year olds can't wait to be on their own.   I've learned to tolerate the two.  What's more important to me is the time I still have with my children and how we choose to spent it.  The door is open if they want to leave, but if they don't, they can stay as long as they want.

There are good in both worlds as a Tongan living here in America.  Instead of juggling between both world, I can do my best to adjust and to teach good values to my children so they themselves can adapt.  My son Leli said the other day:  "It's a doggy dog world out there mom, every one fends for themselves!"
I say, "No son, it doesn't have to be."  Only those who are self-centered, self-obsessed and selfish, sees a world where everything is about "me, me and me".  Look around you, there are people who are always in need and it is our responsibility to lend a helping hand and make their life better.

I am proud to be a Tongan in this wonderful America.  There is so much goodness in my rich Tongan heritage and this magnificent land of opportunity and freedom. 



  1. This is a BEAUTIFUL post, Sela. Thank you for sharing your Polynesian culture and your feelings.

  2. This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your heritage with us. One of my favorite neighbors is Tongan. He is one of the sweetest and most giving people I know. I can see now that so much of that is cultural. Please don't spend too much time worrying about what you didn't give your children from your culture. This "Look around you, there are people who are always in need and it is our responsibility to lend a helping hand and make their life better" shows that you've given them so much. Be proud of that.

    Thank you for your kind thoughts on my blog. It means so much to me. I hope you have a lovely weekend.