Peace Corps Writers
Eco-Bore Takes the Good Old Days Back to Tonga (page 4)

Eco-Bore Takes the Good Old Days Back to Tonga

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     The next day the Peace Corps Reunion took place to celebrate the fortieth year of Peace Corps Tonga. It was at the country director’s home so close to the ocean that I had the impression of being in a houseboat under a floating palm tree. There six of us were interviewed by a reporter from the Tongan newspaper Talaki, and I, as the oldest Return Peace Corps Volunteer, was also interviewed for Tonga TV. I made a point to thank ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki for hosting me and even spelled her name — down to the glottal stops. Then I resumed my Eco-bore spiel.
     Two days later when I went into the Vanuatu ABC Book Store in Nuku’alofa, the salesclerk said, “I saw you on television last night!”
     “Oh, really?” I asked. “What did I say?”
     “You said that we should go back to taking our baskets to market and not use plastic.”
     I had gotten my message across!
     I then went to the Post Office, where I passed through a door with an ad for the commemorative stamps of the coronation of Kingi Siaosi Tupou V on one side and a flyer with Barack Obama on the other, saying “U.S. President Obama? — Good for Tonga?” Following it was “Commentary by Michael G. Horowitz, Ph.D., University Dean.” But it was scheduled for Monday evening August 11, the day I was leaving Tonga.
     When I approached the window to buy stamps, the postal worker, not disgruntled, said, “I saw you on television last night!”
     “What did I say?”
Her report was much the same, but she added, “You said you were glad we still had the ‘umu.”
     My message had been heard! I had returned to Tonga what Tonga had given me.
     Then the Talaki came out, and there were six of us with our pictures Question Man style, responding to a question about the “hilifaki kalauni,” which is the coronation. (Kalauni is crown, not clown, in a language that has no r, no consonant clusters, and where every word ends in a vowel sound.) Under my pictures was “Tina Martin, 62.” And on another page, there was a report on our impressions of Tonga, translated so that it looked as if we were speaking fluent Tonga the way we should have been.
     “Oku ou faka’amu ke foki pe ‘a e kakai Tonga ki he 1970 ‘o ngaue ‘aki ‘a e kato ‘oku lalanga mei he louniu ke fa’o me’akai ai kae tuku atu ‘a e milemila.”
     In other words, “Don’t use plastic bags!”
     Eco-Bore had struck again. And now it was time for a few reunions with the people whose wise ways I had recycled.

Tina Martin is a teacher who writes. She has taught on four continents (Oceana, Africa, Europe, and North America) and in the past three years has traveled back to Tonga, to South America, China, and on a cruise around Turkey with three other RPCVs from Tonga. Her hobbies include her Meque (MEjor Que Un Esposo), writing new words for old melodies, writing letters to the editor, listening to Sarah Vowell, and being an Eco-bore. She is an instructor at City College of San Francisco.

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