A couple months ago Ova came home and told me that he wanted to go back home to Tonga in July. I looked at him like he was crazy cause, hello we can't go to the other side of the world in a couple months. That's something that takes like a year of planning and saving.... or at least that's what I thought. As it got closer and closer, and as Ova was picking up more and more OT at work I began to realize that he wasn't joking. That meant I had to get into action because we didn't even have current passports. May passed, and June was almost over and still nothing was done. I finally sent the passports in to get renewed half way through the month of June, just hoping that they would get back to us before we were planning on leaving in July. We already knew that there was no way we would be able to buy confirmed tickets, cause we just don't have that kind of money lying around...so I started asking around and looking for ways to use my flight benefits to non-rev over there. The hard part is that there are only 3 airlines that fly into Tonga: Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, and Pacific Blue. Delta doesn't have agreements with any of them except Air New Zealand, and our agreement wasn't that great. I'd heard tons and tons of horror stories from other non-rev travelers about the service from the people that work at Air New Zealand and was very very nervous. The most popular way to travel is from LAX to Fiji and then to Tonga, but that would have been like $600 per person - standby. What I decided to do was take the Delta flight from LAX to Sydney Australia (since it was Delta, we'd be getting all the way over there for free) then just buy a confirmed ticket from SYD to Tonga and back. Well the fares were extremely more expensive than I was planning because it's high peak season, but still that was the best thing I could think of. I put off paying for the confirmed seats from SYD to Tonga because I needed to know for sure we were getting to SYD. I checked the flights every day and was getting more and more nervous because the flight from LAX to SYD was getting fuller and fuller and more non-rev's with higher seniority were listing. We were planning on leaving on Saturday July 10th and coming back on Monday July 19th. Ova wanted to stay a little longer, but I was already having a hard time with the idea of leaving all my kids for that long. We decided a week in Tonga would be long enough, and since it takes 2 days to get there...we'd get there on the 12th and be there for exactly a week. Well, as it got closer and closer, my original plan was not panning out. On Monday the 5th, I checked the flight and it was oversold by 22 people. I had a bad feeling. I started looking for other ways to get there and found out that we could go on Quantas all the was to Auckland New Zealand for only $130 per person. I called to see how their flights looked and they told me they were all booked full (standard thing to say) but as I got talking with the agent, he told me it was full all week, but Wednesday the 7th looked the best. I looked online for confirmed seats from AKL to Tonga and they were outrageously expensive (like $1000 per person round trip) I decided to look into the Air New Zealand agreement we had to get from AKL to Tonga standby.... $212.40 round trip per person. That sounded a lot better! They of course said their flights were all completely full, but for some reason I had a good feeling about it so I'd made up my mind that that's what we had to do. Ova came home from work on Monday night and I told him that we had to leave on Wednesday. I explained to him everything that I researched and we decided that's what we were going to do. Luckily, our passports came that day, just in time! Tuesday night I went to the airport and bought our standby tickets. Wednesday morning, we ran around making sure all the bills were paid and things were taken care of before we left, and then we came home and packed really quick and headed to the airport at 3pm. The LAX flight we were going to try was overbooked because the earlier one cancelled, so we opted to go to Long Beach and take a shuttle to the LAX airport. (Best decision becasue the LGB flight was wide-open and the shuttle was only $30) We got to the LAX airport at like 5pm and were so happy that they let us check in that early because the flight didn't leave until midnight. Lucky too because since we were flying standby they clear people by first come first serve, and we were the first ones on the list...so if there were any seats available, we would be the first ones to get them. They told us the flight was full, but there was a chance we'd get on. They were very very nice to us and I was happy for that. In the 7 hours that we were there waiting, we ate, and I was able to make a baptism announcement for my sis-in-law's friend. The flight ended up getting delayed but they called us up and gave us our seats.... we were sitting together! Yay! We boarded the plane at almost 1 in the morning and were off on our 14 hour flight to New Zealand. Can I just say that I Love Quantas! Their service is excellent, and they take very good care of you during the flight. They even have little bassinets on the wall for those that are traveling with babies. (I totally cried when I saw it telling Ova we could have brought Lautala...it was finally hitting me that we weren't going to see them for a week....) We both slept most of the flight, except for we woke up for the two meals they served and to watch some of the movie, and before we knew it we were upon approach into Auckaland New Zealand. I looked out the window, and this was the awesome view we saw....the sunrise in New Zealand.....
We arrived at like 9am and our flight to Tonga didn't leave until 9:40pm so we had the whole day to spend in New Zealand. It was perfect because some of Ova's 1st cousin's that he grew up with and hasn't seen in like 20 years live there, near the airport so we called them to come pick us up. It was an awesome reunion for Ova to see them and meet their husbands and kids... and for me to meet the people that Ova has told me so many stories about. First thing we did was go and get some Steak and Cheese meat pies for breakfast. Yummy! We went back to their house and just like the rest of the Fangupos, those girls can cook! They made us the biggest and most delicious meal...
We arrived in Tonga at about 1am. I can't really explain the feeling I had to be getting off the plane in Tonga.....but I was emotionally happy to finally be there. I went to Tonga twice with my parents when I was a little girl, but the last time I was there I think I was like 10 or something, so I don't really remember anything. I was so excited.
It took us forever to go through customs because we were one of the last ones off the plane, but once we were through it, we walked out and Ova's dad was there waiting for us. (He flew out there the week earlier to go to a funeral) Ova's mom has family that own a house out there, and they were currently in New Zealand.... they let us stay at their house and use their car while we were there, which was really nice. Ova and I were so excited that we were finally there..... there was so many things we wanted to do, places to visit and people to see..... since it was like 2am, we went to the house we were staying at, unpacked and got a few hours of sleep.
Bright and early the next morning, we headed to town to exchange our money at the bank. Ova was in the bank and I heard this loud music playing behind me. I jumped out of the car and this is what I saw
The 1973 Ikale Tahi (Rugby team) was having a reunion and they started it by parading down the streets of Nuku'alofa. Traffic was stopped for this parade. It was awesome! I guess this kind of thing is common in Tonga, everybody stopped what they were doing to clap and wave as they passed by. It was my first few hours of my first day in Tonga and I was already loving it!
We were really glad that Ova's dad was there with us because he pretty much became our tour guide. Ova moved to Tonga when he was a baby and was raised there, but left when he was almost 11 years old. He remembered a lot from when he was there but it had been 20 years since he'd been back so it was nice to have someone who knew where everything was to take us around! The funeral that his dad went there for was still going on, so we made time every day to stop by and take drinks or bread or something just to pay our respects. It was Ova's grandpa's sister that passed away so a lot of Ova's family was there. We spend a good chunck of time there at the funeral visiting with his family members. The funeral was in Vaini, the village where Ova grew up.... so every day after spending a little time at the funeral, we would walk around Vaini and Ova would show me where he grew up and reminiss about his childhood. It was very emotional for him to go back and see how much things have changed since he left.
One of the main reasons he wanted to go back was to see his house out there. When he was only 1 year old, his grandpa passed away so it was just him, Ma and Tea that stayed in that house. Their house back then was beautiful. It was clean and well kept, fenced off from all the animals that roam around. There were tons of different kinds of trees growing all over the yard, it was beautiful. He'd received word from an uncle that lives out there that the house had been trashed. We went out there to see it for ourselves so we can see what we need to do to fix it up. This is what his beautiful house looks like now.
Front of house
Back of house
It was one of those moments where you wish you could rewind time, and go back to those happy and fun childhood times... when all the change that has happened is almost too hard to bare.
There's a lot of damage done, but nothing that can't be fixed. We were talking about fixing it up so that we have our own place to stay when we go back.
This cement thing is where the water collects.... every house in Tonga has it...it's connected to the house and when it rains, the water fills it up. Right after Grandpa Timote passed away, this little cement slab was put on as a tribute to him.
Ma's brother Palaiti and his wife Simoa