Last night was my official farewell from work, and though they'd told me they were planning "something special", I had NO IDEA it was going to be a Tongan wedding ceremony for me and Clinton!
The effort the staff went to was tremendous - we had a beautifully decorated arch under a tree, and all the chairs were decorated with greenery and ribbons. Clinton and I were dressed in traditional ta'ovala (woven waist mats) for the ceremony - the one I was wearing was so fine it was like cloth, though it was a family heirloom, and apparently worth between 5-6,000 pa'anga!
Though it wasn't a full wedding ceremony (more like a renewal of vows...a mere 3 weeks after we uttered the first ones!), we had the "do you Clinton, take Isa, to love and to cherish..." bit in Tongan, and we said our "I do's" in Tongan as well. This was followed by a short traditional marriage kava ceremony, which now means we are legitimately married in Tonga! Apparently the moment when you drink the kava is when you seal the marriage covenant. So there you go! We are now legally married in Australia AND Tonga!
It was such a cool and awesome thing to do, and I am so touched that my colleagues went to all that effort just for us! I remember when I started at the TVB, and the previous volunteer had left, and all my colleagues talked about was her, and how great she was - I was convinced they'd never take me to their bosom the way they'd embraced her - but now look at me! Married in the Church of the Tonga Visitors Bureau, presided over by Pastor Willy, the Minister of Tourism's driver!
Yesterday was a big day for more reasons than just my second wedding, though - I completed and handed in my AYAD primary assignment, a document outlining some interpretive guidelines to get Tonga on the path to a more consistent, visitor-friendly approach to heritage interpretation. Realistically, this document could be put in a drawer and never looked at again. But I think that unlike the consultants who come here for a few weeks, write up their reports and then leave, I have spent a good deal of time getting aquainted with how they do things here. That report may have taken only a fortnight or so to write back home, but over here, it's taken me the whole duration of my assignment to finally comprehend HOW I can best be of assistance, and to understand the reasons behind why things are as they are - and not to try and change it, but to work with it.
I can't deny I am proud of the outcome of my project. And even if it never gets used, I'm proud of my achievement in having completed it. It's a great experience.
Yep, these last days in Tonga find me feeling very positive about my time here, and also positive about going home. It's a great place to be!