Our BPO support person (Norwegian ex-pat) taxied me to immigrations, the port authority and customs, so we could clear out. I asked him about the mix of two cultures. He said, “The cultures are so utterly different that if you aren’t religious you would have nothing to talk about with the Tongans.” Of course that is an overstatement, as there is always family and the weather, but it provided some insight. He says white people have traditionally been looked up to (after all, they brought the Christian faith), though not so much by the younger people. He expressed admiration for the family values of the Tongans, mentioning specifically respect for elders.
But his feeling is that he lives in a community of 200 ex-pats interspersed in a larger, culturally separate Tongan community. All friendships and most other relationships are within the group of 200 ex-pats only. He doesn’t much like the small town feel of a community of only 200, and he says it will be the ex-pats that eventually drive him to leave, not the Tongans.
While I dealt with the authorities the rest of the crew bought frozen foods and bread and eggs, and picked up our laundry. I tried to make my bed before we left, and discovered that one of my sheets was missing. We don’t have spares, or so we thought. I went back to the laundry shop, where the lady said, “Oh no! I know which boat has it. They had a lot of bedding, and I mixed yours in with theirs.” We tried to hail them on the radio, to no avail. She thought they were moored near the charter company, so I got in the dinghy and checked out all boats there. Didn’t find them. Went to the charter company office and asked about them. “Yes, they were on one of our moorings, but they left earlier today.”
It was time for us to go, so I returned to the laundry shop and gave her the names of all the BPO boats, so if the sheet was returned she could pass it to one of them. Off we went, checking the names of all the boats we passed. We saw a likely boat in an anchorage we had in mind, so we stopped there, but no luck. Next I got in the dinghy and zoomed around toward other likely boats under sail, and to another popular anchorage. Again I saw a boat that matched the description, but it wasn’t the one. One good thing, though — I saw other BPO boats there, and they told me about a family on the nearby island that had invited us all to a Tongan feast the next day (for a fee, of course).
Returning to the boat, I felt good that I had given it the ol’ college try to recover my sheet, but I wasn’t happy sleeping without it. In the morning I tried calling for the boat via the morning “net” that most yachties listen to. No luck. We searched deeper into the bowels of the boat, and found another set of sheets! Dirty, stained, smelly. But the laundry would still be open for 2 or 3 hours. So back into the dinghy for another long and wet ride, back to town. The laundry lady told me she had trouble sleeping because of her mistake. I told her I was going to give her a chance to make it up to me, by washing the sheets ASAP. Ninety minutes later I told her we were even and she should sleep well. Bought gas before embarking on the four miles back in the dinghy.
Bill claimed that because I had taken care of the lack of sheets, we would run into the boat that had mine. And he was right. As we were sailing out of the anchorage they were sailing in. We tried to hail them on the radio, with no luck. So I again jumped into the dinghy for a short wet ride over to them. They were obviously perplexed to see a dinghy pounding over the waves coming at them as they sailed along at 7 knots. But when I shouted that they had a sheet of mine, they said, “Yes! We ended up with an extra one. But how did you track us down??”
Shortly thereafter we were anchored near the other BPO boats. Most crews were already heading ashore to do eye testing of the eleven kids in the family. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that this is a service that several of the BPOers, including Bob on our boat, are doing in conjunction with a non-profit in Germany. The BPOers were trained in Papeete to test the kids’ eyesight. They report the results back to the non-profit, which makes glasses for the kids who need them. And then the really cool part — they connect with boats bound for the same islands, and have the glasses delivered. That may happen a year later, but it is eye care that the kids likely would not have at all otherwise. What a great idea!
The rest of us soon followed ashore, and were provided what truly qualified as a feast. There is only the one family on the island, yet they managed to prepare at least a dozen different dishes for twenty hungry people. Plus Dad played guitar and sang, with Mom accompanying on vocals, and the girls did traditional dancing.
Tomorrow morning we are going to provide some epoxy resin to help our host patch a hole in his boat, before we REALLY leave Tonga bound for Tokelau.