Tongatapu Dreaming

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the life of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

— Lucille Clifton


I was at an all-day training today, the fourth in a series that started in January and will continue through September.  All of us trainees have been brought together because we’re all involved in adult education and job training that’s tied to the healthcare sector.  It’s been quite amazing so far — shown me all kinds of things we don’t know, all kinds of things we need to be thinking about.

Today was a little different.  Today we were joined by about a dozen people doing the same work we’re doing (adult ed and job training that leads to jobs in healthcare) but in Auckland, New Zealand.  Our guests were wonderful.  I know a small amount of facts about New Zealand.  I know a little about the Maori, a little about the geography, a little about … well, maybe just about the Maori and the geography.  It was great getting to hear about the programs they’re running, about the way their healthcare system works, about the communities they work in (all low-income, all majority Pacific islanders — Samoan, Tongan, Maori) …

And that was where my brain stopped: Tongan?  There are people from Tonga living in New Zealand?  Yes.  And from the other Pacific Islands, too.  Sure.  Geographically and economically this makes a lot of sense.

But Tonga.  Tonga is the place I have most wanted to visit for more years than I can remember.  I was a kid, maybe 14 years old, the first time I heard of Tonga.  I saw an article about the island, saw the king riding on his bicycle, and I was sold.  That was the place I needed to go, a place where a king rode around on a bike wearing only shorts and sandals.  That’s a country I could easily feel comfortable in.  I’m not saying Tonga would replace Jamaica.  I’m just saying … Tonga … all things are possible.

But it’s so far away.  So very, very far away.  You have to fly for some crazy amount of time to get there — between 22 and 36 hours, depending on the stopovers — I found trips that meant flying to LA, flying to Singapore, flying to Auckland, flying to Fiji and then, at last, flying to Tonga.  That’s just completely insane for someone like me who doesn’t like to fly.  There are better trips (New York–>LA–>Fiji–>Tonga), but it’s still really, really far.

So I’d kind of let the idea of Tonga become a fantasy I didn’t think I could make happen.  Then I started thinking I could build up my ability to deal with long plane rides (to say nothing of saving up the $3.5K for the plane fare) and plan for a big golden anniversary birthday present tour.  But the cost of the ticket and knowing I’d need to take at least a month off work to make this trip make any kind of sense made me push the idea aside again.

But being at this training got me thinking again.  Getting to know the wonderful women I was sitting with made me see I had to figure out a way to make this trip happen.  Tranquilizers?

Making connections
feather-light, gossamer-thin.
Seeds, maybe. For now, reflections
of dreams that have been
in my heart, my head. I begin
to see a new road, an open door
a chance to let that old dream soar.


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