For our cultural prep class, Sione asked us to read two articles written by Vai Sikahema. In these two articles, he discusses the relation of the Tongan culture to the American culture, as well as Tongan culture to the culture of the gospel. The assignment to read these articles stemmed from the discussion we had about the word palangi and what that entails in the eyes of many Tongans. To summarize the discussion he said palangi culture is viewed as being a better way of living. I didn't really like that belief, but I guess it stems in part from the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I look at the little I know about Tongan culture, and admire them for their humility, family relations, and faith. Being an insider of what palangi culture is, I don't think its that great. Like every culture it has many positive attributes, but its not the best. Vai Sikahema commented along those lines in one of the articles saying that he was a 'cafeteria Tongan', taking the admirable aspects of Tongan culture and applying them within his life and family. Some aspects, especially on parenting styles, he chose to adopt a new approach rather than physical abuse and sarcastic remarks on a child performance to avoid appearing proud. So in being a member of the LDS church, he chose to adopt a more caring parenting style by praising his children, and discussing matters considered taboo in order to ensure they knew the gospel stance on matters such as chastity and not the world's alone.
There truly is a rich heritage that we gain from whatever culture we grow up in. American culture is a mix of many different traditions, and I appreciate the diversity. Yet in having traveled and lived in a few other countries, I appreciate the distinct and sometimes subtle differences between ways of thinking and living that cause me to question my own perceptions.