Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The final week was a bit of an eye-opener into Tongan culture and how it relates to problem resolution. It’s a challenging thing to generalize an entire culture’s method of confronting problems but a single sentence from a friend just about summed up the overall mentality. After discussing the damage done by gossip in a situation we just left he explained, “When you have a problem you just punch each other and then everyone is fine.”
As foreign, and even extreme, of a concept as that was for me I couldn’t negatively judge that concept immediately because in this particular situation it worked. Rather than building up anger over what had been said and done, a few seconds of physicality resolved the issue as far as I could see. That’s not to say that I will take such an approach to resolving disputes in my life, but I saw in that context and with that cultural understanding a few punches patched up the problem. Whether the resolution I saw was conclusive or not, by the end of the day all involved had made amends. Maybe if time had permitted I could have discovered more of what is implied by the concept my friend shared with me.
Yet despite my confusion with aspects of Tongan culture, I left with a positive outlook on my entire experience. Coming home helped me realize and remember the big picture as well as how unique of an experience this summer was. I won’t soon forget the amazing beaches, the forests of palms, the food that took a while to grow on me, but most importantly the friendly people that I met. Initially I went hoping to be of greater help to the family than they were to me, but the life lessons I took from them top any of my efforts. Most were lessons I hope don’t fade as I continue to get readjusted to life in Provo.
Returning just a week before school started, life changed drastically from ‘island life’ to ‘student life’ with plenty to do in preparation for the school year. Part of me misses the days with little to do but go on a walk around the village. Another part is grateful for a schedule to keep me busy. Yet without a doubt it was easier to focus life on the fundamentals when I lived a simpler life. The change of pace that becomes apparent when you land in Tonga was an adjustment and lesson on its own. Similarly as soon as I got back to SLC the gears shifted and I felt the need to buy a planner to keep up with everything. Yet like anyplace, I’ll likely never fully appreciate or understand Tonga anytime soon, but in the meantime I’ll be grateful for the lessons I brought back with me.