Once you get away from town into the villages things are quite different. Traditional bush plantations are seen everywhere with people cultivating tapioca, manioc, cassava, taro and other crops. In town, however there is a hospital and a clinic, several banks, shops and assorted hospitality based businesses.
|Prince Ngo Hospital|
|Street in Neiafu|
There are actually quite a few business opportunities for sale or lease in Vava'u
There are a number of lovely vacation homes on Vavau that can be rented by the day, the week or the month.
There are also a lot of houses that would be considered marginal by Western standards, especially when you get further away from town.
However, what impressed me most about my time in Tonga was how much material things were not that important. It didn't really seem to matter if someone lived in a fancy houses or a shack in the bush. People interacted along traditional lines of honoring family and mutual support of the village community. A person's honor was based on his or her integrity, not one what they owned. I liked that a lot.
Some from America have asked me "did you see a lot of poverty in the islands?" I suppose we did. But you would never know it when you looked into the eyes and the smiles of the people. I am not kidding myself. They have plenty of struggles and problems to cope with. And, as more and more people there see images of western lifestyle on TV and Internet, I imagine it will affect their sense of what it means to have so few material things. I was struck by the people I saw who seemed to be right on the cusp of cultural change - barefoot digging in the tapioca fields but carrying cell phones.
I don't know what the future of Tonga is. But the time we spent there was powerful, such a blessing. We found the people to be welcoming and the island of Vava'u absolutely beautiful.