Laukau, my co-worker asked if I wanted to go to the wharf with her to pick up her grandfather. I didn’t have anything else going on and I had only been to the wharf with Peace corps, so sure, new experience. We headed to town at about 5. The drive in, a few quick stops and we were there before 6. We parked and Laukau asked if I wanted to eva (go out, walk around) or just wait in the car. Having no idea what the time frame of this outing was I decided to go, worst case scenario we find him quick and jump back in the car.
We walked around chatting with folks we knew and then found her grandfather, easy as pie. We sat and talked, waited, more eva, came back. As we set out the second time I had to ask where we were going and if now that we found her grandpa if we would head out? Apparently he has cargo and he is waiting for that. So we set out for the gate where you collect ticket stubs, possibly a claims ticket. Back and forth again, something about tickets, life is so interesting when you don’t totally understand the language. Now we seem to be in the right spot and there is a guy calling out names and handing out ticket stubs, bonus! We wait and wait, no one seems to be claiming tickets, just waiting. It seemed like a large number of names were called with very little claiming, based on the number of people waiting. Then the man calling out names announced this was the last time he would repeat the names! He started in on the list, the same list, and every other name got a response from the crowd, same crowd. I guess it wasn’t time yet for collection, just observation, but now, oh yes it is time. (don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it) Then our name was called and we ran up to claim the ticket but someone already took it? Oh no! But no worries it was just grandpa was tired of waiting for us to claim the ticket and claimed it for himself. Good now lets go find our box of pigs!
It didn’t take us to long to realize they weren’t off the boat yet. It turns out the pigs from Vava’u are the last of the cargo to be unloaded. With this in mind we wandered around and saw what there was to see. Some of it was like cargo and luggage one might expect, suitcases and well sealed boxes all packaged up and ready to ship. There were many other packages, containers and baskets of all shapes and sizes. Coolers were a big favorite. Coconut leaf baskets lined with banana leaves were also popular. Some things, like the branches and leaves used for weaving and tapa, were just bundled. others like the giant taro, were unloaded by themselves; big enough to count as their own container I guess. We tried to guess some contents, coconut, a leaf basket with fish, cooler with root crops, no way to know if we were even close, but it helped pass the time. My favorite boxes of all were the pig boxes. They were basically 1” thick sticks nailed together in a rectangularish shape. The bottom generally had a flat piece of wood or panel. These boxes were then stacked, but due to the variation in the straightness, size and square ness of the boxes it became a bit precarious. The contents varied, but I definitely saw pigs, chickens, fish, all sorts of root crops and weaving materials, suitcases, cars and of course the boxes forever known as just cargo. By far the most impressive sight was the three live sea turtles. Each kept on its back and took four people (four burly Tongan men to be exact) to lift. Wow.
Then the pigs, Yea! We found our box, now just to put it in the trunk and we are on our way. Well maybe, but it didn’t fit, now what? Fa’o puaka! (put the pigs in bags) So Laukau’s grandpa, Sione (a friend of the family) and guy with a t-shirt on his head (who happened to be standing next to us) broke open the box and each quickly grabbed a squirming squealing little pig. Then proceeded to stuff them in a sack. Those fit nicely in the trunk. So we headed home and just 5 hours after we arrived. Whew!