Our dinner at the Tongan cultural center turned out to be quite a night. We started by touring the small museum on site. Then we went to the dining hall. There were probably 60 people there for dinner. At the start of the ceremonies, the lady running the show asked for a volunteer for something (I didn't understand exactly what was going on.). I turned to point to Guy, but he was already pointing at me. With a little encouragement from the others at our table, I volunteered. It turns out that I had just become the "noble" for the night. I was asked to come on stage for the kava ceremony. Kava is a local drink of great traditional importance and possesses some narcotic properties. Once I was seated, the rest of the guests were invited on to the stage. The kava was prepared with much ceremony. Then a man called our names one at a time. The proper response was to clap once, after which one of the women would serve the kava. After everyone had drank the kava, it was time for dinner. It was served buffet style and included suckling pig, fish, octopus, chicken, salads, and many other local specialties. Since I was the "noble", I went through the line first. The hostess walked with me and explained each dish. After we had all stuffed ourselves, the festivities continued with a show of traditional Tongan dancing. I have to admit that sometimes I find traditional folk dancing slightly interesting though not that entertaining, but this show was fantastic. Most of the dances were done by the entire group of four men and four women, but there were other dances done by just the men or just the women. Towards the end of the show there was one dance that was done by a single woman who was covered with oil (still wearing her cloths though, Tongans are pretty modest). After this all the dancers came back on stage and then into the audience. Each asked someone to dance with them on stage. I was lucky enough to have the oiled woman ask me. I'm pretty sure that I was being honored by this. After all the dancing the hostess talked a little, and then I was called on stage. I was thanked for being the "noble" for the night, given a certificate of appreciation and (oh no!) asked to give a speech. It was very short. I basically just thanked them for their hospitality and ask everyone to give them a big round of applause.
Guy accepting the cup of Kava.
Stacy drinking Kava.
The suckling pig.
Our favorite male dancer with the 'dancing' eyebrows.
The women dancers were very graceful, the hand movements reminded us of Balinese dance.
Dave 'the nobel' dancing with the 'oily' woman.