Friends in Tonga


Did You Know?

Tonga is a country in the South Pacific Ocean that includes about 150 islands. Most of these islands are made of coral reefs. Some of them are volcanos.

When Captain James Cook first visited these islands in 1773, he called them the Friendly Islands.

Most of the people live on Tongatapu, the largest of the islands. The majority of Tongan people live in small rural villages.

Tongan children enjoy many sports, especially rugby football.

The climate in Tonga is tropical, and there are large amounts of rainfall.

Tongan farmers grow bananas, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and yams.

Most of the buildings are made of wood in Nuku ’alofa, the capital and chief port of Tonga.

The Tongan Constitution prohibits work or recreation on Sunday, and the Tongan people strictly obey this law.

A Tongan House

by Makalita Mulitalo

A Tongan house is made from different parts of the coconut tree. The trunks of the coconut trees are cut and used for the frames of the house. The leaves are cut and then woven together for the roof and walls. The strings that hold the house together are taken from coconut fibers.

It is the work of the men in the family to climb the trees and cut down the leaves. The women weave the leaves together, and then the men tie the woven leaves to the house frames. It takes 800 to 1,000 leaves to make a little round Tongan house. It may take up to two or three months to weave enough leaves for one house, depending on how many people help.

Everyone sleeps on the floor. The floor is covered with about a foot of dry coconut leaves that really make a soft bed. The floor has to have new leaves every four to six months, and the roof should be changed every year. The walls may need to be changed every two years.

Tonga has tropical weather; so this kind of house stays very cool. But even so, every family works hard to save enough money for a wooden house, because it is hard work to build a Tongan house.

[illustration] Illustrated by Ginger Brown