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Friday Night Dates in Tonga

Updated on March 14, 2018
elayne001 profile image

Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.

True Grit 2011
True Grit 2011

I have written a few hubs about my experiences living in Tonga. Just tonight I returned from our weekly Friday date night where my hubby and I saw True Grit . I was impressed with the actors in this remake of an oldie but goodie that originally starred John Wayne for which he won an Oscar. I think Jeff Bridges could just as well win an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster. It brought back many memories of our years living in Tonga where we saw mostly Western and Asian movies.

The current King of Tonga 2011
The current King of Tonga 2011
The King's Palace in Tonga
The King's Palace in Tonga
School children in Tonga
School children in Tonga

I well remember the excitement of a night out on the town. We drove about fifteen miles to Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tongatapu, the island we lived on. There were no high rises, unless you call a three story building a high rise. There were three movie theaters. One was called the Hauhau 'o Taufa'ahau, another the Tali 'eva, and the third was called the Finau Theater.

Back in the day (over fifteen years ago), we would spend T$1.50 to go into the movie. Many were karate movies with lots of action. There were no previews - just the movie itself, but there were a few additions. I remember watching the movie one night and feeling something run across my foot. I am pretty sure it was a cat or mouse, and prefer not to really know. You had to be careful where you sat, because the chairs were so old that the springs were coming through the upholstery, and you could ruin a good pair of pants easily.

In the movies in Tonga there was no such thing as staying silent during the movie. In fact, the most fun was hearing all the comments during the movie from all the movie enthusiasts. They loved making commentary, and when there was any kissing going on, they made the most noise. Malie (great!) or if there was a fighting scene they would cheer on their favorite actor. That is what I would call interactive entertainment!

One theater that I distinctly remember was a two story building but, only half of it was covered with a roof. The other part you could get in for half price, and there were wooden benches with no backs, where you could sit or lie, and watch the movie. The only trouble with that was that if it started raining, you would most certainly get wet.

One particular night, that stands out from the rest from our movie date nights, was when a bunch of us decided to go together from our neighborhood. We all decided to sit together in the upstairs of the Hauhau 'o Taufa'ahau. Some of our gang were a bit on the large size , and we chose a row of chairs together and sat down. When some of the heftier sized Tongans sat down, the whole row fell backwards, and there were plenty of legs dangling in the air, and a whole lot of laughing going on. Fun times. Luckily no one was injured!

Since Tonga is a monarchy, there was a special room in the theater for the royal family, which was separate from the commoners. It was a few steps higher up, and the kind sized chairs had walls around it, with a window that His and Her Majesty could look through without being troubled by the rest of the audience. They even had ladies in waiting for the King and Queen and other royal family members.

Another thing that I remember is that none of the movies were rated as they are today. So, you could not be sure what you might see in the movie. I recall when my family visited us once from the mainland USA. I told them that most of the movies are karate or Western movies and pretty tame. My two little sisters were in the audience having a cultural experience, when all of a sudden, there were some totally naked people running through the jungle on the screen. I was shocked and horrified for my family to see it, but could not have predicted it.

Vendors sold little packets of home-roasted peanuts wrapped in newspaper or magazine paper outside of the movies for fifty seniti (cents) a packet. My husband still loves his peanuts and insists on roasting them himself even though we live in Hawaii and they are readily available.

I'll never forget my fun experiences of going to the movies in Tonga. True Grit brought all those memories back tonight.


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