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Illegal Alien in Tonga

Updated on August 31, 2016
elayne001 profile image

Ruth Kongaika was born in the Rocky Mountains and has lived most of her life in the South Pacific. She travels, gardens and writes.

One of the pristine beaches in Tonga
One of the pristine beaches in Tonga

One rainy day while sitting at my office in Tonga, a policewoman dropped in and gruffly told me to follow her. I asked her why, and she told me to just get up and come with her. It was pouring outside and I did not have an umbrella. I did not want to make her upset, so I stepped outside and became drenched in a few seconds. My mind was racing, trying to think about what might have precipitated this uncomfortable and threatening situation I was in. We had been living in Tonga for eight years. I am from the mainland USA and had married my handsome Polynesian husband and had followed him to his island home.

I worked for Teta Tours, which used to be a General Sales Agent for Hawaiian Airlines (when they flew to Tonga). I had been hired to be the executive secretary to the general manager, who just happened to be a legislator in the Tongan government. He had never asked me if I had a working permit. It had never occurred to me that I needed one since I was married to a Tongan, had four lovely children (one that was born in Tonga) and I was being paid like a local.

During my years in Tonga, I had adopted many of the ways of the locals, including dressing traditionally with a kiekie (ornamental belt around waist), learning to speak Tongan fairly well, and eating mostly Tongan food. I tried to be a upright citizen, went to church every week, tried to be a good mother, wife and neighbor. What could possibly be the cause for this police officer to demand that I follow her through a torrent on the main highway in the largest town in Tonga, Nuku'alofa?

Myself sitting at my office at Teta Tours in Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Myself sitting at my office at Teta Tours in Nuku'alofa, Tonga

As we crossed the highway, I realized she was leading me to the main police headquarters that was a couple of blocks away. My heart was racing as I tried to keep from slipping on the wet pavement while attempting to keep up with this official. What was to be my fate? Had one of my family gotten in trouble and had been taken in by the police? So many questions swimming around in my little palagi (foreigner) head.

Dripping wet, I sloshed into main police building and felt like a criminal, only I was not wearing chains (thank goodness). I asked the police again why I was there. I finally was offered a seat and was handed a letter indicating that I was an illegal alien working in Tonga without a permit. Upon further inspection, it indicated that I was to be deported immediately! I wondered why they had not just mailed me the letter rather than dragging me through town, and felt I was being treated unfairly. My emotions started spilling over as I thought of my little family, the domicile I had come to call home so far away from my parents, siblings and everything that I had grown up with. Would they really put me on a plane and separate me from my husband and children?

My daughter and I taking a walk near our home in Tonga.
My daughter and I taking a walk near our home in Tonga.

This was way before cell phones, but I knew that I needed to contact my husband and/or my boss. I asked to see the Chief of Police and see if I could convince him they had made a mistake. After what seemed like ages, the Chief himself came in to see this poor little white lady. He listened to my story, and apologized for the way I had been treated. I assumed this lady police had a racial problem with foreigners taking jobs that the locals deserved, but I truly felt like I was a local. I knew how foreigners feel when they come to the United States, trying to make a life for themselves and their families, and are threatened with deportation.

My boss introducing me at a business meeting in Tonga.
My boss introducing me at a business meeting in Tonga.


I was finally able to reach my husband who drove from his work to rescue me. He is such a happy guy, and was laughing when he saw me with mascara running down my face sitting in the police office. I wanted to punch him out (just kidding), but that is his way of dealing with difficult situations. He spoke with the Chief of Police and explained that he was not even aware that I needed to have a working permit (duh!). He figured since a member of the legislative assembly had hired me, everything was cool.

I really enjoyed working for the tour company and my husband and I had even gone out to meet several cruise ships and taken tourists on island tours. So he was a participant in crime!

Tour guides from Teta Tours - my husband and I.
Tour guides from Teta Tours - my husband and I.

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A call was made to my boss and he, the Chief and my husband agreed that I could continue working if I filled out some forms, paid a fee and was a good girl. They felt I had been sufficiently humiliated (true that), and predicted I would be an upstanding citizen of Tonga. My coworkers teased me relentlessly. I continued to work for a couple of years and really enjoyed my experience there.

Just thinking, perhaps we would have less problems with illegal aliens in the USA if they went through what I did. What do you think?

Teta Tours Brochure
Teta Tours Brochure

Comments

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  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Nice to hear from you again, diogenes. I have been taking quite a break from HP the last while, but do miss it. Glad you could see the humor and injustice in my story. Yes, Tongans do know how to enjoy life....Aloha!

  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 

    5 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Ha! When I first read the title to your hub, I thought, "Gee, these Tongans are lazier than Mexicans - they arrest people for working!" Of course, it all became clear. I have admired you and your family in earlier stories and i like the pics in this one.

    There's little compassion left in the world...what an idiot that policewomen is. Using her petty power I suppose, but all ended well.

    Funny story (looking back on it!)

    Bob x

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elayne 

    5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    @MarleneB - you and I have very sympathetic husbands (not!). What we put up with, right : ) Yes, we learned our lessons the hard way. Thanks for commenting.

    @skgrao - So true that it could have been much worse. The men were actually having a good laugh at my expense. We are very blessed to be Americans. Feel so sad to hear what happens in other parts of the world.

  • MarleneB profile image

    Marlene Bertrand 

    5 years ago from USA

    What an ordeal. You handled it the same as I would - tears. Your husband handled it the same way as mine - laughter.

    Once, my husband and I were coming home from a cruise and the customs officer asked me for my passport. I didn't have it with me because the tour guide said that since we were going on a cruise to American owned islands I would not need a passport. Long story short, I became scared that I would be stuck at the airport while the rest of my party went on ahead of me. Customs took me aside and asked a lot of questions. One of the questions was where I worked. I was so distraught that I forgot where I worked. Finally, I blurted it out, which sounded like I was lying. My husband kept telling jokes through the interrogation - saying things like, "I'm sure she wouldn't mind staying." "Don't worry honey, I'll come back for you." He'd laugh and I would cry even more.

    They finally let me go. But, now I take my passport with me every time I take a trip, no matter where I'm going.

  • skgrao profile image

    S K G Rao. 

    5 years ago from Bangalore City - INDIA.

    I do like your way of your writing and wonder being a citizen of USA how you took everything for granted ( like me ) and landed in a surprice situation in a short span of time.Any way what has happened is nothing compared to Indians who just cross the border and getting their head behaded and taking the head to show their friends as a trophy by our friendly neighbourers the Pakistani Soulders.

working

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