#34: Chella chella

At home, I have a twelve-year-oldĀ sister named Momiji. I’m sure you have read my blogs about her before, but, boy, isĀ she a handful. While we were in Tonga, I couldn’t help comparing her to the twelve-year-olds we met on Atata. The differences between them are overwhelming.

For one, if I asked my sister to play Stella Stella Oh La (or Chella Chella, as the Tongan kids called it), she would look at me as if there were something wrong. To the kids of Atata school, no game was a bad idea. Everyone loved the new game we had taught them.

For another, the Tongan kids really, really, knew how to play. To me, their childhood was a real childhood. Running around from house to house, climbing things they shouldn’t be climbing, playing with anything and everything they found. One may argue that their safety isn’t monitored they way it should be, however, they learn as they make mistakes. When we taught the children how to play frisbee, many of them excelled at it. It made me sad that no matter how good they could throw a frisbee or how well they could read English storybooks, most of them would never leave Tonga. For most of them, their education will end with high school on Nuku’alofa. Some will stay there, some will come back. They would have to be incredibly lucky to even be able to step into New Zealand.

To us, education is a given. We all have plans after high school. We get to choose what we wish to become. The classroom we built for them is a start, but I’d like to open even more doors for these kids. I want them to light up and get excited when I ask them what they want to be when they grow up. I want them to see all of the opportunities the world as to offer them. I want to continue working hard, so that maybe, one day, I can make this possible for the kids. As Mr. Matheny (Keverson) said one class, helping one kid is better than helping no kid.

For now, I will work hard.