A journey that finally arrived

In Tongan they say  – Kei fetāfeaki māfana ‘a e totó. The blood is still warmly circulating  and it can literally refer to when family members who are unknown to each other for quite sometimes or even since they were born are no strangers to anyone once they meet.

They just openly mix and mingle with each other in a way that they had known  each other for a long time.  They believe their blood relationship ties them so closely together despite how far and how long they had lost contact with each other.

All the way down from New Caledonia, Mrs Nicole Terrat, a Tongan, Wallis/Uvea and French origin with her husband Robert Tamanogi and daughter  Otolose Jr Tamanogi, desperately flied to Auckland,  New Zealand to bring their daughter ‘Otolose Jr to study at the University of Waikato.

But the emotional journey would not have been suuccessful if Nicole could not make it to find his lost Tongan kainga ‘i Aotearoa that they have not seen each other since they were born.

Otolose Jr told Kaniva that, “Six months ago, at the end of my second year at the University in New Caledonia, I decided to make a semester in New Zealand University of Waikato but at the same time thinking of my relatives around there.

“Thanks to Facebook, a cousin of mine, Jessica Okusitino, who lives in Seattle, told me about some cousins, uncles, aunts and even grandparents of us who settled in New Zealand, near Hamilton.

“That’s how I learnt about Uncle Kalino. I added him, making some explanations about myself and asked him for some information about the rest of the families who live there as well. Without imagining to have an answer so soon, I was surprise to have a message from him soon after, talking about the families in Auckland, New Zealand and he mentioned  an unveiling ceremony of a memorial headstone for an uncle of us, Uncle Siaki, who passed away one year ago to be on the following Saturday.

From there, my parents and I decided to leave Hamilton as soon as possible to join them in this ceremony, a good opportunity to meet most of the families –  distance did not matter. Mum and I had waited for so long for an opportunity like that,” wrote ‘Otolose in English who is speaking French as her first language.

The family background:

From history, ‘Otolose Jr’s great grandfather Mikaele Lopeti  left his village of Pea, in the Island Kingdom of Tonga in about 1920s to study in the French colony of Wallis or Uvea as a priest.  The mission was somehow unsuccessful so he stayed in Uvea and never returned to Tonga since then.

He eventually married with an Uvean ‘Anamalia Puleimoana and they had their only daughter ‘Otolose Lopeti.

‘Otolose relocated to New Caledonia, another French territory, and married to a French man where they have 12 children.

‘Otolose Jr wrote that, ”In New Caledonia we come from the capital city Noumea and French is our first Language. Uvean, which is close to Tongan Language, is spoken by some of us as well.  Granny Otolose married my Grandpa, Jean Terrat, he was a descendant of a French convicted deportee from France in 1871. In New-Caledonia, the descendants of those convicts, like my grandpa are called “Caldoche”, that was a very pejorative word long ago but today, we claimed our origins with pride.

“Caldoche people are the Caldoches get inspiration from the cowboys of the U.S.A  because of the colonisation which took place in New Caledonia during the WWII. They have lands, livestock, they wore similar clothes, and also have a strong accent.  So, granny married Grandpa Jean, but never gave up her culture, she did not give him the choice. He had to accept it and live with this in his whole life (what he did, hehe)

“They had 12 children,  six boys, and six girls namely Michel (boy) 58 year old, Chantal (girl,57 year old, trisomic, handicapped) Jacques (boy,56 year old) Nicole (my mum, 55 year old, she is considered as the oldest of the girls as my aunty Chantal suffers from a mental handicap) then we have Jean-Pierre (boy, he would have 54years old but passed away in 1995 in a car crash) Thérèse (53year old, girl) Rose (49year old) Monique (girl,47year old) Christophe (boy,46 year old) Bernard (boy,44 year old) Emmanuella (girl,40year old) and Frederic (boy,38year old).

That’s the first generation, after my cousins and I are 25 in all, and granny had also 19 great-grand-children.  We are a big family with a huge ethnic mix, as all my uncles and aunties married people from different communities. We all live in New Caledonia, except one daughter of my uncle Jacques, called Jackie, who lives in Paris, France with husband and children, and another cousin of mine, Audrey, who studies in France as well. It’s a great pleasure to share all of that with you and to learn in return about my Tongan family.”

But the story about her beloved great grandpa Mikaele and his families way back in Tonga have never been detached from his daughter ‘Otolose and her 12 Children’s mind for more than half a century now.

Precious moment:

It was a hunger for love and affection from her Tongan relatives that finally been answered.

‘Otolose told Kaniva that her mum was greatly moved and became tearful let alone being having less sleep once they heard from her families in Auckland last month not long after arriving from New Caledonia on the 16th of January.

Tongan saying became true – ‘Me’a ongo ko  e totó’ saying that the blood has a sense of feeling and that was really true here because they have never been met before but she already had a feeling for them.

“Mum cried even before coming to meet the families of our beloved mother and granny ‘Otolose senior – may she rest in peace.

“The next day, the day for us to meet  them in Manukau , mum was really enthusiastic  and was in tears in every move she made even when we were on our way to Auckland she kept on saying to me that she was worried.

“I answered – there is no reason for you to worry, we’ll be with a part of granny, a part of us. We’ll be closer than ever, and from paradise, she will look at us, and will be proud.

“That’s what we experienced when we arrived at the Manukau Memorial Garden in Auckland at, 10am this 16th of February for the ceremony, and when grandpa Lata Lopeti Palusa, came and met us, hugging and crying together without a word, tears were enough to show how moving and how deep those precious moments of meeting as a family was.

“It was a priceless day, but the beginning of an endless story. We met cousins, uncles, aunts for the first time but it was as if we have all known each other since long. There is no word for that,  blood is stronger than anything else and it keeps us close in every distance we live. Nothing in this world could destroy it, and my name, Otolose, will remind it to me in  every single day of my life.

Otolose Jr’s account: Book of the royal family

I was named after my beloved granny, Otolose Mikaele Lopeti. She was born on the 5th of April 1933, in Fala’leu, Uvea.  Her father, Mikaele’Tonga’, married my great-grandmother, Ana Malia Puleimoana. My grandma ‘Otolose senior  was their only child.

Her father, Mikaele, was revered and deeply respected in Uvea for his bright spirit, intelligence, and knowledge of all the customs, such as her  in the community of Uvea Mamao. She was someone deeply respected and loved, because, such as her father, she knew perfectly of the customs, the traditions and the genealogy of the royal family of our island, thanks to him, who had begun a book of family genealogy when he arrived in Uvea, just after having married my great grandmother. This book is the only trace of the royal families of Uvea.

My grandmother passed away one month ago, ironically it was the 6th of January, the date of her arrival in New-Caledonia (59years) and also the day of her village, Fala’leu (her dance group had a presentation on this day, she taught them dances and she passed on on the day of the representation. They gathered 6millions of Franc Pacific, and this money will contribute to the construction of a church, in her village). Many people came to do the custom, and to show how much they care, how much they loved her, how much they were grateful for all she had done throughout  her life, by giving them the stories of their origins and by teaching many of the customs, traditional dances and religious songs she composed.

She was really respected in our community, and was considered as “The last Lady” of Uvea Mamao, the only woman who bossed men and who had the right to speak in the customs. She is irreplaceable, and her loss is a big loss for all, especially for my family and I. I loved her more than everything, and that’s why it’s so important to me to share all of this with you. She was proud to be half Tongan, and even if she did not have the chance to be with her Tongan family, her heart always belonged to her father’s island of Tonga.

The “journey of her whole life”:

In 2009, Grandma Otolose made it as she said ‘the journey of her whole life’ and had the chance to go to Tonga with my father, her son-in-law Robert. They spent one week with some of her relatives, and if she could had stayed she would have done it. It was, as I said “the journey of her life”, and she kept crying when she told us about that. That’s why, long before she passed away, nearly one year earlier, my mother, Nicole and I, began to make some researches, trying to do our best to find some relatives of ours in other places.

‘Otolose wrote on Face Book after meeting with the families, “My beloved uncle,thank you from the bottom of my heart for all those moving &deep words which really touch us,you just can’t imagine how happy &moved we were when we came to meet you all.It was the most beautiful day we never had,Granny Otolose would had been so proud.Thank you for ALL you’ve done & say to all our family that we love you & will do he most to stay in touch.Be blessed.”

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