By Emily Barbo
I have found reading Tales of the Tikongs a really refreshing experience. Hau'ofa uses a writing style that mimics the oral tradition of storytelling mixed with irony to expose his purpose. The whole experience is informal but personal. The reader is being told a story as if they were sitting around a friend's coffee table. A theme we discussed in class is that travel takes two. It is in the shared experiences we have that show us the most about ourselves. Marco Polo had Kublai Khan, Eric had the True Ones, and Manu has the reader. We are an integral part of the story being told, not only as witnesses but as learners. In each of the stories there is a message, a warning or piece of advice given to us.
Similar to the other works of travel literature we have read, immediately we are thrown into the Tikongs foreign culture. Tiko is described as a place completely backwards from the rest of the world. It becomes apparent quickly that the harder outsiders like the Alvin "Sharkey" Lowe or the people involved in the Fish Cannery Project try to develop Tiko the more absolutely their attempts fails. Manu is particularly verbal about the threat of destruction that development brings to his culture. He reminds me of how important it is to learn and experience another culture for what it is, not what it can be. If it isn't broken don't fix it.
I found myself particularly drawn to the chapter entitled, "Paths to Glory" and the questions about purpose and identity that it brings up. In it, Trevita Poto is being told what to do and how to live by numerous people; family members and strangers alike. They are all telling him something different, how to live his life. And yet, he says nothing. Poto has no voice. Great things are expected of him because he is educated. His family wants him to use his intelligence and experience to bring them prestige and stop acting like one less than himself, the stranger in the bar resents him for squandering his opportunities and scolds him for trying to fit into a lower class to which he doesn't belong. He has experienced the part of the world, it will always be a part of him now, but he is called a foreigner for it. His experiences and knowledge separate him from his home and because of that he can't go back, but at the same time he doesn't know how to move forward either. Poto is stuck between two worlds, that he does not know how to navigate.