So, this is fun! An article was posted online today titled “Pacific Angels: Building Military Relationships in Paradise” and at first I clicked on this because I thought to myself – “oh dear! What is the military up to in the South Pacific!?” I was immediately worried that there might be some sort of chaos happening, but it turns out it’s quite the opposite!
There is a project underway in the South Pacific islands, currently based in Tonga, which is part of a series of humanitarian missions collectively called “Operation Pacific Angel”. It’s a periodic humanitarian mission that is a joint effort sponsored by the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) . The nations involved have 175 military personnel from New Zealand, Australia, France, the Philippines, Indonesia, Tonga, and of course the United States of America , actively involved in various aspects of building and enhancing relationships with neighboring and partner nations . Other aspects of these missions include creating a medical and civil assistance capability in Pacific nations, and increasing the availability of assistance in times of need .
Currently 83 of the US personnel involved in Pacific Angel are fortunate to have been dispatched to Tonga – “The Friendly Island”. The article in Stars and Stripes describes it like this:
“…a place where gentle waves lap at white-sand beaches, Polynesian princesses dance for guests and giant, tattooed warriors drink kava long into the night ”.
And this brings us to the point that I’ve been excited about – kava! As you can see above even this heavily North Americanized news source identifies Tonga with kava drinking and tranquil activities, as the article goes on to say: “the mission isn’t all hard work. During down time they’ve been relaxing at the beach, snorkeling and learning about the effects of kava ”.
Actually it seems as though the troops of Pacific Angel that are currently in Tonga are very much enjoying themselves thanks to the open hospitality of the Tongan people and their interest in sharing kava and the knowledge of kava’s benefits and rituals. One of the key features that were highlighted about the enjoyment of kava was how it freed the body of tension and allowed for physical relaxation while leaving the mind clear – allowing ample room for friendly conversation long into the nights .
Currently the personnel are in Tonga to help officials – and of course the greater Tongan community – prepare for typhoons and other natural disasters. However they are also providing medical assistance – already serving over 1,200 patients in two days – and aiding in the construction of schools.
For one of the commanders on duty, dropping down and helping out in Tonga while drinking and sharing kava with the locals brought a sense of home – as he mentioned he’s from Hawaii. As we all know and as he stated, kava (“awa”) is quite popular there! It seems as though many of the soldiers had the opportunity to enjoy kava, given that their down time consisted of “snorkeling and learning the effects of kava” .
Apparently other nations are keen on building relationships with Tonga as well. Tonga has sent its own personnel out to help in aiding nations in need and other nations – such as China – are actively engaging in programs to build relations with the Tongans .
While it can’t be said for certain – I can’t help but think that Tongan kava drinking might have something to do with their world popularity. Tonga is a very peaceful nation, full of joy and cultural tranquility and one of their main activities is drinking kava – which the “Medicine Hunter” has deemed the “The Peace Elixir” . This title is very fitting of kava and the properties it bestows of sedative and mental clarifying quality, making it a very likely factor in the happiness and peace that Tonga exemplifies in the global eye.
While I am so grateful for the aid that Tonga is receiving, I can’t help but pray to the kava spirits and hope that this recent military involvement doesn’t unknowingly attract the wrong kind of attention to Tonga. I dream and believe that it can remain the peaceful, kava-sharing kingdom that it is now for endless centuries to come.
1. The Medicine Hunter. “Kava, The Elixir of Peace”. Online: http://www.medicinehunter.com/kava
2. Stars and Stripes. “Pacific Angel, Building Military Relationships in Paradise”. Online:http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific-angel-building-military-relationships-in-paradise-1.295178
3.Wikipedia. “Operation Pacific Angel”. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Pacific_Angel