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No one ever says.

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

No one ever says

“Go back to where you came from!”.

I think that’s too American.

What they do say here though is

“When will you go back home?”

“Don’t you miss home?”

“Temou foki fakakuu?”

Foki. To return. To go back.


Fakakuu. Asking about time.


I’m confused because

Home is Ha’ateiho.

Home is Tonga


Home is where your heart is so

How can you go back somewhere that

You’ve never really left?

So you tell me.

Go back where?

Go back when?

Ko e ha?

And I’m looked at like

I’m the one who asked the stupid question?

I don’t know why you’re asking

But I know what you mean is to say

I don’t belong here


No one really says

“Go back to where you came from!”.


The backstory

Our father died 10 years ago. At that time, I was 18. My sister was 16. My brother was 11.

The most frequently asked question our Japanese mum got around that time was "When are you going back?". In other words, when are you leaving Tonga now that your husband's dead? The man was barely cold in his grave and people were already asking our mum questions like that.

At that time, she used to say, “Ko e tali pe ke ‘osi e ako e fanau” meaning “When the kids finish their schooling ”. People would give that half-smile, half-nod. As if they understood and as if they cared. I was heading off to uni. I think my sister was in Form 6 and our brother was in Form 2. Oh yes, the children’s schooling is not yet completed, she can stay on.

Our father died 10 years ago. I’m now 29. My sister is 27. My brother is 22. I completed my Masters two years ago. My sister will be off to start hers soon, and our brother is doing his undergraduate at uni. Our schooling is mostly done. Now, the most frequently asked question our Japanese mum gets is "When are you going back, now that your kids are grown?".

At this point in her life, our mum has spent more time living in Tonga than she has ever lived in Tokyo, Japan. However, what the questions imply is that no matter how long she stays, she will never be fully accepted as a part of this country. Even we, by extension, will always be questioned whether we truly belong here, although our blood is bound to this land.

“Temou foki fakakuu?”

My mum would smile, “Toki vakai pe”. “We’ll see.”.

“Temou foki fakakuu?”

Where my mum responds with humour, I respond with sarcasm. “Ko ho’o ‘eke ke ha? Why are you asking?”.

Geez, man. Leave her the fuck alone. Grace is in my middle name, but no way in hell would I ever answer such fie’ilo, fiekau questions with as much grace as my mum does.

“Temou foki fakakuu?”



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