Around The World: Zumba class in Tonga!
Sylvia Fox is a retired journalist and licensed Zumba instructor. Follow her adventures at roadtripzumba.blogspot.com.
I love to travel. Anywhere. Anytime. So when my husband asked if I wanted to go to, I said yes before he could finish his sentence.
Then he finished his sentence. “Tonga,” he said.
“Tonga?” I asked, quickly trying to recall my geography. “Um. Where exactly is that?” I asked. “But the answer is still yes.”
A quick Google search revealed that the Kingdom of Tonga is a remote group of about 170 islands in the South Pacific, but only about 50 are inhabited. And the entire country, all islands included, only have a population of about 100,000 people. The string of islands are just west of the international dateline, closest to Fiji and Samoa, and about a third of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. It’s the place the famous British Capt. Cook visited in 1773 and named “The Friendly Islands,” not understanding that he was likely to be on the natives’ then-partly-cannibal menu.
Tonga is definitely remote. It’s a 10-hour flight from LAX to Fiji, and then another hour and a half from there. But it’s worth the travel — islands with white sand beaches, clear blue waters, snorkeling, whale watching, and swimming. The average temperature is in the 80s Fahrenheit (27 C).Oh yes. I’ll go.
The sponsors of Regatta Vava’u had invited my journalist husband and me to report and photograph their sailing regatta, a weeklong series of races and parties in the Port of Refuge, in the northernmost group of islands called Vava’u. Sailors on pretty good-sized vessels spend the winter months cruising the islands before heading onward around the world. New Zealand is often the next stop. So after saying yes to the trip, the next plan was how to get exercise during our two-week adventure. As a traveler, I know how hard it is to stay in shape without a daily routine, a gym or a class. And on a trip like this, there’s usually way more food and drinks involved than two weeks at home. Exercise becomes critical. For me, the obvious solution was to bring the Zumba party to Tonga. I currently teach Zumba in a winery in upstate New York during the summer, then follow the sun to a small beach town on the west coast of Mexico, where I teach for the winter.
Working with the Regatta organizers, I was able to offer a Zumba class on the deck of a lovely restaurant/bar called The Balcony. I announced it on the marine VHF radio for several days prior. About 25 yachters from all over the world (men and women) showed up to shake it up on a deck overlooking an exquisite view of Port of Refuge harbor and waterfront. The owner of The Balcony pub and restaurant, where we held the class, said that she had been doing Zumba classes early in the morning with local Tongan women with the Exhilarate DVDs. And a fifth-grade girl from a local private school showed up for our Zumba class because she said her class does Zumbatomic on Fridays. In Tonga!
And though I’m still on the search for a portable sound system with enough volume to power a class and still fit into my luggage or a carry on, I’m always ready to get a class going on my travels. For me, Zumba belongs on the beach. Once I figure out the perfect sound system, all you’ll have to do is listen for the Latin music and look for me down by the water.