To most of the outer island Tongan people we knew, America is Los Angeles (they call it Ela A), Hawaii and American Samoa. Most couldn’t name another state or city in the entire country (It would be fair to point out that most Americans have never heard of Tonga either). But there were a few Tongans, even out on our island, to whom it was a really big deal that we were from Missouri. They were Mormons; and they asked us if we knew that the Garden of Eden had been in Jackson County, Missouri. They knew the phrase “Jackson County, Missouri!” I told them that was news to me, and I really never had heard of that before. Because I hadn’t ever lived in that part of the state, I wasn’t even sure at the time where Jackson County is located. But it was nice to be able to talk with somebody about the place I was from if only to hear the word “Missouri” come out of their mouths.
A Mormon missionary later came out to our island for a few weeks. (Though he was an American and from California, the villagers referred to him as Sina or “chinaman.” They were confused by his obvious East Asian extraction. I’m not sure they ever really believed that he was an actual American.) I asked him about the Jackson County thing and he confirmed that the Garden of Eden had indeed been located in the metro KC area (on the Missouri side, of course).
I had forgotten that I now live just south of Eden until I was watching the below clip from Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon.
This I post in the spirit of Mark Twain who said, “The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.”