Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sports Day

Sorry for not posting in the last month but I've been pretty busy.  By busy I mean mostly lazy but there have been a few things going on.  We had two sports days this month.  The first one was here in Faleloa and only involved our students.  We had events ranging from 25 meter sprints to 400 meter races (1 lap).  It was a great success. A lot of families came out and watched and brought food with them.  My favorite part of the day was watching the Tongan mothers getting really into cheering on their kids.  You would have these little kids running and then out of nowhere would run this big Tongan woman next to the track and race their children to the finish line.  I say big because most of these women were +225 lbs.  They could move surprisingly fast though.  And then they started to get a little too excited and shit got a little out of hand.  During one of the sprints for the Class 1 girls, a couple of the moms ran out to cheer on their kids, when another Mom thought it'd be funny to take out one of them.  She ran out and basically bulldozed straight into one of the on rushing moms.  She just lowered her head and drilled the other woman in the chest.  It was nuts. I don't think she meant to connect as well as she did, but she clobbered the other woman.  Everyone was hysterically laughing but the other Mom was pretty shaken up.  I wouldn't be surprised if she was a little concussed but the next race went on like nothing happened.
So all the winners were recorded and they would all compete in the big sports day on the next island over which was last Friday.  In the meantime all the kids that were to compete in the big sports day had hardcore cardio workouts at least 3 times a week after class.  It was crazy how much these kids ran.  They would long distance running, sprints, push ups, you name it and they did it.  I was very impressed as I sat in the shade in front of my house watching and thinking how this shit wouldn't fly in America.
Last Thursday I wore up at 8 for my class at 8:30.  When I got to the classroom I was told that today we would only be having a half day and that we wouldn't be teaching.  Instead the teachers were going to teach the kids to march and to practice their cheers.  I sure as hell wasn't about to march around the field with the kids for a couple hours in the hot sun, so I grabbed my iPod and speakers from my house and set myself up in the shade by the school.  I cranked up some Bob Marley and ended up taking an hour and a half nap with all the slow kids who didn't make the travel roster lol.  After about an hour and a half one of the kids came and woke me up and told me it was my turn to teach them some new cheers.  They already the Remember the Titans cheer customized for our village.  I taught them "We Will Rock You," "In the Jungle the mighty jungle...," and "Sweet Caroline."  I also taught them the wave which you see at big soccer games.  It was really funny seeing the kids singing "Sweet Caroline" and they loved "We Will Rock You" with the clapping.
On Friday we all crammed into the one bus on the island and headed to next island over.  Almost the whole school (about 50 students) and 8 students squeezed in there.  There were 7 teams competing.  The two schools from our island and 5 from the next island over.  Ironically it was March 18th, the day after St. Patrick's day here but due to the time difference it was still March 17th back home, and our village color is green.  So true to tradition I wore green on St. Paddy's day.  We did alright.  We came in third for over all medal count and one of my Class 6 students won MVP due to his 7 gold medals.

Class 5 Girls race

One of the Mothers racing the kids to the finish line

Class 5 Boys race

This is 'Aisea.  At the end of every race he ran his mother (pictured in the background) would run out and chase him down with a water bottle to get him to run faster.  As you can see he was a very good sport about it.

Classes 3-5

More motherly encouragement during the sack races

Class 1 boys getting ready for their relay race.

Class 2 girls relay race

Packing into the bus on the way to the big sports day on the next island.

This was taken as we left the school but we stopped down the road after this picture was taken to pick up some more kids and moms.  Sione, the boy sitting on the dash was holding a 1 year old in his lap for the rest of the ride while sitting on the dash.

More of the bus ride

Faleloa getting ready to march out for the opening ceremonies

This is a picture of my Class 6 English night class.  Every Monday night from now until the end of October (excluding breaks) I teach Monday night class for two hours to help get Class 6 ready for their big exam.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I haven’t really been around much in the last week or so.  Last Monday I was in the capital for an Emergency Coordinator meeting.  I’m the backup emergency coordinator for Ha’apai now seeing as I’m the only volunteer from group 76 in Ha’apai now.  I stayed there until Wednesday morning.  It was great being able to see some of the other volunteers which I haven’t seen since swearing in, in December.  We went out to an actual bar and had a pretty good time. 
                By the time I got back on Wednesday it was around lunch time and it was too late for me to teach.  I taught Thursday and then it was Friday.  I don’t teach on Friday. Friday’s consist of a radio broadcast played over the radio from 9-10 for every primary school in Tonga to listen to.  I usually either do some other work while this is going on or use my time more wisely.  It’s a waste of time for me to listen to it since it is in Tongan so I did some much needed laundry instead during that hour.  Then after the radio broadcast, we have a teacher’s meeting.  That lasts about another hour or so.  During this whole time all the students are in one classroom where usually someone talks to them.  The last two weeks were covered by two of the ministers from a couple of the churches here in Faleloa.  After the meeting my day is done.  The other teachers do some kind of teaching for about an hour and half, until lunch time.  Then at lunch time everyone goes home for the day. 
                Last Friday Todd, Juleigh, and I went to visit Blair on the next island over for the weekend.  Blair lives in a village called Ha’ano.  I’ve heard that the island is called Kaovai (I think) but my map says it’s called Ha’ano too so I’m not really sure which one it is.  Blair only has electricity in the evenings and I think she has the most remote Peace Corps site in Tonga.  It was really fun and relaxing.  We watched movies on our laptops until the batteries died and on Saturday Todd and I went fishing with Sela, a really cool Tongan guy in Blair’s village.  We also did a lot of reading.
                We had planned on getting a boat ride back with the Wesleyan boat on Sunday but we found out that it wasn’t leaving until Monday morning.  We really didn’t want to have to get a ride back this morning and then go straight to school to teach.  ; Especially Todd and Juleigh because they would have had to get from Faleloa to Pangai as well.  We were able to get a really nice guy in the village named Sione to give us a ride yesterday evening.  The only problem was that he only had enough gas in the boat to get from Ha’ano to the tip of my island, Foa and back again.  This only meant that we had to get a little wet because there was no wharf for us to step on to.  It is about a 45 minute boat ride.  I wish it wasn’t overcast and raining a bit because I would have loved to take some pictures and a video of the ride.  The seas were pretty rough and the tiny boat got moved around quite a bit by some of the waves.  Todd struggled a bit with the waves and almost got sea sick.  We got soaked getting off the boat because the waves were pretty big on shore and we had to jump off.  We were able to get all our bags off without getting wet so nobody lost any electronics or anything. 

                Today I was back teaching again.  I taught for about 3 ½ hours.  I was pretty tired after teaching so I ended up taking a nap for a couple of hours in my new armchair which finally arrived a couple weeks back.  It arrived 6 weeks after it was suppose to get here.  I awoke to the sound of the school push lawn mower and went outside to see what was going on.  Saia and Sivi were cutting the end of a running track in the grass in front of the school.  Sivi told me that it was for sports day which was on Friday.  I had one of those “Ohhh! That’s what they were talking about” moments thinking back to last Fridays staff meeting.  I couldn’t really figure out why they were asking me to be in charge of cleaning up the school grounds on Thursday this week.  They were working on the round side of the end of the track.  It actually didn’t look so bad except for the outside lane which goes through the base of the flag pole.  Also the inside lane ended kind of abruptly at a hedge.  When I noticed this, the thought also occurred to me, “I don’t remember there being this much space in the hedge so that a running track could fit through it.”  There hadn’t been.  They had cut down to beautiful shrubs for this track (I’m picturing the gasps of my Dad upon reading that sentence lol)!  They also told me that they were going to take out a third one where the inside track was running into it. 
                They will probably run maybe a few long distance races on Friday.  Anything longer than a lap will most likely see most of the runners collapse from exhaustion because they will of course sprint the first part like they would every other race.  These shrubs must have been growing for years but I guess that’s the price you have to pay to host a 5-11 year old sports day lol…

Here are the boys sitting together on Friday morning before the radio broadcast for the teachers.

Here are the girls.

Heres everyone.  I don't know if you can make him out but if you look at the third boy in from the left in the first row, he is a 5-year old fakalaite-the 3rd gender class in Tonga.  His parents didn't have any daughters so he is being raised as a girl to help around the house with cleaning and cooking.  He has long hair braided into pigtails. 

The new track

Here's a better picture of the new gap in the hedge.  You can also notice what the meticulous planning led the the inside lane into.

Here are some pigs getting roasted for a kaipolo.  This is a big feast which costs way more than most families can afford.  This one was for a 1st birthday which is a big deal in Tonga.  this was taken after Cyclone Wilma hit.  Notice the windows of the house in the back which are covered with sheet metal to keep the wind and rain out.  Most houses do this when cyclones hit.

Roasting Pigs again.

A couple of Sundays ago my neighbors brought this over for lunch.  Lobsters here don't have claws but they are covered with pretty spiky shells which making eating a little difficult.  It tasted exactly the same though!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Week of School

The first week of school is a bit different here in Tonga than it is back home.  For instance at home, the first day of school starts off with a bang and a ton of stuff planned for it.  Here, not so much.  Our first day consisted of attendance being taken with the new class 1 students being signed up by their parents.  Then the class 1 students went home because they weren’t expected to help much with the cleaning of the school, which was to follow. 
                The boys and girls were all assigned different tasks demonstrating Tongan cultural views towards gender.  For instance the boys were in charge of the one push mower to cut the grass around the buildings, to clear off any debris still left over from the cyclone, and to move all the heavy wood desks to their prospective classes because they had all been stacked in one room during the summer break.  The girls were assigned to cleaning out the classrooms and bathrooms which mostly consisted of sweeping and throwing out trash. 
                I had just received the syllabus for the first time so I started to outline them so that I could start planning lessons, which I was told would start the following Monday.  Yesterday and today went along much the same way.  Not only were the school buildings cleaned and tidied up, but every building on the school compound had its grass cut too, this included my humble abode.  So between yesterday and today my house has never looked more maintained.  The grass has been cut for the first time since I’ve been here, all the banana trees around my house which were knocked down during the cyclone are gone, and it’s been thoroughly weeded.  I felt a bit guilty about having these 7-10 year olds cut my grass and everything when I probably should have taken care of that stuff myself.  But I felt better when I set my speakers up outside and played some Rap for them so they could all dance while they worked.  It was pretty fun hanging out with them and I didn’t just sit and watch the whole time.  I gave them a hand most of the time. 
                The most enjoyable group to watch working was the class 1 students who joined in on the work today.  They were led by Vesita (Saia’s wife and my neighbor) who is their teacher.  A tractor had come a couple of days ago, from the next island over, and mowed the big playing field in front of the school and my house.  But it left all the clippings on the field which needed to be removed.  Most of the girls were in charge of sweeping the grass into big piles and removing them.  They used brooms and their hands to do it.  The Class 1’s helped with this.  They would all be lined up and when Saia or Vesita said “Go!” they would all start furiously swiping at the dead grass as if they were digging a hole in the sand.  They would move about 5 feet and then stop for a rest.  They were actually surprisingly effective and each one of them took it as a challenge to be the first each time to reach the stopping point.  They worked furiously.  They also required some sort of game to be played with them every 30-40 minutes so they wouldn’t lose their tension span and start to wander off. 
                The kids are great and I can’t wait to start teaching them on Monday.
The big playing field in front of the school and my house after it was cut a couple of days ago.

These guys are some of the older boys who did most of the work around my house.  

Some of the girls sweeping the grass into piles.

The Class 1 kids at work.

A timely break for Class 1.  They played a sort of standing duck, duck, goose.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cyclone Wilma

              The internet just came back after we got with a cyclone on Monday (Sunday in America).  We were told that a cyclone was on its way and the weather maps looked a bit concerning but it was only suppose to be category 2 (the scale goes to 5 I think).  The wind was only supposed to be about 30-40 knots.  Whenever an emergency occurs such as a bad cyclone, Peace Corps will order some or all of the volunteers in the country to go to a safe house.  This is called consolidation.  We were told on Sunday evening that since it wasn’t going to be a bad storm, consolidating was going to be optional.  I opted to stay in my house.  I got woken up around 7am by Todd (our emergency coordinator in Ha’apai saying that we were consolidating because the cyclone is stronger than predicted.  However since they left it late and I and the other volunteer would have had to cross the land bridge to get to the consolidation point (Todd’s house), we had a choice to stay in our villages and hang out at the Mormon Church or head to the next island over and consolidate.  If I stayed I would have had to go to the Mormon Church because they are easily the soundest structures on our island since they were funded and built by the Mormons in America.  I didn’t feel much like hanging out at the Mormon Church through the whole storm and since the storm hadn’t hit yet I opted to head to Pangai and consolidate with the other volunteers. 
                I got my neighbor and principle, Saia, to give me a lift.  There were 4 of us at Todd’s house.  Shortly after we got there the power and water went out.  We think that they were probably turned off to minimize damage because we lost them before the storm really hit.  We nailed tarps over Todd’s windows to try and keep the water out and moved most of his things away from the windows.  The storm hit Ha’apai pretty hard. At one point, Todd and I had to go outside to re-nail the tarps to the house because the wind was ripping them off.  You could actually feel yourself being moved by the wind.  Some water got in but because the house was pretty well prepared, not too much water got in and the water that did, was quickly mopped up.  Around 3pm (I think) the cyclone had passed.  We took a walk around to see the damage to Pangai.  Power lines were down everywhere.  Two old and large buildings were completely demolished.  Many of the Chinese stores had had their awnings ripped off and a few roofs were lost.  One of the schools where a volunteer works at had recently built a brand new school building.  The roof was ripped off most of it and the building was flooded.  It was a shame because the brand new building was pretty much destroyed with wind and water damage.  I had to stay in Pangai until Tuesday because we were still supposed to stay consolidated until the next morning. 
                Luckily, there was no damage to my house or my school back in Faleloa.  There was a lot of damage on the island though.  Many power lines were down and the water was out.  In my village there were two houses that were practically destroyed with one having half the house completely collapsing.  The resort down at the end of end of the island, Matafonua, was hit the hardest.  It was hit with huge waves which washed away to of the fales (small houses) where the guest stay were completely swept away by huge waves and two other ones had substantial water damage.  The power was restored to whole island today, 3 days after the cyclone.  I was told to expect the power to be out for at least a week so it was a nice surprise when the power came back on today. 
                I have heard that the cyclone ended up being a category 4 (I’ve heard it was only a 3 too) but the winds were over 100 knots per hour.  Good thing we still have 2 more months until the cyclone season is over…

One of the houses in my village which had its roof blown off

Another house in my village which had half of the house collapse

Remnants of 2 of the guest fales at Matafonua

Matafonua. The concrete platform was where a new walk in freezer use to stand

Thats where the freezer ended up.  Destroyed

In the distance you can see the reef which is where waves usually break.  The waves that hit Matafonua travelled across the reef and all the way to the land.

Here is a video of the waves hitting Matafonua during the cyclone

Cyclone Wilma Ha'apai tonga from Liquid image Productions on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Come on...

                So yesterday I was suppose to travel to the capital, Nuku’alofa, for a meeting.  I’m one of the two volunteers in Ha’apai who are on the VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee).  The purpose for VAC is to discuss policies, any complaints or opinions from the volunteers, and to talk about how Peace Corps Tonga can better support the volunteers here (I think that’s what we do, this was my first VAC meeting).
                Peace Corps had told me earlier in the week that my flight would take off at 5:10 PM on Thursday.  I would arrive in Nuku’alofa around 6:30ish and the meeting would be the next morning.  Then I would fly back to Ha’apai Saturday morning. 
                I had been looking forward to this very much.  I knew I would be coming back to the capital after a month so when we were sworn in, I held off on buying some supplies for my house because I knew I would be coming back and that I would have more money in a month’s time to buy them. Also I wanted to buy some food and cooking supplies because we have a terrible selection of food and cooking supplies here in Ha’apai. On top of this I was looking forward to the meeting too.  However the thing I was looking forward to the most was being able to hang out with all the other volunteers and go out in Nuku’alofa.  All the volunteers from group 75 (last year’s group) were in Nuku’alofa all week for their Mid-Service Training. 
                So Thursday rolls around and it’s raining again like it has been doing all week.  I pack up my clothes and other random things I was bringing and put them in plastic bags so the rain doesn’t get at them.  I rode my bike into town (about a 50 minute ride) because I needed to get money out of the bank, go to the post office, and do some other quick errands.  As I’m riding into town I had to stop at the airport runway which you cross on your way to town because a plane was taking off.  I stood there for 15 minutes or so and watched.  I assumed the plane was heading to Vava’u since I don’t think usually more than one flight goes to Tongatapu per day.  This was about 1:30ish.  I went to town and did what I had to do and ate some lunch.  At 4 I hitched a ride to the airport.  I got there and the place was literally empty.  The two gates were shut using copper wire twisted into knots to hold them shut.  I opened a gate and went in.  The terminal was empty and not a soul could be seen.  Literally nobody at all.  No baggage guys, no other passengers, no air plane, nobody.  I didn’t initially give up complete hope that my flight was cancelled because I still had an hour to take off and it’s Tonga so I wouldn’t be surprised if people showed up late.  I call Peace Corps and tell them nobody is here.  They told me that that I would be called back after they looked into it.  About 10 minutes later I got a call back saying that the airline (the only one in the country) had changed the flight without notifying them and that there was no flight today. 
                Remember the plane that I watched take off earlier in the day?  That was my goddamn flight.  I could have easily made it.  Anyway they tell me that they were going to try and get me on the 9:30 flight the next morning so I can still make the meeting. I think fair enough, this sucks but whatever, at least I’ll be there tomorrow.  I head back to town to crash at another volunteers house in Pangai because it would be a bitch to have to go all the way back to my village and then come out again the next morning.  It was still raining and I had left my bike in Pangai.  The airport is only a couple miles from Pangai, if that. 
                So I get back into town and I get another call from Peace Corps.  They decided that since it was going to be cutting it close to making the meeting and since it might rain the next day and the flight might get delayed, they weren’t going to fly me in.  So there I was in Pangai, soaking wet, with my packed bag, and I had to head home.  Needless to say I was pretty pissed.  I ended up getting home around 7pm, about 7 hours after I left.  Also it lightly drizzled today for a little bit.  It was a beautiful day.
                I find it pretty suspect that the airline would just change the flight and not notify Peace Corps.  Especially since, as I previously said, I was literally the only person at the airport when I showed up.  Not a single other passenger was not notified.  How was I the only one to not know?  Is it not somebody’s job to check these things???

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Contact Info

Some People were asking for my contact information so here it is.

To call/text my cell phone dial 0116767785683

My mailing address is:

Connor Moore, PCV
General Post Office
Pangai, Ha'apai
Kingdom of Tonga
South Pacific

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Weekend

     This Past weekend Tonga was the first country in the world to welcome in the New Year.  To celebrate, 13 of us, went to Uoleva island.  Uoleva is two islands over from my island and has the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  I've heard that it also has the most beautiful beaches in Tonga.  It is about a 45 minute boat ride from the island next to mine.  There were 3 Peace Corps volunteers from Ha'apai (including myself), 5 Peace Corps volunteers from other island groups, and 4 Japanese volunteers.  We went with a huge cooler we borrowed from the fishery and filled it with alcohol, hot dogs, and ice.  We also brought bread, peanut butter and jelly, some soups, gasoline, music, tents, and 2 spear guns. 
     We spent the days lounging about on the beach, fishing (we caught about 14 fish), reading, and doing a whole lot of nothing.  At night we made a fire and cooked hot dogs and the fish we had caught.  It was completely stress free and awesome.  We stayed for 4 days and 3 nights.  We had originally planned on getting there on New Year's Eve and only staying 2 nights but we realized that would have meant we would have been returning on Sunday and nobody would give us a ride on the  Sabbath so we had to stay for an extra day.  We stayed next to a Tonga "resort."  They let us use their bathroom and shower for a small fee.  I think it was 10 pa'angas per night for everyone which is like $5 per night for the whole group.  As you can see in the pictures below, it's not much of a resort.  It is basically one house with about 5 or 6 bungalows.  But we had everything we needed for a comfortable stay.
     It had been arranged with the fisherman who had given us a ride that he would pick us up at noon on Monday to bring us back to Pangai.  None of us had much faith that he would show up on time and in typical Tongan fashion he showed up over 2 hours late.  The greatest thing about this is that not one of us were fazed by this.  Its amazing how laid back and relaxed you become about things like that in Tonga.  If I were back home and my ride had shown up hours late, I would be at the very least pissed and stressed about it.  Here its part of life.  That's not saying it can drive you nuts sometimes.  Like when my Internet was installed in my house over a week after they were suppose to come and install it but you get use to it and start to realize how useless it is to get upset by small things like that.  Plus we were on a beautiful tropical island beach so none of us were in a rush to leave anyway lol. 

This is the view looking towards Lifuka.  That's the island where Pangai is. (Lifuka is all the way to left in the distance)

View looking the other way.  You can't see it in this pic but when you look this way on a clear day like this you can usually see Tofua island which is a volcano.

The resorts boat.  We took a boat similar to this one from Pangai.

Frying some fish for lunch.

Sandy and Juliegh.  Juliegh is one of the other volunteers here in Ha'apai.

Roasting some hot dogs.

Lounging waiting for the boat to pick us up.

Our campsite.  you can see the red house where the kitchen is and one of the orange bungalows to the right.

One of the sunsets