Friday, December 17, 2010

Culture Day

                Our Culture Day was last month but I didn’t get a chance to post any of the pics or write about so I’m doing it now.  When we arrived at our home stays, each village was assigned some cultural assignments for our Culture Day.  Each village had to learn a different Tongan dance, how to cook different Tongan foods, teach some members of our village something American (i.e. song, dance, etc.).  On top of these, all the men had to weave their own kafa, which is a belt for our taovalas that is made out of the husks of coconuts.  Also all the women had to weave their own kiekie’s which is kind of like a hanging belt (Check out the pics). 
                Our village was assigned to learn the maululu which is a sitting down dance.  We had to practice about 4 times and it was quite the pain in the ass but it went pretty well.  We cooked an assortment of Tongan dishes.  My dish was otaika (raw fish) and it was delicious.  I didn’t actually make it like I was supposed to, but it’s probably my favorite Tongan food.  Its raw fish which is cut up with peppers, coconut milk and lime.  We didn’t actually teach anyone from our community anything American but I was able to pull the part of the presentation off by bringing my two year old homestay brother Leki up on stage with me.  He already knows how to answer basic English questions like “What is your name?” and “How old are you?”  So for example when I asked him “How old are you?” he replied “2!” It’s more of him memorizing what he should say when he hears the question rather than him understanding the questions, so as long as I asked the questions in English with a Tongan accent he was able to answer. I took him on stage with me and told everyone that I taught my 2-year old brother to speak English, which was a lie because his parents taught him but most of the people didn’t know that.  He did great, he answered the questions and it was really cute.  
In Tonga when a dance is being performed, people will walk up on stage and stick money to them to show their appreciation.  The other dances have you all oiled up so that you can slap the bills on the skin.  Luckily the Maululu doesn't have any oil involved.

Me standing awkwardly all dressed up for the maululu

Action shot of the Maululu

Walking up the stage with Leki

Another Fotua group shot

Crowd pic.  You can see some of the food we all cooked for Culture Day on the tables

Swearing In

               Sorry I haven’t posted anything for awhile but I’ve been pretty busy and not near a computer too much.  Yesterday was my first day at site as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  We all got sworn in on the 15th back in Nuku’alofa.  We all arrived in the capital last Tuesday and we had a few days to do our shopping for our house.  Most people had to buy expensive things like refrigerators, stoves, and bikes but I was very fortunate to have that stuff all left to me by the Volunteer who use to be at my site.  My biggest purchases were a washing machine (300 pa’anga) and an arm chair (about 300 pa’anga).  The rest of my shopping was smaller things like pitchers, buckets, machete, etc.  Our things won’t arrive until Wednesday when the boat comes in. 
                The ceremony was pretty nice.  Peace Corps got a venue on the lagoon in Nuku’alofa.  The Japanese, Chinese, and New Zealand ambassadors attended as well as the head of the Anglican Church in Tonga and the guest of honor, the Minister of Education.  I read part of the opening hymn in Tongan.  We all said the oath together, which I believe is the same for all government employees, and then we were called up individually.  There was some food afterwards and then that was it and we were now volunteers.  Most of us finished up our shopping and everyone went out for a great night of partying to celebrate that night.  It’s a strange and great feeling to officially be a volunteer and to have my 2-years of service to have begun. 
                The other new volunteer here in Ha’apai and I arrived back here yesterday morning.  I was picked up by a man from my village who I believe is a minister in the Mormon Church in my village.  I cleaned up a little bit and started my community integration.  That’s basically my only priority as far as Peace Corps goes for the next month or so.  The summer holidays just began so school won’t start again until the end of January.  Now is the time where I practice my language more and meet everyone.  After I settled in again at my house, I went for a walk to go and start introducing myself.  It’s not really me introducing myself because everyone for the most part knows who I am.  It more like me going and greeting people and trying unsuccessfully to remember people’s faces and names.  I was lucky to stumble across a Wesleyan Bar B Q.  I was invited to join them.  They gave me some delicious chicken and manioke.  After I ate, I drank some kava with them for an or so and then went home.  With my community integration for the day done, I went spear fishing.  Before going to sleep I studied some Tongan for about an hour and watched a movie on my laptop.  I imagine that this will be roughly about my schedule for the next month or so.  I’d say day one as a volunteer was a success. 
The Diplomats (I'm pretty sure the Japanese guy in the middle nodded off for a bit)

Group 76 Fotua

Me reading the Tongan Hymn

The view of the lagoon from the stage

Me with Kelly (the Country Director, the head of the Anglican Church (right) and the Minister of Education in Tonga (Left)

Group 76

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Some Teaching Pics

Here are some pics of my first day teaching and the last one is my home stay family portrait.  I'm going to get it framed and give it to them for Christmas to hang up.

Moving the benches and tables out of the way for the Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes song

Trying to teach possive pronouns with Tevita

Practicing the parts of the body. (I made the poster)

Activity where I said a body part and they had to point to the part. (This was nose lol)

Me shaping young minds haha

You can see part of the words for the song on the board behind me.

Home Stay Family Portrait 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Today was our last day of our teaching practicum. Today I taught my students their left and right and some directions. We practiced by doing an exercise where I would tell them to jump, point, look, or step to the right, left, front, or back. After this we rehearsed singing Silent Night. There were 4 of us teaching classes this week at the Fotua Government Primary School. Two of us taught our students to sing Silent Night and the other two taught their students to sing Jingle Bells.
After we taught for about an hour and a half we all brought our students to the hall and we did a small recital where all the kids sang. Here are some pictures of the kids singing.

Class 4 and 5 kids singing Silent Night

Class 3 and 6 singing Jingle Bells

This week we taught our students pretty easy lessons. One reason was that for many of us it was our first time teaching our own class and teaching English. Another reason is that the students took all their tests a couple of weeks ago and summer starts next week so everyone is kind of coasting it. If we weren’t teaching them this week, the students would probably just be playing all day and practicing for their Culture Day on Monday. All the schools on this island and the surrounding islands are going to Pangai and performing Tongan dances and singing. We will get a chance to go and watch it.
Right now it’s Friday afternoon. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Each village is in charge of cooking their own turkey and then we split up the different courses. So our village is in charge of desserts. We’re cooking carrot cake, sweet potato pie, caramel pie, and brownies. So we’re all going to a big hall with the food tomorrow morning and staying there till 2pm. Then we’re all going and drinking on the beach for the rest of the day. Should be fun. I’ll take pictures and post them here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Check This Out

So Darren showed me how to embed videos on the blog.  Darren runs the dive shop down the road.  This is a video he made for his dive shop, Happy Ha'apai Divers.  I don't when I'll be able to post my own videos but hopefully it will be in the next couple of weeks.

Ha'apai Divers from Darren on Vimeo.

First Days of School

               This week we had our teaching practicum where we taught real classes.  I am teaching at the Fotua Government Primary School.  The school is about a ¼ mile down the road from me and I ride my bike there.  I was assigned to their class 5 class which is made up of 10 students who are around 10 years old.  We could teach anything we wanted for 2 hours.  That’s the cool thing about teaching English at the primary level.  You can pretty much teach whatever topic you want as long as it is in English.  I’m writing this on Tuesday night so I’ve had two days of classes so far. 
                I decided to start off with an easy topic for my first day of teaching so I chose to teach about the parts of the body.  We had written lesson plans that were supposed to last for the full 2 hours.  I was finished with everything I had planned about half way through.  However the lesson was a success as far as I was concerned.  The kids learned the 10 vocab words I wanted to teach them and they also learned the Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes song despite me screwing up the dance a few times.  So after an hour, when I had finished everything I had planned to do, I gave them a 15 minutes recess to go outside and do whatever.  When they came back we did another exercise where I pointed to a part of the body and they yelled out what I was pointing at.  Ex.) I would point to my nose and they would shout nose.  So with about 25 minutes left of class I tentatively asked, “Have you guys ever played Duck, Duck, Goose?” They replied with, “DUCK DUCK GOOSE!!!!!!”  It was a big hit and apparently one of their favorites.  The funny thing was that the class 1 and 2 kids (5 and 6 year olds) were let out early, so soon after our game started, the size of the circle was doubled in size to maximum capacity and around the circle was a larger circle of standing spectators.  It was wild.  I felt like I was at a cock fight or something lol.  It would become eerily quiet whenever someone was going around the circle saying duck but the second they said goose and the chase began, everyone would start screaming and cheering them on.  To add to the noise a few of the students had drum sticks on them and would start banging those too.  Also Tongan kids are tough.  They were sliding and diving on the concrete floor to get back to their place in time.  It was awesome.
                Today’s lesson went pretty much the same way with 10 new words about the parts of the body.  I planned it a little better and we didn’t run out of activities and I taught them how to sing and dance the Hokie Pokie which they loved.  I’m teaching again tomorrow morning and on Friday morning.  There is no school on Thursday because it is the first EVER Election Day in the Kingdom of Tonga.  For the first time in the country’s history there will be a democratic election for public officials.  It will be very interesting how the elections turn out and if there are any dramatic changes although none are anticipated.  However I’m sure that there will be many changes over the next 2 years. 
                We have less than 2 weeks left of our home stay and basically our training.  Training doesn’t officially end until December 15, when we get sworn in, but everyone is going to their sites on December 4th and that will be pretty fun.  I’ll be staying here in beautiful Ha’apai.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Not much to write about.  This week is our last week of language classes.  Starting next week we will go to Faleloa (the village at the end of the island and where I’ll be living after training) everyday to receive our technical training.  From what I understand, we will be split up into the different sectors which we will be teaching.  So I will be grouped with the other primary school teachers.  Our main instructor will be Dora who just arrived this week from Bulgaria.  She has been a language teacher for Peace Corps for many years.  She is our teacher because our primary task is teaching English to our students. 
Today Laukau was driving into Pangai to go shopping I think, so some Peace Corps volunteers and I caught a ride with him.  I’m hopefully picking up my bike from Juleigh, one of the volunteers in Ha’apai.  Sarah (The volunteer who just left and who used to live in my house) left my bike with her, so it will be real nice to not have to walk and hitchhike everywhere. 
For the last few days it has been really hot here.  Yesterday was by far the hottest.  It felt that way anyway because we couldn’t do anything since it was Sunday.  We literally just sat around talking to each other, sweating.  I think it was probably only in the low 80’s but humidity is ridiculous. 
That’s all for now and here are some pics.

Homestay Bedroom

Homestay House

Homestay Living Room

My Homestay Mom, Lei

Our Bus

Monday, November 1, 2010


                This week we found out our site placements for where we will be living after we get sworn in, in December.  I am going to be a primary school teacher in a government primary school.  The kids range from Grade 1 (5 year olds) to Grade 6 (11 year olds).  I think I’ll be primarily teaching English but I’m not quite sure.  The school is in the village of Faleloa which is two villages over from where I’m living right now.  It is on the island of Foa, in the island group of Ha’apai.  In my school there are 4 teachers and 77 students.  The village of Faleloa has approximately 400 people in it. 
                A great perk for me is that because I’ll be staying here on the same island as our home stay, I have already seen my house.  It is on the school compound, right next to the school.  My neighbor is the principle I think.  Another lucky thing about my house is that up until about a week ago, another volunteer was living there.  She just finished her service and she left me all her stuff.  This means that I can save most of moving-in allowance because I don’t need to buy a refrigerator, stove, and bike.  She left me some other stuff too I think but I haven’t seen all of it yet.  Peace Corps took everything out of the house so that nobody took anything. 
Here are the pics…
                Also down the road is 2nd most beautiful beach in Tonga (so I’ve heard) and two resorts.  The island is also surrounded by beautiful reefs and beaches.  I think I’ll be very happy here. 

My House...

Looking in the front door

My living room

My Bedroom

My bathroom

My Shower

Kitchen Counter

Kitchen Sink

Playing field right in front of my house

My school

My neighbors house (the principle I think)

Blog 11/1

This is a journal entry from last week…
Today we continued our lessons at Tasi’s house.  My Tongan is coming along pretty well.  I can say the basics and I can sometimes get the gist of what someone is saying to me if they speak slowly enough.  After lunch we had to dress in black because we were going to the next village over, where a man had just died.  In Tonga, when someone dies in your village, everyone wears black from the time he dies until 3 days after he is buried.  If you were very close the deceased, such as a son or wife, then you would wear black for a year.  Some widows even wear black until the day they die. 
                We finished for the day and then headed to the beach.  We stayed there for a good two hours (My tan is coming along nicely).  After the beach we headed back home.  Across the street from my house is a small field where there were men playing some touch rugby.  Seeing as my dinner wasn’t ready yet, I joined them.  They gave me the ball to punt to kick off the game and I’m pretty sure they were expecting me to screw it up because after I gave it a decent kick, they all seemed generally impressed.  I played barefoot which is a testament to my new-found and slightly surprising lack of concern towards dirty and would-be-frowned-upon-things-in-America, here in Tonga (Couldn’t really think of a good word to put there).  The field was uneven, there were shards of glass here and there, and it was scattered with crap from whatever animal had been grazing in it. 
                I’m also relaxing my eating habits.  At home I would never eat dark meat or any fat or bones.  Here I’m eating pork straight off a roasted pig’s body on the table in front of me, that still has his eyes and hooves.  I regularly get chunks of bones in my meals and meat with no fat on it is a rarity.  It helps too that Lei’s cooking is delicious.  The other day at Faikava, I tried to say that Lei’s cooking was delicious after I was asked, “How is the food?”  I said, “Lei Ifo” which means “Lei (the wife of Laukau) is delicious, not Lei’s cooking is delicious.  The men all thought that was hilarious and laughed as I repeated it a few more times thinking that they were pleased with my language skills.  I only realized my mistake after one of the men explained it to me.  I still haven’t lived it down and I get asked how’s Lei’s cooking is every time I go to Faikava. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This is my journal entry from yesterday…

                Its Sunday so not much happened today.  I got up around 9ish this morning and got ready for church.  Mormon Church lasts for 3 hours on Sunday, from 9-12.  The first 2 hours of the service is a kind of Bible study.  The west way that I can think of comparing it, it to compare it to religion school back home. 
                Thankfully, Lei did not make me go for the full 3 hours.  It’s in Tongan so its not like I would know what they were saying anyway.  I arrived around 10ish.  I’m able to pick out random words in the sermons or maybe the subject of a sentence every now and then, but for the most part I’m clueless to what they’re talking about.  I did however hear Obama’s name mentioned followed by some laughing.  So I was pretty sure they were making some sort of joke about me but I had no idea the context.  Lei later told me that the guy talking had said that Charity and I had come from America and that we were Obama’s top 2 advisors. 
                After the service I went back home (next door) and took a nap for a couple hours.  Shortly after I woke up, I went with Charity to meet Sean and Ofa (the other volunteers in our village) at the beach to do some studying.  We stayed there for about an hour or so and I spent most of the time playing with Sima (my 8 year old brother) and another boy who is somehow related to the family, who had followed us to the beach.  We all went back to Charity’s and watched some episodes of Arrested Development.  We watched 4 or 5 and then I went home for dinner. 
                Lei sort of chastised me for watching TV on the Sabbath when I got home.  I say sort of because she kept smiling and making a funny face as she was talking to me.  I’m pretty sure she was just saying it for the benefit of Taleki (the grandfather) who was snoozing in the next room and listening in.  Taleki is a Mormon minister at the church.  Apparently his faith hasn’t rubbed off on his son (my dad), Laukau, because he was too (for lack of a better word) hung-over from Kava the night before. 
                Today I started drinking the water from their water tank.  The water tank is filled by rain water.  Up until now, Lei had been boiling my water because the Peace Corps had told us it might make us sick until we got use to drinking it.  I’ve been drinking a decent amount of Kava, which is made with unboiled rain water, so I figured what the hell.  So far I’ve had almost 2 liters and no sign of trouble.
                We have been told by the Peace Corps and we’ve heard from other sources like the internet, that PST (Pre-service training) is not fun and is commonly thought of to be the toughest part your 27 months.  Maybe I have been lucky because I’m having a pretty great time here.  The language isn’t too hard, our lessons go pretty quick, the people here are amazing, my family take great care of me, and we have tons of time to go to the beach or to do whatever else we might want to do.  This is probably the least stressed I’ve been in awhile.  I also get along great with the rest of the volunteers in our group and we’re starting to become good friends.  The only real complaint I have is the limited access to the internet. 
Our Classroom and teacher, Tasi

Just visiting the pilots during our flight, no big deal

Ready for Church (notice new haricut)

Our Beach at Fotura

Our beach at sunset.

Group Shot at the airport upon arrival

Drinking Kava after church.

In Nuka'alofa we visited the Church of Tonga because one of the 5 business volunteers will be put there.  They welcomed us with a feast.

Man-made road connecting Foa and Pangai

Sandy Beach also known as Palangi beach. 

2-year old brother, Taleki

Original Blog Post that I couldn't post the other day

I am officially known as Kona, pronounced Co-Na.  The Tongan alphabet doesn’t have an R in it so it is hard for some Tongans to say Connor.  So when they do say it, it sounds like Kona, so at the recommendation of some current volunteers I took Kona as my Tongan name.  Many Tongan names are words (I think that’s true).  Anyway the funny thing is that when you look up Kona in the dictionary, the definition is, “to be intoxicated or poisoned” lol.  It has really caught on here in Ha’apai so I’m going to run with it.  
After 6 days in Nuku’alofa, we finally departed for Ha’ apai.  I’ve been in Ha’apai in the village of Fo’tua for two days now.  We landed on the only airstrip which is literally the width of the island.  It goes from one side of Pangai to the other.  If the plane didn’t slow up in time then it would go straight into the sea.  Fotua is attached to Pangai by a single lane, man-made concrete road.  It has so many potholes and is supposed to be rebuilt soon by the Japanese government.  Only one car can cross at a time.  It has to be one of the worst roads in the world.  It is covered in potholes and you can’t go faster than 10 or 15 mph on it. 
In my village there are three other volunteers.  We will be having our language lessons together for the next couple of months Mondays-Thursday at our language instructor’s house.  On Fridays we all travel to the next village and meet up with the rest of the volunteers in our group.  There are a total of 26 of us.  The island is beautiful. 
Today and yesterday we spent a couple of hours diving and spear fishing in the coral reefs.  Today I caught my first fish.  The first was a pretty pathetic 6 or 7 inch fish and then I caught a squid which was pretty sweet.  Especially since I thought it was a big white fish until I shot it and black ink sprayed everywhere.  Today I went with Sean (the other male volunteer here in Fo’tua) and Semi and Pita.  Semi and Pita live next door and are 19 and 20 respectively.  Yesterday they took me and Charity (Volunteer living next door at their house) into the bush.  It was pretty cool eating the fruit we saw as we walked and drinking coconut water.  We were also showed how to climb a coconut tree but they weren’t too keen to let me try.  The last thing they want is a Palangi falling from a tree and getting hurt while on their watch. 
                Palangi is a white person.  Everywhere you go in Tonga you hear people referring to you as a Palangi.  It takes some getting used to as an American because we would never refer to someone as “black guy” or “Chinese guy” right in front of you.  Nothing is meant by it but it does take some getting used to.  I actually think it’s kind of funny.  Lateki, the 2 year old here in the house, will just follow me around and saying Palangi until I look at him, at which point he giggles and starts talking Tongan. 
 My host is great as well.  Their names are Lei (the Mom), Laukau (the Dad), and two sons, Lateki (2) and Semi (8).  Pretty much everyone on the island is related by blood.  For example next door is Laukau’s brother’s house where Charity stays.  Then the other two volunteers live down the road at Allani’s house and his Sister’s house.  Allani is a cousin or something to Lei I think.  It’s hard to keep track of the relationships. 
                The lifestyle here is so slow and laid back, it’s great.  Most men here in the village don’t have jobs and work in the bush.  Whenever you are tired you take a nap, which suits me fine.  Here everyone lives on Tongan time so meetings can get cancelled at the last minute, planes leave hours or sometimes days late, and nobody seems to notice or care.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I am officially known as Kona, pronounced Co-Na.  The Tongan alphavbet doesn't have an R in it so it is hard for some Tongans to say Connor.  So when they do say it, it sounds like Kona, so at the recommendation of some current volunteers IU took Kona as my Tongan name.  Many Tongan names are words (I don't know if that's true).  Anyway the funny thing is that when you look p Kona in the dictionary, the definiton is, "To be intoxicated or poisoned" lol.  It has really caught on here in Ha'apai so I'm going to run with it. 

Today and yesterday we spent a couple of hours diving and spear fishing in the coral reefs.  Today I caught my first fish.  The first was a pretty pathetic 6 or 7 inch fish and then I caught a squid which was pretty sweet.  Especially since I thought it was a big white fish until I shot it and black ink sprayed everywhere. 

***Because the internet is so slow I can't post the whole blog post.  This is about 1/5 of what I wrote so I'll have to post the rest another day.  My ride is leaving.***

Also no pics yet and I buzzed my head.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Arrived in Tonga

Hey Everyone,

This is my first chance to post since I got here.  Its Thursday at 7:49 PM.  We arrived on Monday morning and were greeted by Peace Corps staff.  The people of Tonga are amazing.  Its strange walking around and having everyone saying Hello to you.  I bought my Tepenu (man skirt) today and I look fucking good lol.  Its actually how surprising how comfortable it is and un-girly looking.  Especially since everyone is wearing them some of who are massive Tongan men.  We apparently brought the rain with us cuz it has been raining since we arrived.  The staff here are awesome.  On Wednesday we all fly out to Ha'apai which is the most consevative island group in Tonga.  We have all been split up into 4 different villages on the island of Foa.  Sorry this is a bit of a short post but I didn't have much time.  I'll do better in a few days.

Friday, August 20, 2010


After a summer of anxiety and frustration, waiting to find out when and where I'm going to be spending the next 27 months of my life, my invitation has finally arrived! I have been assigned to the Kingdom of Tonga as a Business Teacher. Although this is a completely different region from where I was originally nominated for (French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa) and a different program too (I was originally nominated to a Business Advising program), I couldn't be happier with my invitation. Although I was eagerly looking forward to finding out what African country I would be assigned to, I can't believe my luck at being placed in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. From the day I first started researching the Peace Corps, I had secretly thought that the Pacific Islands would be my dream assignment. It just goes to show that you never know whats around the corner. A couple of days ago I had thought that I would be learning to speak French while living in Africa being a Business Advisor and today I'm going to be a teacher in a secondary school in the Kingdom of Tonga- a country I had never heard of until I went to the peace corps website for the first time back in March. I leave on October 5th and can't wait!

My Assignment

Country- Kingdom of Tonga
Job Title- Business Teacher

Primary Duties

As Business Advising/Educator, you will be assigned to a secondary or tertiary school where you will strengthen business skills in the classroom.  Volunteers will teach basic economics and accounting as per an established Ministry of Education curriculum and work to design additional school-based curriculum that will introduce specific business skills that address business issues relevant to Tonga.  Volunteers will work to improve teaching instruction and informal class-room assessment; design instructional materials for the classroom; and expand extra-curricular activities and educational resources related to business. 

Opportunities for Secondary Projects

In addition to their primary work assignments at school, many volunteers often become involved with school-based and loca community-driven projects that contribute to the sustainable development of their community and strengthen its ability to meet its future needs.  The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and student and community interest.  These projects often focus on strengthening students' acquired knowledge, improving health and wellbeing, generating income, increasing environmental awareness or addressing a particular community identified priority.  Some of these development projects are supported during a Volunteer's spare time in the States to support a local community project or group.

Many current Volunteers have organized community and youth groups, coordinated sports and recreational activities, assisted with night classes, conducted Saturday morning story hours at local libraries, or helped youths perform research on the internet at local school or cyber cafes. 

So thats the main idea of my assignment.  Theres a lot more in the packet I've been sent but I don't feel like typing the whole thing out.  Also I will be learning to speak Tongan and be considered a member of the faculty at the school I am assigned to.