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