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.