I have officially been in Tonga two weeks now! It does feel like much longer, still. Our days are filled with training, and our nights with our homestay families and talking to everyone in the village. I feel like we are famous here; as we walk down the street, I hear "Senifa!" (my Tongan name; they don't have "j's" or "r's" in the Tongan alphabet) and "Palangi" (white person) constantly. Everyone says hello, and I think I've met the entire villiage after being here only a week. We were even invited to a dance tonight! It's at the mormon church, and I hear not much like a dance you might attend in the states. I'll let you know how it goes.
I went to the beach with a few other PCV"s (Peace Corps Volunteers) last weekend for the first time and it was incredible. The water was perfect, and it was about waist-deep for 150 yards out from shore, which provided for some excellent snorkeling. Within the first ten minutes I probably saw more fish than I ever saw diving in California for two years. The colors of the fish were incredible, and the setting couldn't be beat. We stayed out for hours and kept discovering new things. It was hard to leave, but it is only a 20-minute walk from our villiage, so we plan on going back this weekend also. The Tongan people don't go to the beach for fun or just to hang out, and most cannot swim. It blows my mind...
As part of our training we had our first school site visit yesterday. I went to school with my sister, Sepi, which was only a ten-minute walk. As school started, we realized that her teacher hadn't shown up to school that day. (Apparantly this is very common in Tongan schools, and also accepted.) Usually when that happens, the next-door teacher just hops back and forth and teaches both classes for the day. Well, we were there that day, so some of us took over the class. It was Class 4, they were all eight and nine years old, so not too far off what I was teaching last year (in age, I mean). I ended up teaching them English parts of speech. It went well, but it is very different from schools in America. At one point after recess, a few boys were goofing off, so I asked one to move across the room. I don't think he exactly understood me, because he went across the room and took out a stick and handed it to me, apparantly for me to hit him with. I didn't. Corporal punishment is a common practice in Tongan schools, but you may only use one ruler or three coconut sticks at a time. Sort of a rule of thumb if you will. Resources in Tongan school are also very limited, there are no textbooks, handouts, art supplies, and the books in the classroom library are mostly photocopied. This was my first visit to a school, so I'll keep everyone updated on the situation as I visit more schools and when I get placed in the school I will be teaching at for the next two years.
The fruit here is hands-down the best fruit I've ever had. I eat fresh pineapple and bananas every day, as well as papaya, mango, and watermelon. I was never a big fan of bananas back in the states, but here they are small and delicious. The pineapple is so sweet, it's undescribable. Beyond the fruit though, I've had kind of a hard time finding thigs I like to eat. There's a lot of canned fish (mackeral) and canned beef...I tend to stick to eggs and toast for a lot of meals.
Well, I should be getting to a computer once every week or so, so hopefully more updates soon. I hope everyone will let me know what they are up to also, I would love to hear updates from America!