Friday, December 5, 2008

Goodbye Ha'alaufuli; Thanksgiving; Weaving school dropout

How I spent Thanksgiving (top)
Girls performing ta'olunga (bottom)

Me and my language teacher 'Ofa and Tulu
At culture day. I think I get a lei just about every day from someone or another
Boys watching the girls at Culture Day

Culture day
Bays goofing off at one of the schools

Two weeks ago we left our homestay villages and spent a week in "attachment" where we follow around a current volunteer for a week. I, along with three other trainees, was attached to a volunteer named Phil. He is an older guy (50 maybe?) from Santa Barbara and he is really into surfing and paddle surfing. He is an education volunteer, but the school year is winding down here and he wasn't doing much, so we basically had a pretty free week. I went out paddlesurfing with Phil a few times, which is harder than it looks.
Most of the week we went to the schools on Phil's island group (Ha'apai) in the morning morning and played with the kids. It's hard not to be in a good mood playing with these kids because they are so enthusiastic and happy all the time. They don't have much in terms of toys; at one school Keiti (another trainee) and I spent the morning playing Moa with the girls. All you need is five small rocks, picked up off the street. You go through a series of "plays" where you toss them up and try to catch them on the back of your hand, then try to toss one in the air while you pick up a certain other rock then catch the rock that you tossed in the air. It's pretty tough, and Keiti and I weren't too good at it, but these girls were awesome. Also it was a lot of fun. It's amazing how resourceful these kids are.

At another school a little boy ran off and climbed up a coconut tree and we lost him in the palm fronds, but next thing we knew coconuts were falling. He climbed down and the boys husked the cocnuts for us and opened them and we feasted on coconut milk and meat. It takes some getting used to, but once you do it tastes pretty good.

At another school the girls tried to teach us a traditional ta'olunga, and I was really bad at that. It consists of so many really subtle hand and head movements...the Tongan girls who grew up learning it can do it really beautifully (they have a lot of natural grace, something I lack) but most of us weren't too good at it.

The last school we went to on Friday was having its Culture Day, which was pretty neat to watch. They dressed up in these really intricate handmade costumes, some looked like they had to take months to make, and they performed traditional dances (ta'olunga) and the boys did some war dances. I will try to put up pictures of that because it was really great.

We spent Thanksgiving in Ha'apai with Phil, and ended up having a very multi-cultural Tahnksgiving. Besides us volunteers from American, we invited the JICA volunteers from Japan, Viliami (the head of our education program) from Tonga, a couple one from Germany one from Ireland, Jacinta (one of our medical staff) who is from Fiji, and the owner of the resort Dave who was from New Zeland. I think in all there were seven nationalities represented at our Thanksgiving, which was great fun. We went to a resort on the island and they let us use their kitchen to cook out turkey (provided by the Peace Corps!) then made some of the turkey into turkey pizza which was absolutely divine. We spent the rest of the day snorkeling and playing cards.

Also that week we had a little time so Keiti and I headed to this little place where you could learn to weave thinking we'd make a little something to send home as a Christmas gift. We went in and asked about it and the lady said we could make something quickly in an hour. So we got to work. I began thinking I was going to make a large potholder. Four hours later I was on my second attempt and had regressed from wanting to make a large potholder to a small potholder to being completely satisfied if I just ended up with a coaster. It wasn't pretty. Keiti was making a purse and was doing a little better than I was. We both kinda ended up giving up, we were hungary and the lady said she would finish them and we could just come and pick them up the next day, so we jumped at that opportunity. Haha, I don't really think weaving is going to be my thing here in Tonga. When we returned the next day we hardly even recognized out projects, mine had turned into a small basket and Keiti's into a real purse. It was kinda like magic. (Merry Christmas Dad!)

I've found that as my Tongan language is progessing my English is getting worse and worse. Keiti and I spent probably a good fifteen minuted trying to think of the word "coaster" while we were in weaving school. (So forgive me for spelling/grammatical errors!) But, I'm loving learning to speak another language and I am now able to hold conversations pretty well in Tongan, which is good because my new homestay family does not speak much English at all. I am now satying with another homestay family in Nuku'alofa (Tongatapu) for two weeks before I get to head off to 'Eua. There are two five-year-old girls at this homestay, and they threw a spider on me my first night there. I miss Sepi!

I will be swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer December 17th, and usually I don't much care for ceremonies (graduations, etc.) but I feel like this one is pretty important and I'm quite excited about it.


Lousa said...

Congratulations on your swearing in as a PCV! Thirty years from now you will still remember how it felt that day. My group was sworn on January 19th, 1979 on the beach at Kolovai (Tonga 23). I'm sure you have discovered by now how lucky you are to be posted to 'Eua. I was back in Tonga this last summer and spent a couple days on 'Eua whale watching. Some of the photos may be up on

'Ofa atu

Roger Reed

Mommy said...

Wow- it looks like such a rewarding thing to be doing! You are in our thoughts and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!