Thursday, January 22, 2009

"It's Tonga"

My living room, the hammock unhooks and can be stored out of the way, making my bed, Tonga-style


Inspired by the "It's Tonga" -moments in my last post and really the amount that I say that phrase on a weekly-basis here, I've decided to start a segment in my blog called the "It's Tonga" Moments of the Week. These are times when something that seems completely absurd or funny or wonderful or new happens, and I rationalize it by saying, "It's Tonga." These are the top ones this week:

- I went to a feast on the beach with the youth group last week, and as we were leaving I was gathering my things. I couldn't find my frisbee. A small search party set out to find it, and a few minutes later it is discovered, covered in food. Someone thought it was a plate. They finished eating, then returned the frisbee.

- The entire island I live on is currently out of gasoline. I had a lot of company walking along the road to the internet today!

-About three weeks ago I dropped few letters off at the post office, one being a birthday letter to my Mom, hoping it would reach her by her birthday. I went into the post office yesterday, and the letters were still sitting there. They were supposed to go out on the boat today, but the boat wasn't running today, maybe because there's no gasoline. Sorry, Mom.

In other news, the one-clawed crab from my last post is sticking around. I still have no idea how he got to my house from the ocean...the first couple of nights he came in I thought about killing him and eating him raw, which is apparantly a Tongan delicacy, but then I thought that maybe his life has been far too interesting and it would be a shame to kill him now. I mean he made it all the way to my house from the sea somehow, and somewhere along the way he lost a I decided to name him instead. Scully. He comes in a few nights a week, and I try to be okay with it, as long as he doesn't start to think he owns the place. As long as he stays out of my hammock... Okay, in truth, another reason I didn't kill him is that I'm waiting for the night that Scully and a rat show up in my kitchen the same night. I think that would be a fascinating showdown, kinda like celebrity boxing. My bet's on the crab, again, based on the fact that I think he has a lot of interesting life experiences from which to draw. I get kinda easily excited around here, especially when it's been raining a lot and I've been spending a lot of time in my house.

School starts Monday, and I've spent the past week planning with my counterparts and creating handmade resources to use in my lessons. There's not a lot to work with, although my school does have a few sets of reading books, but most of the things I use in my lessons I will have to make myself. This is a little daunting, but so far it has proven to be actually pretty fun! It allows for a lot more creativity in lesson planning, whereas when I student taught in California there was so much structure with the standards and testing that there really wasn't a lot of room for creativity. Most lessons were pre-planned from a teacher handbook, where entire units were already given complete with accompanying worksheets, homework and tests. Boring. Here I am given a list of broad topics, such as personal introductions, and that's about as much structure as I have. It's great. So the last week or so I've been coming up with games and activities, making posters and puzzles out of cardboard, then laminating everything with packaging tape so it doesn't get wet and moldy (which is as tedious as it sounds). It's kept me busy at least. I'm excited for school to start so I can use all the things I've made!

OH! I have a new address!

Jennifer Danielson, PCV
P.O. Box 24
Ohonua, 'Eua
Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific

Again, if you want to send anything, any updates from your life are great, as well as pictures. Other ideas of things that I would like are: instant oatmeal packets (in a ziploc so the ants don't get to it before me!), granola bars, dried fruit, crystal light packets, etc.

Actually one of the things that would be most appreciated right now is CD's. I accidently deleted most of my music from my iPod the night before I left, and what I put back on has quickly gotten old. Any type of music, maybe your favorites! At this point even the Wiggles would be a nice change of pace. (Please don't send the wiggles). I don't yet have a CD player, but next time I make it to a main island I'll be able to find one. Probably before any packages get to me :)

Just as a heads up, it'll probably cost more to ship anything than what whatever you're sending is worth, so you might think about trying to keep it pretty light or sending really expensive stuff :) just kidding.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Uike lotu

The dreaded molokau
Sunsets, Tonga-style

On a hike in 'Eua; at the right time of year you can sit up on the bluff and watch the whales playing just off the coast down below

My first ta'olunga, complete with being drenched in coconut oil. Yum.
My house!

My room
The view from my front steps, that's the school I will be teaching at the next two years, with the Pacific ocean in the background. Not bad at all.
Sitting shotgun on the plane out to 'Eua

Pretty happy about being sworn in. (In the aforementioned leopard-print puletaja)

Getting ready to head to the swear-in ceremony

Lazy afternoon on the porch at Sela's guesthouse
Coconut frond hat

Well, I just completed my first uike lotu (week of church) here, which basically entailed going to church twice a day every day the first week of January to pray for blessings for the year to come. I wasn't dreading it too much, as there's not a whole lot else to be doing areound here right now until school starts.

The Sunday before uike lotu began, I asked my neighbor what time the first service was on Monday morning. "Six am" he told me. Hum. OKay, a little early, but I'm no stranger to six am after swimming so many years, so I set my alarm for 5:30 and went to bed. At 4am, I hear a banging on my door. I get up to answer it, and there is my neightbor, Fefite, dressed and ready to go to church. The following conversation ensues:
F: Are you ready to go to church!
J: Huh?
F: It is time for the church to start!
J: said church started at 6...
F: Yeah!
J:'s 4...
F: Yes!
J: But church doesn't start until six...
F: Yes... (looking at me like I'm dumb as a rock)
J: So church doesn't start for two hours?
J: But what to we do for two hours before church begins?
F: We go up over there and sing! (Duh)
J:'s 4...
F: (blank stare)
J: ...I'll be ready in ten minutes....

Well, church actually ended up starting at 5 and ENDING at six, so I was pretty confused. Then On the way home I made sure to ask when the afternoon service began. Six o'clock, I was assured. For some reason I believed that. I took a little nap that morning then went to ako hiva (singing practice) at my neighbors house and tried my best to blend in and not bring the whole group down with my voice. I'm not sure how successful I was. I spent the afternoon swimming at the wharf, then returned to my house and showered and was about to settle into my hammock to read a little before the afternoon church service when there came a knock at the door. It was around 4pm. I answered the door to see my neighbor standing there, fully dressed for church. Repeat conversation above, only this time, I was told that the singing group I had practiced with that morning were all at the church waiting for my to arrive so we could begin singing. I was a little peeved. I was ready in ten minutes, and once again church started at 5pm and was done by 6pm. Still confused. On the way home I told my neighbor that maybe it would be best if he told me what time we were leaving rather than what time church began, and he agreed that that would be a good idea. He said that we would leave around 4:15 am the next morning. Okay, great, see you then. 4:15 am rolled around much too soon, but I rolled out of my hammock and was ready to go. I walked over to Fefite's house to find the entire family still asleep. Naturally. I didn't want to wake them, so I went to church alone. They showed up at 4:45. It was one of those situations where I've learned to just laugh and say, "It's Tonga"

As the week progressed, I started to think I was understanding the schedule and on Tuesday I left for church around 4:15 pm to find that I was just about the only one there. That day church began around 5:30. I still don't know why, but I figured out that they ring the bell three times before each service, so that's when people know when to go. I also figured out that whenever I begin to think I have anything figured out around here, I'm usually way off.

I also endured my first tropical storm last week, not a huge deal, just a lot of rain and wind. But I didn't get out of my house much besides to go to church, and one night as I was lying in my hammock, I heard something in the kitchen. I sat up and looked over and saw a single-clawed crab sitting in the middle of my kitchen. As soon as I made noise he scrambled under the door and out of my house. The next morning I wasn't sure if it had actually happened, but alas, that night he came back. He wasn't a tiny crab either, his body was about the size of my palm. This time I had to sweep him out of the house. Now I'm really not THAT close to the ocean, and I'm not sure how he got all the way to my house. I mean I walk to the water every day, it's only about a half-mile, but I certainly wouldn't crab-walk there. But, it's Tonga.

I swim in the wharf every day (except when its storming) and the first day I went alone, but every day after that people from my village have gone with me and they seem to really like it. I think it's about 150 yds. across, and some days there's quite a few of us swimming back and forth across the wharf. Also one of my neighbors, Pasa, has been teaching me to play guitar. He's really good, although I've never seen a piece of sheet music here in Tonga. So that's been a really fun way to pass the time as well.

Next week is planning week for school, and the following week school begins again, so this is probably my last week of goofing off all day until school starts. Actually I've felt like I've been pretty busy, just living really. Between retrieving and boiling all my drinking water, hand-washing my clothes, getting my house ready, going to church, and getting to know the people in my village, I haven't been close to being bored. I do a lot with the youth group here, they get together every day to play volleyball, have singing or dancing practice, or just to go to the beach, so that's been a lot of fun.

I'm also beginning to have ideas for secondary projects to begin, but more on that later. I hope this finds everyone well back home.