The dreaded molokau
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.
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!
F: It is time for the church to start!
J: But...you said church started at 6...
J: But...it's 4...
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: But...it'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.