Friday, July 24, 2009

Beach cleanup/ tourists/ whales

Feasting after the cleanup
The boys taking a rest with some coconuts
Some of the group

Pasa and Heather weaving baskets to collect trash
Paea digging a "burn hole" for the trash we collected
Taniela, Tevita and I collecting rubbish
Making the umu
From camping last month

It's Tonga Moments:
- My neighbor Tevita (25 yr. old male) came by yesterday with lipstick on. Bright red lipstick. It was applied sloppily.
I looked at him confused, and asked, "Um...Tevita, are you wearing lipstick?"
"yes" He replied.
"Because my lips are dry."
"But....lipstick is for girls"
"I know, but my lips were dry" He said this as though I was crazy to be disturbed by him wearing lipstick. I made him wipe off the lipstick and gave him some chapstick.

-I went to buy a tray of eggs from the agricultural college last week for the first time (usually I just buy them a few at a time from the falekaloas) and the guy gave it to me for $2 off AND took out all the small ones and replaces them with big ones. I could look through the screen window and see the hundreds of chickens in their coops, and it's kind of a nice feeling to know exactly where your food comes from. Most of the time, sometimes it's better not to know. But I mean it is nice to know that the food hasn't been fortified or preserved or artificially colored. Anyway.

I think I mentioned in my last post about camping on the beach then spending the next morning trying to clean it up, but not being able to finish the job because there was too much trash and it started raining. Well, last week we ended up organizing a bunch of the Tongan youth from our villages to come out and help us, which ended up being a huge success. We talked about it at tea Wednesday, and decided to try to pull something together for Friday. Putting something together two days in advance is very Faka-Tonga (like Tonga; Tonga-esque). So we each went back to our villages and gathered as many youth as we could to come out with us. I gotta say, my village really pulled through; there were 9 people from my village and like five from all the other villages combined! We bought food to cook in an umu (underground oven) on the beach, then set off on our way.

One of the really cool things about the day was that none of the Tongans had ever been to this beach and it is one of the most beautiful places on the island. They just didn't know about it. The hike is a lot of fun, you walk along a cliff overlooking the ocean, then you have to climb down the cliff to the beach, and it was especially fun because we were trying to do it carrying shovels and food. Also, on the hike, the a few of the boys disappeared into the bush for a few minutes and came out carrying a few huge kape (root crop- not sure if there is an English translation) which we lugged down the cliff and cooked up in the umu.

One we made it to the beach we talked quickly about what the plan was then set off. Most of us walked up and down the beach, hauling the rubbish to a central location to be burned. Some wove baskets out of palm fronds to carry trash in, and a few worked on digging the umu (underground oven) and preparing the food. We worked hard for about two and a half hours, then it was time to play. I had brought a frisbee and football which we were tossing around on the beach. Then Ashley and I came up with the bright idea to teach them American football, which quickly turned into wrestlemania as soon as the ball was snapped. We didn't get far teaching them football, but yy the time we decided to go open up the umu and eat, my stomach hurt from laughing so much.

By the time the food was done, everyone was pretty well worn out. The food out of the umu was delicious, everyone chowed down, then it was time to head home. It was a really successful day, and everyone had a great time. We're hoping to do it again about once a month at different beaches on the island.

The next week, Jason- a business volunteer on the island, had a project with the tourism industry on 'Eua which all the Peace Corps attended as support to him. Basically all the guest houses on the island (2.5 really) worked together to do a cultural day for the tourists who were staying in their guest houses where they get to help prepare a Tongan feast and participate in everything Faka-Tonga. The tourists were able to participate in a traditional kava ceremony, learn how to weave baskets from palm fronds, husk coconuts, make coconut cream from the coconuts, and prepare a Tongan feast from start to finish. And by start, I mean, we rode out there in the back of a pickup truck with a live pig, which ended up being cooked over the spit. That was a little traumatic for some of the tourists I think. One actually commented, "Well, at least you know it's fresh!" Which I though was a really good attitude. But it was a fun and successful day overall, Jason's been doing some really awesome work with the tourism industry here in 'Eua, so it was a great day for him.

The next day I ended up doing the same thing all over again (preparing a Tongan feast) because my neightbors were having the faifekau (pastor) from the main village on the island over for dinner, so I helped them roast the pig and make 'ota ika (raw fish dish) and lu all day. And then the pastor didn't come, so we got to eat it too! Two days in a row of roasted pig is pretty lucky.

Whale season has officially begun! Whales have been spotted off the coast for the past week or so, and although I haven't seen them yet, I hear that soon they will be hard to miss. In fact, they say that I will be able to see them from the front steps of my house, which I'm pretty excited about. They come to Tonga every year to breed and they swim and play right off the shore.

School is coming along, we're getting close to the class 6 exam, which is a pretty big deal here, so class 5/6 has been working really hard, coming to school in the morning before school starts and in the evening after they eat dinner. Way too much if you ask me, but they don't complain. There are only seven students in class 5/6, and five of them will be moving on to high school next year which will be sad because they're a lot of fun. But then again, I'll see them every day after school I'm sure. Class 3/4 is my biggest class, and the class that I had a little trouble with at the beginning, and I have to say that now I look forward to seeing them every day; it is my favorite class to teach. They are superstars and are learning so quickly.

OH! I successfully made cottage cheese a few weeks ago, which was very exciting. I live across from the agricultural college (Lots of cows) and am able to get raw milk, which is really good for making cheese (which is unavailable on the island). I'm looking forward to trying other cheeses and yogurt once I can get into the main island and buy some yogurt to start it with.

Overall, life is good here, haven't had any rat issues lately, I think because it has been so cold (for Tonga- it's relative). I have no doubt that they will be back, and when they come I will be ready to stage an attack of epic proportions. I have had provisions sent, and while I don't want to give away all my secrets here, I'll just say that rats will be introduced to the power of electrcity and booby traps throughout my house. Muahahaha.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Everyone needs a fakaleiti"- Krystal

Tahi looking guilty (above)
A cave on the beach (below)
On the cliffs above the beach
We brought a pot to cook mussles and/or snails in

The group on the cliffs
Katie, me, Ashley
This one's from the hurricane actually, it flooded the yeard of the guesthouse we were staying at, but we had fun with it
In a cave

It's Tonga Moments of the Week:

-I attended an HIV/AIDS workshop that was held in my village. Because my village is so small, the workshop was just held in someone's living room. In the middle of the condom demonstration, I look up to see one of my class six boys sitting in the doorway, watching the whole thing. There are two more of my students (classes 2/3) looking in through the window. No one else seems bothered by this, and they sit in and watch the entire thing.

-I was sitting in my house with my neighbor Elizabeth last week and I asked her what she had done the day before. She told me that she had made tuitui with her Mom, Lupe. Not sure what that was, I asked. She ran next door and came back with a lumpy, paste-y mass and handed it to me. She instructed me to rub it all over my face. I was skeptical, but it smelled really good, so I figured why not? As I was rubbing it on my face (it felt great!) I asked her how she had made it. Again she ran next door, and this time returned with some roots and leaves. She peeled on of the roots and stuck it in her mouth, along with a few of the leaves. "oh, neat!" I thought, "it's edible too!" I went to taste some of the root, but Elizabeth stopped me with an alarmed look on her face. "Watch" she instructed. She finished chewing thoroughly, then spat the mashed up root and leaf into her hand and began to rub it on her face. My stomach sank, I couldn't breathe for a second. I looked at the lump in my hand, "Did you chew this?" I asked. "No!" she replied. I let out a sigh of relief. It was premature. "Lupe did!" I just started laughing, because what else can you do? Elizabeth joined in, but she didn't seem to understand what was funny, she was just being polite. After Elizabeth left, I washed my face. It did smell really good.

It's been a busy month here in Tonga; although the last two weeks have been school break, things haven't seemed to slow down at all. A couple of friends, Katie and Chad, came down from Vava'u (the northernmost island group in Tonga) and stayed with me a few days. While they were here we tried to stay on out feet as much as possible. We went hiking in the rain forest one day, then the next two days we went camping at my favorite beach, Fangatave. As it turns out, they are excellent cooks, so I got to eat really well for a couple days! One night we made veggie pasta, and another night we made fish tacos.

Camping was a lot of fun, in addition to Katie and Chad, there was a couchsurfer here from New York, a scuba dive instructor from Japan, another PCV from Ha'apai, and Ashley, Jason, and I. When night fell we went on a nighttime cave-exploration adventure which was neat, there are really neat caves to explore all over the island. The next day we all rallied and spent the morning cleaning up the beach, and made some really interesting finds. One time at the base of one of the cliffs Jason actually found a human jawbone, but nothing that interesting this time. We ended up with piles of rubbish all along the beach that we had planned on burning on our way out, but it turned out to be too wet to burn anything. So now there are piles of trash all along the beach which looks worse than when we got there and it was all spread out. We're trying to get something together where we work with the youth to get a beach cleanup program started, so hopefully more to come on that.

Katie and Chad took off back to Vava'u Monday morning, but the rest of us got together and had a little birthday dinner for my birthday. Jason made pizzas- a sea bass pizza, a fried egg pizza, and an eggplant and cabbage pizza. I'm usually a cheese and pepperoni-type gal, but it's been so long since I've had pizza, they were amazing! I hadn't really been too excited about my birthday here (I would have just as soon forgotten about it) and I definitely wasn't planning on doing much, but it turned out to be a great evening with everyone around. One of my neighbors also knew it was my birthday and brought me a cake, which was a nice surprise. So overall a really great birthday.

The next day I went horseback riding to the cliffs on the northern coast of 'Eua which was beautiful. Pretty soon the whales will be coming through and you can see them playing right off the coast, so everyone's looking forward to that. We are all planning on going out when the whales come and swimming with them which sounds pretty exhilarating. Ashley and I are considering investing in a horse to ride around the island for the rest of the time we're here, so we're asking around about that. We both think it would be worth it!

The week before school let out was especially busy, I tested all my kids on their progress so far, then had to write up report cards for all of them. I only have 37 students, but I had to write the reports in Tongan, which made it tough. The first week of break I still taught class 5/6 (they continued to have class in the mornings in preparation for their exams at the end of the year) since their regular teacher went to Tongatapu for a conference. It was pretty informal and fun, one day I took them on a walk to town with their notebooks and we wrote down all the things they didn't already know, such as: barbed wire, litter, fence, etc. and practiced using the words in sentences. It was fun. School starts again on Monday, which I'm actually looking forward to. After testing the kids I've identified a few things I really want to focus on and hit hard this next term, especially for the kids that will be taking the class 6 exam.

Things are going really well here; there are definitely bouts of missing home and those modern comforts which I used to take for granted like a hot shower, but just about every day I feel like I've lucked out getting to be here. I am learning new things on a daily basis, which I think is fun. Staying busy has been key, although that's not always the easiest thing to do around here! It's always exciting to hear news from family and friends, so shoot me an e-mail! Cheers!