Sunday, August 1, 2010

Whale season!

compost bin

Helping me turn soil to plant a garden
Reading :)
Reading The Cat in the Hat for the first time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Clever boys- retrieving darts

Well, I'm coming into my final four months here and last week I decided to plant a vegetable garden with my students, and I have to say I'm really kicking myself for not doing this my first four months here. I also built a compost box and taught my students a lesson on composting, and they're really into that which is fun. My rat tally (# of rats killed in my house) has, in the last few months, ballooned to 30, which is gross, but also kind of exciting, I've developed quite the killer's instinct. In other news, I have decided to spend the rest of my time here sleeping in my hammock after being stung in the face by a centipede as I was falling asleep last week. That marks the third time I've been stung by a centipede, every time in my bed. So I'm done with that. And I feel justified for not sleeping in my bed the first ten months here.

Building my compost box was interesting- I set out to do it on my own after I finished my classes one day, knowing by now that as soon as someone spotted me with a hammer in my hand one or more of the village boys would come running to save me from myself. I found some scrap wood at the school and was allowed to use it and I scrounged up a hammer and saw. I salvaged nails from my decrepit fence and got to work. I tried to be conspicuous about my activity, but nevertheless, within five minutes my neighbor showed up to take over and do it for me. When I refused to hand over the hammer he asked why. I told him I could do it myself, and he said, "Yeah...but it'll be so much faster if I just do it." It was very clear that he thought I was crazy and inevitably going to injure myself, but he let me do it (looking away most of the time), helping me here and there to hold boards together as I nailed them. I ended up making a nice box too, I'm quite proud of it.

After school the kids came to see what I was up to and to help. I asked them to clear the dry palm leaves out of the walls of the faleTonga to put the garden in there. This happened to be a job I wasn't looking forward to because I was afraid of the bugs and creatures that may be lurking in and under the leaves. The boys came up with a genius solution, five of them stood in a line shoulder to shoulder and kicked all the leaves out in one fell swoop. Once again they impressed me with their problem solving and teamwork, which is really just a way of life here. Then the boys set about fixing some of the posts of the fale, and once again, I was amazed at their proficiency with building and using whatever they can find to work with. Every one of those boys can swing a hammer and work a machete. And of course, as always, I am impressed with their eagerness to help with anything. Together we took about an hour and cleaned out the fale and turned all the soil inside.

A few days later I had found seeds and a few of the kids and I planted squash, tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, lettuce, eggplant, peas, and some mystery seeds that were unlabeled- so we're all excited to see what'll come of those. By Friday the seeds were sprouting! They should be ready to harvest right about the time I leave, but I figure it will be great for the next volunteer at my site to come in and have fresh vegetables right in their yard.

The library is so great, last weekend a few of my girls and I recycled some plastic soda bottles and tin cans and filled them with sand and painted them to make bookends. We got a huge shipment of books in two weeks ago which the kids were so excited about. I want to say thanks to the following people for making that happen and being involved or making donations:

-Fairbanks Literacy Council
-Terri Lovell
-Jessica and Aaron Danielson
-Gary Tyndall
-Jan Menaker and the Lathrop H.S. staff
- Greg and Carol Clark
-Grandma and Grandpa Clark
-Jay and Bridget Clark
-Lynn and Frank Faulkner
-Gulliver's Bookstore
-Dave and Jeanette Bauer
-Tammy Burrow

We finally received a new teacher at the school which is a huge relief, now we are only one short (out of three). He is really young and energetic and seems like a great teacher, so that should make these last few months a bit less stressful!

A few weeks ago another volunteer and I organized the second annual 'Eua beach cleanup, and in keeping with tradition, we planned it two days in advance. We partnered with a local guesthouse, Hideaway Resort, and gather youth from across the island to spend the day picking up the road and beach. After the cleanup we had a barbecue in my schoolyard. It was a success, a lot of fun was had by all.

Maybe the most exciting news from Tonga lately has been the reappearance of the whales! I saw my first of the season about a month ago from the ferry boat, and have seen quite a few since walking along the road by the water. This month is when whale traffic is supposed to get especially heavy, so I'm looking forward to doing a bit of whale watching and maybe even swimming with the whales again this year!

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