Then for Christmas we decided to go up to his island, Ha'ano, since he had keys and access to a fishing lodge/resort that's almost finished, still under construction a little. The guy who owns it went back to New Zealand for a few months and asked Grant, the volunteer, to look after it.
The first night, Christmas Eve, we stayed at Grant's place in his village. There were 5 of us altogether- us, Alicia, Sarah, and Grant. The three from our group on the farther outer islands couldn't make it in for Christmas. That night in Grant's village we went to a Christmas concert/pageant that was really cool to see. They started with a torch light parade, and gathered on the church's lawn with candle lanterns and balloons strung around for the concert. There were some familiar Christmas songs, all in Tongan, and they did the Christmas story with costumes. My favorite were the angels, the little girls had wings made like huge folded fans out of thick paper.
On Christmas we slept in, then went to a feast in the next part of the village a little walk from Grant's place. It was nice to have a big meal with a lot of people on Christmas, and they were all so happy we came. The floor was laid out with mats, and the food down a long row on the mats on the floor and we all sat around it on the floor like all big feasts here. They had 4 roasted pigs, sweet and sour chicken, fish (cooked whole), mutton, watermelon, banana, hard boiled eggs, sausages, packages of cookies and chips, cans of pop with straws, and lots more. They always have more food than can be eaten. And while we ate different people stood up and gave speeches thanking people, some mentioned Grant or the peace corps. The feast and christmas concert made it feel a little like Christmas, but mostly it just felt like vacation. There was no snow, family, or presents (but we did get some in the mail thanks parents, and the church in Ha'ano gave us bags of candy along with the little kids they gave it to! And in Pangai our neighbor gave us a huge watermelon.)
The next three nights we spent at the fishing lodge/resort, just outside of town on Ha'ano. It was gorgeous!!! And we had it all to ourselves, complete with a beach with great snorkeling! There was no electricity, and just sima vie water (rain water from tank), but it had toilets, kerosene lanterns, and a solar shower so it worked well. It was just so relaxing to spend time doing nothing but laying around on the beach or big porch overlooking the beach, snorkeling, and the only thing to think about was what to cook for dinner. And we ate very well there! We had pasta with a tomato, onion and garlic sauce, another night we had chicken and rice, and we had chicken, fish, pinneapple, onion and tomato kebabs roasted over a fire with the fish fresh caught by Grant spearfishing. In the mornings we had fresh fruit salad and coffee. The last night we had rice with a coconut/papaya curry. The two girls with us are vegetarian so we think of different kinds of meals to make, or make a couple things so we have more meat and they'll eat veggies and fish.
It got incredibly hot during Christmas, the hottest so far in Ha'apai, so we spent a lot of time in the water. The snorkeling was great, it's virtually untouched so the coral extends to right where you walk in from shore, unbroken! And there were some big walls with drop-offs, with lots of different coral and fish, little bright blue fish, parrot and rainbow fish, morray eel, angel fish, etc.
We just got back "home" to Pangai this morning, it was nice to finally have somewhere to come back to, and not just constantly traveling/moving and living out of a bag. We have a fridge of food, and unpacked clothes now to come home to! And two litters of puppies that were happy to see us! And lots of laundry to do, which is a chore when you have to fill buckets in the shower to dump into the washing machine, and the public water keeps going out, so we had to wait until it went off and on enough to fill the washing machine with enough water. We had dinner tonight with Alicia and Villiami (from peace corps) at her house. Villiami had to come up and help sort out her housing situation, hopefully it will all work out and she'll stay in the house she's at now.
It's almost New Year's now too, we're trying to figure out plans for that, we'll either be here in Pangai, or go to the island south of us to a guesthouse/resort.