Friday, October 24, 2008

new photos!

Check them out under picassa photos to the left!

Village life, a Wedding and a Funeral

We finally made in back to the internet, our days have been so full with training sessions, and we have to depend on others for rides or figure out the bus (which only comes to neiafo once in the morning and returns once in the evening to tuaneki vale). So its hard not having internet!!

The wedding was amazing! We didnt know what was going on at all, we showed up at a relatives house with the girls in the family, and realized Brett was the only guy there and they were getting the 18 year old bride ready, putting makeup on, doing her hair, then wrapping her with lots of really intricate mats with lots of color and design to them. They kept wrapping lots of layers on her, added a beaded belt, then covered it with another mat, and a beaded necklace. Then they dressed her sister or someone close to her, then all of a sudden they pulled me up, saying "palangi" something or other (palangi means literally comes from the sky, but they use it to refer to any foreigners, mostly american). So they dressed me along with the wedding party! They wrapped a ta"ovla around my waist, a longer one, with lots of color and little mirrors on it, and a big beaded belt and necklace. It was kind of like they wanted to show off the palangis at their wedding, but also really nice that they included and welcomed us so nicely. After that we all walked in a procession down the hill to the church, sat through a regular service (the marriages all happen during the week, but become official after they attend church together), then they changed into even bigger matts about a foot out from their bodies, and walked to the feast. The feast was HUGE - layers and layers of food in plastic containers, fruit, and a baby pig every few inches. And lots of people stood up and said short speeches. We took a lot of photos for the family. Brett was sick that day and the next, dehydrated, so we left a little early and rested the rest of Sunday.

We"ve been learning a lot more Tongan now (trying to remember it all!), and had our first few business and education sessions. Brett visited a primary school one day. Some interesting things I"ve heard so far on business is that they keep it really close in the family, immediate family members might come and take whatever they want from the till or store. And the infrastructure is not set up well at all here, the ferries break down and all the crops might just rot at the docks not being able to be shipped anywhere. And tourists might get stuck in the capital and not get up to vava"u if the planes aren"t running. Plus they can"t own land. It will be interesting! We heard the married couples sites are - one in vava"u, one in hapa"ai, and one in tongatapu, but that could still change.

We also experienced our first earthquake!! Two actually! The first I felt, I was sitting in a chair and it was only for a few seconds, it was really weird and disorienting! Brett was standing and didn"t feel it. The second was a couple nights ago we both woke up in the middle of the night, it was swaying back and forth for a couple minutes, so a long time it felt like, but nothing too jerky or big.

Someone who works for the peace corps uncle died a few days ago, and the home village is close by here, so tomorrow morning all of us trainees are attending part of the funeral (putu) to see what its like. We have to wear all black and bring flowers, I think its only for an hour or so, and they"ll have the decessed in a relatives house for viewing. To show respect they actually kiss the body. Then there will be some kind of food from the underground oven, an umu. And Sunday we"ll have church, then another week of training.

That"s it for now, we will try to get online again soon! And hopefully figure out how to post more photos soon (on the left under picassa photos link).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tua'aneki Vale, Vava'u homestay

We're at our first homestay in Tua'aneki Vale, a little village in Vava'u. We were supposed to take a 22 - 24 hour ferry here, but the two ferries they have weren't in service so we got to fly on air new zealand! I think we got placed in the best village out of the three they put us all in, ours is on the ocean, there are a couple beaches within about a 10 - 15 minute walk from our house, they're really pretty!!!

Our homestay family is really nice, the mom is Ailine, dad is Paula, and four kids - tafitou, asina, ana, and peta, one boy that's 16 and three girls that are 14, 13, and 6 years old. The house is really nice, they even have a TV/DVD player, music, a new computer, microwave, and our room is really nice with a four post bed that we put our mosquito net on. It does take some getting used to though, living with a family you don't know and feeling like you have to ask when to do things, etc. The bathroom and shower are attached to the house but outside, and cool showers but it feels good with the heat and humidity here. They also have a pet pig, 5 cats, and chickens and baby chicks. I thought there would be a lot more bugs, but we really haven't seen many just a few small ones. 

The first afternoon they had a big feast at the town hall welcoming the 8 of us in our village (us, monica, cassie, bronzie, trent, micah, and regina), with each host mom bringing food and we ate on the floor on mats. A lot of them got up and said speeches thanking us, then each of us did the same in the little tongan we could use. It was really great seeing so happy they are to have us here. The one thing that scared me at the first meal was the taro - it was cut in huge chunks and at first I thought it was a huge hunk of some kind of meat! We've mostly been eating chicken, fish, taro, bread, and lots of fruit - mango, papaya, pinneapple. An annoying thing though is that everything is cooked really greasy and they don't use napkins!! So there's nowhere to wipe your hands, it's kinda funny.

The last couple days we've had language classes in groups of four, in a house. The first day was easier - reviewing what we know, then on Thursday we went into more grammar that's harder. But we can tell we're starting to learn more and more, our host family has been helping a lot quizzing us and telling us other words and phrases. The kids speak pretty good english. Yesterday on Friday was a center day - the three villages met together for some safety sessions and language testing on some basic phrases, numbers, days of the week, etc. It was like a mini reunion seeing everyone again, it feels like we've been here longer than we have! And the lunch was really good, we had some food that was like chinese noodles and sauces with the chicken. 

We've been getting up pretty early every morning because it gets too hot to sleep in, and we've noticed the family really doesn't sleep much! They go to sleep really late and get up really early - maybe one in the morning and get up around 5am! But then they nap during the day too.  And after classes around 3:30 or 4:00 we've been going to the beach, one is a lagoon and the other is more open ocean with rocky cliffs. And yesterday we went to an area where all the kids swim, jumping off the road/bridge into the water with lots of mangrove trees. And at the lagoon there's lots of bright blue starfish, sea urchins, and sea slugs. 

Today we're going to a relatives house that's getting married - they all go and give presents first, I think I heard something about giving a chicken or something like that. Then tomorrow is the wedding at the church and feast afterwards that we're going to, that will be really fun to see!

There's a lot more I could write about, but we're with our host family in town in Neaifu and I'm not sure how long we're staying here, I'm at an internet cafe. I'll try to load some photos here too. The town is pretty small, and has a really pretty harbor with lots of sailboats and yachts.

Toki Sio!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday aka rest, eat and go to church

It's Sunday today, so there's nothing to do but go to church, rest, and eat. We went to our first Tongan church service, it was very interesting! It was all in Tongan so we couldn't understand anything, but I was thinking it's so great to be placed in a christian country where they have the same beliefs. The singing was really pretty, and everyone was dressed up - men in tupanus (skirts) and women in skirts/dresses with keikis (straw things hanging around their waist). My spelling might not be right on these.

Something we noticed today, a common Tongan greeting is to shake your hand and they lean in like they're gonna kiss your cheek but instead sniff you! Very funny. We had a few people sniffing us today after church! I've also been noticing all the different flowers everywhere and so many colors.

Then we had a feast - pig, chicken, potatoes, fish, fruit, at the directors house and they had a quick session. An interesting thing I thought he said was that it's not a waste of time just sitting - sitting with people and talking. It's pretty relaxed here, I like it!

Tomorrow's a full day, then we fly out on Tuesday morning for Vava'u for our 6 week homestay!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Here's a few photos of our arrival, check out the link on the side under photos!

We leave on Monday or Tues. for our homestay in Vava'u, and had ocean safety training at the Navy base here today, swimming around and jumping off ships. It rained today quite a bit, we got soaked walking back to the guest house.

We're in the Kingdom of Tonga!

We made it through a day of staging in LA, and are in Tonga, in Nuku'alofa!

The staging was fun, a lot of group activities and it was good to meet all the volunteers both in our group and going to Samoa, we had a lot of group activities.

Then we flew out late Mon. night, I watched as the US faded away, an island of neon lights in the darkness of the sky and ocean. We slept a lot on the flight, and had a layover in Samoa, then got to Nuku'alofa early Thurs. morning.

It was great when we arrived, we had a warm welcome from the staff and current volunteers and got flower lays. We're staying at a cute guest house, and had a session when we got there and some snacks. Then a welcome ceremony at the country director's house on the beach.

The scenery is beautiful here, blue ocean, lots of palm trees we saw when we flew in, fruit and flower trees, lots of pigs and dogs. And our group is a really friendly, fun group of trainees. It's also very hot and humid here.

We've had sessions/classes today and found out what village in Vava'u we'll be in, leaving either Mon. night or Tues. We're in an eastern village, we're broken up into groups of 8 in 3 villages, and will come together for some classes. And we might not have to take the long 22 hour boat ride, we'll find out soon!

Toki Sio!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leaving tomorrow!

We leave tomorrow for LA, then on to Tonga! Brett's parents were in town all weekend, and we saw a lot of our friends, said all our goodbyes and are ready to go! And it looks like we will have some kind of internet access during all of training and while we're there, so friends and family please do keep in touch!

We're leaving at the perfect time, it's starting to get colder here, even down in the 40s at night. Brett made his first post, we'll try to sign our names so you know who's writing.

Nofo 'a USA!!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Voting and Selling

So today we drove down to St. Paul and voted early since we will not be in the US on November 4th. It was quite an experience, we didn't have the correct address information to register and they were going to turn us away from voting but then I turned on my political charm and made sure they were aware that it is illegal to not allow someone to vote. Never the less we were able to vote and I was able to take part in my job as a citizen of this great country.

We also sold our car yesterday and the people who bought it are stopping by tomorrow to get the title and pay us. The couple is buying this $7,000 car for their 16 year old daughter.....spoiled I think, my first car was a gift from my parents and it was probally worth $500 at the most. Anyways, we got the car sold and that makes 2 cars sold now and we have gotten rid of everything we need to in order to not have anything sitting around while we are gone.

We will be leaving from LA in 3 days and it is getting close, we are both nervious and excited and can't wait to start our adventure over in Tonga.

The first week we arrive in Tonga we will be in the capital city and will have good internet access for email and skype, but after that we will be on an outer island for 6 weeks with possibly no access to internet, so if you email us during the first 2 months and don't hear from us, were not avoiding you, we just don't have access to our email. But please feel free to email and let us know what is going on in the US and whats new with you.