Monday, November 17, 2008

Site announcement, we'll be living in Pangai, Ha'apai!!

On Saturday they announced our permanent sites, where we'll all be living for the next two years! They had people draw names written with their sites out of a box one by one. We'll be in the main "city" Pangai, in the island group of Ha'apai which is the middle island group, of low coral islands and the best beaches/reefs in Tonga!! We're really excited, it was our first choice! It was surprising, our whole group of 24 trainees were all really happy and excited about their sites, and a lot of people got their first or second choice.

I'll be working at two different job sites, the main job is with the Ha'apai Training Center, where a current volunteer just left earlier this year. It's a computer lab and conference room, on third level of a building, the highest in Ha'apai. They want to start an internet cafe, and offer computer, internet and business classes to youth and the public. The secondary job of mine is working with MAFF, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry, it's government departments. They only have a couple of employees who can use computers and want to train the rest (about 20 total I think). They also want help restructuring their offices and they want to reach out to Ha'apai communities to help assess needs. Brett will be teaching at the government primary school (GPS) in Pangai, we've heard it's a really great school and good teachers. And the house we'll be in sounds nice too, a big living room and two bedrooms. There's an un-inhabited island just south of ours that you can walk to at low tide that people go camping on and snorkeling so that will be fun. We won't get to see Ha'apai before moving in, we'll be in Nuku'alofa next week for shadowing a current volunteer, then another homestay this time only 2 weeks, in a village in Tongatapu. In exactly one month we'll be sworn in now as volunteers and done with training!
The photo above is our group going to Ha'apai, in front of swallows cave on the boat. Other volunteers that are going to Ha'apai with us are Melanie and Eric, the couple from Fargo, Monica who's been in our training village and from CA, Alishia from DC, and Sarah. There are two current volunteers there that will be there another year - Grant and Phil. Phil and Alishia will be on the main island with us, and Sarah close by, the others are in outer islands some as far as a 5 hour boat ride!
After the site announcement on Sat. morning we all went out on a boat ride with some of the current Vava'u volunteers and PC staff. It was so great to get away from the villages and be out on the water for an afternoon, and be able to act like palangis and wear our bikinis without clothes over them!! We stopped at Mariner's cave first, the tide was high so they said it was harder to get in, you had to swim underwater down deep and through a tunnel into the dome-shaped cave. Brett went in, I wasn't brave enough to swim that long underwater. But our second stop was Swallows cave, and it was more open you could swim right in and it was really pretty! People were climbing up and jumping off cliffs on the walls. Then we stopped at Male island, it had a little resort, restaurant and nice beach area with some of the best reefs in Vava'u called japenese gardens. We had some really good pizza (at least it tasted really good after eating tongan food for so long!), then went out snorkeling on the reef. It was amazing, some of the best snorkeling I've done! There were millions of fish all around us, all different colors, some bright sparkly blue ones, and huge black starfish bigger than my head! And we saw a poisenous lion fish, no sharks. It was a perfect day in the islands here! And it looked like it was going to rain again, but cleared up and was nice and sunny.

Other than the site announcement, we've been having more language and business training. We had a language test on Friday again, I heard I was at the intermediate-low level that they want you to be at before swearing in, and Brett just below me so we're doing pretty good. The business group went to an outer island, Otea, today where a current volunteer is to see what those businesses are like so that was fun to see. Even though we know now who's going to outer islands and who isn't.

Our host family is already saying how much they'll miss us and that we have to come back and visit and not forget about them! They're really nice people! It will be nice though to get to our own place. The kids in our host family are home random days now, school is pretty much wrapped up for the year and won't start again until late Jan. or early Feb. And some days there are a bunch of random people, friends or relatives, at our house pounding local medicines, cutting up food, or weaving and preparing the leaves. When we eat lunch or dinner, it's mostly the 13 or 14 year old girls that do the cooking for us, they help out with so many chores around the house! And the 16 year old boy is usually free to study or play rugby, but I think he does go out and help in the bush or with bigger chores like that. He's really smart and is trying to get a biology scholarship to go to school in Australia. When Brett was sick and we needed more fruit for him, Tofitau, the brother, went and climbed coconut trees to get some for Brett. And the 6 year old is really cute, she speaks such good english from being at the really good school in town that only speaks in english. She's always coming up and trying to talk to us, or play checkers with us or soccer, and watching the same movies over and over again sometimes right in a row - high school musical, bring it on 3 and 4, or others like that, they're all pirated. I'm amazed they can sit and watch the same music videos so much. Tofitou, the brother, just put together a home-made net ball (basketball) hoop for Ana, the 6 year old. Here only girls play basketball. Ailena, the mom, is usually around weaving or doing laundry and chores and talks to us a lot. And the dad is always working, some overnights as a policeman, and then after working sometimes goes straight to the bush to work more and harvest crops. And when we eat most meals, one of them might sit with us at the table, and the rest eat on the floor with plates all around them, with their hands. That's the way a lot of Tongans eat. And they don't waste anything - they'll eat everything off the chicken bones, and cook fish with all the bones and eat the heads, eyes and everything.

One more week in Vava'u, then we're back to the main island for about a month. More new images on picassa to the left!


Mark & Erin said...

Congratulations on getting the site of your choice. We trained on Ha'apai and loved it, but spent our 2 years in Nuku'alofa. Keep posting your stories; it's fun to live vicariously through you. We miss Tonga (especially as the cold VT winter sets in). Tell the staff Mark & Erin from Group 64 say hello.

The Islomaniac said...

Hi, I have tonnes of stuff on Ha'apai I can send you.

Here is my islands blog