Monday, December 28, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A few random updates from this week - last night we had a real Japanese dinner at our neighbor Koichi's house who is a volunteer from Japan. He's going to teach us how to make a few dishes, and real teriyaki sauce. Over the weekend we had a bonfire on our beach with the new volunteers who just moved to Ha'apai last week, and friends in town. Lately we've just been hanging out, enjoying time off now for the holidays. Brett brought one of the new volunteers spear fishing today. More fruit is coming into season now with the hot weather - pineapples, passion fruit, and hopefully soon we'll have mangos, guava and avocado. We always have bananas, I don't think I'll ever be able to eat bananas again after being overloaded with them here. That's about all the updates for now, hope everyone has a Merry Christmas back home!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
And tonight we're having a dinner at our place for Phil before he leaves tomorrow morning. Since not all of our friends in town were with us for Thanksgiving this is also kind of a post-Thanksgiving feast - with stuffing, potatoes, etc. again. And we decided instead of turkey to have a Tongan chicken, they taste pretty good- a leaner kind of meat. At first Brett was going to chase and kill a chicken on his own with a sling shot, but then decided to just get it from one of his teachers at school. So today we went to the catholic church service, it was a special service for the kids and had really pretty singing, and even some readings in English. Then after the service his teacher brought us a box with a chicken in it, he wasn't sure if it was dead yet so had a string tied to it's legs in case it tried to fly away. We biked back with the box, and realized in fact it was not dead yet. We weren't sure how we felt about killing it or how to kill it, so had our friend Brian kill it (he just ripped the head right off). Then our neighbors helped us pluck all the feathers, and gut the chicken.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Walking through town during the day we often hear kids yelling "Nio, Nio!" (Brett's Tongan name), many of the local kids know him from school. Once in awhile someone will yell out my name, usually we don't know who all the people are that are calling out to us, they know us because we're the foreigners in town. Sometimes we'll still get Tongans yelling out "palangi!" (white person), and Brett will respond back "Tongan, Tongan"! Kids will also yell "Bye!" as we walk by - not understanding that it's not correct in English to just say bye as people pass by. We'll usually respond with something in Tongan if they do this. As we walk down the middle of the roads, we can hear cars approaching from far off and move to one side of the road. We also usually notice the sound of the plane coming in once or twice a day. If the DVD store is open near our house, they always blare really loud music to make sure people know that they are open. In fact, at any local events the music is always at the loudest possible level.
During the afternoons and evenings the sounds in our house are Brett playing his guitar, he's learned many new songs since being here. The oldest neighbor boy is trying to learn guitar now too. We'll often have lots of kids and dogs running through our house in the afternoons, so lots of noise again. Sometimes we'll shut the door to keep them all out, and play music or movies on the computer. Even then there are still little noises inside the house - the little mokos (geckos) that live inside on the ceiling and walls make little chirping noises, almost like a bird. One of my favorite sounds here are the waves breaking on the beach onto all the loose shells and coral peices, kind of a swishing noise as the waves pull the shells back and forth. From our beach we also hear the Pulapaki twice a week, the only ferry boat now that brings all the supplies to us here in Ha'apai. We can hear the engines of the boat coming into the wharf from our house. Later in the evenings we hear a steady, low voice calling out "ma...ma...ma", calling the pigs to come and eat. Every Tongan calls his pigs this way, every pig knows it's owner's voice and comes to that sound to eat the coconuts that are being cut open.
At night things quiet down. We hear the waves crashing louder now on the beach. And anytime anyone tries to approach the property we hear all the dogs going crazy, barking outside. The barking goes in a line, passed from dog to dog up and down the street. Some nights we hear the men at the kava club singing, just in front of our house a few hundred yards. Once in awhile they have a couple of guitars as well. Other nights we can hear one of the church choirs practicing, singing in unison perfectly, almost fooling me into thinking it's the radio. I can never pick out what they're singing, but it's always pretty. Tomorrow night one of the church schools is having a candle light singing procession of Christmas carols. And now as I finish this post, I can hear a church choir practicing somewhere off in the distance, and echoes of dogs barking up and down the street.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
This is a ta'alunga dance, done by young unmarried girls. It's mostly hand movements, and the whole time their knees are bent. All the motions translate the words of the songs. During the dances people come up and put money on the dancers, the girls are covered in coconut oil. It's a type of fundraiser, this one was for Brett's school. Many times people will also be dancing behind the dancers, showing support for them.
This is an example of some of the dances the boys/men do here in Tonga. These dances are much faster paced than the ta'alunga dance the girls do. They often have drums in the music, and wear these grass leaf skirts. There are also some sitting dances the guys do. The dance in this video was from a performance when the US Navy was here on their humanitarian mission.
Dances (koniseti) are big fundraisers here at events or feasts. But then they play more modern music between the traditional dances, so it's funny to watch a dressed up ta'alunga dancer switch to "la bamba" after her dance is done.
Sorry the clips are so short, but it takes a long time to upload large video files here.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
More new photos are posted in our Picassa photo album to the right.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Now I will start working at the Ha'apai Tourism Bureau which I'm very excited about! I'll be building a website for tourism in Ha'apai. Right now there is just a Tonga tourism website, which lists only a little information on Ha'apai and a lot of it is outdated. So this will be the first website focusing on just Ha'apai tourism. The guy I'll be working with at the tourism bureau is very excited and happy about this project, it's something they've been wanting for a long time but didn't have the skills or know how to do it. They thought websites were very expensive (which they can be if they're professionally built), but I told him you can have a website for free if you wanted! I know how to do professional sites in Dreamweaver, but for this project I think I'll keep it very simple so I can train my counterpart on how to build websites online with blogger. We'll probably just pay for our own unique URL, the rest will be free which he was amazed at. It will be great to get more information about Ha'apai online, and once I train my counterpart we'll be able to help other local businesses start websites. In some ways it's very difficult working with such little resources in developing countries - in classrooms not having textbooks, etc; but in other ways it just simplifies everything. Like with this website you don't have as many decisions to make, because you just don't have as much available. And you can just create things the simplest way possible, you don't have to go through lots of levels of approvals or things to get a project done. So I'll be starting this website project later this week, and will hopefully get some things posted soon. There's a tourism week here in Ha'apai in the middle of December, so they want to get info posted online about this event as soon as possible.
So now my work will be split between the Ha'apai Tourism Bureau and MAFFF (ministry of agriculture, forestery, foods and fisheries). Brett will be finishing up the school year at the beginning of Dec. then will have time off until the end of January. The class 6 primary school kids just took their big exams last week which determines what high school they will attend. So now that the exams are done the school year is winding down, they'll focus more on sports and cultural dances and other things. We also had a lot of feasts last week - for the school exams and at the catholic church for their missionale (once a year everyone in the church gives a lot of money publicly and they have celebrations). We'll just be working this week, and on Saturday the new group of volunteers has site announcements so we'll know who will be living with us here in Ha'apai.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
There was another tsunami warning on Thursday after a major earthquake in Vanuatu to the northwest of us. This time it didn't generate any tsunami waves, but school and workplaces were still closed down for the afternoon. The new group of Peace Corps volunteers just arrived in Tonga on Thursday morning, so that must have been an interesting first day for them with the tsunami warning, welcome to Tonga. At least this one wasn't as exciting.
I attended a meeting yesterday that paints a typical picture of some Tongan meetings. It was pretty pointless for me to be at since it was all in Tongan and about a topic I am not very involved in with work. But I couldn't get up and leave, especially since a lot of very important people were there - the district officer, town officers from each village, the news reporter, etc. Throughout the meeting cell phones rang, and people didn't hesitate to answer them, or get up and leave for awhile. At one point the meeting leader answered a phone call and the meeting stopped for a few minutes. I saw others nodding off to sleep. A lady next to me was reading sex education training materials (it was for her job). And they kept talking about the same subjects over and over, dragging on the topic. Of course it started and ended with a prayer. And at the very end the district officer who had been leading the meeting askes me in English "Katie, do you have anything you need to say?" He had to put the spotlight on me and ask me to say something being the only palangi in the room. Then they filed out after signing their names and receiving some money for attending the meeting which is common for some of these types of meetings - money or free food. And of course this meeting had been postponed from earlier that week, and postponed from the previous couple of months. I've gotten very used to things not starting on time here, we usually show up late now for scheduled events and are not surprised when events are postponed. The commitee meeting had been about rating the cleanest villages on the island and how to spend and divide money from a grant they'd received. As usual I ended up being confused, I thought it was going to be a meeting with the womens' groups from different villages, as I'd been told by my counterpart. Another language/cultural/palangi misunderstanding. Wouldn't it be surprising in America if one of your meetings was delayed 5 times over the course of 4 months, you can't understand much of what's being discussed, and it turns out the meeting is about a completely different topic than what you'd prepared for? This is one of the reasons why it's so hard to get things done in Tonga in any timely fashion.
Today for the first time since winter here we went snorkeling again, it was great to get back in the water. We've waded and floated around on our air mattresses in the water but hadn't been swimming/snorkeling in a long time. Brett ended up spearing two really pretty parrot fish which we ate for lunch. And we saw a lot of other pretty colorful fish and coral, right on the reef outside our house, in our backyard.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
(one year ago at the Tongatapu international airport)
Now Tonga is our second home. We've acclimated to the heat (although it is still very hot in the summer!). We contribute to the smell of burning garbage and speak/understand some of the language, Brett better than I. We often chase pigs away from our house, just part of our normal routines. And now Nuku'alofa is the big city- the place where you can get haircuts, eat at italian, chinese, and korean restaurants, and shop at a grocery store with real food. The traffic there seems fast-paced and busy to us. And now we were these silly Tongan clothes - ta'ovala and kiekie. We eat almost anything brought to us by our neighbors, and most of the time end up just fine with no sickness. We've learned how to cook a lot of things from scratch and can husk open coconuts. Now we move along with the slow island pace here.
It's interesting to look back at how we first were compared to how we are now in our community in Ha'apai. When we first moved to our island in Ha'apai we kept space to ourselves and enjoyed our own independence and not interdependence in the community. We had our own space in our house, wanted peace and quiet in our yard, had our own food, etc. We would keep the neighbor kids at a distance outside our door, we didn't understand why everyone shared our sima vie (water tank), we debated about sharing tools, food, etc. with the neighbors. It was just stressful to fight the Tongan culture at work and at home, not having privacy and sharing everything. But now it's become a part of us. Now the neighbor kids run in and out of our house freely, swinging in our hammock (as long as they have pants on, that's our one rule) and playing with whatever's on our bookshelf. Ana and Sailosi, our neighbors stop in whenever to use the Internet, talk or sometimes just to have a nap on our floor. The dogs also nap inside now, we're not so worried about fleas or things anymore. If the neighbors ask to borrow anything we give without hesitation. Because we know they do the same for us. There is still a lot of Tongan culture that we don't understand or agree with, but we've found a good blend of incorporating some Tongan ways into our own culture here. And of course it helps that we have great neighbors and friends here.
Brett and I are heading out on an island trip tomorrow to Ha'afeva for a week. The ministry of education is taking a boat around to all the islands to transfer teachers to different schools on all the inhabitated islands in Ha'apai, they don't want the teachers giving their kids the exam so they all have to move around. So we decided to go on this trip and visit some of the Peace Corps volunteers that live out there. Unfortunately we'll miss the arrival of the new group of Peace Corps volunteers, they're getting here to Ha'apai on Monday to start their homestays and training but will be here until the beginning of December so we'll have plenty of time to see them. New trainees - training is the hardest part of Peace Corps just remember that during your homestays. We'll be back in a week with stories from the outer islands!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Here in Ha'apai things are pretty much back to normal - we just had damaged boats in the harbour, it was really a baby tsunami here luckily. The boat we were supposed to take today to Ha'afeva on a week-long island trip has a hole in it from the tsunami. The ministry of education shifts all the teachers around during the class 6 school exams, so we were going to this island with Brett's teacher. So they've delayed the exam for a week, we might go next week.
Here is a photo of some of the damage in Niuatoputapu.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We got a call from Peace Corps around 8:00am this morning telling us there was a massive 8.3 earthquake in Samoa, just north of Tonga. And because of this they said we could get a tsunami, so they said we should move away from our house and inland for a couple of hours. We get warnings once in awhile from Peace Corps and usually nothing happens, so we slowly got ready and Brett sat down on the back steps to eat a papaya. Looking out at the ocean he noticed the water looked funny and called me to come look at it. It looked normal at first with small waves coming in over the reef edge, but then all of a sudden it got really still and the water swirled around eerily. We both went out to look more and then very quickly the water started draining out to sea, we could see rocks and seaweed clumps, then almost the whole bottom. It was pretty scary, it was obvious that the water was being sucked out by a big wave! So I abandoned my coffee, we grabbed a few things and ran out, telling the neighbors on our way and our japanese neighbor came with us. When we got past the fisheries buildings we saw that the ocean was already coming up fast now, above the shoreline. Brett grabbed the satellite phone from the office, and on the main road in town we got a ride from a Tongan we knew (the local news reporter) who said he'd bring us to Brett's school. But then he headed to the wharf back to the ocean, exactly what we were running away from! It was crazy, the harbour had almost drained out, lots of rock formations were showing that we'd never seen before and the water just kept draining down. Boats were being tossed around by the churning water, and the big oil boat was no longer floating but sitting at an angle on the ocean floor. Then next to the wharf a huge wave came into the harbour, maybe 15 feet high. That's when Brett yelled "go, go, get out of here!!" at the driver, and we sped off along with everyone else at the harbour who had been gawking at the scene. It was surreal to see the ocean drain like that and then the big waves coming in.
(photo above - fleeing from the harbour as the water comes up)
At Brett's school we jumped out with our neighbor Kyoichi and our dog Lucky who had followed us. It was chaos there, people were running up from the ocean, and yelling at everyone to run that there was a tsunami. It was like something you see on the news in far away places, something that would never happen to you. All the school kids came running out towards the bush, we ran with them inland and met up with our neighbors Sailosi and Ana in their car. They said to follow them to a high point on the island, so we ran behind the car. We've never run like this before from a natural disaster, it was scary not knowing what would happen. We got to a little hill and sat and waited for a couple of hours, calling the peace corps office, other volunteers in our island group, and some of the kids' parents that were with us from Brett's school. We were the ones to tell our main peace corps office that we had actually been hit by a small tsunami, they didn't know and the other islands hadn't been hit at all like we had. Phil, another peace corps volunteer, met us at this hill too (Brett described it as the grassy area where eggplants grow and on such a small island Phil knew exactly where we were).
All the other peace corps volunteers are accounted for and safe. In Ha'apai Sarah is on the highest point in her village, Alicia is right in the middle of the island, Grant is fine, Monica on a little island in the middle of nowhere didn't get any wave action at all and Eric and Melanie are on the main island for training. Our dive shop friends actually ran all the way to the other side of the island to the east. And the owners of the bar took their yacht out to sea. We heard accounts of maybe 3 or 4 tsunami waves here, none of them very big though. We got back to our house a few hours ago, and there's no damage but we did accidentaly lock the other dog Simba inside our house! The ocean came up maybe 6 or 8 feet higher than normal. But the waves that hit were very strong, they flattened many low beach bushes and trees, and carried up some large rocks about 20 feet. And many of the boats in the harbour were damaged and moved around by the waves, a few were pushed very far down the shoreline. We've heard that the damage in Samoa is much worse from the earthquake and a tsunami. So some of us are meeting up at our local bar tonight to commiserate and recount todays adventure. Brett and I are supposed to be going on an island trip to Ha'afeva on Friday - his teacher will be administering the exams to class 6 there and asked Brett to go with him. But we'll see if this still happens after today's damage.
I also just want to add, this is NOT common here in Tonga to have tsunamis, it doesn't happen often so don't worry! The last tsunami to hit Ha'apai was sometime in the 1980's. Also all of our experiences between volunteers here have been very different today during the tsunami, us and Phil probably experienced the most action. Alicia didn't see anything happen in her village which is less than a mile from us, and Vava'u volunteers experienced earthquakes but no tsunami action, and I don't think much happened on the main island of Tongatapu. We did just hear that there are 7 to 10 deaths on one of the Niua islands in Tonga - very close to Samoa.
Here's a few links to news stories on the earthquake/tsunami:
Brett did a phone interview with a local station back home, here's a link to the video, it's the second story:
Friday, September 25, 2009
We also had heard that the embalming machine here in Ha'apai is broken right now, so they had to have the putu (funeral) right away very fast, and had to bury the body within 24 hours. It's too bad, because usually a lot of work goes into a putu here, they spend time making tons of food, having lots of people over to the house for the putu, and sit around singing and mourning. But this all had to be rushed. A lot of people didn't even hear about the putu until it was too late and was already over. We missed out on the putu since we heard too late, but made it to the burial in the afternoon. All day we wore all black and our neighbors gave Brett a putu ta'ovala to wear (mat around his waist). Then we joined in the funeral procession on the main street going to the cemetary right by our house. Inoke, Teisa's husband, had worked as an agriculture/science teacher at the Morman high school, so all the students were there with plastic flowers for the grave. Teisa was wearing a huge woven mat, that went up above her head in the back. And her two kids were all dressed up in mats. We watched as they lowered the body into the grave, then mounded up the sand/dirt pile above it and covered it with plastic flowers. I think Teisa was glad to see us there, I gave her a hug before we left and gave her the real flowers we had brought. She just looked so sad and alone, she sat right next to the grave and everyone else sat farther back. Next week I think we'll cook some food and bring it over to her house like we do in America after someone dies. It's always hard on the families here of people who die, they have to provide lots of food for people during the funeral and for awhile after for anyone visiting, it takes a lot of money. It was a weird feeling to go to a funeral here of someone we knew, back home both Brett and I haven't been to many funerals. But I guess on such a small island death is a part of everyday life.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I thought we'd just do the one demonstration and then I'd give them copies of the recipe, but they started mixing up more pizza dough. On the second pizza they scooped on almost the whole can of corned beef, Tongans really like their meat! Then before I knew it we were on our 6th pizza, each of the ladies taking turns making their own pizzas and each of them takes 1/2 hour to bake! I guess because we had so much supplies to cook with, and they were hungry they just kept making more and more pizzas to share with the rest of the staff and to take home. I don't think I've seen this kind of baking marathon besides my mom baking Christmas cookies! This is how Tongans cook though - they make A LOT of food, it would be shameful to them to not have enough food for everyone. At least it showed they were interested in my class and liked the recipe.
While we they were cooking I typed up the recipe for pizza and had my women-in-development counterpart, Ilaise, translate the recipe to Tongan. My boss at MAFF also brought up a point I hadn't thought about - many of the local women can't afford a lot of the ingredients like milk, tomato sauce, and cheese because they're expensive. So he said for any recipes I should think of substitutes that could be used. So in my pizza recipe the substitute for milk is water or coconut milk, substitute real mashed tomatoes for tomato sauce, and as an alternative you could make pizza with no cheese, just the toppings. So I'll have to keep this in mind for future classes and try to stick to simpler recipes. I'm hoping to start more cooking classes now with womens' groups in the villages, with healthy recipes. The diet here is so bad, such a large percentage of people end up with diabetes. All they eat are root crops and meat, rarely any vegetables. And their cooking is pretty monotonous, very much the same it's been for hundreds of years. They like trying new things but just don't know how to cook them and don't have much for seasoning here. In fact most of them don't know what spices and herbs are, if I try to explain basil or oregeno they don't really understand. In Tongan you can say "faka-ifo" which means to make the food taste good. Last week one of the neighbor boys was hanging out in our house, I had some spices out on the counter so I showed them to him and had him smell them. He then proceeded to smell every single one of our spices/herbs, amazed by them. Of course he liked cinnamon the best since it smelled like candy.
So hopefully I'll start more cooking classes/nutrition now with MAFF, and I'll work with my counterpart to translate more recipes and ingredient substitutions to Tongan. I never would have thought I'd be teaching cooking classes!
Friday, September 18, 2009
The first night we had enough time to set up camp and gather firewood before dark, and we roasted hot dogs, veggie skewers for the vegetarians, fish, and potatoes and corn cooked in foil. We brought a lot of cooking supplies to cook over the fire. And we had marshmellows and s'mores that had been sent from home, they were good!! The resort we stayed at, Tiana's, was completely booked - all four fales and a rented tent, the fales rent for $35 and camping is $20/tent. This is the same resort we stayed at over New Years, and it was amazing to see how much it's changed in less than a year - there were two big storms that shifted the beach, it's much steeper now, and they had to rebuild all the fales and move them farther up from the beach. They look really nice now, and are set up very well.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
One annoying habit they have is digging through our garbage if we don't burn it right away. They must be amazed at what we throw away - old containers that could be used for playing in the sand, curious wrappers with a little food still left in it that they'll try to eat. I guess it's true one man's garbage is another man's treasure. At our first homestay during training we threw away a pepcid ac mini-container, and later that day found the youngest homestay sister using it as a little coin purse. And if there's styrofom or anything like that watch out, they'll break it into a million little pieces for you to later pick up. And of course the much-loved by Tongan children video tape. If they get a hold of an old VHS tape they'll take out the long lengths of tape and string it throughout the yard in the trees, along laundry lines, along the fences, everywhere. It's like their version of TP-ing someone, but they do it to their own yards. Whenever I see one of our neighbor kids with a length of video tape I run out there like a mad-woman, take it away from the child and hurl it into the garbage pile behind a fence where they can't get to it. I've already had to dis-entangle too many video tapes in our backyard, non of the Tongans seem to mind as if it's a kind of decoration.
Tongan kids come up with some pretty funny games. Like yesterday, we looked out the window and saw three of the neighbor boys rolling a bicycle wheel back and forth. Whoever the wheel went to had to hit it with a large hunk of metal as hard as he could. And that was the object of the game, beating the wheel with chunks of old metal. And often when they're playing games they'll be shouting out "weee-naaa, weee'naaa" - winner. The youngest, Pa'aane, likes to play a game of finding old chip or cookie bags/containers, filling them with sand from the beach, and then piling as much sand as he can on our back stairs.
They're also very inventive with creating toys and things from their surroundings. The neighbor boys make little leaf whistles, leaf spinning wheels, spinning tops out of pop bottle tops, kites out of paper, and the most unique I think are the noise makers made out of a bike wheel spoke, string, a nail and a match. The nail and match are inside the tip of the bike wheel spoke tied on with string, and get pounded on pavement making a really loud noise like a gun shot. It does get annoying after they've been making the noises on our back stairs for half an hour.
And of course, like kids everywhere, Tongan kids love climbing trees. But not like in the US. They don't have little tree forts or ladders going up. They climb barefoot up the huge trees to the very tip top, or out on the branches until they're at the very end, then they dangle down and drop 10 feet below to the sand. Things that would make US mothers have heart attacks. And all Tongan boys know how to climb coconut trees, they wrap around the trunks and shimmy up and down like little monkeys. At the top they grab on with their feet and grab the coconuts with their hands throwing them down.
A little update from this week - Brett is helping out with night school now with class 6 getting them ready for the big exam next month that determines what high school they'll go to. I'm still amazed at how little the ladies at MAFF work, most Mondays when I go in there to work they're all just sitting around talking and eating. I really don't know what work my counterpart actually does. We're supposed to have meetings with all the women's groups once a month, and that's been cancelled the last two months so we'll see if it happens this month. But the good news - MAFF started harvesting their bush plot and we're getting some veggies from them. And at the internet cafe/computer center I'm still struggling to get things in order - basic things like that it's essential to keep records and to make bank deposits, sometimes I'm not sure where the money is going and supplies in the computer lab keep disappearing. And it's hard since it's a private family-owned business I can't tell them what to do, but just advise on what's best to do. But at least we have the internet cafe going, and some computer classes.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
So as you can see our lives are very weather-dependent here, the above was just a small example. Things as basic as what we eat depends on the weather - if it's too windy and rainy for a few days the fishermen won't go out and there won't be fish anywhere in town. I can't imagine in the US not being able to get a certain food because of rain. Or if there are storms and the ocean is too rough the big ferry boat from the main island won't come for a week and we'll run short on supplies and food such as eggs (they only come from the main island), butter, chicken, and more. Rain also effects work and school here. If it's a rainy day many kids and even teachers just won't show up for school, or if it starts raining after school has started they'll have a long-run day and go straight through lunch then end early so the kids don't have to walk back and forth in the rain. At professional jobs people might not show up if it's raining hard outside. One nice thing about rainy weather is that it's a lot quieter in the mornings on rainy days - the neighbor kids aren't all outside yelling at the top of their lungs and even the roasters, dogs and pigs are quieter. On the other hand if it doesn't rain enough in the dry season our sima vie (rain water tank) that we get all our drinking water from outside could run dry and we'd have no drinking water. And during the summer here when it's unbearably hot and humid it effects what you do. You really think twice about walking across town or even a few blocks in the blistering sun. Back home you really don't think much about weather effecting your daily lives such as laundry/chores, food, transportation, or work. And the time of day also effects things here unlike back home. Local boats can only go out during the daylight hours, since most of them don't have lights and there are no reef markers lit up at night, it would be impossible to navigate. The time of year also has a bigger effect here on food supplies. Back home you can go to a big grocery store and get fruit, veggies and other seasonal foods anytime of year. Here if it's not in season, it's not available. During winter right now we have lots of vegetables available - lettuce, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and green peppers, and bananas, papaya and root crops are available all the time. In the summer we'll get into the fruit season - pinneapple, mango, passion fruit, guava, and avocados. The summer is also the rainy season, hence more mosquitos, so we have to lather up with mosquito spray to avoid dengue fever. So the time of year, time of day, and weather has a bigger effect on our lives here.
This last week we've just been doing our normal work routines, I've started teaching a few computer classes again and we're battling computer viruses at the computer center I work at. Brett has started helping out with night classes once a week for the class 6 students who have their big exam in October. And every Friday now is karoake night at our local restaurant/bar so that's been fun. The Tongans always choose the cheesy love songs, and when it's just our group of friends there at the end we're all singing along. And now we're down to only four puppies out of the original 8, I think they've been stolen. The neighbor kids are doing good, we came home yesterday though to the little 2-year old boy peeing on our front steps! Peeing in the yard is "normal" here, but this was the first time he'd done it at our house. Back home right now the MN State Fair is going on, everyone back there enjoy it for us and all the good food we're missing!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
- Bring one backpack for everyday use, or for girls a shoulder bag
- Consider bringing a good travel backpack, something you would use it backpack across Europe in, it makes travel a lot easier.
- For secondary bags we suggest rolling duffel bags, they tend to hold up well
- Use up to the allocated weight for plane travel if possible, don’t try to pack too light
- mix of t-shirts and button down short-sleeved shirts (around 7 - 10). Make sure they all have sleeves that cover your armpits, and lightweight material. Have at least one black shirt.
- Tank tops - some white basic tanks, and some thicker strapped tanks for wearing at home, or tourist areas
- 5 - 6 Skirts that are below the knees, you’ll be able to buy the wrap-around skirts here
- Capris and pants - 1-2 capris that are below the knees. And one or two pairs of jeans or khakis for winter.
- Swimsuit - 2, you can wear them in tourist areas, or when swimming in local areas underneath shorts and shirt.
- Swimming - bring 1 shirt to swim in, and board shorts at or below the knees
- 1 rain jacket
- Sweater/sweatshirt, bring two for winter, and one or two long-sleeved shirts
- Underwear - enough for 1 ½ weeks or so, and comfortable bras that you can wear in hot weather
- Shoes - three pairs of sandals that are very comfortable and sturdy. Bring at least one pair of flip-flops, and one pair of strap-on sandals. Tennis shoes if you run.
- Jewelry - necklaces, earrings, etc, it’s something you can wear to feel more like yourself
- make-up - many girls don’t wear make-up here, I brought mine and am glad I did, another thing to make you feel more like yourself if you wear make-up back home.
- hairdryer - if you have one that converts to 240 voltage it’s worth bringing it and it’s nice to have when the weather gets cold
- tampons - they don’t sell them here! Bring enough for at least through training and then have more mailed
- razors, bring a few, you can buy cheap ones here as well
- mix of t-shirts 5-6 (dark colors are good)
- 3-4 short sleeve button-up shirts, light weight if possible
- 1-2 long sleeve shirts for the colder weather
- 1 pair of jeans for cold nights or for vacation
- 1 pair of Khakis for cold nights or rainy days
- 3 pairs of shorts, light weight if possible
- 1-2 belts, try to find cloth belts, they work the best, leather does not hold up
- 1-2 pairs of board shorts or swimming trunks
- 1-2 quick dry shirts for swimming or casual wear (Target has cheap nice shirts)
- 1 rain jacket
- 1-2 sweatshirts or fleeces for cold weather or overseas travel
- 8-10 pairs of boxers or underwear
- 3-4 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of running shoes ( good for exercising and for vacation in NZ or Australia)
- 1 pair of good flip flops
- 1 pair of strap on sandals for walking on reefs or walking in the bush
- electric shaver/trimmer, no hot water to shave with unless you boil, electric shavers work good
(guys, remember not to bring any baggy cloths, you will most likely loose 1-2 inches in your waist.
-don’t worry about bringing jackets, if its really cold you can wear a sweatshirt and wear your rain coat over that, it works good.
-good set of knifes and good filet knife
- one good frying pan, the ones they sell here are cheap
- measuring cups and measuring spoons
- can opener
- coffee perculater or French press if you’re a coffee drinker, and your favorite coffee.
- water bottles - sigg or nalgene type water bottles, you’ll be using them a lot!
- some food that you’ll miss - candy, granola bars, pasta mixes that you can make once you get to site, spices/seasonings or get them sent later in the mail.
- Hanging basket 3 tier for food
Bathroom: (bring enough with you for three month to last through training)
- supply of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash/soap. You can buy some stuff here that you get in the states like suave, but if you prefer certain brands bring that along.
- toothpaste - You can get expired crest here and some asian brands, we get most of ours sent in the mail.
- toothbrushes, bring a few extra, and bring toothbrush covers, you can also buy covers here.
- contacts - if you wear them, bring as much contact solution as you can, we brought six bottles and have had more sent in the mail, you can not buy it here.
- towels - you can buy them here, but bring one to start with
- Alarm clock
- wrist watch, timex makes nice rubber ones (Target)
- 2 pairs of sunglasses, things break easy
- knife or leatherman, good for fixing things
- games - bring whatever games you can, that are good with a few people or with many, and easy to learn
- computer - yes, bring one! It’s great for watching DVD’s, typing up emails before getting to internet, storing photos, etc. Most people will end up somewhere with electricity. Chances are your computer will break here, bring a dry sack for your computer to be stored in when not using, this will increase its life here.
- hard drive - many volunteers bring hard drives to exchange movies and photos
- digital camera, underwater bag is also a good idea for your camera
- books - bring a few to start, but the peace corps libraries in each island group also have a lot of books
- hammock!!! - very glad we brought one, it’s the only furniture in our living room! Also good for camping.
- tent - good idea if you’re planning on camping at all.
- sleeping bag - lightweight, cheap sleeping bag, we got fleece ones at target
- 1 set of bed sheets - not as easy to find here
- good flashlights, hand-held and a headlamp is a very good idea, easy to use when biking
- I-pod, we brought ours along with a circle speaker
- Photos from back home - we brought an album with photos of family and friends, it’s fun to show the Tongans, and for decorating once you get to site.
- Presents - for homestay families. Some good ideas - women like perfume, give gifts that have to do with your hometown or state - postcards, calendars, food, etc. Bring stuff for little kids - toys, coloring books, etc. you’ll probably have kids at your homestay. Don’t waste too much space though on these gifts.
- adaptors - bring a couple of adaptors - Tonga is the same as Australia. You probably won’t need converters - most computers will convert the voltage, and you can get surge protectors here.
- Snorkeling - bring decent quality masks and snorkel, and flippers if you have room, if not you can usually find flippers here.
- Rechargeable batteries, if you have things that use AA or AAA consider bringing rechargeables
- Good pens, maybe one notebook for writing home or journaling
- Small sewing kit, clothes will get worn, buttons will fall off, etc.
- A couple months supply of multivitamins (the health office also has some available, not sure what kind)
- pop-up laundry bin or laundry bag, or stuff sack
- Things you’ll have supplied by peace corps- any kind of medical needs, sunscreen, bug spray, bike helmet, kerosene lantern, FM/AM radio, mosquito net for your bed, and a peace corps tonga cookbook
If you can’t fit all this into your bags, don’t be alarmed, you’ll be able to find some of these things here in Tonga, just bring what you think you need and it will all work out, don’t stress over packing! You can also have things shipped over anytime when you realize what you need. Volunteers are more than willing to help you find the things you need once you get here, just ask.
Also a good discount is offered on Chaco's website for sandals, 50% off for Peace Corps volunteers.
If you have any questions, feel free to email us.