Wednesday, February 25, 2009

People and animals leaving

There are some changes we recently heard about from the group in the capital on Tongatapu, 5 volunteers are leaving Tonga. Four are from group 73 - Lara and Trenten, Alexis, and Enrique. One is from our group 74, Cassie, she was in our training village in Vava'u, we'll miss her. Lara and Trenten were a married couple from Hawaii that we got to spend some time with while we were on the main island, they'll be missed as well. Our group 74 is now down to 20 people, we started with 24. I've heard that the most people early terminate their service during training and the first three months at site. We've been here about 2 1/2 months now in Ha'apai.
Cassie on the left, me and Monica in Tu'anekivale in Vava'u training

Trenten in blue and Lara in white at our group 74 swearing in ceremony

Some changes here in Ha'apai - our neighbors Mosese, Akata and their kids moved to Nomuka, an outer island today. Along with them went 2 of the bigger dogs, and 8 pigs in wooden crates. So it should be a little quieter around our house now. After all the dogs and puppies we've had around this whole time we're down to 1 big dog and 2 little puppies. At the height of it all there were 5 big dogs and up to 12 puppies.

I've started working at one of the MAFF offices this week, the Fisheries office helping out with things for a few hours a day. I found out the new officer in charge isn't coming anymore, so they're looking for a new person to fill that spot which will be my boss. And I'm waiting to get the computer center staff sorted out. Brett has been teaching this week. This afternoon they cancelled classes because it was raining just a little bit, sprinkling really. But they thought it would rain more I guess. The school rooms get really loud with the noise of the rain and kids won't concentrate or if it's raining over lunch they just won't come back to school.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Japanese party

On Saturday we all gathered at the one restaurant/bar in town for a going-away party for Noreko who's leaving the middle of next month, she's a Japanese volunteer here. There will still be three other Japanese volunteers here after she leaves. The owner of the bar, Magda even had a bunch of snacks she made for us including sushi, fish, chips, olives, and cheese! It's nice having a place to hang out with other expats in Ha'apai here, there are about 10 of us or so from the US, Japan, Germany, Poland and Ireland that I know of.

Brett and I are both feeling better now after a long week of being sick with very high temps. And I'm starting to work now with MAFF/the Fisheries helping out with little things and they mentioned if I want I might get to go on a trip to some outer islands later this spring for some meetings/workshops. I still am just waiting to figure out the computer center now, getting a counterpart to work with after talking with Peace Corps about it. Brett is starting to teach at his school this week. The photo below is from Valentines day at the beach on Foa.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sick in Tonga

Kate and I have been feeling a bit under the weather this week. On Sunday we started to get that sick feeling and by Monday we both had temps and were not feeling the best. We talked with the Peace Corp nurse and she thinks we have Dengue Fever or a Flu bug that is going around, but she is weighing more on Dengue, we will have to see when they do a test next time we are on the main island. So over the past couple days Kate and I have just been resting and drinking a lot of water. The only thing you can do for Dengue or the Flu is to just get rest and drink a lot of fluids, so that is our plan. Today I was feeling a little better, not 100%, but I made my way over to the Peace Corp office to check email and write this blog. Once we are feeling better we will have to blog more about our experience with being sick in Tonga, its not fun.
Have a great week.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

L-O-V-E day

Valentine's day was yesterday. Brett got up early and snuck out on my bike to find me flowers, there are a lot of really pretty local flowers around here. He was picking some pink flowers out of a bush hanging over from someone's yard when he hear a little boy from a tree in the yard yelling "Oua!! Palangi stop it! Stop it palangi!"!!!! He got yelled at by a little boy for picking the flowers! So he quickly biked away and found some more in another spot. It was really nice to get the flowers though.

The rest of the day we spent at matafonua beach on the northern tip of Foa island, an hour bike ride in the hot weather here. Alicia and Sarah joined us later, we hung out until a little before sunset then biked back and Brett and I made tuna patties and rice for dinner. Alicia got bit by her first molokau (large centipede) the other day in her house, it sounds really painful! And another volunteer here might have dengue fever, you get it from mosquito bites and there are a lot of mosquitos around lately. They're small, faster than the mosqutios back home, and really quiet- they don't buzz like back home.

I started helping out a little at the Ha'apai Youth Congress here. They get small business loans to help out unemployed youth to start their own businesses (youth doesn't mean just teenagers, you're basically considered youth until you get married). So I'll help advise some of the local businesses like a DVD store, weaving, and growing vegetables, and help with other basic editing/reporting skills. Next week there's a workshop through the Youth Congress for teaching a new group here how to be peer educators with HIV awareness so I'll attend that. The manager of the Youth Congress is also going to be our language tutor for me and Brett starting next week. We haven't been using Tongan very much so this will help. I'm still waiting to begin at my other primary jobs. The head of MAFF is still sick in Nuku'alofa and the counterpart for the computer center is also sick (possibly) and no one else works there. There's a lot of interest from the community in the computer classes at the center, so hopefully things will work out, but I can't do it on my own without a counterpart. The whole idea of Peace Corps is to create sustainability so I need to train someone here with the skills to carry on the computer center classes.

Brett's school is a pilot school for testing out new English curriculum for classes 3 and 4 so they had workshops last week, and he'll start co-teaching pretty soon. The government here feels that kids are losing their Tongan language because they start English so early, and many kids can't write or read in Tongan. There's a very limited amount of books and materials in the Tongan language. Instead of starting English in class 1 they're going to wait until class 3 now. And later on kids will have a choice to have their classes all in English or Tongan.

I hope everyone's doing well back home, Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tongan Legends/ fishing methods

We’ve heard quite a few Tongan legends since being here, Tongans are a very proud people and proud of their history. A lot of legends they truly believe happened.

One that I like is about a rat and an octopus. The rat got stranded in water and was drowning. He called out to an octopus to help him, so the octopus let the rat ride on his head to dry land. Once the rat was on land he yelled out to the octopus “look what I left on your head”. The octopus realized the rat had done his business on his head. Since then octopus’s have hated rats. So the way locals fish for octopus is to make a bait that closely resembles the appearance of a rat. It’s made of some shells and a string like a tail, and I think they even tie on some feathers to look make it look furry. They tie it to a string and dangle it in deep water, and the octopus rushes up to the bait. They still fish like this for octopus.

Other fishing methods used here are large nets in both deep and shallow waters, line fishing (with just a line, not a pole like back home), and spear fishing in reef areas. There’s a certain type of tuna fish, the ‘atu, that can only be fished by line and not netted because of a legend. We also talked to a guy who works at the high school who was a little boy when they were still hunting whale here with spears. Guessing by his age, this was probably only about 40 years ago or so. He said they’d have a couple boats go out in case one got wrecked, and they’d spear the whale, then more boats would come out and help get it to the reef or shore. After that the whole town, or island, would come and take their share of the whale. The Japanese still hunt whale here I believe. The locals also hunt turtle still, (I’m pretty sure they’re endangered,) they eat them here. While we were on Uoleva over New Years the resort owner showed us and dug up a turtle egg nest on the beach. He had it marked off and was watching over it to make sure they were safe.

There are a lot of reef fish you can’t eat, the locals know which are safe. The parrot fish are really good! The Tongans also eat just about anything else in the sea - sea slugs fresh out of the ocean, lots of different snails/clams, etc., sea urchins, jellyfish, and more.

The Tongans are also superstitious about some things or why things happen. If someone gets hurt it’s because they didn’t go to church or they didn’t do their chores or something like that. If you don’t take a shower before going to sleep you might get bit by a molekau (huge nasty centipede that bites).

Another legend is about the volcanic islands of Tofua and Kao here in Ha’apai. The Samoan god (Samoa is another south pacific country just north of Tonga), was mad that Tonga had a higher mountain than Samoa. So he came to steal the mountain, he ripped of the top of Tofua and as he was running away the Tongan god caught him. So he dropped it into the sea which is now Kao. (Kao is a perfect volcanic cone, and Tofua is a sunken volcano with a lake/crater in the middle, still active sometimes).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Life as usual

Things have been going good here, same routines now. Me not working still and Brett going to his school every morning and done at lunch time. My counterpart for the computer center is back from the capital, but one day she decided to do her laundry instead of coming into work, and yesterday she was sick and still finishing laundry. That's Tonga for you. Maybe next week I'll start working there, and the new officer in charge at my job at MAFF is supposed to be here soon. I also met with the Ha'apai Youth Congress and might help out there once in awhile too with english/editing for their reports and proposals for getting grants, and some help with reporting on workshops here and around some of the islands. They're pretty well organized so they just need a little extra help in these areas.

Last week on Wed. someone from peace corps came up to help sort out some problems Alicia was having with her site and school, and that same day within hours of being in town they moved her out of her site here in Pangai and to where her original site was supposed to be (a smaller village close by). So we went to her house here and had her all packed and moved out within an hour, moved all her stuff to our house until her house was ready in her new village a couple days later. So far it's going really good for her in the new village, and we're really happy she didn't have to move too far, so there's still us, Phil a volunteer that's been here for a year, and Alicia on our island, and Sarah just north of us. There are also 4 japanese volunteers in town that are really nice, they had us all over for dinner last weekend.

We recently discovered that the ant population in our house can now get INTO our refridgerater!! They can get through the seal. So we're coming up with a plan to put the fridge up on a small table if we can find one and put tin cans with water on each leg so they can't get to the fridge. There have only been a few inside but it could get bad if we don't do something. It has been incredibly hot here lately as well.

We had a good find at the market a few days ago - green peppers! And this morning we heard the fish whistle so Brett ran out and bought a couple kilos of fish, for being on an island it's sometimes pretty hard to buy fish here! Some people come in from outer islands and drive slowly through town blowing a whistle, selling fish out of their cooler in the back.

Keep in touch, we love hearing from people back home!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Around here

Some images of Pangai

Another view of our house, the big round cement block is our sima vie where we get all our drinking water.

Main street in town, the orange big building is a chinese shop we get groceries and supplies at.

Tallest building, the third story is where my computer lab center is where I work, second story has our peace corps office and there are two chinese shops on the first level we get our food at.

Brett's school, GPS Pangai

The liku (wild) side of Lifuka island, about a 20 minute walk from our house, it's on the opposite side of the island facing east.

The only gas station, I think in all of Ha'apai where lines form after boats come in, they almost always run out of petrol.