Sunday, June 28, 2009

Winter Birthday

It was my birthday on Friday, the first time I've had a "winter" birthday!! But it was still probably in the 70's and sunny, and we spent the afternoon on the beach by our house. Then met up with friends at Mariner's for dinner and drinks, the staff sang happy birthday for me, and we had cake later back at the house. It was a fun night, but different to be in another country away from family and friends back home. For my birthday present Brett wrote a song for me on his guitar. And the most unique present, in the photo below, was a huge ufi (yam) from our neighbors!!
We also had some visitors stay with us for a few nights this last week, two volunteers from Vava'u and one from Eua here on vacation during the school break. It's always fun to hear from volunteers in different parts of Tonga, the island groups are all so unique from each other. These volunteers were surprised at the lack of things available here in Ha'apai, but really enjoyed our beaches.
Yesterday we ran into one of the US Navy people here getting things ready for their July humanitarian visit (13th - 25th). There will be about 100 US Navy people here, they're doing a tour of different countries in the Pacific helping with different projects, medical, and dental. In Tonga they decided to focus on Ha'apai (maybe we're seen as the most needy or most isolated), and they're going to renovate and fix different government schools and water tanks, and they're bringing in doctors, dentists and optometrists to set up clinics and workshops. I heard they're bringing in thousands of pairs of glasses, and toothbrushes. They also have a veterinarian so we'll get Lucky our dog fixed. It will be crazy having so many palangis (foreigners) in our small islands here, the town will be crawling! It will be fun to see what they're doing and to be able to help out. I like that the US Navy is sending in people to these types of countries to help out, and that they're not giving out ANY money. Everything is brought in for doing medical and dental clinics, and all the equipment and everything for the projects at the schools. And all the projects they're doing with medical, food sanitation, dental, etc. they want to be sustainable. Which is a great idea, but will be hard to do. The guy we talked to said that here and in most of the countries they've been to, the local people always ask for money or say they need money to do these kinds of projects or workshops. They're so used to getting foreign aid, and used to this aid just being in the form of money and not service. So it's good to be doing these types of tours/projects to start changing the locals' perceptions on foreign aid.
Brett and I are just having another relaxing Sunday, not doing anything. It's a little overcast and cool out today. I have a few days of work this week, then go to Nuku'alofa on the main island for a volunteer advisory meeting for a few days. And it's almost the 4th of July, we'll have to figure out how to celebrate here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Economy in Tonga

With all the economic hardship elsewhere in the world, I decided to write a little about how it's effecting Tonga, or could effect Tonga. The main source of income in Tonga is from overseas remittences from relatives - people sending money home to family in Tonga. They feel pressure to do this, in Tonga everything is shared, nothing is looked at as your own. (which creates some problems- with no sense of ownership things are never taken care of). Especially in the smaller islands. If fishermen go out and catch a lot, they come back the village and divide it up between everyone. If kids have some kind of treat, they share it with any other kids around them. And if there's a huge feast everyone in town will help contribute, even if they don't belong to the church that is having the feast. So the hopes of many families is for their children to move overseas, so that they can make more money and support the family in Tonga. The main export of Tonga is in fact people. I believe about one-third of the Tongan population lives overseas mostly in the US, New Zealand and Australia. And now with the economic situation overseas, many people are getting laid off and a lot of these start at the bottom with things like gardening or laborers etc. which are the kind of jobs many overseas Tongans have. So they aren't able to send as much money back home. Or they are getting deported back to Tonga - things like crime or visa issues that are getting looked at more closely now since other governments don't want to pay for illegal immigrants in prisons. So there are many more deportees in Tonga (some of which have never really lived in Tonga, they moved overseas as children). And in Tonga there aren't many jobs, not enough to support everyone. There are many unemployed youth.

But with all these points against Tonga, it's unlike many other countries. People can live and survive here without a job. Because of the community aspect no one is ever homeless, someone will always take that person in. There aren't even any nursing homes, family members take care of their elderly parents until the end. There are no orphanages, in fact kids often get passed between families - to aunts and uncles or grandparents. And there is definately not a shortage of food, you could never starve in Tonga. They do have a lot of imported food now, but even without that there's an abundance of fish and food in the sea, they grow lots of root crops, and have many different kinds of fruit growing (bananas, papaya, passion fruit, guava, etc). At least that's how it's usually been, but with the younger generation things are changing. This younger generation isn't following the community aspect as much, they don't want the same responsibilities and may also change the reliance on remittences from overseas- some of them aren't sending money home. This is probably somewhat from overseas influence. They all want cars, dvd's, new music, cell phones, and things like that. Which means they need money, and want to own their own things and not have to share everything. But can Tonga support all of this growth, with so little jobs? Which brings up the point of globalization - a good thing or a bad thing? It's creating problems, changing cultures, but do we have the right to say no you can't have cars or TV's?

But so much of the overseas influence is still so new, and the Tongans have lived self-reliantly on the land and sea for so long. I think that if overseas remittences stopped coming in and there wasn't much money here in Tonga things would still be fine. They all take care of eachother and have enough food. And there are so many conveniencies that people see as needs now. You don't really need electricity or running water - although everyone wants it. And many of these conveniencies have created more problems - such as imports to Tonga creating garbage they can't handle. You can't have a landfill on an island a mile by a mile in size, you can't export the garbage, so it either gets burned or thrown into the bush or sea.

What puzzles me the most is what happens to all this money coming into Tonga from overseas relatives. It's a HUGE amount that comes in, and sometimes they just send things like TV's or supplies. Western Union and other moneygram companies here are probably making a killing. But Tongans are always saying they have no money. So where does it all go? To the church, possibly. So many organizations and communities here apply for foreign aid, but they have so much money already coming into the country, and the government itself has a lot of money. Being here has really changed my views on foreign aid, seeing the dependency it creates within a population. And they don't need it, they can do things here themselves but don't want to, they expect to get handouts. You even see it with tourists that come to Tonga, people approach them asking for money or school supplies because they think every overseas tourist is rich. (probably because we get a lot of yachties that have money). In Tonga they always go for the easiest way to do things, which in this case is getting money instead of doing the work themselves. Or trying to get a volunteer to do the work for them.

Anyways, I'm rambling on so this is probably enough, it's a complex situation. All I know is you don't need much money to survive in Tonga, peace corps gives every volunteer a salary that's locally comparable and just enough to live off. Our salary is about $300 US a month, or $3600 US a year per person. And it's more than enough to survive on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vegetables, Piglets, and other Ha'apai news

Several things changed here in Ha'apai while we were on vacation. When we left there were no vegetables, and hadn't been almost the entire time we've been here. Now there are tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, and white raddish for sale at the market, it's amazing! Some not so great news - when we left our sima vie (giant cement tank) where we get all our rain water for drinking was almost completely full, and now it's completely empty! The pigs got into it in the middle of the night while we were gone, we usually would hear it since it's right outside our bedroom window. But the neighbors didn't hear the water rushing out, and it was empty by morning. So now we share our neighbor's drinking water, and it's dry season so there won't be much more rain to fill our tank. The pigs actually chewed through the pvc pipe where the water comes out of our tank.

More pig news - we found out that our dog, Lucky, and the neighbor's dog, Simba killed one of the neighbor's baby piglets!! That's a horrible crime here in Tonga, if a dog kills a pig they'll usually kill the dog. But Lucky was doing fine when we got back, the neighbor kid even fed and played with her while we were gone. We offered to pay for the killed piglet, but of course our neighbors wouldn't accept any money and said the dogs were playing with the piglet and didn't know what they were doing. And like they said they were going to do since we moved here, they gave us one of the new piglets. Brett picked out a little black girl piglet with a white tail, and when the neighbor kids asked if he named her he said the name is "ifo" which means delicious. They thought that was pretty funny, but really that's what you do with piglets unless you want them to grow and have more piglets.

We also came home to no Internet - the modem is broken in the Fisheries office where we had our home Internet connected to. I wasn't too surprised that it was somehow broken since the Fisheries had managed to ruin a whole computer and needed a new hard drive put in. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the Internet - they just got it a few months ago and don't really know much about viruses and such. I went into the office and one of the workers asked me to look at a form online they were filling out. I scrolled through and it was junk email saying you could win a million dollars and asked for the person's credit card number!! I told them NOT to fill it out and never to give their credit card on a form like that if they didn't know the sender. And the Peace Corps office Internet was down for a few days as well - the bill hadn't been paid again. The power was also out again in my computer center so I'm trying to get that sorted out. But these kind of issues just keep happening here, nothing new.

We had a two day Peace Corps workshop/training on service learning with our counterparts. We'd asked someone to come before vacation, then the day before the workshop found out she was in Nuku'alofa on the main island. Oh well. It was fun though to see the outer island volunteers - Eric and Melanie, and Monica, they leave to go back to their islands today on the boat.

It's also a lot colder here than when we left! It's the winter season now, and it's mostly down in the 70's now which feels really cold when we're used to high humidity and temps in the high 80's.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New photos!

New photos are posted in the picassa photo link to the left of new zealand, and some new photos in tonga.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Part Three - New Zealand, South Island

A lot of people say the south island is the best, there was a lot of beautiful scenery and places to see, but I really did like both islands. The north island is really green and lush, and the south is more mountainous.

We started our trip to the south island early Wed. morning to get the ferry from Wellington to Picton on the south island. The ferry was like a cruise ship - it had a movie theater, lots of different seating areas, and restaurants/shops throughout the different levels. We had a breakfast from one of the buffet areas, then sat towards the back of the boat and saw dolphins swimming around in the bay area going into Picton. We got to Picton mid-day, and drove about 20 minutes down to Blenheim where all the wineries are. For lunch we stopped at the Highview Estates winery. It was warm enough so we ate outside on the patio overlooking lines and lines of grapevines/trees. The food was more upscale, I just had some bread and Brett had rabbit. Then the wine tasting began, we tried the wine there, then at Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott, and Saint Clair. The area is known mostly for their savignon blanc, and they had some other white and red wines to try. We bought a few bottles to bring back to Tonga, it was a lot cheaper and better than what we get in Tonga. Afterwards we drove on to Franz Joseph Glacier on the west coast, about an 8 hour drive. For dinner we stopped at Owen River tavern, it was a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere. We huddled around a table by a fireplace and space heaters, it was cold in the mountains! It was dark the whole drive along the west coast, and I slept a lot of it. At one point we stopped to look, and there were piles of rocks all along the road by the ocean, people had piled them up into little towers. We pulled into the Top 10 Holiday Park at Franz Joseph around midnight, this was a really nice park with heated nice bathrooms and Internet.
The next day we slept in a little, then drove into town to find a glacier tour company. We went with the main one in town, it was $97NZ/person for a half-day hike, about 5 hours. My mom decided to stay in town and go to a spa instead after seeing pictures of the hiking up ice carved stairs and climbing ropes, etc. The rest of us went on the hike from 12:30 to 5:30pm. They outfitted everyone with blue raincoats, hiking boots, wool socks, hats/gloves, and spiky clamp-ons for hiking on the glacier. There were about 40 people going on the hike, once we got close to the glacier they split us into four smaller groups. We hiked down a little wooded trail, then came out to a huge river valley full of rocks and could see the glacier in the distance. It was about a 45 minute hike to get up to where the glacier was, then we put on the spiky clamp-ons and hiked up some rocky area until we got to a ladder going up and onto the ice. It was amazing on the glacier, the views were gorgeous and the ice was a blue-ish color. The guide led us all around on the ice on trails carved up and down through the glacier with steps carved into the ice in places, and ropes to hang onto to haul yourself up or down. We’d packed sandwiches and had lunch on top of the glacier. They also led us into some ice caves that were naturally carved. Afterwards we had dinner at the Blue Ice restaurant on the main street, they had good lasagna. Then we drove all the way to Queenstown, about 5 or 6 hours. It was nice doing the driving at night so we’d have the whole day to do other things. I could still see some of the scenery, lots of snow-capped mountains.

The first night in Queenstown we stayed at the Holiday Park, this one wasn’t as nice, the bathrooms weren’t heated and were tiny. On Friday morning we slept in, then the guys all went golfing at Queenstown Golf Club, a championship golf course with mountain views all around on a peninsula on the lake. My mom, Lisa and I had a spa/shopping day. We had full body massages and facials at Body Sanctum in town, and had lunch at Vudu Café. The food there was really good! After the guys were done golfing we looked for a new place to stay that night, and ended up staying at the Crown Plaza hotel in town which was really nice. We had dinner at @Thai, they had good curry dishes there. The next morning we had breakfast at Vudu Café since it was so good the first time we went there, and drove on to Christchurch, our final stop before flying back to Auckland.
On the way out of town we stopped to see the first bungy-jumping place, the AJ Hackett bridge. We watched a lady bungy jump off the bridge there. There was a lot of scenery on the drive - more mountains, and fields of sheep. We stopped at the Church of the Good Shepherd, past Mt. Cook. It’s a cute old stone church on a peninsula on a lake with great mountain views all around. We made it to Christchurch in the evening, checked into a Top 10 Holiday Park in the suburbs, and had dinner at Lone Star. Instead of staying in the camper we rented a cabin, it was only $128NZ and had beds for all of us, but was really cold before we turned on the space heaters. On Sunday we drove into Christchuch and went to the botanical gardens, they were really big and had a conservatory that was pretty, it would be even nicer in the summer time. Then we went to the Arts Center where they have an art fair/market every Saturday and Sunday. This was really fun, there were lots of little booths with food and arts/crafts, and live music that was really good. We thought we’d seen it all but then realized it winded all throughout the campus of buildings at the Arts Center, really pretty European looking courtyards and buildings. After that we walked around and did some shopping, Brett and I bought stuff we wanted to bring back to Tonga, mostly food. We had dinner right next to the Arts Center at Dux Lux where they brew their own beers. That night we switched camping places and stayed in a cabin at the Holiday Park in Spencer, just outside of Christchurch on the beach. So the next morning we got up and drove to look at the beach, stopped at a bakery, then went to return the campervan near the airport. Our flight left in the early afternoon back to Auckland, and we’d made reservations to stay at the Langham hotel again so spent more time in the hot tub there. For dinner we went downtown and ate at Tony’s Lord Nelson near the sky tower.
We all flew out our separate ways on Tuesday - my parents on to Australia to the barrier reef for a few days, Lisa and Adam back to Colorado, and me and Brett back to Tonga. My parents had an early morning flight, so we spent a little more time with Lisa and Adam shopping in town before leaving for the airport. It was hard to get on a plane back to Tonga after this trip! We stayed in Nuku’alofa for two nights before coming back to Ha’apai. Lucky, our puppy, was very happy to see us. The Internet wasn’t working at our house or the peace corps office when we got back. And our sima vie (where we get all our drinking water) was completely dry. It was full when we left, the pigs got into it while we were gone in the middle of the night, the neighbors didn’t hear the water rushing out and by morning it was empty. Luckily there are a few other half-full sima vies around our neighbors’ houses we can use. Other than these few things everything is good back here in Ha’apai, and we have peace corps training here for a couple of days so we get to see the outer island volunteers.

Recommendations for those traveling to New Zealand:
Top places we’d recommend - Franz Joseph Glacier, Queenstown, Blenheim wineries, and Raglan. If you’re driving, I’d recommend looking at your schedule and giving yourself more time. We spent a lot of time in the campervan driving, but we saw a lot in the 12 days we were there.

Auckland - if you can, the Langham is worth the splurge to stay at a 5-star hotel and it has a shuttle service to the main street in town. Devonport was a cute town to visit, the ferry ride is very cheap ($10NZ/person round trip), and you get great views of the skyline from the water. The Recycle Boutique just off Queen Street was a great place to buy good used clothes for cheap, this is where I found my winter coat.

Bay of Islands - kayaking is fun and cheap at $10NZ/hour, and Abbey Caves was a fun stop on the drive between Auckland and Paihia, it was a free cave to see glow warms, a little bit of a hike.

Raglan - Wainui Reserve is a pretty beach, and the Raglan Surf School has good prices for rentals/lessons

Lake Taupo - DeBrett’s was a good campground with hot springs right there at the resort, and they can book fishing trips or other activities for you.

Wellington - the Capitol was a great restaurant, a little more spendy but worth it. Halswell Lodge was a good, central place to stay and was pretty cheap, they have motel and apartment options.

Blehheim wineries - All the wineries we visited were good - Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott and Saint Clair, and Highview Estate had great views for lunch. At the info center in town you can get a map of all the wineries. If we’d had more time it looked like they had nice places to stay here.

Franz Joseph Glacier - the glacier hike was amazing, worth spending the money, plan a half-day for this. The Holiday Park here was one of the best we stayed at - nice, heated bathrooms and views of the glacier.

Queenstown - Vudu café was my favorite café/lunch place, great food and very busy. The golfing the guys did sounded really good, a championship course - Queenstown Gold Club. @ Thai restaurant had good food. I didn’t like the Holiday Park here, small and cold bathrooms.

Christchurch - if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday definitely check out the fair at the Arts Center, lots of food and arts/crafts, and music. The botanical gardens were really pretty also.

Part Two - New Zealand, North Island

New Zealand trip outline:
Days - 12
Places visited - Auckland, Bay of Islands, Raglan, Lake Taupo, Wellington, Blenheim/wineries, Franz Joseph glacier, Queenstown, and Christchurch
Active pursuits - kayaking, surfing, fishing, glacier hiking, golfing
Miles covered - approx. 1800

We left for New Zealand 5/28, Thursday morning. It was a great feeling to get out of Tonga for the first time since we came last October. We love it here, but really needed a break. When we stepped out of the Auckland airport the weirdest feeling was the air - it was so thin and crisp, unlike our hot muggy air all the time we’ve gotten used to. Walking through the airport I also noticed the soft cushy feeling of carpet I hadn’t felt for so long. And everyone was whizzing around, hurriedly trying to get to their destination. I guess we’ve gotten used to the slower pace in Tonga, no one ever speed walks here. Our first two nights of the trip in Auckland we stayed at a five-star hotel, the Langham, it was amazing. We all went into town and shopped a little, it already felt really cold and knowing the south would be colder I found a cheap winter coat at a thrift store and a warm fleece at the Warehouse. Lisa’s boyfriend flew in later that first night, and we went out to eat at Davinci’s right across the street from the hotel. The next morning we had the buffet breakfast at the hotel, it was delicious! I filled up my plate as full as I could and stuffed my purse with leftovers. Then we did some more shopping, and caught the ferry to Devonport, a cute little town on a peninsula across from Auckland. We walked around there and had lunch on a sidewalk patio. Then spent time in the hotel’s hot tub before going back to the waterfront in town for dinner at Foxes Irish Pub, the food there was really good, I had a salami and cheese melted sandwich.
On Saturday, the third day of our 12 day trip, we picked up our huge campervan and drove up to the Bay of Islands, about 4 hours north of Auckland. The campervan was really nice inside, with a table sitting area in front and another in the back with a kitchen, and had three beds (Lisa or Adam took turns sleeping on the floor on a mattress but it fit all six of us pretty well). The ride was really bumpy, the vehicle was so huge that it swung all around. But it worked good for getting all of us around, and for sleeping in. On the way up to Bay of Islands we stopped in a little town for lunch and had really good pizza, and we stopped at Abbey Caves just before dusk. It was a little hike down to the caves, but was worth it. Inside the cave there were lots of glow worms, they look like little specks on the top of the cave that glow a neon green/blue. The drive up was really pretty, lots of fern trees and lush tropical looking forests and hills. We pulled in after dark to the Beach View Holiday Park and stayed in the campervan that night. The Holiday Parks were pretty nice, and cheap at $15 to $20 NZ a person throughout New Zealand. They all had hot showers, laundry area, common kitchen area and plug-ins for campervans. The next morning we got up and us, Lisa and Adam hiked a little trail from the campsite towards town with pretty views of the Bay and some islands and beach area. Then we met up with my parents in the campervan and drove into town, Paihia, it was a cute touristy town. We found a place along the bay to rent kayaks for only $10NZ/hour per person and all went out kayaking, Brett and I did a double kayak. We made it out to a little island then turned back as it started to rain a little, but it was fun. We had lunch in the campervan on the side of the road, then headed south to Raglan, on the west coast of the north island. It’s a well-known town for surfing. On the way we stopped at a pretty waterfall. Since it’s fall now in New Zealand a lot of the trees were changing colors- red, yellow, oranges, and loosing their leaves. It was pretty and nice to see a change of season since we don’t really get that here. In this trip and coming back to Tonga we’ve had three seasons in just a couple weeks - fall, winter to summer!

We got to Raglan around 9 or 10:00pm and were starving since we couldn’t find any little towns with restaurants open that late - it was Sunday night. We checked into a hotel that someone had recommended to us in Auckland, called the Palm View motel, we got the last unit. It was a one-bedroom with kitchen and living area, and a couple beds in the living area so we stayed in there with Lisa and Adam and my parents in the campervan. We ran into town and found a restaurant on the main street, they had really good burgers. All over New Zealand we realized they don’t heat places like we do in the States. A lot of restaurants and stores weren’t even heated, or had little space heaters, and they don’t heat hallways or bathrooms sometimes. In the restaurant in Raglan they had those pole heaters you usually see outside, inside the restaurant to heat it. Our campervan also only heated the front cabin, and not the back area where we all sat. So a lot of the trip we felt a little cold. On Monday morning we headed towards the beaches just north of Raglan, and Lisa, Adam and my dad all rented surf boards from Raglan Surf School for really cheap. I couldn’t believe they made it out into the ocean, it was freezing!! My mom, Brett and I were bundled up in winter coats and hats on the beach watching them in their wetsuits surfing. The beach was really pretty, darker sand and really wide beach area, and big hills behind it- we were at Wainui Reserve. Afterwards we went back and had lunch in Raglan at a cheap cafeteria style place, then headed to Lake Taupo in the middle of the north island. We stayed that night in our campervan at DeBrett’s resort/camping where they had hot springs pools, spent time in the hot springs then went out to eat in town.

That next day in Lake Taupo the guys went out fishing on a boat in the lake for trout, and Lisa, my mom and I shopped around town and had crepes and coffee. The views around the huge lake were pretty, snow-capped mountains. The guys came back with three rainbow trout which we later cooked up on the roadside on our way out of town. They turned out really good - steam cooked them with brown sugar and lemon pepper. We drove all the way down to Wellington that afternoon, I think it was around 6 hours or so, we got to the coast after dark. We stayed at Halswell Lodge in Wellington, they had 2-bedroom units with a kitchen. We had dinner at the Capitol just down the street from the hotel, it was one of the best meals, really gourmet looking plates. I had a ravioli and Brett had risotto, it was nice to not have to cook meals and eat out!

Part One - Family visit to Ha’apai, Tonga

We’re back in Ha’apai now so I have time to write about the last three weeks when my parents and sister visited here in Tonga, and our New Zealand trip! Finally - the Internet has been down here for the last few days! I'm going to write this in three parts - first the family trip to Tonga, then the north island of New Zealand, and then the south island of our New Zealand trip.
The family visit to Tonga was a lot of fun, and it’s really great they got to see our house and work places and see what our day to day life is like with all the dogs, chickens, pigs, neighbor kids, etc. The first day they came in the afternoon, and I had to finish up my last computer class so they came and watched some of that. I handed out certificates to the two ladies that finished the course, they were really excited and will be joining the next class I teach. Then the second day the family was here, on a Friday, we got up early and got a ride to Uoleva island and stayed at Serenity Beaches for one night in two fales (little houses). It’s a gorgeous resort with cute fales that have bamboo shades so you can open up the whole little building, and a cute shower attached to a tree in the back with a bathroom. There’s no electricity on the island, but there were lots of candles all around the resort. We hung out on the beach down a little ways from the place, where there was a sandy swimming area and some coral reefs to snorkel in, the water was crystal clear but a little cold. The reefs on Uoleva are my favorite for snorkeling, there’s so much huge, healthy coral and tons of fish. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening in a little hut filled with pillows and hammocks nearby, just hanging out. Brett chopped open some coconuts for drinks. For dinner they prepared an umu (underground cooking), with some chicken and fish wrapped in leaves, root crops, and watermelon.

The next day Lisa was sick with heat exhaustion so we took it easy, got back to our house in the afternoon and we went out to Mariner’s with my parents for dinner. They got to meet a lot of the people we hang out with here - other peace corps volunteers, Japanese volunteers, and the owners of Fins ‘n Flukes. On Sunday Brett and I dressed up my family in Tongan-style clothes - my sister and mom got to wear kiekies (woven designs in a belt that hang down), and my dad wore a tupenu (wrap skirt) with a ta’ovala (woven mat wrapped around the waist). It was fun for them to be able to see this Tongan tradition and the church service. We walked around town and showed them the liku (wild) side of the island.

On Monday we biked up to Foa, the island north of us, to the beaches at the north end. It’s a pretty ride, and they got to see lots of villages and bush on the way up. We had lunch at Matafonua, it rained a little on the way back but wasn’t too bad. On Tuesday we spent the morning and early afternoon snorkeling with Brian and Sabine - Fins ’n Flukes. We got to see three really pretty reefs, the water was pretty choppy so I was a little sick. Then we had to do some laundry before leaving, so the family got to see how we wash our clothes and hang them to dry. Brett and I made a big dinner for our last night in Ha’apai with them - pasta with a garlic sauce, salad with a honey-mustard dressing, and my home-made bread that I just learned how to make thanks to Eric’s recipe. Yes, I’m baking my own bread now, unbelievable!

On Wed. morning, 5/27, we left for Nuku’alofa on the main island. We had to spend one night there since our flight to New Zealand was early on Thursday morning. We showed my family around town, spent time at the market so they could buy souvenirs, had my favorite drink, vanilla lattes at Friends café, and hung out on the ocean front before eating dinner at Emerald’s Chinese restaurant. We ran into a lot of peace corps volunteers around town. After seeing our place in Ha’apai and the main island and capital city, my parents and sister said they’re really happy about where we live and that we didn’t live in the capital city, there’s a huge difference between them. My mom had an image of a cute Mediterranean or Caribbean type city, which Nuku’alofa definitely is not, it’s more trashy. In Ha’apai we have pretty beaches all to ourselves, a quiet, lazy town and more culture. I’ve also heard that outer island volunteers are often the happiest volunteers (we’re considered an outer island here).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Freezing in New Zealand

We're currently in Queenstown on the south island, the six of us (brett and I, my parents, sister and her boyfriend) have been buzzing around in a big campervan! So far we've been through Auckland, Bay of Islands, Lake Taupo, Raglan all on the north island, and on the south Blenheim/winery area, Franz Joseph glacier and now Queenstown for a couple of nights. Today we're heading up to Christchurch for a few nights, then back to Auckland where we fly out all our seperate ways - us back to Tonga, my parents on to Australia and my sister and her boyfriend home to Colorado. It's been a lot colder than I thought it would be here, we've bought some warmer clothes to keep warm. The scenery is beautiful everywhere here. People thought we were crazy to cover so much of the north and south islands in just 12 days, it's been a lot of driving for sure but we've been able to see a lot. More to come with photos when we get back to Tonga!