Tuesday, June 16, 2009

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).

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