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.

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