Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Well we've experienced every type of natural disaster now here in Tonga - earthquakes, volcanic explosions, cyclone, and now a tsunami. Most of them haven't been as scary as they sound, but the tsunami today was a little scary.

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:,2933,557282,00.html

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

Life comes and goes

Yesterday we had some very sad news, Teisa who I work with at the Youth Congress, her husband just died the night before. He had a heart attack while he was working in the garden/bush, he was very young only 33. They had two little kids, around 2 and 4 years old. I was actually supposed to meet with Teisa to help set up some computers at the Youth Congress yesterday, but heard the news from our neighbors in the morning. And I had just met with Teisa on Wed. and she invited Brett and I to a barbeque picnic with her and Inoke, her husband, and some other people from Tonga Family Health on Monday. I'd met Inoke a few times and he was always smiling and very nice. It's just so sad that Teisa is now a widow at such a young age (also 33), with two really young kids, they would have been married for 5 years this year.
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.

But with deaths there is also new life and we have two new babies here that I know of. Our neighbors had a baby girl in July, the first girl out of now 6 kids! They named her Mele after a grandma, (Tongan for Mary) but the middle name is Katamaria after my name Kate Marie! So I have a little namesake baby next door, a lot of the time Tongans will even be called by their middle name. She is another clone of the dad and smiles a lot, this is a photo of her below.
My old counterpart at the computer training center also had a baby girl in July, much to my surprise! She hid her pregnancy very well the entire time with baggy clothes, since she wasn't married it was a huge shame to her and the family. Especially since the family is very well known and has a high position in the community. Some of the family living in the same house didn't even know until after she had the baby. So now I know why she was sick so much when I worked with her. The sad thing is that since they're trying hard to keep it a secret, they convinced her to move to New Zealand without the baby! So now she's gone, and her parents will raise the baby for now. This happens more often than I would have thought here in Tonga. Babies and kids also get passed around between family members often. An aunt of our neighbor boys, the oldest daughter so the head of the family, likes the youngest boy so much she tried to keep him and our neighbors had to take a boat to that island to get him back. Often kids will get passed around when a family gets too big to support, or if another family needs a boy or girl to help out with the mens or womens chores.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chef Kate

I taught my first cooking class ever to the ladies I work with at MAFF. It's a little scary to know that I'm in a country where my cooking skills are superior to most of the locals... I'm not a good cook! When I showed up to work on Monday I thought they would've forgotten completely that I was going to do a cooking class, but they were all prepared - they'd bought all the ingredients I asked for and even had the boys go out to the bush plot to get lots of veggies. Although they'd bought ketchup instead of tomato sauce - I was teaching how to make homemade pizza. I did the demonstration for one pizza, and we cut up green peppers and tomatoes for toppings. Then they brought out a big can of corned beef and asked if we could put that on the pizza as well, so I spooned on little chunks of the meat onto my veggie pizza. And of course they made fun of how little meat I put on the pizza.

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

Uoleva camping

This last week was another school break so since Brett, Alicia and Sarah all had more time off we decided to escape our little island and go camping on a deserted island - Uoleva, just south of us (where we also spent new years and easter). It's probably my favorite place here in Ha'apai, it has some of the best beaches and reefs for snorkeling, and we can wear our swimsuits and be foreigners/tourists there. It's nice to just get away from here every once in awhile, you almost need to.

For this trip we decided to travel the Tongan way - by hitching a ride with a local boat going to Uiha, the inhabitated island just south of Uoleva. Our neighbor is from Uiha, so we set up a ride with his sister. And of course, Wed. morning the day we were leaving it was raining, but then cleared up. It got to be nice and sunny, we were all packed sitting at our house waiting to leave, they'd told us we'd leave by mid-morning and they kept coming to and from the neighbor's house going to church functions. At one point they said "hurrying", but then disapeared for a couple of hours late in the afternoon by this time. Then they rushed back, and Anna our neighbor yelled loudly "Katie NOW!!!", and we all ran out and were driven to the old wharf where the boats were waiting. By this time it was about 5:30, just enough time to make it before dark. That's the downside to traveling the Tongan way - it's on their timetable which is always very slow.

At the old wharf there were about fourty Tongans scurrying around between three boats, we passed in all our camping gear and bags and took seats along the outside of the small boat. All the boats were sagging so low in the water with all the weight that the ocean was almost coming up over the rim on each side. And the ocean was pretty rough, it looked like a painting with all the pointed waves swaying up and down slowly in the glossy last hours of daylight. The Tongan boat skippers are really experts at what they do, manuevering among huge rolling waves without a drip of water coming into the boat. Once we got to the island we had to pass up all our supplies and throw them onto the beach, then jump out into the ocean and swim ashore.

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.
The next day was gloomy and rainy, we spent time reading and just hanging out. There were friends of friends that were visiting here in ha'apai that we hung out with, and an australian volunteer from the main island, and tourists from many other countries - france, spain, and more. It's always a big mix of tourists on Uoleva in tourist season (which should end soon, by Oct.) We were able to get a fire going for breakfast - pre-mixed pancakes and coffee/tea. And another fire in the evening for marshmellows again. We weren't able to get out snorkeling at all, but we'll have plenty more times down there to do that.

The day we left, Friday, it was really windy and rainy, we packed up all our stuff under a hut on the beach and huddled waiting for a passing local boat to flag down. But with the bad weather many boats decided to wait until Saturday. So we jumped on a boat that had been arranged from town to pick up two tourists at our resort, it was just a little more expensive. After we were a ways off shore the skipper of the boat started messing around with a tied up bag on the floor. As soon as he got it untied he dumped the contents into the ocean and kept moving on. We looked and saw immediately that a cat had been inside the bag, and was now struggling in the ocean trying to swim towards shore!! We asked why he did that, and he said he was trying to kill the cat, it had gotten into some food or something. It's crazy that he'd do something like that, it was sad to watch, I hope the cat made it ashore.

Yesterday our friends at Fins 'n Flukes had organized a harbour clean-up so we went to help pick up trash along the wharf and roads near there. It's amazing how much garbage was cleaned up, some of it had been there for a very long time, the locals never really clean up these areas - only their own houses and the churches. And they litter a lot - mostly plastic bags or packaging, but lots of random stuff too. Then last night we had a birthday dinner for Kyoichi, our japanese volunteer neighbor. There was a birthday dinner last Saturday too for Brian. So we've been pretty busy. This week we'll be working more again, I'm actually doing a little cooking class tomorrow with the ladies I work with at MAFF so that will be interesting (those of you who know me back home know how I don't cook!) And our country director is visiting our island this week as part of his round of goodbyes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Play time

Tongan kids are incredibly creative when it comes to games and playing. They don't have playstations, barbie dolls, toy cars, etc. They have sticks, rocks, sand, leaves, string, pieces of garbage, anything they find around their houses outside which can be quite random at times. I've seen our youngest 2-year old neighbor Pa'aane playing with an old iron, dragging it around the yard by the cord. They love anything they can drag around, often times tieing strings to random objects and just running around the yard with it. Or old tea kettles, they fill them up with sand. Or an old suitcase, Pa'aane curled up inside that one day and took a nap.

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

Swimming with the Whales

Yesterday our friends at Fins 'n Flukes took us all out whale watching for the day - us, other peace corps volunteers Alicia, Sarah and Phil, and the new japanese volunteer kyoichi who's also our new next-door neighbor. The humpback whales have been here since about May or June, I've seen just a couple from our beach off on the horizon. But they're a lot easier to see out on the water. They're here in the warm south pacific waters until around early October, then they migrate back to the antartic waters with their new babies.

After only about ten minutes of leaving the harbour we spotted some humpback whales, between our island of Lifuka and Uoleva island just south of here. There were 3 or 4 whales swimming together, we could see their blowholes spouting water and their humpbacks and dorsel fins just above the water. There was a mom and baby calf in this group of whales swimming together. The backs of the whales above water were huge! Once we got up close to the whales we peeled up our wetsuits, threw on our flippers and masks and slowly slipped into the water - if you make too much splashing noises it would scare the whales away. It was us four girls in the water, and once we were in I realized the whales were a lot farther away than they had looked, and they were traveling so we couldn't catch up to them. The waves were big and rolling in the ocean so it was tiring to swim, and I was trying not to think of what else lurked below in the deep waters. But it was cool to see the spouts and humpbacks in the ocean not too far from us. We got back in the boat and moved along with the whales. This time a Tongan boat passed by the whales, a little too close for comfort I think. They acted differently, showing their backs a lot more to make sure the boat saw them maybe. We tried again slipping into the water, but they were still moving away from us.
After observing them for awhile and seeing that they were staying at the surface in one place, we got the boat really close and slipped into the water, this time holding onto a rope on the boat and not moving too quickly towards them. Then Sabine (fins 'n flukes) stuck her mask in the water and motioned all of us to do the same, and I saw the huge tail of one of the whales! Brett jumped in, and the five of us snorkeled up closer and all of a sudden out of the deep murky blue appeared an entire whale, head to tail, and then another! It was amazing to see such huge creatures just suspended there in the water, right next to us! We got up close, I'd guess around 20 feet or so (the closest you're supposed to get is 15 feet). That close I got a little freaked out since you don't know which way the whale will move. But they're really conscious of everything in the water and any slight changes, and where their own body is in relation to us. And all of a sudden they were gone, moving farther away from us. It was only a minute or less that we saw the whales underwater, but it was incredible to be so close to such huge whales and see them in their natural surroundings. Tonga is one of the only places in the world where you can still swim with the whales, it's against the law everywhere else. So this really was the chance of a lifetime.
After swimming with the whales we had a coffee/tea break on the boat, and Brian and Sabine have an underwater microphone on a long cord that they put in, and we were able to hear the whales underwater! It was cool to listen to, they were making all sorts of noises and sounded really close to the boat, but with this microphone you can hear them up to 20 kilometers or so away. We then boated around some more, and the Japanese volunteer caught a fish, a huge grouper. He filleted the fish and we had fresh sashimi right out of the sea, and some pasta for lunch where we anchored in a really pretty aqua lagoon area. It was an incredible day overall! More photos are posted in the link to the left.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Weather dependent

Today looked nice and sunny outside with a little breeze, so I thought it would finally be a perfect day for laundry (we have to hang-dry all our clothes). But it never fails that as soon as I'm hanging the last few pieces of laundry it starts to look overcast all of a sudden, then a few drizzles start to fall and it's raining. Then comes the question of waiting it out to see if it's just a small drizzle, or drag everything inside and cover the living room and dining area with wet clothes that will take days to dry inside and hopefully won't start growing mold. Today I decided to wait it out, so far it just continues to look overcast with a strong breeze, hopefully the rain won't start again.

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!