Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Now I will start working at the Ha'apai Tourism Bureau which I'm very excited about! I'll be building a website for tourism in Ha'apai. Right now there is just a Tonga tourism website, which lists only a little information on Ha'apai and a lot of it is outdated. So this will be the first website focusing on just Ha'apai tourism. The guy I'll be working with at the tourism bureau is very excited and happy about this project, it's something they've been wanting for a long time but didn't have the skills or know how to do it. They thought websites were very expensive (which they can be if they're professionally built), but I told him you can have a website for free if you wanted! I know how to do professional sites in Dreamweaver, but for this project I think I'll keep it very simple so I can train my counterpart on how to build websites online with blogger. We'll probably just pay for our own unique URL, the rest will be free which he was amazed at. It will be great to get more information about Ha'apai online, and once I train my counterpart we'll be able to help other local businesses start websites. In some ways it's very difficult working with such little resources in developing countries - in classrooms not having textbooks, etc; but in other ways it just simplifies everything. Like with this website you don't have as many decisions to make, because you just don't have as much available. And you can just create things the simplest way possible, you don't have to go through lots of levels of approvals or things to get a project done. So I'll be starting this website project later this week, and will hopefully get some things posted soon. There's a tourism week here in Ha'apai in the middle of December, so they want to get info posted online about this event as soon as possible.
So now my work will be split between the Ha'apai Tourism Bureau and MAFFF (ministry of agriculture, forestery, foods and fisheries). Brett will be finishing up the school year at the beginning of Dec. then will have time off until the end of January. The class 6 primary school kids just took their big exams last week which determines what high school they will attend. So now that the exams are done the school year is winding down, they'll focus more on sports and cultural dances and other things. We also had a lot of feasts last week - for the school exams and at the catholic church for their missionale (once a year everyone in the church gives a lot of money publicly and they have celebrations). We'll just be working this week, and on Saturday the new group of volunteers has site announcements so we'll know who will be living with us here in Ha'apai.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
There was another tsunami warning on Thursday after a major earthquake in Vanuatu to the northwest of us. This time it didn't generate any tsunami waves, but school and workplaces were still closed down for the afternoon. The new group of Peace Corps volunteers just arrived in Tonga on Thursday morning, so that must have been an interesting first day for them with the tsunami warning, welcome to Tonga. At least this one wasn't as exciting.
I attended a meeting yesterday that paints a typical picture of some Tongan meetings. It was pretty pointless for me to be at since it was all in Tongan and about a topic I am not very involved in with work. But I couldn't get up and leave, especially since a lot of very important people were there - the district officer, town officers from each village, the news reporter, etc. Throughout the meeting cell phones rang, and people didn't hesitate to answer them, or get up and leave for awhile. At one point the meeting leader answered a phone call and the meeting stopped for a few minutes. I saw others nodding off to sleep. A lady next to me was reading sex education training materials (it was for her job). And they kept talking about the same subjects over and over, dragging on the topic. Of course it started and ended with a prayer. And at the very end the district officer who had been leading the meeting askes me in English "Katie, do you have anything you need to say?" He had to put the spotlight on me and ask me to say something being the only palangi in the room. Then they filed out after signing their names and receiving some money for attending the meeting which is common for some of these types of meetings - money or free food. And of course this meeting had been postponed from earlier that week, and postponed from the previous couple of months. I've gotten very used to things not starting on time here, we usually show up late now for scheduled events and are not surprised when events are postponed. The commitee meeting had been about rating the cleanest villages on the island and how to spend and divide money from a grant they'd received. As usual I ended up being confused, I thought it was going to be a meeting with the womens' groups from different villages, as I'd been told by my counterpart. Another language/cultural/palangi misunderstanding. Wouldn't it be surprising in America if one of your meetings was delayed 5 times over the course of 4 months, you can't understand much of what's being discussed, and it turns out the meeting is about a completely different topic than what you'd prepared for? This is one of the reasons why it's so hard to get things done in Tonga in any timely fashion.
Today for the first time since winter here we went snorkeling again, it was great to get back in the water. We've waded and floated around on our air mattresses in the water but hadn't been swimming/snorkeling in a long time. Brett ended up spearing two really pretty parrot fish which we ate for lunch. And we saw a lot of other pretty colorful fish and coral, right on the reef outside our house, in our backyard.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
(one year ago at the Tongatapu international airport)
Now Tonga is our second home. We've acclimated to the heat (although it is still very hot in the summer!). We contribute to the smell of burning garbage and speak/understand some of the language, Brett better than I. We often chase pigs away from our house, just part of our normal routines. And now Nuku'alofa is the big city- the place where you can get haircuts, eat at italian, chinese, and korean restaurants, and shop at a grocery store with real food. The traffic there seems fast-paced and busy to us. And now we were these silly Tongan clothes - ta'ovala and kiekie. We eat almost anything brought to us by our neighbors, and most of the time end up just fine with no sickness. We've learned how to cook a lot of things from scratch and can husk open coconuts. Now we move along with the slow island pace here.
It's interesting to look back at how we first were compared to how we are now in our community in Ha'apai. When we first moved to our island in Ha'apai we kept space to ourselves and enjoyed our own independence and not interdependence in the community. We had our own space in our house, wanted peace and quiet in our yard, had our own food, etc. We would keep the neighbor kids at a distance outside our door, we didn't understand why everyone shared our sima vie (water tank), we debated about sharing tools, food, etc. with the neighbors. It was just stressful to fight the Tongan culture at work and at home, not having privacy and sharing everything. But now it's become a part of us. Now the neighbor kids run in and out of our house freely, swinging in our hammock (as long as they have pants on, that's our one rule) and playing with whatever's on our bookshelf. Ana and Sailosi, our neighbors stop in whenever to use the Internet, talk or sometimes just to have a nap on our floor. The dogs also nap inside now, we're not so worried about fleas or things anymore. If the neighbors ask to borrow anything we give without hesitation. Because we know they do the same for us. There is still a lot of Tongan culture that we don't understand or agree with, but we've found a good blend of incorporating some Tongan ways into our own culture here. And of course it helps that we have great neighbors and friends here.
Brett and I are heading out on an island trip tomorrow to Ha'afeva for a week. The ministry of education is taking a boat around to all the islands to transfer teachers to different schools on all the inhabitated islands in Ha'apai, they don't want the teachers giving their kids the exam so they all have to move around. So we decided to go on this trip and visit some of the Peace Corps volunteers that live out there. Unfortunately we'll miss the arrival of the new group of Peace Corps volunteers, they're getting here to Ha'apai on Monday to start their homestays and training but will be here until the beginning of December so we'll have plenty of time to see them. New trainees - training is the hardest part of Peace Corps just remember that during your homestays. We'll be back in a week with stories from the outer islands!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Here in Ha'apai things are pretty much back to normal - we just had damaged boats in the harbour, it was really a baby tsunami here luckily. The boat we were supposed to take today to Ha'afeva on a week-long island trip has a hole in it from the tsunami. The ministry of education shifts all the teachers around during the class 6 school exams, so we were going to this island with Brett's teacher. So they've delayed the exam for a week, we might go next week.
Here is a photo of some of the damage in Niuatoputapu.