Monday, October 19, 2009

Job change - Ha'apai Tourism Bureau

From the beginning of being here there have been problems with one of my jobs - the Ha'apai Training Center/computer lab. I won't get into too much detail here, but there were problems with corruption/embezzlement/laziness, etc. and I've been the third volunteer placed there, the other two left early. I tried my hardest and put a lot of work into the computer center, and I don't feel it was a waste but that I did accomplish some things. I finished some basic computer/typing classes with adults in the community, basic computer classes with school kids, started an Internet Cafe, fixed some of the computers, and trained the counterpart somewhat. It was incredible watching the kids using a computer for the first time ever, and watching the adults get really excited when they could open and save files or use the mouse on the computer. And I will actually continue the computer class with class 6 school kids until the beginning of Dec. when the school session is over. I had a meeting today with a few Peace Corps staff and the manager of the computer center, and it went better than I thought it would. He said he was very happy with the work I've accomplished there. We told him that Peace Corps has developed the computer center and it's operational now, they just need a Tongan to run it. I'm happy to be done there, it feels like a weight is lifted and now I can focus on a new project.

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 Right now there is just a Tonga tourism website, which lists only a little information on Ha'apai and a lot of it is outdated.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.

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