Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meetings in Tonga

Change of plans, we're staying here and not going on the outer island trip. There was just a lot happening here this week and it will be busy again next week with work and the new volunteers and Peace Corps staff arriving in Ha'apai, so we'll find a better time to get out to Ha'afeva and the outer islands. There are a lot of times when there's not much going on, so we might as well go then. Plus the boat was still being worked on that we were supposed to take, the trip got delayed another day so they left early this morning. We'll have more chances to get out to Ha'afeva and the outer islands again, maybe next month.

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.

1 comment:

Rhonda Myrmel said...

Yum! What an exotic dinner - bon appetite!
I'm looking forward to hearing news about the new crew of volunteers that are coming this week. Love you!
Mom (Rhonda)