Tuesday, December 29, 2009


A lot has happened since my last post but I’ll try to update everyone with what I have been up to recently and try to update a little more frequently in the future. I also have new pictures which you can check out here:


Since My last update I finished training! Wo Wo! Finally. Training was really intense and I lived out of a small suitcase and ate whatever type of local food was given to me for two months. After training we had a short swearing in ceremony at a local high school. The location had been moved from a beach resort because there was a cyclone headed right for us around that time. At the ceremony all 26 trainees swore in as official volunteers. Typically about ten percent of trainees drop out during training for various reasons but my whole entire group made it! We are only the second training group in the history of Peace Corps Tonga to do so. After swearing in we had a wonderful meal at a nice Italian restaurant in town. For many of us it was the last chance we would have to eat at a nice restaurant for a very long time –on my island there are only two restaurants, both of which are only okay and way out of my price range. The dinner also served as a great way for all of us to spend a little more time together before heading out all over the island chain. As a group we spent a lot of time together doing all sorts of training, relaxing and decompressing the seemingly crazy cultural traditions that we came across daily. We had become a support network for each other and made fast friends and soon we would be heading far away from each other and probably only see each other a few more times during our Peace Corps service.

After saying our goodbyes we headed to the airport and hopped on a plane to our island chain, Ha’apai, which everyone should know is simply the best island chain in all of Tonga and has the most beautiful beaches, biggest fish, best high schools, teachers and volunteers. Just thought you should know that. On the plane there were just five of us, John, Juleigh, Blair, Alyssa and myself. All of us live only be a few blocks away from each other, except for Blair who is an hour boat ride away in Ha’ano and will come in to see us often. Hopefully. We are joining Brett and Kate, a married couple who live one block away from me and write a much better blog found at http://asleson.blogspot.com/. Brett and I have been spear fishing a bunch together already and one of these days we might actually catch some fish. They live next to a JICA volunteer named Koiechi. JICA is the Japanese version of the Peace Corps and is modeled off of the US Peace Corps. Koiechi and I have talked a lot about making sushi out of the fish we catch here, I just need to figure out how to catch a few of them first. We will also be joined by a third year volunteer named Grant who is currently on vacation seeing his family back in Colorado.

Ten days after moving in it was Christmas here so the whole group of eight of us made plans to travel to the next island over which is called U’oleva and is completely uninhabited except for a few small resorts. We stayed a Serenity Beach Resort that certainly lived up to its name. A nice American woman named Patty runs the resort. She imported about a dozen or so fales from Bali and had them constructed on the island. You can see some pictures of them on my picture site. The fales were made of rich wood and were absolutely beautiful. We spent three days and two nights snorkeling on the coral reefs in front of the resort, lying on the beach, kayaking, napping and making and eating delicious large meals. After eating whatever was in front of me in training and studying language and Peace Corps policy for hours on end it was amazing to have some time to relax and eat the foods I wanted to eat. The first night we had pasta with red sauce –made from scratch! Past sauce isn’t sold here so that is kind of how it goes here if you want to make something that isn’t sold. The next night we prepared a turkey dinner with many sides. We already have plans to go back to the island and camp out soon.

Since our wonderful Christmas vacation I’ve been about as busy as you can be on a tropical island as a school teacher when school in out. I’ve spent my time trying to meet people in the community and setting up my house. I’ve met a few of the elders at church. I accidentally sat in the choir section last week at church and a choir member handed me his music. Even though I can’t read Tongan musical notation, sing and am Jewish it ended up scoring me big points in the community. The whole church thought that I had joined the choir and was actually singing for the whole service. During most of the service I didn’t even realize it, I thought I had just sat up front. I did think it was peculiar that I was standing up and sitting down so much, but it wasn’t until mid way through the service that I was told I was in the choir section. I guess I’m part of the choir now.

Yesterday I biked across the island to the village of Faleloa where I had done my home stay and lived for two months. The purpose of my trip was to pick up my dog Amigo. I was picked up on the road about halfway there by my home stay father and was informed that my dog had not made it through my time off the island. Poor Amigo had been run over my home stay father on Christmas Eve. My home stay father told me that he had thrown the dog in the ocean for burial. At least that is the story he gave me. Sometimes Tongans eat dogs here, especially puppies and my dog was getting pretty fat. When I left my dog to go back to the capital I knew that there was a chance that I would not see her again. I was still pretty upset and wonder why they couldn’t have taken a little better care of my puppy. But, I guess this is Tonga.

Next blog update when I catch some fish.

Toki sio!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Hey Everyone,

I finally got my computer and some reliable internet and have spent the past few hours uploading some pictures. You can check them out at my photo site here:


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I wrote the following letter to my friend Andrew and after re-reading it I decided that I might as well share it with everyone. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Things are going pretty well over here. Training has been intense. Since I have been here I have had more than four hours of language training everyday and the trainers have kept us busy with culture seminars and policy meetings six days a week. We are all happy that there is only about ten days of training left. This week I have been teaching in the classroom and have been feeling out the Tongan students. They only seem to memorize information and spit it out here. Few Tongans can actually use or explain what they are learning and creativity is minimal, but I guess that is what I'm here to work on. The country is amazing overall. You should check out the island I'm on on google maps. I'll be living on the island of Lifuka on Ha'apai. I'll never bee more than a quarter mile away from a beautiful beach and the island is protected by beautiful coral reef filled with fish of all colors swimming around. When I'm not studying the language or preparing my lesson plans I can go out to the beach and just relax or go snorkeling. The culture is pretty sweet here. People work with their families in the uta -Tongan farms that are usually just a short ride from their homes.. They grow crops that are easy to care for and food is plentiful. A big part of the culture here is feasting and usually involves many pigs roasted on open fires. They also make a ton of other delicious food here. It is the end of the school year here and I have already been invited to four feasts this week. Yesterday I was just sitting on the beach looking out at a sunset over a beautiful blue ocean with a silver reflection and I had a moment of realization. I realized that when many people are stressed out or in trouble they think of their happy place, an imaginary place that is calm and serene, like a beautiful beach in the middle of nowhere. Well, that is exactly where I am and will be living and working for the next two years. Things couldn't be much better.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Finally an update

Hey Everyone,

Sorry for the delay on updates. Training has been pretty intense lately and I have not been able to find the time to find a ride into town to use the internet. This will all change though around Christmas when I move to site. Right now I am typing on a computer at Ha'apai High School, the school I will be working in for the next two years. There is a good size computer lab here with about seven computers and a 56k connection. My house is about fifty feet away and there might even have wireless. It may not sound ideal to you from America, but over here it is amazing. It is funny what begins to amaze you when you are on a small island in the middle of the Pacific.

In other news, this week was my first week of teaching. It is the end of the school year here in Tonga and all of the students have already taken their final exams but there is still class. It looks like the only students attending are the students assigned to our classes. I started teaching yesterday and it was a whole lot different than I expected. Most of my activities required pens and paper. Not to much to expect as a teacher, right? Well, as I started my first activity, which was a writing activity, my students told me that they did not have any pens or paper. Half of my lesson plan was suddenly out the window. I jumped to the end of my lesson and looked at my future lesson plans for ideas. The rest of the class went smoothly. I got them to tell me a little bit about themselves and I taught them how to make a brain storming diagram. As I ended the class I told them all to bring pens and paper for today. Today I actually got them to make a brain storm diagram, write a story from it and identify the parts of speech in their stories. I was impressed with kids. They know a lot and work hard. I'm thinking that teaching here will be a great experience.

I will be teaching all next week here at Ha'apai so that means blog updates!!! Maybe even pictures.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Site placement!

Ahhhhh the internet, how I've missed you. Today is Saturday in Tonga which means it is my only chance to hitch hike into Pangai, the big town in Ha'apai and try to use the painfully slow internet. Since the last time I've been here I found out that the Phillies are going to the World Series again!! So awesome! As well as where I will be working for the next two years.

This morning I found out that I will be working as an economics and accounting teacher at Ha'apai high school here in Pangai. It is a new school and gets the best students in Ha'apai. Three of my homestay siblings go to school there and from looking at their work and watching them study I can tell that I will have motivated and intelligent students. Outside of academics I should be able to start a secondary project as an after school teacher or possibly a sports coach.

One of the current volunteers, Grant has been telling me all about my housing and what there is to do in Ha'apai. I will be living on the schools campus in teacher housing. My house sounds pretty big with a good size living room, a large bed room and a complete kitchen. The most exciting part is that I'll have running hot water!!!! Which is a real luxury in Tonga and means I will smell a lot nicer here. In my spare time I will be able to take advantage of everything Ha'apai has to offer. Grant will be teaching me and the other volunteers staying in Ha'apai how to make spear fishing rigs and how to use them. I'll also be able to snorkel on the many coral reefs and scuba dive once I become certified. The other great aspect of my post is that I will be in the biggest town on my island. This means I will be close to the only restaurant on the entire island and close to the seven other volunteers placed here in Ha'apai. I can't wait! If you have a chance, send me an email at todd828@gmail.com. I am very out of touch with the news and America and would love to hear about what everyone is up to when I check my internet next week.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Homestay Family

The Peace Corps must have know that I was an only child when they placed me with a homestay with thirteen children. I met my homestay family just a few short days ago but already we are getting along very well. I have two homestay parents, Isiah and Honey and ten of their thirteen children still live in their house. Their ages range from three to twenty-two. Even with all of the other children around the house Honey and Isiah still treat me like their own child and prepare breakfast lunch and dinner for me. I have heard some horror stories from other volunteers about what there families have served. Some have told about fried butter sandwiches three times a day and others have been surviving off of speghetti sandwiches. My family has been serving me all kinds of delicacies and I've already had lobster tail four times. And who said the Peace Corps was so tough?

The last few days I have been a little sick here with a mild chest cold. I ended up missing one event, a beach clean up led by Aussies. The event was attended by over 3000 Tongans and was a big success cleaning up the trash here, which seems to be left everywhere or burnt. My homestay family attended the event. When my homestay mother saw me at home after the even she told me that she had been looking for me at the event and that we she heard that I was home sick she said that she felt sick too because of me.

The internet here is very slow and is a 30 min car ride away from my house but I'll try to post again soon. Photos will be coming when I have faster internet. Hope all is well with everyone reading this and in America!

Monday, October 12, 2009

3rd attempt

This is my third attempt at making a blog post. The internet here is as slow as island life. I have already typed up two blog posts that were deleted when I went to post them. But anyway...

Tonga thus far has been pretty amazing. Tongan's are friendly and go out of their way to make us happy and most importantly, extremely full. Every meal here seems to be a feast. Yesterday was Sunday and we had our first church experience. It was tough to follow since it was all in Tongan but I read the first 22 chapters of Genesis to keep myself busy. After church we had a feast that put American Thanksgiving to shame. Complete with a full roasted pig over an open fire -which I helped turn, multiple fish dishes, yams, other Tongan specialties and ice cream. Sundays are pretty amazing here. You are only allowed to do three things; go to church, feast and sleep. I did all there.

During the week most of our time has been spent training. We have been introduced to most of the Tongan staff, who number about twenty and have gone over a ton of Peace Corps policies. In traditional Tongan fashion, our training is broken up by lost of eating. An hour or so before and after lunch we have "tea time" which includes a table that is completely covered with all sorts of baked goods and fresh fruit. It is amazing, but I hope I don't leave Tongan double the size I came in.

In a few hours we will be leaving the capital island of Tongatapu to head to Ha'apai for the next eight weeks or so. In Ha'apai we will all do a home stay with local families and begin intensive language training. Ha'apai is one of the more remote islands in Tonga. There is only one internet cafe and one working computer at the Peace Corps office. This will probably be my last post for the next two months or so but if I have a chance I will certainly post again. I hope this post actually works!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Official

I guess this is all really going to happen now. Last night I signed all of my official Peace Corps papers and was given my first travel allowance. Today will be filled with meetings and ice breaks from about 10 am until when we get on the airplane tonight at 11 pm. The next three months of training should be busy and challenging, but I think we're all ready for it. My group is composed of a bunch of really interesting people representing almost every state in the country, and even another Eagles fan. Just a short update for now. The next update will be when I'm in Tonga!!!! and have some pictures.