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.