Tuesday, July 24, 2012


And just like that, the month is over.

    Packing, deciding-what will go and what will stay, goodbyes, emotions- sadness and excitement.

 My how this time is flying.

 I've had this quote saved on a post-it since before we found out our placement. When I read it (whilst stalking a PC blog...I don't know who's, so sorry, can't give credit...), I knew that my heart would feel the things described, and I have found that I resonate more everyday with the thoughts expressed.

"Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words.… I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions. . ."I've come across a few phrases and words, all in other languages, that capture hybrid emotions in the way Eugenides, like myself, would like to see. Still, there's nothing that quite matches the cocktail of feelings running through my heart and mind during these days. Following Eugenides example, I'd like to create some collision phrases like, "The combination of exhilaration and panic as one takes a step into the unknown," or, "The strange sadness that accompanies happiness when a long wait ends," or, "The unlikely marriage of love for one's home with love for being away." And of course, "The sensation that what's next is all at once real, imaginary, close, far away"

Thank you, unknown friend, for walking ahead of us, and expressing so well what my heart feels.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tongan Tidbits

We will be volunteering in the Kingdom of Tonga from September 2012- December 2014. Here is some info:


    The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific consisting of 176 islands, spread over 270,000 square miles of ocean. Of the 176 islands, only about 50 are inhabited.

*Random Tidbit: Tonga is on the International Date Line, so it is the first place in the world to welcome the start of each new day.*

We don't know which island/island group we will be on yet, but we can't wait to find out!!

    Tonga is a Constitutional Monarchy, and also the only island nation in the region that was never colonized. King Tupou VI was named King this March after the untimely death of his brother.

   Religion is an important part of Tongan culture; most people belong to one of the twenty or so Christian denominations in Tonga. Laws concerning the sabbath are strictly upheld, and most everything is closed on Sunday.

    Beaches, forests, volcanoes....there is a little bit of everything on the many islands of Tonga. The reefs are some of the most beautiful in the world, it is one of two places in the world that you can swim with whales, and it's only native mammal is the Flying Fox. Wanna come for a visit? =)

I can't decide if that is a little bit cute, or utterly terrifying...

    There are approximately 102,000 people living in Tonga. Over 70% live on the main island, Tongatapu.

   The official languages of Tonga are Tongan and English. Tongan is a Polynesian language (and sounds a lot like what I think of Hawaiian sounding like).

  My diet in Tonga will likely consist of taro, yams, breadfruit, sweet potato, cassava, seasonal fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken, mutton, and pork.

 Another imporant part of both Tongan diet and culture, is the Kava ceremony. To prepare Kava, which has sedative and anesthetic properties, one must grind or pound the Kava plant. Water is then added to the ground up plant, and....then you drink it. (I have had the privilege of participating in a Kava Ceremony very recently, and it pretty much tastes like dirt water, if anyone was curious). The Kava Ceremony is a time for men to gather around and sing, gossip, laugh, etc. Women are typically only invited to the ceremony to serve the Kava.
The Kava Ceremony we went to had a large bowl exactly like this one. We all drank out of coconut shells, and sat in one big circle. It was neat. I didn't feel sedated.

Other Tidbits:
      Rugby is the national sport in Tonga. (We are only slightly worried about what that will mean for Mark).

 Along with our primary assignment of teaching, the PC asks that we adopt secondary projects. Many of the secondary projects suggested center around health. Tonga has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, so intiatives surrounding diet and exercise are greatly encouraged.

Men wear something called a "tupenu", which is, essentially, a skirt. Both my father and my husband have informed me that if they have to wear a skirt, they will only do so commando. To each their own...

(Facts taken from Wikipedia and the Peace Corps Tonga Welcome Book) 

Monday, July 16, 2012


If you haven't heard:

Dear friends and family,

     We are sending out this letter to joyfully inform you about some exciting happenings in our lives and to let you know how you can be praying for us throughout these next two years (think of it "in lieu of a Christmas Card").  A few months ago, we accepted an invitation to serve a term of international volunteer service through the United States Peace Corps.  Our assigned country is The Kingdom of Tonga, a small group of islands located in the South Pacific.  We ship off in September for three months of language and vocational training and will serve for two full years as Elementary English Teaches in a now unknown village.

Why the Peace Corps?
     The full answer to this question really begins before we even met each other.  Starting as small seeds in high school and developing throughout college, both of us affirm a very distinct calling on our lives—a call to spread the Gospel and build God's Kingdom overseas, among the poorest of the poor.  It was this same heart that ultimately led us to be married and has guided every one of our life decisions thus far.  A year and a half ago, we felt drawn to apply for the Peace Corps and kept receiving similar affirmations along the way.  While it is a nonreligious organization, so much of its mission and vision are, in our opinion, quite "Christ-like”—an intentional "lowering of self" to live in the same way of the people we are serving, and the expected character qualities of self-sacrifice, loving service, and humility. 

    The Peace Corps allows people to apply with location preferences, but ultimately sends volunteers into open positions with the greatest needs.  Neither of us had even heard of Tonga or even knew where it was on the map before we received our assignment.  But, after doing a lot of research, some initial language learning, and reading loads of stories over these past few months, we are extremely excited to be immersed in this new culture and this entirely new way of life.  As we look at the big picture and God's calling on our lives, we hope and pray that these two years will stretch and grow us spiritually and relationally and will develop us as language learners, teachers, cross-cultural communicators, and as service-minded Christ followers. 

How can we support you during this time?
     Other than staying in touch, we simply ask you to pray for us during these years that will surely be full of lessons and challenges.  Pray that we will stay humble and obedient to God during times of hardship and for attitudes of flexibility, respect, and "hearts of learners."  Pray that we will honor and cherish each other and our marriage—that we would actively seek to grow and pour into our relationship as well as our relationships with others.  And, even though we may not see ourselves putting roots down in Tonga after our term, pray that we would be fully present there and that God would grant us true, Christ-like love for Tongan People.

Please do keep in touch(on our blog, facebook, or our email)—if you are receiving this letter, it means that you hold a very dear place in our hearts.           

                Thanks, prayers, and blessings,

                                    Mark and Alissa

Saturday, July 7, 2012


If  "Time to rest" is "Taimi malolo", and "Where is the bathroom?" is "Ko Fe a falemalolo"....then, am I really asking where I can rest my butt?

These are the questions that fill my brain.

 (literal translations would be nice, PC.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

The 4th

I missed you all the other day.

It's been a little strange, this transition time. Mostly I feel like we're on an extended vacation. My days consist of reading, studying, work outs, and family (and, ever an "artsy" girl, the occassional scrapbooking. =) ).

It doesn't feel like we sold all of our stuff. It doesn't feel like we said goodbye to our home and you loved ones. And, it still doesn't even feel like we're leaving for Tonga.

This is a weird time, I tell ya.

But on the 4th, very suddenly, right before the fireworks show began...it hit me. I missed you.

You see, the Fourth of July was always a party, it was a tradition. (like the fall party, and the Christmas one).

Before we were all married and mature, we met at Wolfe Street (oh the wonder of Wolfe Street). We tried for the first time, and quite unsuccessfully, to cork a watemelon. When it failed, we dumped pieces of watermelon in a huge bowl full of vodka. Hey, whatever works! We drove downtown....pretty sure we got a flat tire, and somehow or another, we ended up on the Park on the Roof (a favorite spot of mine).

I remember it being cold, and me being tired. I remember Stiles was there. I remember that even Roz (always one to have a drink) thought our vodka watermelon was nasty. Ahhh. Remembering.

We moved into the blue house on July 1st. We scrambled to be "settled" in time for our big 4th of July Party. I feel like 100 people came...but it was probably closer to 30. Mark reminded me Wednesday night that when we went to walk to Belleview Park, it started pouring.

We took cover under this tree. (No, the girl in the pink hat was not apart of our group). ha!

Clearly, we got soaked anyways.

We all dried off in the living room, drank some (more) sangria, and watched the fireworks from the sun room. All in all, a success. (We tried to cork a watermelon yet again. It failed a second time. Has this EVER been done successfully?)

Last year, we had a smaller get together. Church friends, and college friends. A few pups and a few babes. No corked watermelon, lots of yummy grilled food, STILL leftover sparklers from our wedding, beautiful fireworks. A lovely time with lovely people.

(I wore that dress this year too-funny!)

This year was fun too. Lots of yummy food, and truly delightful company. But it was different, and you were missed. And maybe it was missing you, or maybe it was that this was a "last"(who knows when we'll be celebrating the 4th in America again), but...I felt strangely patriotic.

Monday, July 2, 2012


I have, what feels like, a lot of time these days. Time to study and read and journal and pray.

I am finally reading a book that I requested as a Christmas gift over a year ago. It's called "Radical" by David Platt. There's really nothing "new" in it, nothing super life changing or, er, "radical", per say. But it is perhaps the perfect season for me to be reading this particular book, so I recommend it anyway. It is affirming, re-centering, and great reminding. It has rekindled long dead passions and forced many self-reflecting questions.

Anywho, this last week one of the chapters I read quoted Luke 14:25-35. Read it! (I can barely type on these new fangled touch pad screens....it would seriously take me an hour to tap out those verses...). I thought long and hard on what that piece of scripture meant to me , puzzled over it. Get what it means, but don't really know how to make that a truth in my heart. So, I decided I would continue to pray and mull over it. Then yesterday at Sunday school, the same verses were discussed. Interesting, I thought. And now, this morning, I have run across a similar verse in Matthew 10:37-39.

Again, I don't know what that means for me, or what I'm supposed to "learn" but...surely that isn't just a coincidence. And that makes me happy. What are your thoughts on those verses?