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) 

1 comment: