Thursday, November 29, 2012


A few people have asked us about sending packages-what to send, when to send it, where to send it too. Well here you go:

Where: soo... I know I should have our address memorized, but I don't. However, it is on our blog on the tab labeled "keep in touch". Just don't forget to put our names at the top!

When: the sooner the better! Officially, we receive packages duty free for the first six months of living here. After that, we could (though it apparently rarely happens) be charged varying amounts of money depending on what's in the package.

What: the following would indulge us immensely:

Crystal light packages (I especially like peach tea)
Ground coffee (there's only instant here!)
Nuts-cashews, almonds, peanuts, anything!
Dried fruit-craisins, raisins, etc
Packaging tape
Dried chilis
Spices ( autumnal, Italian, Mexican)
Trail mix
Seed packets for herbs

School supplies like :
Individual pencil sharpeners
Crayons, colored pencils, markers
Dollar store pencil bags ( I want to keep a bag for each of my students...they never seem to have what they need)
Any kind of sports equipment- jump ropes, balls, frisbees, little water guns, water balloon kits,etc
CDs of songs-Christian or otherwise
Coloring books-Scooby Doo, Disney, religious

If you do send a package, comment and let us know so we can try and track how long packages take, etc! Malo aupito!


Just cooking dinner and turned around and saw this in our doorway:

I wonder when we will stop being entertaining?

(this is nothing compared to the other day when I was working out. The kids were piled in the doorways and climbing on chairs to watch through the windows. Later that same evening I watched a young boy successfully accomplish a plank and downward dog...good to know I'm making my mark.)


Pride comes before a Fall

Last Friday we went into town to celebrate Thanksgiving (more on that later), then stayed the night, and decided to do our shopping on Saturday before catching a boat back home.

I felt comfortable, settled, like I was living the "norm" as we wandered through the market selecting our produce, stopped by the ice shop to fill our cooler, bought some meat and dairy products... A cruise ship had docked sometime earlier and there were all these crazy old palangis running around everywhere like chickens with their heads cut off. It was nice to feel like I knew what I was doing.

We got home Saturday evening, enjoyed a few of our purchases then and on Sunday. This morning, Monday, we decided to have eggs and bacon and coffee with real milk. That's when it all started falling apart.

It seems that, though we had created a safe little carrying nest for the eggs we had purchased, a few of them broke...and then sat for two days...spilling and drying and stinking all over the other eggs.

Also, though we had attempted to seal the packaged meat we bought, the water (because, ya, the ice had ALREADY melted), was a brownish reddish smells-of-meatish-color. Disturbing.

Especially when there is cheese and butter and lettuce and the like sharing a home with that raw meat water. Soo...if that doesn't scream food poisoning I don't know what does.

And then, the generator ran out of gas (we just needed to charge our phones). And we couldn't get our water filter to filter the dang water, AND there were ants all over our house again. (don't even get me started on the swarms of mosquitoes that share this home with us, I will cry.)

And that's when I realized I don't have all this down yet. It is perplexing when simple meal prep and cleaning takes a good four hours because..everything is nasty. Perplexing and overwhelming.

Anyone have any suggestions for life without a fridge? About why mosquitoes might be so attracted to our home? Malo!



Well, we have a cat. I didn't really want a cat, not yet anyways, but... Things happen and life gives you a cat.

Her name is Taika. And by her, we could, as typical of Mark and I (remember Theresa, our male cat?), mean him....we really aren't too sure. She was previously living with a Peace Corps volunteer from Group 76, 'Ofa. Mandy moved into Ofa's house and along with the house, inherited the cat. Come to find out, Mandy is allergic to cats...

So Mandy called us up one day last week and asked if we would take the cat. Mark, of course, was rearing to go...never mind that we've barely figured out how to live in this house, he's already ready to teach something else how to live here...Oh Ma'ake!

I said no, and convinced Mark no was the best answer. But then, the very next day, we noticed a large bite in one of our mangoes,and then some suspicious little brown terds, and then, to top it all off, we saw that our brand new, incredibly awesome, only available to buy in Tongatapu, loaf pan (nowhere to buy bread on our island), had been eaten!!!


I quickly changed my tune. Who cares that we don't know how to keep the cat out when we want it out, or don't know what all it's going to eat, we do not want mice!

You see that box? Remember how we live a good hour and a half boat ride from the main island? Ya, that's the box Mandy rigged up for Taika. It's sitting on the top of the boat. Please try and grasp the hilarity of this situation!

We are traveling across the ocean with a Benadryl-drugged, yet still howling and clawing cat. Believe you me, this was not something our fellow boat riders understood.

All that to say, we have a cat. (and we already love, him?)


Oldies but Goodies pt. 4

The following pictures were taken by the beautiful and talented Mandy! Because it seems that we will never have the time to upload pictures on Facebook, we wanted to include som cool pictures of fun times from the last few months. If you want to see some more amazing photos like these, pop on by Mandy's blog:

Una, Mandy's host mama. She's pointing to where she snuck pig skin to eat. Yeah...unappetizing....

This is the deck we all spent those 22 hours on during our boat trip from Tongatapu to Vava'u.

Exhilarating, huh?

Oldies but Goodies pt. 3

The following pictures were taken by the beautiful and talented Mandy! Because it seems that we will never have the time to upload pictures on Facebook, we wanted to include som cool pictures of fun times from the last few months. If you want to see some more amazing photos like these, pop on by Mandy's blog:

Louisa, host sister.

Muli, host brother

Maili, other host brother

Vaiola, host mama

Sione, host papa

Oldies but Goodies, pt. 2

The following pictures were taken by the beautiful and talented Mandy! Because it seems that we will never have the time to upload pictures on Facebook, we wanted to include som cool pictures of fun times from the last few months. If you want to see some more amazing photos like these, pop on by Mandy's blog:

Is this not the most awesome photo you've ever seen? I'm telling you, Mandy should be professional...this was at Oholei Beach Resort in Lavengatonga, the town next to Fatumu (where we stayed during homestay). Oholei puts on an amazing show-definitely catch it if you ever happen to be in Tongatapu!

Me trying to roast a pig...

...This pig...

A very weird and yet typical picture of group Fatumu!

Still aroastin..... It takes awhile..maybe an hour of constantly turning that stick you see in the picture.

Eating the roasted our first goodbye feast in Fatumu.

Oldies but goodies

The following pictures were taken by the beautiful and talented Mandy! Because it seems that we will never have the time to upload pictures on Facebook, we wanted to include som cool pictures of fun times from the last few months. If you want to see some more amazing photos like these, pop on by Mandy's blog:

Swimming in a fresh water cave in Tongatapu! (of course Mark was diving from every cliff even though we were only able to see by candle light! Boys!)

Visiting teachers at G.P.S. Fatumu!

Language class with Tulu and Mandy...why yes, we are playing Memory!

Good looking group!

First Thanksgiving with our out-going Country Director, Ruth

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I live here

There's a form we are required to fill out shortly after arrival to site. A kind of worst case scenario we need to make contact with you/find you kind of form.

I filled mine out earlier today, and was reading aloud my answers to Mark. Sometimes when you read things aloud, they just finally hit you, ya know. I got a good chuckle out of this:

To your site by car: Describe how a person in a private vehicle can find your house. Assume that they have never been to your site, and that it is nighttime.

My answer:
There are no roads in Nuapapu. Get out of the boat. If your back is to the ocean, walk left into the 'uta (bush) up the steep path. Follow the path for about 10 minutes. Climb over pig fence. After the pig fence, there is a house slightly to the right. Walk in front of that house and follow the path to the alleyway. The school is on the left. Climb over pig fence. We are the house on the right.

Awesome, yeah?


A Struggle

We've arrived at our sites and schools at a funny time. Much of the educational system here revolves around major standardized tests, and since the tests are done and there is only 3 weeks of school left, not much "school" is getting done. So, one of the things that has occupied my school time has been playing along to some of their songs with the school's guitar. Today, the kids sang a couple English sunday-school-type songs. One was called "God's Love is Like a Circle", which spoke simply of God's unending love, and the other repeated the line "the countdown's getting shorter every day", referring to the anticipation of Christ's return. In every way, they were typical, sunday school songs; I'm sure you know the type. But in the middle of playing along, I got a little teary eyed.

I've heard more than my fair share of worship songs, and I don't usually get choked up so easily. As I reflected on the situation, it brought to mind what I would consider to be one of my most significant struggles during my Peace Corps service thus far.

The truth is this: I miss Christianity. I can't think of any better way to say it. This may sound strange to say, since I live in a nation that is overwhelmingly influenced by Christian religion. But the language barrier and cultural differences make it such a different ball game.

In many ways, I could say that there are plenty of "Christian aspects" of the Peace Corps. We are here to serve and empower those less fortunate than us. We are leaving home and comfort behind and are choosing to live like the people we are serving. But not once in our training has the importance of adopting a servant's heart or putting other's needs before our own been mentioned. Not once has it been implied that our service carries any kind of greater purpose or bigger picture.

Having come from a life surrounded by Christian friends and a church community, this reality has been extremely hard for me. I am used to talk of God, or prayer, or purpose coming up so naturally in conversation. But not once have I been encouraged to pray in times of struggle by a friend. Not once has peace been offered because of God's love and plan. It has felt so foreign and strange to prepare for this type of service without even a mention of spiritual matters.

All that to say, we are getting by. We are certainly having to lean on each other more, and we are having to get fed spiritually in other ways. And I do know that, in the end, we will benefit from this stark change. But, I have also realized that I sorely took for granted my friends and community back home. Of course, it's important to invest in folks who think differently from us, but to truly share life with people with a common perspective on life is a beautiful and invaluable thing. It connects us far more than I realized.

Friends, you are missed.


There's no place like home...

After approximately 5 and a half months...we aren't living out of a suitcase anymore! It feels sooo good to have arrived at this moment. We are home, for the next two years, home. We didn't die (or puke) during our 22 hour boat ride, our stuff didn't sink on the boat from Neiafu to Nuapapu, and we are (mostly) unpacked.

Our house is perfect for us and we are busy making it our own. Of course, there is a lot to figure the importance of taking clothes with you to the shower when you live on a school compound and the bathroom is a short jot away, or the importance of pumping enough water for not one but two showers, so ones spouse doesn't end up standing naked in a shower with no running water. We are working on figuring out lights and electricity and such, trash disposal is still blowing our minds, and we've pretty much already given up on the no bugs in the house hope.

Of course, it's hard to have all these exciting changes and not share them with you, our dear friends. Last night, after working in the house all day, I honestly burst into tears and said, "we're working so hard on making this a cute house, but we don't have any friends to invite over and be in it with us". (You are missed, so much, words don't do it justice.) Mark reassured me that we had only lived here 2 days and that, soon enough we would have friends. I'm sure he is right, but I retorted "not just friends, friends of my heart". one really knows what I mean when I say that, but you few out there, you are, and finding a friend like that is like finding a needle and a haystack.

Sooo, if anyone wants to visit, we have this really awesome floor space for you to lay on, and the most magnificent view you've ever laid eyes on!


Busy as a bee, busy little beaver, not me.

I'm the sort who thrives on busyness. Loooves my to do lists, loves running around, waking up early, staying out late, having every second of my day full, full, full.

There is a small and growing sense of overwhelming claustrophobia as I attempt to adjust to life's new pace.

Slowness. Idle time. Huge amounts of idle time. I am reading books by the library full. I have killed approximately 100,000 bugs. I am sore to the point of immobility from p90x. I have eva pe'd to every house in Nuapapu. This is hard for me.

I like to think I'm a person who just loves people, who is fascinated by their stories, who delights in shooting the breeze...and I do love people, don't get me wrong. I just really struggle with pointless, meaningless conversation....I suppose one could argue that no conversation is meaningless...I am forming connections, relationships. I am learning how to slow down. How to enjoy the small things. How to talk about nothing (in Tongan, no less).

Send a prayer for me as I settle into the rhythm of life here. I have a lot of undoing of myself to thrive here. I'm looking forward to it and I'm also dreading it.

On the other hand, Mark and I have never gotten to eat breakfast together on any days other than Saturday. I look forward to every morning, sitting across from each other, enjoying our coffee and talking.

The view from our porch is absolutely stunning. You will have to come see for yourself. As soon as the hammock is up, I could stare at the ocean for hours.

Mark and I are enjoying romantic candlelight dinners and conversations. There's not much in the way of "entertainment" around here, and we are discovering that we are very much entertained by each other. Something we always knew, but never had so much time to explore.

I am really learning how to play the uke. And harmonize with Mark. Because...that would just be cool, right? He's definitely the kind of guy who needs some sort of musical wife...

There is a loto kolo, a center of town, in Nuapapu. It's this gorgeous green hill and field. In the evenings, the girls play netball and the boys play volleyball. The kids sit and play cards. We all laugh at each other and talk about the day. Sometimes I feel like there's nothing to talk about...the women weave all day, the men go to the uta. But I am discovering there's a lot to tell. Though mark and I are currently the new cool thing and most
laughing is at our expense, sitting around, enjoying everyone's company, it's something I hope I grow to love.

And, one last thing, the stars. Because there's no electricity here, and because we are a little island in the middle of a big ocean, the stars and moon are breathtaking.


Pirates, and other seafarers

I have spent a lot of time wondering about boat travel, lately. Wondering as in pondering, as well as "being in wonder of".

After our initial visit to Nuapapu, and the wild success of that boat ride (complete with dolphin sighting!) I was not at all anxious about the 22 hour boat ride that would bring us and our junk from Tomgatapu to Vava'u.

I should have been.

I was fine when land was in view, which made up about a total of 4 of the 22 hours. I leaned over the railing, stared up at stars, saw schools of flying fish, felt the wind and sun on my face, oh it was magical. The sun was setting when we left Tongatapu, at 4am I stumbled to the restroom and glimpsed some Ha'apai boats from outer islands coming toward us, around 8 we docked at one of the Ha'apai islands and walked around, and sometime around 2pm we caught sight of the first of the Vava'u islands. At all of those times I loved this trip.

The other 18 hours I was in the fetal position on the boat deck. It was just so....rocky. So rolly. So up and down. My stomach stayed in my throat, and if possible I no longer had a head. I never got sick, but next time I hope I can at least sit up for some of the ride....besides all that, I recommend it, and I'll do it again. There is something grand and adventurous about this boat ride, and the magic of spotting land after hours of water is something to experience first hand.

During the numerous hours I spent lying on the deck, I couldn't help but wonder at all those who came before is. Imagine heading off on a ship to a destination unknown and spending months at a time on the water. It is utterly amazing to me.

On our short ride from Neiafu to Nuapapu the water was much less tranquil than our initial trip. At some points we had to turn the engine off to breach the waves, it was really not scary at all and very exciting. I love being on the water! While we were slowly moving along, we spotted a boat in the distance. There was a quick conversation about who it was, and again I marveled at the bravery and ability of the seaman. How can one tell who it is? I mean, I'm sure around here everyone recognizes everybody else's boat (s), but I sure can't see a thing! And back in the day, I can't imagine the courage it would take to see a boat up ahead, and having know idea who could be on it, continuing in the same direction.

I've got a lot to learn about island living and sea faring. :)


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Living in Community: Part 1

There are many reasons, some of which are far too lengthy to explain, that we decided to accept the offer to teach in rural Tonga. Yet, the one answer that always comes most readily to mind is our desire to experience and be immersed in "community living".

I, along with many other young Christian folks, am fascinated by this idea. Countless books have been written and countless conversations have been had about the need to rediscover God's heart for communal living. So much can be said about damage that our individualistic lifestyles have done to prevent us from living out God's vision for our lives and our churches. Human beings were designed to live in community.

Truly, I am the first one to jump on that bandwagon. I would tell you that I want to live in a rural, underdeveloped village because I believe that "true community" is much more attainable in a place where people actually need each other. The thought of living and working in an intimate, inter-connected community is admittedly, so attractive to me.

But at this point in my life, these are merely just ideas and hopes. I could argue that I've experienced this in some way in college and living with Nick and Beth. I could say that I've experienced small tastes of this in my brief experiences overseas. But the truth is that I have no real idea what I'm in for.
We're about to move to an remote island and live in a village with about 50 families. The vast majority of people won't speak English. Internet, reliable electricity, and our only source of most fresh foods is a one-two hour boat ride away.

Without a doubt, we will experience "community". We will need our neighbors. We will work side by side with our neighbors. We will know them deeply-I'm sure at times, more deeply than we'd like to.

I am unbelievably excited for this. But I know that my idealism will be tested. I know that we'll learn more than we can imagine. Much more on life in the community of Nuapapu to come, I'm sure.



Some of our last posts have been out of order, so I wanted to clarify where we are at in this whole process. Tomorrow evening Mark and I, (along with the rest of team Vava'u) will board a boat and take a 24 hour ride to Vava'u. We will arrive sometime Tuesday late afternoon. Mark and I will be spending Tuesday night in Neiafu, and attending another training session with our Tongan counterparts on Wednesday. Soooo sometime (hopefully) Wednesday evening, Mark and I will officially move in to our new home. We are super excited about actually starting our service in Tonga, but also a little sad. We said goodbye to 5 from our team yesterday, and will say bye to two more tomorrow morning. I think it will be six months before we see them again. It is hard to imagine how much life is about to change (again!). Keep us in your prayers!

Officially volunteers!

Mark and I are official Peace Corps Volunteers! We were sworn in on Friday at a wonderful ceremony!

The Prime Minister of Tonga and the U.S. Ambassador were the guests of honor at our ceremony, and both gave wonderful speeches.

Mark sang "Stand By Me" with a fellow volunteer, Micheal, and did a wonderful job!

I read a hymn, and mostly pronounced every word right. :)

(me receiving my pin from the prime minister)

Mandy, Katy, and Joey performed a traditional Tongan dance!

(During a Tau'olunga it is expected the "audience" will put money on the performers...that's what we are all doing.)

Tynesha also performed a Tau'olunga, she did great!

All of us swearing in

Don't we look fancy!!

The boys

Beautiful Chiara!

Fatumu forever!

Ryan and Abby

Sean (our volunteer leader) and Jason (a volunteer from group 76)

*all these pictures, and most from our blog, have been taken by Mandy. Thank you Mandy for taking so many great pictures at all these memorable events, and thanks bunches for letting us steal them!!

Hellos are easier than goodbyes

Last Sunday was our last Sunday in Fatumu. We were asked to read hymns during the service, Mark sang a song and gave a speech, and we were all dressed to the nine in clothes fakaTonga.

People cried when we said our thank you's and goodbyes. People I had never met, people I had just waved to or smiled a hello. People I talked to everyday but still have no idea what their name is.

I almost cried too, which I puzzled over. Standing in front of the congregation with Mandy as Mark spoke on behalf of us, I was overcome with emotions. It was seriously reliving our last Sunday at Hope this last June.

Then, as I was this week, I was overcome with feelings of deep gratitude- gratitude of what was given and shared, gratitude that I had mattered at all, that anyone had made room in their life's and hearts to let crazy little me in.

Oh this experience so far has been a rollercoaster. I have bawled and laughed, been included and left out. I have loved and hated, understood and misunderstood, been offended and been praised, encouraged and mocked, given up and started over, given up and tried again, etc, etc, etc. But in the goodbyes I am seeing that I have been loved so, so well. I have not always appreciated it, or even recognized it, but oh what a sacrifice it was for this wonderful family to adopt us as their own for the last two months. They openly wept tonight and apologized for anything we didn't like. Oh how small I felt for ever having uttered a word of complaint to Mark. They have been so generous, so hospitable, so loving and accepting.

I am learning how to say bigger hellos, invest more in the day to day, and embrace the emotion of goodbyes.

Grow little heart, 'ofa lahi, sai?

Our host family and Mandy's host family and a few random people

Our host parents and language teacher (and a little girl)

We didn't plan to coordinate-happy coincidence!

Us with the principal of the Fatumu primary school where we did our practice teaching.

The closest thing to wearing a corset I hope I ever wear.