Monday, December 2, 2013


I've wanted to write this blog for awhile, but have held out because it has been a profound and beautiful inner thought process for me, and I haven't felt sure how best to express it outwardly.

But I feel inclined to try, because I feel like our spiritual journey during our last year and a half or so here has been rarely talked about in this forum.

I absolutely love words. Love words to be used in new contexts, to find new words to describe old feelings, love words to surprise me.

I remember when I was in Ethiopia, how I marvelled at new words to say the name of my God. How I felt reinspired in my worship-because I had new words (though it was just a few) to sing to and about my God.

One of the things Mark and I were most excited about in joining PC and moving abroad was learning a new language. It is still one of the things we are excited about. It's! Frustrating, and tear-invoking, and oftentimes humbling to the millionth degree...but it's been fun, and challenging in a way nothing else has ever been for me.

We have done well in our language learning. Of course, we have miles to go, but we have accomplished a lot. This being said, I have many new words to describe my God, to think about Him, to re-process my responses to God with new meanings behind once familiar concepts. This has been moving, exciting- has led to more earnest prayers and heartfelt worship.

But that seems ages ago, those little discoveries that touched my heart and mind in new ways. This has been a dry season for Mark and I. I literally cannot express how much we miss church. The power of fellowship, of the body, of singing praise in our own language with fellow believers.

I've had a few of these moments over the last year. These moments when I'm so not thinking about God-in the middle of class and we need to sing a song to transition. A quick song the students love to sing is "God is so Good". There have been multiple times when I have started this song-usually to transition, sometimes to quiet the students, often to keep from yelling at the poor dears....and I am immediately swept away into a moment of praise. How can we sing this simple refrain (in Tongan or English) and not be humbled,not be worshipful?

Other times have been even more odd-while out dancing with fellow volunteers-a wonderful moment when I'm struck by the authority of our awesome God- and the words we are all singing and the ridiculous dance I'm dancing become an act of worship. At Mormon choir practice, singing "How Great Thou Art". Making up a ridiculous dance to the song "This is the Day". Even this last week.....we have been teaching our new students some Christmas songs, and even the silliest, simplest refrain- "Away in a Manger" brings tears to my eyes. Or a hilarious moment when the class 3 students convinced us to sing "Oh Holy Night" and they didn't at all in the slightest bit know any words, but hummed the melody and screamed the high notes.... My soul was turned to God.

I've thought often of the verse "even the rocks will cry out in worship to me" and I feel that hunger, that need, in my own soul. I have not turned often enough towards God in praise this year, and I feel my heart and soul and inner being looking, starving, to proclaim His glory.

There is something about the vocal, external, physical act of worship. We need it. Our souls and hearts need it. I don't think I would have thought that a year ago, but I know it now, because I see how my soul has seeked it even while my mind and body has not.

And that just screams to me about the mightiness of our God.

And, I can't help but wonder about all those second language speakers attending church in something other than their mother tongue. Is it different for you like it is different for me? Don't you feel like your truest expression can only come from your mother language, or does that change once you've mastered second languages?

We are so excited to spend the next month in America and to attend church services in English.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


'Eua is a large (or small, depends who you ask!) island near Tongatapu. Two of our favorite friends live on the island of 'Eua, and this last weekend we, along with two other volunteers, had the opportunity to visit them. 'Eua is known to be different from the other islands of Tonga- mainly for its cliffs, cooler weather, forest, and wild horses.

The flight to 'Eua is the shortest in the world (5 minutes, I think) but we took the less expensive route and ferried there. The ferry was a 3 hour ride, and though I drugged myself and slept like a baby...I found it quite enjoyable. :)

It was a great weekend hanging out with friends, catching up, enjoying the sights, and laughing at the crazy stuff that happens in Tonga.


Here are some pictures of our students practicing the sitting dance.


For the first time in my PC life....I've been busy. It's been a crazy few weeks here, but I'll try my best to catch you up.

Mark and I moved to the main island just in time to welcome and celebrate Peace Corps Tonga Group 78 at their official swearing - in ceremony. This group of 14 girls and 1 guy have been really fun to get to know. Their arrival has spurred on much reflection on our part, as well as for the rest of us in group 77. It is amazing to look back at how much we have all grown. I'm really proud of our entire group (we are all still here), and I'm really proud of myself.

With the swearing-in and eventual departure of the new volunteers to their new homes, there were many get togethers and goodbyes. I think in a mere two weeks here we had a busier social life than we had had in the last whole year on the island! It was really good, but I'll be honest, a little overwhelming.

We jumped in at full speed at our new school....which has also been quite the adjustment and, I'll admit, overwhelming. Most days we come home from school almost unable to speak. Our voices are not used to singing and talking all day- Especially over all these kids! It's been fun to teach Christmas songs, and to get to know the teachers at our new school. We are also learning a traditional Tongan dance with all of our students. I think it is incredibly cool, but we will let you all be the judge and hopefully post some videos soon. The big performance is this Friday.

A big part of our last month here has also been about rugby. I'm not much one to be into sports, but I really couldn't help myself! The World Cup Rugby League was (is?) happening and rugby is a really really really big deal in Tonga. The Tongan team- Mate ma'a Tonga (die for Tonga) played really well, but ultimately didn't make it into the quarter finals ( they were second). We got to spend a few mornings at school, crowded into a classroom with at least 200 other people, watching the games on the tiniest of televisions you could think of. Tongans are the BEST celebrators- most of the time my ears were ringing. I wish I had recorded the shouts and dances and cheers...just really amazingly fun.

Then last week, the Tongan rugby team returned home from England. I Think, literally, that every single person on this island welcomed them home. Hundreds met them at the airport, the villages on the route from the airport to the capital city prepared shows and dances along the way. The capital city was crazy- people everywhere, everyone in red, everyone dancing and shouting. I loved it. We snapped a few photos but it really doesn't do it justice....

This is one street in was like this for blocks and blocks.

This is Fuifui- one of the players. He's the only one we know because he has amazing hair.

Other than school, rugby, and Internet....we are mostly just counting down the days until we are HOME. We are incredibly excited, and happy that this time has been busy, as time always moves faster when you've got stuff going on.

Some good memories

Team Vava'u at our going away party.

Tuanuku GPS and our friends the Klobs sending us off well as we sailed out of Vava'u. You bet we made a scene. You bet we cried. Did you see us wave back? Our fellow ferry-mates weren't quite sure what to do.....

Celebrating life.... Love these kids!

Friday, November 1, 2013

In the meantime....

....we receive daily calls from Nuapapans....just to shoot the breeze, check up on us, let our old students talk to us, and keep us in the gossip loop.

....access to Internet was so exciting, but now, already boring.

....washing machines are the best.

....buster (our dog), is still alive, though we're sure his days are numbered.

....while walking down the street last week someone in a random truck drove by and shouted out "hello Nuapapu!". Weird and awesome.

....we did not throw up on the barge.

.....we met the new group of volunteers and are excited to attend their swearing in.

....we have gathered that we should start ironing our clothes.

....we've eaten Indian and Chinese food...awesome.

......we haven't had to look at our life all.

...mark has been working hard on a special project that brings us both lots of laughter and joy.

....the shower is a thing worthy of praise....we are the cleanest we've been in a long time.

Our new site

We've been in our new site for exactly a week. It has been quite a week...we are still trying to wrap our minds around all of the differences.

Our new site is in Ma'ufanga, which is a district of the capital city Nuku'alofa. There are over 7,000 people living in this district....our school is about six times the size of our old island, population to say we're experiencing a bit of a culture shock is to put it lightly.

Our new school has over 600 students and 20 teachers. We aren't exactly sure what our schedule will be next year, as there is certainly more classes than we will be able to teach on a daily basis, but we have spent the last week familiarizing ourselves with the teachers and culture of our new school. The teachers have been very welcoming and seem excited about working with us next year.

We are currently living with an older Tongan couple. It is certainly not the most ideal living situation, but they are very sweet and generous. This is supposedly not a permanent living situation, but as I feel PC's largest purpose in my life is to teach me about flexibility and strength of character, I eagerly await our next steps.

We are learning, again, how to live in Tonga. This Tonga is so different than the one we just came fact, most Tongans we talk to here can't even fathom the culture of the island...I think that has been the most shocking thing. Electricity, running water, showers with hot waters, tvs, cars, English, Internet, sitting at tables to eat, washing machines,'s a whole different world over here. Much, much more westernized....which is nice sometimes, but disappointing on the whole.

We have about a month left before we come home for Christmas, so for now we're relearning, sharing, growing, and very much anticipating our visit home.

Surprise slumber party

It had been a long day, heck, it had been a long two weeks (2 months, for that matter). We had said our goodbyes- both formally in fakamalos, and informally with hugs, kisses, and tears.

Mark was off to his last kava circle- candy, sodas, and ciggies by the box load in tow....continuing our efforts to promote healthy lifestyles.

I had a list a mile long-errands to run, things to pack, things to give away, stuff to clean. We were leaving the next morning, unsure if/when we'd return to this crazy,beautiful, challenging place, this once-in-a-lifetime home....our little island on the edge of the world.

I was full of a lot of feelings.

I had saved just enough of my favorite island cocktail to have one last drink after my list was completed. (room temperature water, half of a crystal light lemonade packet, and a sprinkling of rum). I had set aside one final chick flick to watch during marks final kava night (blue crush, if you must know).

Then they started arriving-pillows and blankets in hand. My students, my friends, my Tongan moms.

No one had thought to tell me, but apparently there had been much discussion regarding who would get to spend this final night sleeping with me.

After an initial surprise, a five minute inner panic regarding my list, and one hilariously worded text to mark, I surrendered. I let go of my plans, my comfort level, my "Americanness". I said "yes", one final time. I'm so glad that I did.

We spread out on the living room floor. We laughed, gossiped, joked. Some people slept, others (yep, that means me) didn't.

Somehow, sandwiched between 3 year old Lopeti (one of my kindie students whom I adore) , and Fine (a teenaged girl that has been one of my favs from the get go), listening to Seini snore (one of my favorite moms, whose sons and daughter have been literally the best of friends to us), the full moon light gleaming through my house of windows....I knew that these were the days. That the next day, when I got on that tiny boat one last time, next month, when I can no longer remember what life is like without electricity, next year when my Tongan is fading away.....these were the days. I wouldn't trade a second of it. It was hard and it was painful, this growing I had to do. But it was so so worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Thank you ladies, for making my last night in Nuapapu so memorable. Thank you for teaching me about community. Thank you that from the first day, when you took my hands and laced flowers through my hair, to the last night when you took my hands and let me did life with me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An Overwhelming Goodbye

By far the most meaningful and heart wrenching farewell occurred our final morning in Nuapapu, when the village loaded up all of our belongings on the tractor and we all headed down to the wharf. It is impossible to capture the emotions of this scene, but we were absolutely blown away when the entire village came down to the wharf to see us off.

After our things were loaded onto the boat, everyone walked to the edge of the wharf and formed two lines. Then, weeping, we made our way down the lines of people for a goodbye fe'ilo'aki and 'uma (hug and cheek kiss) with every single person on the wharf. As we stepped, tear soaked, onto the boat, the village waved and softly sang a hymn of farewell as we sailed away. It was an unbelievable send-off, absolutely unlike any goodbye we have ever experienced.

I was again moved to tears as we rounded the bend, and all of my old students from the school at Matamaka were standing at the edge of the sea, singing and waving goodbye with palm branches.

Later that day, another PC volunteer remarked how different it must have felt saying goodbye to an island, and literally sailing away from everything and everyone we knew so well in one place, disappearing in the distance. When we said goodbye in the States before we came to Peace Corps, it was a very gradual farewell. It happened in stages, as we said separate goodbyes to people at work, church, family, and friends. Never in our lives had we experienced such an overwhelmingly emotional, totally communal goodbye. So hard, so wonderful, so fitting, and so Tongan.


Faikava Faka'osi (Final Kava Ceremony)

Another part of goodbyes in Tonga is holding a final faikava (kava ceremony) for the man who is leaving. It's funny to think about the mystery of kava culture to me a year ago, and how much a part of my life it has become. On the island, it is essentially the equivalent of hitting the town and having a good time with your buddies. I have grown to love it so much, and I will always fondly remember my times at kava as some of the times that I felt most connected to these people, this island, and this culture. In many ways, to me and all the men that I am close with, the goodbye feasts and gifts were only a precursor to this, the real party.

I wanted to celebrate right, so I bought a bunch of canned sodas, candy, bags of kava, and tobacco to bring. This might sound like a funny combination, but to a group of Tongan guys, these are all the necessary ingredients for a truly good party. Most of the guys had already shown up to the hall, so I entered, put down my box of goodies at the appropriate spot, did the kava handshake circle, and was asked for the first time to sit in the seat of the "matapule", the seat of highest honor that is directly opposite of the "kumete" (wooden kava bowl). Then, I gave a little speech of appreciation and respect to them and kava culture, and the party got underway.

Eventually, most every male on the island came to join in. Some men from Matamaka even made the trip across the island for it. After a while, because I couldn't resist on my last kava, I got my ukulele and moved to join the band. The music was played, the kava was drunk, and the good times rolled late into the night. I stayed as long as I could, knowing that I would need the energy the next day to move. It was another wonderful way to end things, to say goodbye, and to bring closure for our time on our wonderful island.



In Tongan culture, formal "fakamavaes" (farewells) are very important. When the village found out about our move, we were very humbled and blessed when they planned a farewell celebration for us. We had seen it before, when the Wesleyan pastor was transferred earlier this year. Nothing too out of the ordinary happens - just lots of eating, lots of speeches, and giving of gifts. It's impossible to fully describe the emotions of the everything that happened; needless to say, it was unlike any goodbye we have ever experienced.

Ours was set to occur on our last Sunday in the village. In typical Nuapapu fashion, as the various church denominations make it a challenge to plan anything as the whole village, there was a bit of drama when the day came. It was set to occur after church in the evening, but when one church asked around if they could move it to lunchtime, confusion ensued. Eventually, through much deliberation and grumbling, and eventually lots of laughter, the families who were ready brought their food to the hall after church. The majority of the families came to this one, and it was really beautiful. As is typical in Tonga, all speeches, including both of ours, were full of tears. We felt so loved, so sad, and like such a part of this wonderful village.

Pictures from the first feast:

The remaining families that were not able to come to the lunchtime event planned another one for the afternoon. It was a simple celebration, and the families just brought a little feast to share on the floor of our house. We again felt so blessed at their love and acceptance.



Big News

Hello friends and family! We have some big news around here...we are moving. It is such a long and complicated story to share, as so much of the bureaucracy of PC we never talk about, but we are very sad about the decision that has been made.

Ultimately, PC is run like a business, and the numbers and data that we volunteers report back to Washington (especially in tiny countries like Tonga), determines if the PC Tonga program is viable or not, as well as drives most programming decisions regarding site placement, etc for volunteers. Unfortunately, it has been decided that our work in Nuapapu and Matamaka GPS just isn't BIG enough. PC has arranged to move us to a much bigger site back on the main island of Tongatapu.

So you can get it: 176 islands make up the Kingdom of Tonga, but the islands are grouped into four major island groups. The main island group, where the king lives, where the capital is located, where the PC office is, and where we spent our 2 months of training, is the island group Tongatapu. For the last year, we have been living 2 island groups away from Tongatapu, in the island group Vava'u....which is miles and miles and miles of ocean away.

(Our little island, Nuapapu, is the equivalent of Greeley. When we say we are going to "town" , or Neiafu, that's like Denver. Tongatapu would be the equivalent of.... New York.)

While there are some exciting opportunities ahead for us, we are very devastated about leaving this place. We feel, in so many ways, that we just began to be comfortable here in Nuapapu. So much of the last year has been full of nervousness, stress, fear, failure, awkwardness, frustration, loneliness, confusion...just you name it, we felt it. Oh how hard it is to move to a new country, arrive in a tiny island with a population of 100 people, barely be able to speak the language, and to try and fit in there! So many times we just plain didn't know what the heck was going on! Just lately I feel like I can actually enjoy this experience. I'm no longer worried about understanding Tongan....I can get by just fine. I'm no longer worried about knowing what to do, what to expect....I've finally gotten the people and pace of this place down. Finally, I feel like I can have a personality in Tonga-which is absolutely amazing and freeing and so life-giving after a year of feeling like a strange, white, weird observing ghost of a person. Finally, I'm at a place where I can begin to understand the beauty of the culture here. Gosh, there were just so many days when I disliked it, misunderstood it, didn't know my place in it. Man, we are so sad to walk away right now, so frustrated to leave after we're finally reaping the benefits after a year of hard work.

Telling the people of Nuapapu about our move was probably one of the hardest things we've ever done. We went to each house, sat on the floor, and told them all that had happened-how we'd fought so hard to stay, how much we loved them, how we have to listen to the PC boss. There were many tears, an overall feeling from these island people that they are the least important in all of Tonga, and feelings of anger and injustice. We appreciated the support the town gave us-they called a town meeting and decided to write a letter to PC asking for us to stay. Though we knew the decision was final, it was nice to know they wanted us to stay as badly as we wanted to stay.

It has been a crazy hard two weeks. We said goodbye to our island, our neighbors, our friends, our dog, and our students a few days ago. We said another hard goodbye to our PC friends yesterday. I can't say enough about what they have meant to us. I was so surprised to learn that I needed them to do this, and am so sad to think about trying to do this whole thing without them next year. We love you guys.

We are waiting in town now to take the 22 hour ferry ride to Tongatapu.

With tears in my eyes and Nuapapu in my heart,


Thursday, October 17, 2013


Living in community, that's a phrase I've tossed around a lot.

From college, to married life, to moving in with Nick and Beth...and now here on our tiny island....I am still learning what it looks like and feels like to "live in community".

Tonga is a tiny place...the whole country is made up of 100,000 people and 70,000 of those people all live on Tongatapu, which is the main island group. The other 30,000 of us are spread out in Ha'apai, Vava'u, and the Niuas.

Im almost positive I know all 10,000 or so people that live on Vava'u. :)

This is weird, this is hard, this living in community stuff. (and I'm a palangi, I get free passes all the time...)

I have never lived like this before. Everyone knows everything I do, everything I say. And, the longer we are here, the more I know everything about everybody else!

In so many ways, I see a sense of comfort and love in this knowing and being known. There is an honesty that exists that is sometimes uncomfortable for me, but that seems real and good and healthy.

Sometimes I see that people are stuck though, because of this being known. Afraid to try and fail, afraid to become something different than who they are already known to be.

Sometimes I love how small this community is. How something I do in town makes it back to the island before I do. Sometimes I feel like my privacy is invaded. (a few months back I had to go to the clinic for a health issue, and not more than a day later I received a text from a fellow volunteer asking if I was okay. Turns out the taxi driver is quite the little gossip.)

There is a beauty here, in this communal living. I find it moving and touching and challenging and frightening. But I think it is right. I think it is what He intended. So I am trying to embrace even the most uncomfortable parts of it, to open my doors wide and let people in.

Below is something I have meditated on quite a bit these past weeks.

"Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable and overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor." James 3:17-18


Water tank

From start to finish, in pictures:

Transporting the tank from town back to the island.....we really didn't think it was going to fit....

Building the foundation.

The students enjoying clean water while brushing their teeth!

Gotta love these ridiculous little creatures!

Thanks New Zealand Aid Programme!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Living here for a year now, I often wonder what has imprinted itself....what will I take with me, what will I leave behind. What things will stick, and will I want them to?

One thing that has grown on me over time is this idea of giving a "fakamalo". At every important event, from church to holidays to birthdays, etc, there is a time for anyone present at said event to give a little speech. A "fakamalo" literally translates as, "to give thanks, to be grateful, to feel or express gratitude, to praise or congratulate". By no means is everyone required to speak, but the floor is open to anyone who might wish to.

Oftentimes I find these speeches to be very tiresome, as the hierarchy in Tongan culture dictates that every important person be thanked individually, and oftentimes it feels that there's not much genuineness in these speeches. It is also expected that you will cry. It is a bizarre thing to witness, but I've seen grown men pinching themselves to make the tears fall.

That aside, sometimes the speeches are a riot, a one man show, a straight up comedy act. Oftentimes long fables or parables are told, many times juicy gossip and merciless teasing happens. This too is sad for me-fakamalos are a hard thing to follow where I'm at in my language, but boy, Tongans know how to laugh and once they get going you so desperately want in on it.

Today was the first day of testing for our class six students. Once their tests were finished, the students, the students' families, and the teachers sat down together to enjoy a feast made by two of the class six students' parents. At the end of the feast, amidst all of the other fakamalo's, the two students whose parents prepared the feast gave their first ever fakamalo. It was such this rite of passage thing. I was so proud of my two boys, so happy to be here to observe this little coming of age thing.

It's a beautiful thing, really- To be so accountable to a town that raised you, that knows you, that's hoping for you, that has seen you fail and succeed, that has walked through life with you. So beautiful this time of "fakamalos", which I also think of as a storytelling time.

I want this to be apart of our family culture in the future. Want us to finish dinner at a family gathering and put off the movie or the games, and just tell stories, express gratitude. It's another part of the intimacy of this place that I don't wanna shake off when our time comes to leave.



Today was the big day, the aho sivi (test day). My five class six students (which is the equivalent of 5th grade in the U.S.), arrived at 7:30. They were squeaky clean and their uniforms were pressed and starched. They all had new shoes on their feet, and flower necklaces around their necks.

We stood at our door and called out our shouts of encouragement.

Gosh, they looked so young, my four boys who so often have driven me mad. My Tom Sawyers and Huckleberry Finns- my boys boys-naughty, wild, silly, playful, charming little things. They haven't let me baby them once, not the tiniest of bits (and I am such a mother hen...those four and I had a huge learning curve when school first started). But today, with their little white shirts tucked into their khaki shorts....I was reminded of how still childish they are.

They came up onto the porch, like they have every other morning at 7:30 for the past year, and before I knew it we were all inside.

They were nervous...clutching their pencils and rulers, much quieter than normal. We got out the cards and played a few games. We showed them pictures of my adorable nephew. They laughed about Mark's new hair style and we taught them how to make dreads.

Some of their anxiety faded.

We talked about what school they hope to test into, and where they will live when they move next year. I got sad, and told them so. I can't imagine our island without these 5 students. They are the ones who most sit at our table and share meals, who so patiently try and understand (and truth be told, mock and correct) my Tongan, who are the most curious about our life before Peace Corps, who know about our friends and family back home. These are the few who play scrabble and kickball and cards with us. Who are literally on our porch when I emerge from my room every morning, and more often than not, still there when I close the door to go to sleep. They tell me the gossip and I tell them my gossip. They answer my questions about who is who and try their best to explain Tonga to me.

I hate that the island kids have to move if they want to attend secondary school. It's so hard on the kid, the family, on the town, which almost halves in size during the week when all the 12-18 year olds leave.

But it has been incredibly neat and heart-warming to see the community response to this important day, this rite of passage. As I speak our neighbors, along with half of the town, are preparing a feast for the students. There were kisses of good luck, and a special breakfast this morning. Literally, the whole town is waiting to see how these five do on the test- so much pressure for these kids, but also so wonderfully unique to be so utterly known.

I want the best for these five. I hope they dream big.


Only in Tonga


We have a rat problem.

In the past, this has been easily solved by sticky traps. We put them out, a rat walks across it, it gets stuck, we throw the sticky trap in the trash pile.
No sweat.

That was until The Beast. Seriously, this rat is the size of a puppy, perhaps bigger. It has wreaked havoc in our kitchen.

I heard it earlier this week, and went to investigate. I was not prepared for its size. Of course Mark thought I was exaggerating until today, when he got his first look at it.

If this helps you know how to feel about, Buster whimpers any time it's near the house.

Mark abandoned me tonight to go drink kava. As I lie in bed playing what I can only assume is my 10,000 th game of solitaire, I heard a sudden thrashing about such as would be made by a large animal, say, a deer. Yes, I think, we have trapped The Beast on our sticky trap. As I hear more thrashing, I begin to wonder if perhaps the rodent is running about with said sticky trap attached to him. To accurately paint the picture you need to know that we had noticed earlier in the day that the sticky trap had caught yet another rodent, but hadn't had the time to throw it out yet when The Beast made his appearance. As this is our last trap, we thought best just to leave it be awhile longer. So, as I hear this thrashing, I wonder the state of these two rodents.

I carefully untuck the mosquito netting. I run to the living room and immediately stand atop a chair. I wait. All is silent. I pick up the chair next to me, run the short distance to the light switch, put the chair down, jump on top of it, and turn on the light. I hear a loud noise. I wait. I jump to the next chair, crawl across the table, and arrive at the chair closest to the mouse. I see signs of a struggle. Half of the sticky trap is covered by a piece of wood (yes, apparently there is one lone piece of timber in my kitchen...I have no idea why or when it got there). I can tell The Beast has escaped.

As I stand on the chair contemplating my next move, there's a knock on my door. One of my students. Yes, I shout, come in quick. In he comes, and he doesn't even ask why I'm atop the chair.

He walks right to me, asks for the grill part from in our oven, I say yes, he opens the oven, and takes it out.

I tell him about my giant rat. He yells goodnight.

So much for my knight in shining armor. When did these kids get used to my antics?


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Swimming with the whales 2

After lunch we moved into much calmer water, and had the most unforgettable experience with a mother whale and calf.

At one point we were staring down at the whales, and the mother whale decided to come to the surface. The magnitude of the whale as she seemed to stand up straight was staggering.

Our third snorkel, the calf was in a super playful mood. We got maybe 8-10 feet away from it at face level. He did flips and turns and waved his fins. He was very curious about us, and wanted to investigate. When he started to get too close, our guide got in front and started turning in circles and waving his hands, amazingly, the calf mimicked.

Ah, such an amazing experience! I really don't know how to put it into words. Here's some pictures of us:

Us with Ryan and Abby .

Off we go.

Us and the top of the whale to the left of us.

Us, and you can see a little bit of the whale right in front of us.

We all came up laughing, the other group said they could hear our laughs and screams even when we were under the water.

Clearly, I'm amazed.

Swimming with the whales!

Yesterday, I can barely believe it myself, we swam with humpback whales. It was, in a word- Awesome. Intense. Humbling. Insane.

Tonga is one of two countries in the world where you can swim with whales.
The humpbacks migrate to Tonga every year from June- October to mate and have their babies.

We got picked up in the early morning, and it wasn't long before the other boat with our company spotted a whale. We zoomed out past the island-protected parts of the ocean, into some pretty big waves. It was....much more adventurous and intense then I thought it was going to be. It was all I could do not to throw up, and the waves were so big that at times I literally felt like we were on a rollercoaster because we would come down off of a wave and my stomach would drop right to my feet. We would spot the spout of a whale and when the wave crashed over it and uncovered its size it was so amazing. Then, with one flick of its tail, we would lose it, and the search would begin again. When we spotted the whales,the driver would gun the two 115 horse powered engines, and off we'd go.

There were eight "tourists" on the boat and a driver and guide. Only four people were allowed in the water with the whales at a time. We went with the other married couple, Ryan and Abby. We were amazed that in this crazy choppy water, when the time came for us to slide out of the boat, we put our heads in the water and were right above a mother and baby whale.

Looking for the whales

The other group sliding into the water

A little bit rough.....