Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another role

One of many reasons Mark and I chose the Peace Corps for this time in our life was because it provides it's volunteers with quality health care. Now, I'll admit, due to our location and isolation, there were a few kinks to work out the first time or two we called on Peace Corps for help, but overall we continue to be pleased that this service is available to us.

Beyond meeting urgent, or unforseeable, medical needs, our PC medical officer also keeps us well stocked with band-aids, over the counter medication, neosporin, and any and every other first aid thing you can think of.

Here's the tricky part though...

It's against pc policy for us to doctor up our community members, or to distribute medical supplies.

I completely understand why. We, nor peace corps, wants to be held liable.

But just last month one of my students split his head open. His HEAD. (and it's not like there's a hospital, or clinic anywhere's a two hour boat ride, then a taxi drive away....) (we also happen to be the only people with medical supplies on our little island).

And just now our good friend cut his foot open, very open, with a machete.

I wish we could get some first aid materials and a training for our town.

The reaping

Marks garden is fabulous! We have had much luck with the snap peas, long beans, tomatoes, egg plant, cucumbers, Bok choy, and pele (like spinach).

We have saved over 70 TOP at this point, and have also been able to give a lot of vegetables away to our community members.

Today's pickings- green beans, tomatoes, a cucumber, and a few snap peas.

Apparently, Mark has a green thumb. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hulo Hula

The Mormons on our tiny island have spent the last few months preparing for a big conference. One of the things we love most about our island is that because it is so small, if any church has something going on, everyone helps and participates in the event. That being said, although we are not Mormon, we have spent the last few months attending choir practice multiple times a week, helping the church prepare, and all in all, anticipating whatever the heck a Mormon conference is.

As apart of the events of the weekend, we were invited to a district wide hulo hula (hulo hula- to dance in European style. Dance, ball) on Vava'u lahi (the main island). We had been to a hulo hula before, and although it did not meet my expectations (thanks to you Joey and Chiara!), I had high hopes as this was a district-wide dance.....

As we waited at the wharf for our ride (I could live a whole other life out of the wasted years worth of time I have spent at this particular wharf. I'm not exaggerating, not even a little) , we got a text from a fellow PCV asking if our dance was themed. As we sensed he was mocking us and the way in which we were choosing to spend our Friday night, we assured him it was not a themed dance.

When our ride (finally) arrived at 8:00 pm (my bed time here in Tonga), we discovered that it was, in fact, a themed dance. A pioneer themed dance.

We headed to the dance, which took place in a tennis court behind a Mormon church. I'm not sure the following picture accurately displays the dance floor, but it was enclosed in a square of folding chairs. Both Tongan music and the latest rap/hip hop music were played.

This was the emcee. He was an incredibly hilarious man, and we really wanted a picture of him in his overalls. It was clear that he had some experience with the idea of emceeing, in a western way, as he had a lot of American catch phrases that were almost, but not quite, correct. My favorite thing about the whole event was that after each song, the music was turned completely off, the dance floor was cleared, everyone sat down in the folding chairs surrounding the dance floor, and then the next song was turned on, and the people again invited to come to the dance floor. It made things so awkward.

The first dance was a slow dance, and Mark and I were urged by our Tongan friends to join them on the dance floor. Not wanting to disappoint our friends, and with every eye on us (yes...we were the only palangis. Where we're all those Mormon missionaries?!), we went out to the dance floor. Imagine my shock and horror when our friends quickly danced over to us and said, " this isn't a night club, you can not dance like that here!". As it turns out, while slow dancing the girl is to use the left hand to hold hands with her partner, and her right hand should be placed on her partner's forearm. Forearm. Not shoulder, and most definitely not neck, as we were dancing.

At that point in the night, the first song, mind you, I knew it would be a long night. I also no longer knew what was appropriate and inappropriate. Mostly I just clapped on the dance floor. It was awkward. It was a long night.

Where do you think this tradition comes from? Sooo hilarious!

The Water Tank

During our first week of service, our principal handed us a large list of potential side projects that the village would like us to pursue. At the time, it was extremely overwhelming, as the list contained some very lofty goals, including the full construction of a road to the wharf. Since that time, we've done some work related to a few requests, such as the gardening and support of outreach to local tourists. But, the major request that we've chosen to focus on is the need for more rain water tanks on the island. During many dry seasons in the past, water shortages have been a big problem, forcing many people to sacrifice basic hygiene and cleanliness (bathing, laundry, dishes) to preserve drinking water. This year, we experienced a taste of this, as our tank ran dry about a month ago, forcing us to ask neighbors for water. Luckily, the Lord provided a couple timely rains this year during the dry season, so water shortages have not been as bad as previous years.

Because of this need and since writing grants for water tanks seemed to be a practical, manageable undertaking for us to do while still keeping up with our teaching, we started writing applications. We really had no clue about where to even start in this process, and we were really blessed by the help and guidance from a couple Australian volunteers in town who had done some similar grant writing before.

A very long story short, we submitted our first application to New Zealand Aid a few months ago. And throughout the whole process, we did our best to consult with and involve the people. As is true in all the developing world, the challenge of creating sustainable development and giving the people ownership of these efforts is very difficult to accomplish in a place that has grown so accustom and dependent on foreign aid. This was truly our first small taste of this unsolvable puzzle, and it was certainly an interesting thing to be a part of. There were some frustrations and hurdles, and it required a whole lot of patience and persistence on our part, but it did pay off in the end. And in the end, we just hope that it's doing more good than harm.

The grant stipulated that the organization would provide the money for a 5000 liter plastic water tank. These are more expensive, but according to the people (and as evidenced by the many dilapidated tanks on the island), the plastic tanks far outlast the cheaper concrete or fiberglass tanks, which usually only have a 10-20 year life. The grant also said that the village would be responsible for providing the transportation of the tank, labor, and supplies for installing the tank (piping, concrete foundation, etc.). They specified that the tank should be in a communal area, so that a large number of people would have access to it. We discussed it at the "fono" (village meeting), and the people decided that the tank would be put at the school.

The payment for the tank was processed, so a few weeks ago, the day finally arrived to actually go and get the tank. After dealing with a few more challenges regarding whose boat would go, we set off. Since up until that point, everything regarding the tank just involved writing and discussion, we had finally arrived at the biggest mystery of all in my mind: how in the world are they going to use one of their tiny boats to transport a massive plastic water tank across the ocean? But, it had been done before, so we just let the Tongans take the reins.

In retrospect, it was a very simple process of actually getting it done. Our principal and I tracked down a truck that belonged to one of his buddies, and drove about ten minutes to pick up the tank from the water tank company. From there, we loaded it on the truck and took it down to the wharf, where, in quite a feat of can-do spirit, a team of men somehow managed to tie it securely to the boat. Needless to say, we did not do much to help. The pictures speak for themselves:

- Mark

Thanks mom and dad!

Enjoying the smarties after a game of bingo! (they all thought it looked like medicine)

( no idea where the sucker came from....but love siupeli's smartie face!)

This is a new hot item. In fact, they have already broken 4 of the balls that go with this bat. Don't worry though, the newest new hot item is to try and figure out how to fix the balls. We have seen some interesting methods involving tape and matches....

Also, it's been abnormally rainy of late, so the kids haven't had as much recess. My solution is to get them up and dancing. Dad, they absolutely loved "I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling I'm.. " Bobo out was a real winner. :)

Taimi palangi pe

Fun pictures from my parents visit:

A busy week!

Last week was a very busy week for us! We headed to town on Wednesday to pick up a water tank (more on that later)

Enjoyed a fabulous pizza and wine Wednesday night dinner with our friends Ryan and Abby. (If only all Wednesdays could be pizza and wine days...)

We got to observe/help/play at the school they teach at on Thursday. It was so much fun, incredibly inspiring, and all in all, a great time.

On Friday we headed back to town to meet up with some of our favorite friends in Nuapau.

They took us to a themed Mormon dance, which was really just, one of the funniest and most awkward experiences ever! (more on that later too!)

We got home Saturday night, just in time to prep for the big Mormon conference on Sunday.

After the (long) church service, there was a big feast.

We had school Monday morning...this might be the week I am the least of course we have observation and "site visits" this Thursday from the PC staff up in TTop. ..... All of my excitement has also left me a little sick. But, more updates soon, we promise! Mormon dances and fitting a huge water tank onto a teensy -weensy boat are just too full of fun things not to share!