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 town...it 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 jackets...at 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 wise......so 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 from...in 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, refrigerators.....it'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 cry....you did life with me.