Sunday, October 24, 2010

Choir, rubgy, hulahula, and more!

It’s hard to believe that I have been at my home stay for almost 2 weeks now! My host family is wonderful…I couldn’t ask for more hospitable people. There are 11 people in my house, my host parents, 4 girls about my age, 2 boys my age, and 3 kids. My host sister, Manu, is also 22 and she is awesome. She speaks English, so she is able to translate for me. Also, the kids are adorable. Vika is 5, Mote is 3 and Luce is 1. They are also great for helping me practice Tongan. If they give me a confused look, I know I said something wrong!

My host family has been great about including me in a lot of recent events. For one, I got to attend a Tongan choir practice. It was interesting for me because their music used a number system instead of the normal music notation. It was definitely good practice for learning intervals. Also, they are loud! Their dynamics could use a little work.

Another event I attended was a hulahula (dance). The music they played was about a 50/50 split of Tongan music and American music. My host sisters are awesome dancers, and I had a good time with them. Speaking of music, the music they play at my house is very interesting. They have a bizarre mix of contemporary Christian, traditional Tongan, American pop, and rap music. I love the contrast of “Shout to the Lord” and Lil Wayne. One night I got to watch some music videos, including “Ice Cream Paint Job”. Yessssss!

Rugby is an extremely popular sport in Tonga, so last weekend I went with some of my host family and a few trainees to watch some games in town. I don’t completely understand the game yet, but I am sure I will figure it out eventually. I might even try playing a little bit…my host sister plays on a team and she said I could practice with them. Luckily they just play touch, not tackle!

Although I’ve been able to do some really fun things, most of my time so far has been spent in class learning Tongan. In my village there are 3 other trainees and we have language classes together Monday through Thursday. On Fridays our whole group of 26 gets together for training regarding safety, medical, etc. When we aren’t in class, we usually head to the beach to cool off and study. At night, my village has been watching a lot of “Arrested Development”.

At the end of this week, I will find out my site placement. This includes where I will be working and what my job will be….exciting stuff! From what I already know, I think I will be teaching at a tertiary school somewhere in the island group of Vava’u. But that could easily change, so I have to wait until Thursday to find out for sure. Only a couple more days!!!

Here are a couple pics (there are some more on facebook) 76 arriving at the airport, a sunset, and my Tongan attire!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hello from Ha'apai

I made it to Ha'apai where I will be staying until December with my host family. They are wonderful and treat me like a princess! I have pink mosquito net and everything. They also feed me soooooooo much food. Luckily we walk a lot and swim, so I get a lot of excercise.

Hopefully I can post this weekend with a longer update. I am thinking of all my family at you lots!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Malo e lelei!

I made it! I started in L.A. at staging, which is essentially orientation before arriving in country. Our Tonga group held staging with the group heading to Samoa, so there ended up being close to 50 of us. It was an interesting group of people from all over the U.S. We had some good discussions about what to expect over the next two years and how to handle a variety of situations.

Tuesday night we all headed to the airport with a crazy amount of luggage! Luckily my bags were within the weight limits. From L.A., it was a little over 10 hours to Apia, the capital of Samoa. The craziest part of the trip was that it was Wednesday morning in Samoa when we arrived, then after an hour flight we arrived in Tonga Thursday morning. Silly International Date Line.

Thursday was our first day of Pre-Service training. First, we were given an overview of our assignment, the Tonga Expanded Community Education Project. After that, we were formally welcomed to Tonga with a traditional kava ceremony. Kava is a drink in South Pacific that acts as a muscle relaxer and is served at important events and social gatherings. We only had a small amount, so I didn’t feel any of the effects. I personally thought it tasted like dirty, gritty water. However, it was a really awesome to participate. After the kava ceremony, we saw some traditional Tonga dance and had a BBQ.

Friday was a long day with a lot of sessions. We covered health and medical policies, security tips, intro to the Tongan language, and met some current volunteers. It was a lot to take in, but things that will be very helpful in the future. I also got a dog chaser, which is a fantastic little device that emits sonic waves to scare away dogs. My fear of being attacked by dogs is now greatly alleviated!

Today we started our morning with a fashion show of appropriate Tongan dress. For work and church, I will be wearing long skirts and shirts with sleeves. I will also wear a kiekie, a belt with woven strips. For casual wear, women still dress conservatively. Capris are sometimes acceptable, but usually women cover up capris and shorts with a lavalava (sarong) when they are in public. Bascially, the more conservative, the better!

The next part of our day was water safety training. It was cold and rainy, which wasn’t the best day for water training, but we made the best of it. Water training brought back bad memories of swimming lessons back in the day, but it wasn’t as terrible as I thought. We got to wear a life vest the entire time for one. Also we learned a lot of cool techniques for groups to work together in an emergency. Awesome team bonding!

After water training, some of us went out into town. We are staying in Nuku’alofa, the capital, so it has a fairly big market and some shops. At a shop I bought some fabric for a lavalava, and at the market I bought a fresh coconut. Although I’m not a huge fan of the coconut meat, I really like the coconut milk!

Tomorrow is Sunday, so we will be attending church, which is an extremely important aspect of Tongan life. I can’t wait to hear a Tongan choir, I hear they are fantastic! It is illegal to do most anything on Sunday, so tomorrow afternoon and evening will most likely be spent practicing some Tongan and relaxing with other trainees. Monday and Tuesday we will be visiting sites in Nuku’alofa. I know I am going to a bank in Tonga with the other volunteers and a few other places. Wednesday is our last day in the city. We leave for Ha’apai, a smaller island group north of Tongatapu. Apparently life is much different in Ha’apai, since is it much more remote and much smaller. Wednesday I will also meet my host family and start getting to know the people in my village.

Overall, I am sooooo excited to finally be here! The friendly islands seem like a wonderful place. Please send me letters and emails because I miss everyone at home. Check the tab at the top for my address! Hopefully next week I can post some more updates!

Toki Sio!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fond Farewell

The last few weeks have been wonderful, but now it is time to finally say goodbye. It is great to know that I have such a wonderful support system at home. Thanks to everyone for being so amazing! To all my friends and family in Transfer, Cleveland, Coraopolis, Durham, Ann Arbor, Louisville, Philadelphia, Columbus, Erie, and everywhere else, I already miss you!

This weekend was absolutely perfect. I got to eat great food, sing with my family, play trivial pursuit, take lots of pictures, and giggle. Hopefully I can also do some of those things in Tonga. Perhaps they will even find my headlamp as humorous as I do?

Well, I have my suitcases waiting by the door, and I am off to L.A. in the morning. Wish me luck...Toki sio!