Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas from Tonga! Christmas in Tonga was a lot different than what I am used to in America. Christmas morning I woke up and opened a gift from my co-teacher, Moala. She gave me a chocolate bar...quite a treat in Tonga! Next I went to church, where I sang in the choir for the first time. We sang a medley of popular Christmas songs like "Joy to the World" and "O Come All Ye Faithful". I had no trouble with the notes, but it was a little tricky singing them in Tongan when I am so accustomed to the English. After church, my neighbor, Fou, took myself, her daughter (also named Fou), her mother-in-law, and Sean to the beach for a picnic. I spent the afternoon relaxing, eating, and doing crossword puzzles. For dinner, a couple other Peace Corps Volunteers came to my house and we celebrated with a very untraditional meal of chicken, salad, and fruit. It was delicious!

Yesterday was a Sunday, so I went to church again. As I was looking for a seat, I was not sure if I should sit with the choir again. One of the ladies motioned me over, so I joined the alto section, assuming we would sing the same piece we sang on Christmas day. When it came time for the choir to sing, I stood up with everyone else. However, no one seemed to have any music, which was a bit strange. When the director cued us in, I was surprised to hear the familiar sounds of the "Hallelujah Chorus"! I did my best to sing along, but I was completely lost during the verses, which were all in Tongan. Definitely not my best choir performance.

Yesterday afternoon, I got to chat with my family at home. It was so nice to hear everyone's voices! Later, I took advantage of the fact that no one is allowed to work on Sundays and spent some quality time in my hammock reading and napping. There's not a whole lot on my agenda for this week, so I expect lots of the same. Loving the island life!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I am a Peace Corps volunteer!!!

It's official...last week I was sworn-in as a Peace Corps volunteer. We had a great ceremony which included our group taking the Peace Corps oath, the singing of the American national anthem, the singing of the Tongan national anthem, traditional Tongan dances, and, as with any Tongan event, some good food. Here is a pciture of me after I accepted my language certificate and pin.

Going back a couple weeks (since I haven't posted any updates lately), there were some really awesome thing I got to do in Ha'apai before leaving for site. One awesome event was our Peace Corps culture day. Each village was responsible for learning a Tongan dance, cooking a Tongan dish and an American dish, and practicing another art form (song, skit, poem, etc.). Our village did the maulu'ulu (the sitting dance), read poetry, and cooked lots of good food like vai siane (cooked bananas), otai (mango punch), ota paka (crab salad), and pancakes. It was also really neat to see everything the other villages had prepared.

The following day, those of us in Fotua attended a putu (funeral). A putu is usually held at the home of the deceased (sometimes at a church). There are several days of preparation for cooking and cleaning before the acutual event. My host mother was gone for several days helping out. The day of, people start going early in the morning and usually stay until late afternoon. All day, there is singing outside of the house and a constant supply of food. People bring gifts of mats and cloth which they take inside the house to present to the family. Once you enter the house, you lay down your gift, kneel at the body, and then kiss the body. I only stayed for a few hours, but I was glad to experience this unique event.
That Saturday was supposed to be my last day in Ha'apai, but our flight was cancelled due to rain. We spent the weekend at a guesthouse, and flew to Vava'u on Monday for a week of attachement. I spent one day at my site, and then three days with a current volunteer. The current volunteers did a great job of introducing us to Vava'u. We spent one day at the beach, one day touring the island, explored town, and went to a couple restaurants. Here is a picture of the Vava'u crew (minus Farfum and Ashley).

After our short stay in Vava'u, we went back to Nuku'alofa to wrap-up training, swear-in, and do lots of shopping for our houses. Finally, after two and a half months of waiting, it was time to move to site! I am now happily moved in to my adorable house. I have to wait a couple days for the rest of my stuff to arrive on the boat, but I have been busy shopping, cleaning, and meeting new people. I start teaching at the end of January, so I have some time to practice my Tongan, get to know my community, plan for teaching, and relax. I am looking forward to a great couple of weeks! Here are some pictures of my new house to end with.