Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We're in Business

Yesterday was an exciting day at Pouono Catering and Hospitality School...our very first catering event. It was for a workshop being held at the high school with about 20 people. We developed a menu for morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea which consisted of mostly Tongan food. Some of the food included puaka tuna (roast pig), sweet and sour chicken, chocolate cake, pizza, and ika fakapaku (fried fish). The workshop attendees were very impressed with the work the students did, and I was also very proud of them. The biggest crisis of the day was realizing we forgot to buy straws so that people could drink from the coconuts, but other than that things were great. I hope it is an indication that the rest of the year will only get better!

Last weekend was an important one for our school. Friday night was a dinner to welcome the new teachers and prefects. All the teachers, prefects, and families were there along with piles and piles of food. After eating, the school band and dancers provided some entertainment. Ashley and I learned a tau'olunga dance (the traditional Tongan dance for single women) to perform. However, we learned the verses the night before and the chorus that very morning. We definitely did not have enough practice, and ended up forgetting parts of our routine! Luckily, during the dances audience members come up and put money on the dancers. So when we forgot our moves we could just blame it on the fact that people were trying to put money on us and we got distracted. Regardless, the Tongans appreciated our efforts, even if we weren't as good as the Tongan girls.

Last Sunday was an event for our school called "Sapate Taha" or "First Sunday". All of the teachers and students attend the morning church service and the minister blesses the new school year. Sean and I, being new teachers this year, were asked to read scripture. Unlike last time I read in church, this time I just read in English. Since I was a reader, I got to wear a very nice ta'ovala (the woven mats worn around the waist) and lots of accessories. I also had a brand new puletaha (dress) made from blue fabric that is our school color. My co-teacher Moala gave it to me as a gift, which was very sweet. It continues to amaze me that the Tongan people are so kind and giving. As a further example, for lunch on Sunday a family brought a whole carload of food to my house. Two of my Tongan friends, Sean, Ashley, and I shared a delicious Tongan meal courtesy of their generosity.

Lastly, happy birthday to my mom, I hope you had a wonderful day! 'Ofa atu!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February Frolics

Here are some recent pictures...my late night feast, fields trips with my class, and the island, Eueiki.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dancing for the Princess

One of the most unique features of Tongan culture and society is that Tonga is the last remaining Polynesian kingdom. Tonga was one of the few island nations that was never colonized. Therefore the monarchy was able to remain intact throughout the 20th century when many other countries adopted new government structures. Although there have been many governmental reforms recently, such as the very first democratically elected government, the royal family still retains power and respect in Tonga.

Last weekend, one of the princesses was in Vava'u on a visit. Before the band from my school went to Australia last year, she wrote a letter on their behalf requesting that their visas were granted. As a thank you to her for this favor our band took a trip over to the hotel where she was staying to put on a performance. Many of the teachers from the school also attended with gifts of food and mats. After a very formal ceremony where a kava stick was presented, leaders from the school addressed the princess, prayers were said, and hymns were sung, the band began their performance. Some of the other teachers began to get up and ta'alunga ( perform the Tongan style of dancing). During one of the songs, Ashley and I were encouraged to get up and dance, too. Although I was extremely nervous to attempt Tongan dancing in front of the princess, I begrudgingly got up and started dancing with Ashley. Unfortunately, the princess requested that we move up to the front where she could see us better. Ashley was able to bust out some stellar dance moves, but I basically stood and clapped the entire time. Regardless, all the Tongans were very appreciative of our efforts and we did get a good amount of pa'anga as well!

The following day was one of the best days I have spent in Tonga thus far. I was very fortunate to be able to take a trip to Eu'eiki, one of the small, outer islands. Vava'u has one main island called Vava'u lahi, and many smaller islands that are part of the entire island group. Living on the main island is great because I am close to all the restuarants and shops, but the outer islands have white sand beaches, great snorkeling and diving, and lots of peace and quiet. This island in particular has a great beach adjacent to a resort comprised of traditional Tongan fales (huts). We spent a lovely day sailing there and had a great afternoon visiting, relaxing on the beach, and eating some wonderful food. Another highlight was sailing back into the harbor at night. We were able to lay out on the deck and look at the stars as we returned home. It was an awesome way to end the day.

Yesterday, I went to the wharf to pick up a chair that I bought in December in Nuku'alofa. Honestly, I was dreading my return to the wharf. If I could give the wharf a nickname it would be "home of the world's deadliest forklift drivers". You have to be extra alert at the wharf or you could easily end up with a half ton crate of supplies dropped on your head. It's rather terrifying. Luckily I survived and was able to retrieve my chair, which is now a wonderful addition to my living room.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just an "Early Breakfast"

Last week was not only the beginning of school, but also the return of a large group of students and teachers from a band trip to Australia. The group was flying to Nuku'alofa, then taking the ferry back up to Vava'u. Their return was scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday, but the hurricane delayed the boats. It was finally confirmed that they would be returning on Thursday. Our school was planning a kai pola (feast) once the boat arrived. Throughout the day, the time of arrival kept getting pushed back later and later. First it was 5 p.m., then 11 p.m, and finally 2 a.m.! You would assume since the boat was arriving so late that the feast would have to be postponed until the following day. But no, it was decided that the feast would be held once everyone was off the boat as it was orginally polanned. Therefore, at 4 a.m. I was feasting on roasted pig, pizza, sweet and sour chicken, sausage, and fried chicken. Eating was one thing, but listening to the fakamalos (thank you speeches) for the next hour and a half proved rather difficult. Heads were down on the tables all around as kids and adults alike dozed off. Admittedly, I may have been part of that group at one point during the night. I was quite happy to return to my bed around 6 a.m. and call it a night!

On Sunday, I once again joined a family from our church for Sunday lunch. There is a group of girls about my age, including another Peace Corps Volunteer, Ashley, who are good friends and have been kindly inviting me to hang out with them. After eating a dlicious lunch and visiting for a bit, a van came by to pick us up. I hopped in, planning on returning to my house for my other favorite Sunday activity, napping. However, as we started driving, I realized we were headed through town, which is the opposite direction from my house. Confused, I asked where we were going. Turns out we were going to the beach to hang out. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon at the beach, but it taught me to ask where vehicles are taking me before assuming the destination!

With all of the students and teachers back from Australia, school is now in full swing. Monday and Tuesday were spent doing orientation and cleaning the school buildings and grounds. For the rest of the week, the catering students are taking field trips to local businesses. We are going to restuarants, a hotel, a bakery, and the market. It is essential for the students to see these businesses because many of them have never eaten at a restaurant or stayed at a hotel. Before we begin studying the catering and hospitality industry, it is good for them to see examples firsthand. Next week we start our first unit, and the students will start preparing for the inter-house track and field competition. I may try to channel my Jr. High track experience and coach the throwers...maybe.