Don't stress about packing
It is true that shopping in Tonga isn't quite up to American standards, but there are plenty of things to buy here. Clothes, toiletries, food...you will be fine with the things that are available. However, here are a few things I recommend that you can't find in Tonga:
- Your favorite clothes - if you have a favorite t-shirt or jeans or sweatshirt, bring it. Two years is a long time to go without.
- Hammock - who doesn't want a hammock on an island?
- Hanging basket - great for keeping rodents and bugs away from food.
- Dress sandals - a nice pair of shoes for formal occasions (church, weddings, swearing-in) is great to have.
- Make-up - I know that it is Peace Corps, but lots of Tongans wear make-up and it is fun to wear every once in a while.
- Tampons - stock up in the States.
If you have any extra space, pack some food or candy. You can share it with your host family or save some snacks for yourself. After a couple weeks of Tongan food, you will appreciate it!
Be prepared to give up some freedoms
You will hear from many volunteers that pre-service training is the hardest part of Peace Corps, and I agree. I found that the biggest challenge was giving up my independence. There are many Peace Corps rules to follow and expectations from your host family. Girls especially are expected to stay home, and usually cannot go anywhere alone. It can be frustrating, but homestay is also a wonderful experience. If you come into it with a good attitude, you will learn so much from your Tongan family and community.
Get to know the others in your group
The people in your group are the ones who you will rely on for the next two years...make some friends! Other PCVs are an invaluable resource during your service. They are the people who will be your best support system and keep you sane. Be nice to them.
Learn the language
Pre-service training is the best time to learn Tongan. Take advantage of your language lessons and practice with your host family. It will definitely pay off once you begin your service.
Tonga is an awesome place
Tonga is a fantastic place to live, so get excited! As with any Peace Corps country, there are challenges, but Tonga is a great country. The people are lovely, the islands are beautiful, and there are so many new things to experience. We are so excited to meet you, and I hope you are excited about joining Peace Corps Tonga Group 77.
Tu'a 'ofa atu!