Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My First Cyclone...Warning

This week was another first for me in Tonga...my first cyclone! However, after many phone calls, alerts, speculation, and predictions, my very first Tongan cyclone turned south and completely missed our island. I suppose I should be thankful, but after all the hype it was a bit of a let down. I will just have to wait a bit longer to experience a cyclone, but I am sure there will be ample opportunities over the next two years.

Last weekend (before all the cyclone warnings), our church took a big group of people to the beach for a kai tunu (picnic). It was a gorgeous day, and we set up under a nice big tent. There was sooooo much food. My job was to serve the chicken and hot dogs. There was a giant plastic bin full of steaming meat that I reached into over and over, dutifully piling it on the already overflowing plates of food. It was not very sanitary or visually appealing, but it got the job done. After eating, we spent the afternoon enjoying the beautiful water.
Sunday afternoon I was invited to eat lunch with a family from church, so I spent some time visiting and enjoying a free meal. It was nice to be welcomed into their home so openly. It always amazes me how Tongans readily accept new people into their homes. It is one of my favorite things about Tonga!
Tomorrow is my first day with students, we have an assembly in the morning and then cleaning afterwards. I can't wait to meet the students I will be working with this year. I've already met a few, and they seem great. Here's to the start of a fabulous school year!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Getting Ahead of Myself

When I wrote yesterday, I may have been slightly preemptive in saying that I was starting "work". While it is true that yesterday was the beginning of planning week for my school, there was actually very little work involved. Our meetings were scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m., but they really started around 10:30 a.m. The first hour and a half were just a church service with a couple hymns and a message from our minister. After that, it was time for lunch. We spent about a half hour eating butter and spaghetti sandwiches and then regrouped for the afternoon meeting. The deputy principal passed out lists of the teachers and their departments, welcomed the new teachers, and dismissed us to work in our respective departments. I met for a bit with my co-teacher at the catering school, and was back at my house by 1:30. Overall, not a bad first day. After returning to my house, I had the power company come out and fix my electricity. It was nice to have my fans back!

Anyway, I won't actually be teaching for at least a couple weeks because our school has a week of cleaning and orientation, and then I will just be doing observation for a while. Perhaps by March I will actually be teaching.
So a few other random things I thought of since yesterday...my school colors are yet again blue and white. It seems that royal blue is following me everywhere I go. RHS, CWRU, and now Pouono. Perhaps it will be an easy way to narrow down my choice of grad schools someday!

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful Christmas cards. I ended up receiving most of them in January, but it was so nice to hear from so many church friends and family members. I'm looking forward to receiving some birthday cards soon that are still in transit!

I was very fortunate to have another volunteer who was visiting America bring back a new laptop for me after mine died, so now I have a brand new little netbook. The most exciting part is now I can skype with family and friends. If you have a skype account, let me know...I would love to chat.
Fruit and vegetables are only available seasonally here in Tonga, and one of the newest additions to the market is avocado. I'm looking for a tasty guacamole recipe if anyone has one they would like to share.

Finally, here are a couple pics from the last few weeks. A banana bread that was attacked by a rogue cat, hanging out at Brandon's house in Tu'anuku, and a rainbow at my school.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tau Kamata

Today is my very first day of work! It is strange to think I will actually have a regular schedule soon. I've been getting quite used to my days of reading, singing, and napping.

This first week is just a planning week, so all the staff at my school will be meeting to do introductions, figure out schedules, and work within their respective departments. I will be working with my co-teacher, Moala, to start planning at the catering and hospitality school. Next week will be orientation and cleaning with the students, and then classes will actually begin.

Last night was a first for me in Tonga...I spent the night without electricity. For some unknown reason, the power at my house cut out while all my neighbors still had their power. It was kind of enjoyable laying in bed reading by candlelight until I saw a giant spider on my wall. Hopefully it gets fixed today because one night of giant spiders in the dark was enough for me!

Like I said earlier, my past several weeks I have been doing a lot of reading, choir rehearsals, napping, and the like. I have also been to several feasts, a few picnics, read scripture in church (in Tongan!), and served kava. I am slowly learning how to use my gas oven. I have made a couple decent banana breads and a yummy chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.

I hope everyone is staying nice and warm at home...drink some hot chocolate and have a snowball fight for me!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hello 2011

The last week has been full of lots of celebrations for me...a Peace Corps Christmas party, New Year's, and my birthday!

Since most of us needed to stay in our communities on Christmas day, we decided to postpone our palangi Christmas celebration until the 29th. The 8 of us who were in Vava'u at the time met up at the Peace Corps office and had a gift exchange and cooked dinner. We made some awesome bruschetta and pasta complete with real mozzarella cheese.

On New Year's Eve, a group of us met up to go to dinner and celebrate my birthday a bit early. My birthday fell on a Sunday this year, and it is nearly impossible to do anything on a Sunday in Tonga. Therefore, we decided a joint New Year's/birthday would work. The other PCVs got me a lovely chocolate cake, and my friend Stephanie got me a couple cans of Diet Dr. Pepper. After dinner, we went over to the Mermaid where we spent the rest of the night dancing and welcoming 2011.

New Year's Day was remarkably similar to New Year's in the U.S. I spend a large part of the day napping and reading, and then had a delicious dinner of pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. It was almost like being back in PA!

Now that the holidays are over, I am getting more involved in community activities. I have been attending VEPA (Vava'u Environmental Protection Agency) meetings, going to CrossFit classes in the mornings at a local restaurant, and attending a lot of church events. This week is "uike lotu" or "week of prayer", so there is church several times everyday. I have been attending the 5:30 pm service as opposed to the 5:00 am service.

2011 is off to a amazing start, and I am sure there are lots of wonderful things to come. Wishing everyone a joyful and blessed New Year!