Wednesday, July 25, 2012

South Pacific Business Development

Last week I started a new job volunteering at South Pacific Business Development. SPBD is a microfinance organization that provides loans to low income women. Check  out their website for more information about what SPBD does...

I have several projects to work on at SPBD. First, I will be working to update the employee job descriptions, performance evaluations, incentive plan, and HR policy manual. Another project is to provide customer service trainings for the SPBD staff.  Lastly, I will be working to address the problem of low center meeting attendance.

I now have a real job, meaningful projects, and a desk. It is a strange. I have grown accustomed to the relaxed school environment here in Tonga, so working in a business setting is a bit overwhelming. However, I am excited about the work I will be doing, and it will be a great transition time for me right before I go back to America.

Now time to get to work!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Royal Wedding

Last week was one of the biggest events in the recent history of the Kingdom, the royal wedding! HRH Crown Prince Tupouto'a Ulukalala and Hon. Sinaitakala Fakafanua married last Thursday at the Centenary Church in Nuku'alofa. The couple followed the Tongan tradition of marrying within the royal family although they are second cousins. This created some controversy surrounding the wedding, but overall it was a beautiful event.

There were many different events scheduled as part of the wedding festivities. The first was a ball at the Dateline hotel in Nuku'alofa. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to get an invitation. However, I was able to attend the ma'utohi ceremony at the palace on Tuesday. On this day the couple signed their legal marriage license. My choir sang at the event and we were invited to stay for the luncheon. The lunch was a three-course meal, with the main course being steak. Steak and wine at the palace? I'll take it! There were also several Tongan dances, my favorite being the lakalaka from Vava'u.

The main event was on Thursday afternoon. Colorfully attired guests filled the church in anxious anticipation of the bride and groom. As per usual in Tonga, the ceremony started a half an hour late. When bride finally arrived she made a beautiful entrance. The wedding party wore palangi-style dresses and tuxedos and the ceremony was exactly like weddings I have attended in America, minus the fact that it was in Tongan. The following reception hosted about 2,000 people on the palace grounds.

Friday night was another ball (still no invite...I need to make friends with some royals) and Sunday was the final day of the wedding week. The couple attended their first church service as husband and wife, which is a very important part of Tongan weddings, sometimes more important than the wedding itself. There was one last feast, and that concluded the festivities. Congratulations to the Prince and Princess!

Monday, July 9, 2012


Church, singing, feasting, meetings, church, singing, feasting, meetings...

That about sums up the Free Wesleyan Church conference that finished last week. This conference, held every year around the end of June, is a huge event in Tonga. The Free Wesleyan Church is the largest in the Kingdom, and thousands of people attend this event. Representatives come from all the island groups and even some from overseas.

Tuesday, June 26th was the opening of the conference. There was a ceremony at the new church offices in Nuku'alofa followed by a feast at Queen Salote College Hall. The hall looked so beautiful! Following the feast, there was a po hiva (night singing) with 15 different choirs including groups from Vava'u and even New Zealand.

Wednesday was a service at the main church where the schools performed various musical pieces and dramas. My friend and fellow volunteer, Kaitlin, was Jesus as part of her school's performance. It was fantastic. Afterwards we went to a feast. Naturally.

The rest of the week was more of the same. I went to two more po hiva's, at one of those we performed Haydn's "Creation". It was fabulous. My choir also sang at the Sunday morning church service where we performed a Bach mass. The music in Tonga still amazes me. The final evening there was one more po hiva and the announcement of where the ministers will be serving during the coming year. Then there was the last feast, which began around 11:30 p.m. Kaitlin and I went one last time to fill up on fried chicken, root crop, ota ika, sweet and sour, crab salad, and cakes.

Next big event...royal wedding! Two more days!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Eua Is.

One of the highlights of Rachel's trip to Tonga was our visit to the island of 'Eua. This island is located to the east of the main island, Tongatapu. It is about a 4 hour boat ride, but only 7 minutes in a plane. Rachel and I took the plane, and it was awesome. A 7 minute flight in a 7 seater. A short, but memorable trip.

When we arrived on the island, we rode to our guesthouse, dropped off our bags and went out exploring. We started on the southern tip of the island. We saw a natural rock garden, dramatic oceanside cliffs, wild horses and a natural land bridge. Our hike back took us through the bush, where we saw many examples of Tongan farming including kape (giant taro), banana trees and lots of cows. Our last stop of the day was a beach.

On our second day, we again went out hiking. We started at a giant banyan tree overlooking a huge sinkhole. We then attempted to find a cave, but got deterred by the caution signs in the middle of the path warning of a logging operation. Instead, we went back to the guesthouse and took off for the beach. After a hike through some really overgrown bush, we ended up on a beautiful, islolated beach. 

In the evening, we spent some time at our guesthouse. We met other travellers from the U.K. and Germany who were very entertaining company. We left early Monday morning to head back to Tongatapu where we promptly went to another beach for the day. It was a fantastic weekend and fun memories with my sister!