Friday, April 4, 2014

Rainy Day Ramblings.

This post is going to be all over the place.
View from my front door. 4/1/14.
First, I've been sick for the last four days and today is the first day that I've been upright for more than 20 minutes. Imagine getting every symptom of every flu/virus/bug imaginable and you can very easily describe my last 72 hours. I don't need to go into any more detail than that. It was bad. My fellow teachers and neighbors took care of me - checking to make sure that I had what I needed and that I wasn't passed out next to a cockroach or anything.

Silver lining? I was able to catch up on the entire current season of American Idol and (oh my!) it's good. Honestly, I haven't watched since Kelly Clarkson won which was 10+ years ago so it was fun to get back into it. Harry Connick, Jr. is a hunk and I'm definitely Team Dexter and Team Caleb. Really like those guys. Speaking of American Idol, have you heard Phillip Phillip's "Raging Fire". I know I live under a rock but I don't think it came out that long ago and it's another tune that I like dancing to. My students do too.

Because of being sick, this week was kind of a mess. Monday and Tuesday were normal school days and Wednesday was the GPS Sport Day (click here to read Harrison's perspective). I dressed in green, had my hair braided and rode the bus to the field, but only lasted about 30 minutes before I knew something was wrong. I grabbed a ride back to my house and ended up with a 102 degree fever that kept rising throughout the day.

Other interesting bits?

- Plumming problems. Last week I was checking on a friends' house while they were in Fiji and realized they needed some plumbing issues resolved. I called a plumber who spoke very little English, got him to come over, he fixed the problem and left. 5 minutes later he came back, knocked on the door and decided to take a #2 in the toilet just to make sure his plumbing job worked. Oiaue! Only in Tonga.

- Bye, bye, spider. Last night I killed the biggest spider to date. He was larger than my hand and I have big man hands for a girl. I felt pretty proud. I didn't even scream or yell anything.

- Self acceptance. My mom sent me this great article to read. Thought you might like it too.

- This whole next week we don't have school. I think I'd consider this our "fall break" since the school year only started a couple months ago. The kids are very excited and I'm even more pumped because we have some fun adventures planned as Peace Corps Volunteers and I'm excited to spend more time out and about in my community.

Happy Weekend!

Port of Refuge. Saturday morning 4/5.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Badger Pride - Tonga Style

I'm so excited about this post I am having a hard time sitting in my chair as I type this. It could be the due to all the coffee I just consumed or the fact that the University of Wisconsin Badgers are in the Final Four... or maybe it's a bit of both.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin back in 2007. My time at UW was so special. The people, the feeling walking through campus in the fall, the Union terrace in the summer, lakeshore path during the spring, the energy at any UW sports event... it was all just so so good. 

So I was a bit bummed yesterday because I had zero access to watch the Badgers play in the Elite Eight. Instead I followed the game via Twitter. And I am very happy that I did because it was so stressful reading everyone's comments about the game, but it was also really amazing to watch it all unfold via people's reactions to what was happening. When they won I jumped out of my chair and ran around inside my house trying not to be too loud. It was Sunday here, after all, which meant that I should have been at church, eating or sleeping... not watching sports. 

You should know another interesting fact about UW: Aside from being the best university ever (in my humble opinion), the UW also ranks consistently near the top for the number of graduates who end up becoming Peace Corps Volunteers. In 2012 we were ranked #3, in 2013 we were #3, and current rankings have us at #1! So when I woke up this morning I was bound and determined to convey this love of everything Bucky-related to my students and my counterparts. We're not only Final Four bound but we're doing our part to make the world a better place! 

I pretty much just needed to tell my co-teachers that my love of UW-Madison and basketball is like their love of Tonga and rugby. Once I told them that, they got it. 

But teaching my students about Sconnie nation and what the Final Four is? 

That was a bit trickier.

I really had to break out some major Tongan language skills this morning when I explained to the entire school what happened yesterday in America. First of all, basketball is not a sport that is played around these parts. Second, words and phrases like "tournament", "march madness" and "Frank the Tank" are not in my Tongan language skill set. What ended up happening was a lot of acting things out (good thing I have a minor in theater and drama) and cheering. Also, "On Wisconsin" (UW's fight song) may have been played... and I may have danced... and pretended to play the tuba.

Regardless, I got my point across and my students are so so excited. I hear them chattering about "Bucky" and "Bat-a-jers" (Badgers). There is one boy in particular who loves to go around saying "Frank the Taaaaaaank". It was pretty awesome to witness them all chant together during morning assembly. 
Frank the Tank is pretty awesome. (Source: Associated Press)
And even though today's English lessons might have been focused on my alma-mater and everything related to Wisconsin, my kau tama'iki ako (students) did learn something and I helped work towards fulfilling one of the Peace Corps goals: To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. And I have to believe a little bit of knowledge about Buckingham U. Badger counts, right?
Here Bucky is again. He's a dancing machine!
Here's what the students in my little village think of UW-Madison and Bucky. (If you listen closely, there's a shot out to Bo Ryan and Frank the Tank!) And you can bet that this little village will be rooting for UW this week! U-rah rah Wi-scon-sin!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


reading: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. People, have you read this? If so, what did you think? If no, then you should! I cannot seem to put this book down. I've had so many "a-ha!" moments the last 24 hours because of Brene and her gifted writing. Brown is a shame researcher/story-teller and promotes whole-hearted living. Just check out this TED talk that she does on vulnerability. I think we'd be friends if we knew each other. 

listening to: Hillsong United, The Great Big Sea, John Mayer, and Dave Matthews Band (It's been at least 7-8 years since I really listened to some DMB and I'm so glad that my love for them has been reignited). 

eating: My brother and sister are pretty great and for my birthday they sent me one little bag of red quinoa which I have been eating on special occasions. Thursday is a special occasion right? 

wearing: My flowiest skirts because the mercury is rising again and I am always a sweaty mess.

thinking about:
- how great is was to see Peace Corps staff this week. They visited my school/house for our final (!) site visits and brought with them a Ministry of Education official.
- the professional development session I'm leading at the island-wide principal's meeting on Friday. Principals from all over come to take part in the Ministry of Education's monthly meeting and they have asked me and Abby (another PCV) to present best practices when it comes to English education. We did it last month and it was such a great time! Friday I'm sharing about teaching questioning. 
- getting Camp GLOW/GROW's planning into full swing. We are only 6 months away from camp!

What about you? 

Happy Thursday!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

10 Common Things [that maybe aren't that common]

Daily life in Tonga has become so comfortable and so normal that sometimes I forget that a lot of what I do every day is not so normal (by American standards or comparing my life here to my life in America). 

There are heaps and heaps of things that I do or participate in here that have never been part of my life before. It's taken some adjustment, but some have been welcomed adaptations.

So here is a list of common things in Tonga that maybe aren't so common in America:

1. Waking up to the sound of a rooster, pig, rat. This morning I rolled over at 3:30am and heard something outside. In America my thought process would have been something like "Where's my iPhone? I gotta call 911. Some creep is trying to break in." But here I immediately thought "Ok. It's either a pig, dog, rooster or rat... now to decide which one." I knocked very loudly on the wall and heard a squeal on the other side. The pig ran away, I smiled and rolled back over.
2. Watch your cuts/scrapes. It seems because of the ridiculous humidity here that the smallest cut or scrape takes 503 times as long to heal vs. in America. I had three innocent-looking mosquito bites that I accidentally itched in my sleep (hey, it's an accident when you don't realize what you're doing) and have since blown up into huge infections (one might even be a boil - T.M.I.? Sorry.). The importance of bathing yourself is heightened when you are consistently in various stages of moist. (Least favorite word in the English language - had to break it out.)  
3. "That car does not have a windshield." (said with no surprise in voice) I have yet to read up on safety standards in Tonga when it comes to driving cars but I'm pretty sure they are a little bit more lax than the States. There are no emissions tests, either. The other day I saw a half car, half truck. Literally, it looked like someone had sawed a truck and a car in half and then welded the two together. There was no windshield and the right door was off (maybe air conditioning?). And the crazy thing, I wasn't that surprised. My favorite car in Vava'u is painted all red with a giant Tongan flag on the side and devil horns poking out through the hood. It's pretty cool lookin'. 
5. A stop sign? Huh? Intersections exist here, but stop signs? This is a new addition. As I was walking to my village the other day I looked up and did a double take. "Is that a ... what the ... Huh?" (came out of my mouth) A stop sign? Really? Oh yes and written in English. I sort of wish it was written in Tongan - it only makes sense, right?. 
6. Sundays. It took about a year to get used to the pace (or lack thereof) on Sundays. No businesses are open and the options are church, eat and sleep. It's inappropriate to exercise. It's inappropriate to go to the beach. It's inappropriate to do homework, watch movies or listen to music that isn't Christian. Most Sundays I'm grateful for the excuse to do very little, but sometimes I wish I could go to the Target dollar section. Just sometimes.
7. Sleeping under a bug net. When I was five I begged my parents for a canopy bed and I guess this is a version of that [or I'd like to think that way anyway]. It's become totally normal to crawl under my bug net and tuck all of the ends in to make sure that no unwanted critters find their way into my sleeping place.
8. Shaking your clothes out. One of my PCV friends here grabbed a shirt off a pile of clothing the other day, put it on and started buttoning it up. Right above the breast pocket sat a good-sized molokau [poisonous centipede]. Trying carefully not to agitate it, he unbuttoned the shirt, took it off and threw it on the ground. This happened a few weeks ago and now, no matter what, I shake my clothes. You never know what critters could be inside. 
9. "I have no clothes to wear because I did laundry three days ago and it's rained every day since." Relying on the weather to get clean clothing is something that is relatively new to me. It becomes difficult when you live in the Tropics and there are no reliable weather forecasts. It may say it's going to be hotter than Hades and sunny and then you walk outside five minutes later to a torrential downpour. It's kinda like living in Florida, actually.
10. "Careful, you might not want to sit there. I saw a [insert gross bug/insect/rodent] there earlier." I'm a floor sitter. Not sure why, but most times I'd prefer the floor over a chair. When I teach it's the same. But too many times here I've been told that it isn't okay to sit on the floor because there are too many molokaus (poisonous centipedes), rats, giant spiders or lizards around. It's gotten to the point that when I visited America last year I couldn't sit on the floor because I was afraid some lizard, rat, etc. was going to jump out and get me. Also, molokaus move fast.

I talked about molokaus an awful lot in this post.

So here's one for you to look at:
Imagine that crawling on your shirt. [shutters]

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I promise to write more soon but here's a little look back on the last week in Peace Corps.
Soni sharpening his pencil.
hanging with the boys during morning break
good quotes.
a little present from a student
Peniteti and I practicing our English.
dancing in the sun after school
This is how Tevita (David) greeted me every day this week.
Tonga flowers are pretty.
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's Sunday. How has your weekend been?
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014


- there are roosters on my roof. Your guess is as good as mine as to why they are there.
- sipping a cup of coffee. Five minutes ago I ate a fly. I am not joking. It was gross. I did not know that it had perched on the lip of my mug and then I ate it. Swallowed him whole. 
- trying to find as many uses for baking soda as possible. I don't shampoo my hair anymore (I use baking soda instead). I have learned to clean my jewelry with the magic white powder. What other uses do you know about?
- re-learning how to use colored pencils. Shading is so much fun!
- thinking about how the United States has had heaps of snow since October/November and how all the posts I see online seem to be about people wishing for spring/warmer weather and I can't help but wish I could remember what it feels like to be cold. Really cold. 
- loving the rainy weather we've been getting. 
- getting a little bit nervous as the finish line to Peace Corps approaches. I know it's still over 6 months away but there is a lot of planning involved to successfully transition back and have your life in order. Lots of things to think about that I haven't had to worry about in the last two years (driving a car? rent? stores with more than one kind of product? the idea of no afternoon nap?).
- wondering what the world would be like without coffee.
- wondering why people use the phrase "waiting for the other shoe to drop". Where did it come from? 

What about you?