Friday, September 28, 2012

[Photo Dump]

Here are some pictures from this week:
Watching the rain.

Watching the dogs watch the rain.

Pi - a custard-like dessert with papaya (lesi) on top.

My favorite Tongan drink - 2 orange leaves (off of the tree outside), hot water and a little bit of sugar.
I apologize that there are not more. I was pretty under the weather for a good portion of the week.

The Fa'hu and Aunt Gloria

I mentioned in another post that I went to two funerals last week in Fatumu. This morning I was talking with Una Lahi (Una's mother) more about funerals. And we began talking about other celebrations in the Tongan culture.

Having just finished Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed (which you should read), I was particularly curious about marriage. Una explained that the most important person in Tongan culture is the woman, specifically the Fa'hu. The Fa'hu is your father's oldest sister and has a special role at almost every ceremony that involves you (birthday, marriage and funeral).

When I heard this news, I got really excited. I love my Aunt Gloria, but I'm not sure what she would think about having such an important role.

For example, if I were to get married tomorrow (which I'm not planning on, but anything is possible) my Aunt Gloria would ride in the car with my and my new husband from the ceremony. She would also have a special role in the ceremony too.

If I were to die tomorrow (which I don't really want to think about but will for the sake of the example), Aunt Gloria would sit next to my body and be covered in beautiful tapas (mats), necklaces, flowers, etc.

In Tongan culture, my Aunt Gloria would be the Fa'hu for not only me, but my brother and sister as well.


Today I had my very first Tongan Dance lesson.

Una, Sala and I will be performing in a "konsetti" (concert) next month. The entire village will be there.

All 80 families.

And me - only I won't be wearing my palangi clothes.

I will be in a special dress - probably made from grasses, tree bark (usually from the mulberry tree) or leaves and my legs, arms and chest will be oiled up so that people in the audience can come up and stick pa'anga (the Tongan currency) on me. It is said that if the money doesn't stick that you are not a virgin. Um. Ok.

Una was very patient with me as she went through the moves for the first minute of the dance. Tongan Dance is a lot different from any dance that I am familiar with (hip hop, the awkward slow junior high kind, African dance, Zumba, etc.), but it is a lot of fun to do. You are mainly in a position that looks a lot like a wall sit only without the wall. There are a lot of hand movements and doing your best to look graceful (this is the part that I am still learning how to do). Graceful doesn't really come naturally to me.

But I'm working on it.

I'll keep you updated on my progress as the big day approaches, but for now I am going to go practice pointing my toes. It's not easy when you have a webbed left foot.

Did I say too much?


The people in Fatumu (and in Tonga) are a friendly and curious bunch.

They are always asking questions about the palangi (white person) and wanting to know things about me and America.

Initial conversations seem to always include the following three questions:

1. What is your name? This is obvious. Anybody would ask this. And I usually respond with "'Amenita" or "Amanda" or "Mandy".

2. How are you doing? Again, this is a question I am use to answering. I usually respond with "very good" (sai aupito) or "excellent" (toto atu).

3. Are you married yet? Huh? Really? That's what you want to know next? Out of all the other things you could ask? Like where are you coming from? How about ... what are you doing? Do you like Tonga?

This dialogue happens... ALL THE TIME. All the time.

And since I'm not married - and I don't have a boyfriend, it's something I find myself being a little embarrassed to truthfully answer. This isn't how I really feel though ... I'm not embarrassed that Prince Charming hasn't shown up yet. He will. Sometime.

But I can't ignore the fact that the average age to marry in Tonga is 22. And that so much of a female's identity here seems to be wrapped up in when and who they marry. Remnants of Una's 21st birthday are all over the living room. The 21st birthday in Tonga is extremely significant for it marks when a young lady is ready to be married (if she hasn't already).

When people ask my age here and I tell them I'm 28, I usually get 1 of 2 reactions:

- Why aren't you married yet? (Followed by a look of pity)

- What?! But you look so young! (Followed by another look of pity).

So how do I respond to any of this?

Let's back up to Question #3: Are you married yet? I've found that it isn't actually enough to say "not yet" because then I'm asked follow up questions like:

- "Well, surely you have a boyfriend back in America!" (answer: Nope. I don't.)

- "How about marrying a Tongan man? They are so nice. They will treat you well. They are hard workers." (I am sure men in Tonga are very hard workers. In fact, I know this. However, I'm not actively looking for one right now so I don't need to hear about your friend's cousin, your sister's friend's brother, etc.)

Remembering what I learned in training (that flexibility and humor are important traits for every Peace Corps volunteer to embody), I came up with a solution.

Recently, this is how these types of conversations have panned out:

Me: Malo e lei lei! (Hello!)

Tongan friend: Malo e lei lei! Ko hai ho hingoa? (Hello! What is your name?)

Me: Ko hoku hingoa ko 'Amenita. Ko hai ho hingoa? (My name is Amanda. What is your name?)

Tongan friend: Ko hoku hingoa ko Sione. Fefe hake? (My name is Sione. How are you?)

Me: Toto atu! Fefe koe? (Excellent! How are you?)

Tongan friend: Sai pe. Oku ke osi mali? (Are you already married?)

Me: Ikai. (No.)

Tongan friend: Oku ke fie moa? (Do you have a chicken/boyfriend?)

Sidenote: The Tongan word, moa translates to both chicken and boyfriend in Tongan. I guess this is sometimes fitting... :)

Me: Io! Moa fakapaku! (Yes. Fried chicken.)

End Scene.

Usually this is followed by lots of laughter, a feeble attempt (on my part) to speak more Tongan and a change of subject.



It doesn't matter where you go. It is not easy. Everyone deals with it differently. We mourn differently. We celebrate life differently.

This week I attended two funerals in Fatumu. They are called "putu" here.

For four days leading up to the funeral anyone who is related, knew or attended church with the deceased takes turns praying together. They sing songs, talk about memories and cycle through the dead's home so that there is not a moment without support. This gives time for any family member who is overseas to fly home for the funeral. After the prayer circles end, the family of the dead person gives bread and soda to anyone who came to pray. I'm not talking about 1 slice of bread and a soda can, either. I'm talking about trays of rolls given to each person and as many sodas as they can put down.

On the day of the funeral, everyone goes to the church to celebrate the life of the deceased. The ceremony is usually 2-3 hours long and ends with a huge feast. This feast is put together by the community members. They each bring their favorite dish to pass and a pig is usually roasted in the dead's honor. Then everyone relocates to the cemetery. Fatumu's cemetery is located on the ocean (beach). Those who die in Fatumu are laid to rest in shallow graves that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Once they are buried, the gravesite is decorated with artificial flowers, beer bottles and giant posters. It is very rare to see an actual stone grave marker here.

The following day everyone who attended the funeral comes back together for another day of prayer. At the conclusion of this day, the family of the dead thanks everyone for attending.

They roast another pig and cut it up.

Today I was thanked for attending the funeral of one of the members of the village. And by thanked I mean that I was handed 6 bags of raw meat.

6 bags of raw meat.

This is how families in Tonga thank each other for support during difficult times. I suppose this isn't that different from America. Granted, we don't pass out raw animal, but we have been know to make a good casserole every now and again.

Anyway, I now have enough raw pig, cow, and loads of hot dogs to feed most of Fatumu sitting in the freezer down the road (since my family doesn't have one or a fridge in the house).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Home Tour in Fatumu

I may have mentioned that I live in the village of Fatumu.
Located on the eastern portion of the main island (Tongatapu), Fatumu is home to 5 churches, 4 falekoloas (stores), 2,341 puaka (pigs) and just as many dogs. It is also home to Una, my homestay mother.

I am very lucky to have such a nice play to call my home for the next two months.
I appreciate the running water and electricity because I am fully aware that I may not have these things when I get to post.
Here are some images of life in Fatumu:

Ok, obviously this isn't a picture of a house, but I do have a love of pigs. So this is your obligatory pig picture. I'm sure it won't be the only one. Get use to it.

This is the view behind the house. The underground oven ('umu) is right next to this area. 

This is the area where dinner is sometimes made. 

 Here is the kitchen. The central hub to all social activity in Una's home. 

  The living room. This is where Una's grandparents spend most of their time.

 A view from the kitchen (looking out to the yard). 

 These are the little guys I feed my leftovers too. I really want to adopt one, but the attitude towards dogs in Tonga is very different from that in America. They are viewed more like rats than anything else here.

5 Things I Never Thought...

 This post was originally on Wednesday, September 19, 2012:

Today I thought I would write a Top 5 List of Things I Never Thought I Would Do But Have Done: Tonga Edition.
Here goes nothing. I am absolutely positive that this list will expand over the next 27 months. I mean ... I've only been in Tonga for 13 days. I felt weird when I wrote that. Only 13 days? Has it really been only 13 days?
Mandy's Top 5 List of Things I Never Thought I Would Do But Have Done: Tonga Edition
  1. Today I watched a dog carry the head of the pig down the road. Just the head. And I didn't even blink. Thought it was normal.
  2. I am a professional bucket bather. I can bathe my entire body (and feel almost clean) with less than 2 gallons of water. This includes washing my hair and the important parts.
  3. I jumped off the deck of a Navy ship... a Tongan Navy ship. The jump was about 20 feet up.
  4. I was chased down the road by a large pig. This pig is different than the one talked about in #1. I think.
  5. I live on an island in the South Pacific. That is something I never thought I would do.
What about you? There has got to be something that you have done recently that you never thought you would do.
I wanna know!

Language Class

This post was originally written on Tuesday, September 18, 2012:

Every day for the past two weeks I have spent at least 3 hours with this lovely lady.

Her name is Tulu (pronounced Too-loo) and she is my LCTF (Language and Culture Training Facilitator). The Peace Corps really likes their acronyms - if I had my way I would just call her my Tongan teacher.
Because that's what she is.
She teaches me Tongan. She is patient with me when I do not pick up on things. She makes class fun and has us get up and play games in order to help our brains soak up as much Tongan as possible. We have a long way to go before our language exam (next month) but we are slowly plugging along.

Along with Tulu, I spend Language Class with Alissa and Mark.

I feel like I am really lucky because every other group is made up of at least 4 people. Except ours. We have pretty similar learning styles too and are very good about making sure everyone is on the same page. We laugh a lot at each other a lot. We make silly mistakes and politely correct each other. 

The last two days we have learned about family (both immediate and extended).
Here's an example of what I've learned and the translation:
Ko eku tamai ko Richard. My father's name is Richard.
Ko eku fa'e ko Kate. My mother's name is Kate.
Ko eku kuifefine ko Helen mo Helen. My grandmothers' names are Helen and Helen.
Ko hoku tokoua ko Molly. My sister's name is Molly.
Ko hoku tuonga'ane ko Erik. My brother's name is Erik.
Ko hai ho famili? Who is your family?
Now you try!
Side note: Today I learned that it is really important what words are grouped with what you're saying - for example:
Eku huhu - fork (the kitchen utensil)
Hoku huhu - breast (boob)
Man, I wouldn't want to mess that one up.
Can you imagine? Sitting at the dinner table and you say, "May I borrow your huhu"? Derp.

[Picture Dump]

Here is a random collection of images from the last two weeks.
This is the outside of the Ministry of Education in Nuku'alofa.
Meeting with Ministry of Education officials to talk about the current state of education in Tonga and the role that Peace Corps will play.
Potluck Night!

Mark and Alissa
Potluck Night!



The mats that we sometimes sit on for Language Class.

Every day I get picked up in the Peace Corps van and taken to a village down the road.

Chiara (side note: It is such a small world, but Chiara worked at Camp Laurel and I worked at Laurel South ... for any camp friends reading this ... how crazy is that?!).


This post was originally written on Thursday, September 20, 2012:

Here's your Tongan lesson of the day:
We'll start simple: lele (pronounced lay-lay) means run. As in: I will run down the road.
Repeat it with me three times. lele... lele... lele... Well done!
Now let's try something a little harder... Fakalele (pronounced fah-kah-lay-lay).
It's fun to say, isn't it?
Well, it means "the runs"
... or diarrhea.
Today during medical training we talked about fakalele for 2 hours. 2 hours, people. I am now afraid to breathe the air, eat food, walk anywhere, drink anything or touch my face for fear of contracting fakalele. Shweet deal.
Today is also a special day. In exactly one month I will find out my permanent post in the Peace Corps (October 19th). I am very excited about this. It means that I will know what island group I will be living in for the next two years ('Eua, Vava'u, or Tongatapu). I probably should have explained early that the first 2-3 months of Peace Corps Service is dedicated to PST (Pre-service Training) which is designed to prepare us to do our jobs effectively. Since I am a Primary English Teacher, I have been studying the Tongan language, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), Cross Cultural Studies (learning about Tongan culture and the way in which I can honor it and not offend anyone while I am here) and receiving Medical advice and information (so I don't contract Dunge Fever, Typhoid, Fakalele, or any other disease/virus/situation that I would rather not have).

Day in the Life of a PST

The day to day activities in my life are going to look pretty much the same for the next month and a half, so I thought that I would let you know what an average day in the life of a PST in Tonga looks like.

6:30am - Wake up
7:15am - Meet Mark and Alissa to go running out in the 'uta (bush).
8:00am - Shower, get dressed and go into the kitchen. Eat my normal Tongan breakfast that might consist of some or all of the following: 4 texas toast sized peanut butter sandwiches, chunks of root crop (sweet potatoes, yams, etc.), 5 hotdogs and a bowl of ramen.
9:00am - Language school. Learn how to speak Tongan - right now it really looks like I'm learning Tonglish. Trying to throw Tongan words into English sentences so that my host family has some sort of idea of what I'm trying to ask.
12:00pm - Get picked up by the Peace Corps van and head to Ha'asini (which is two villages over).
12:30pm - Eat the lunch Una packed for me. Last week I had spaghetti sandwiches! 6 of them! (Don't worry - I didn't eat all of them, Mom).
1:30pm - TEFL/Safety/Medical/Cultural Training. It looks pretty different day-to-day, but includes everything that is not the language that I need to learn.
4:30pm - Catch the van back to Fatumu or walk home.
6:00pm - Dinner with the family. Practice Tongan with them. Talk about our day. Maybe eva pe (walk around) the village.
7:30pm - Get ready for bed/read/journal
9:00pm - Sleeps.

Friday, September 14, 2012


“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” – John O’Donohue

I’m surprised by something every day I’m here. Usually it has nothing to do with the big events, but is almost always found in the little things: like listening to the roar of the waves as I hang my laundry on a clothesline, the smile of a 7-year-old Tongan boy who bravely stood in front of the class and introduced himself in English for the first time, sharing fresh orange leaf tea with my host family around a kitchen table that is older than I am. As I sit here contemplating today, listening to the rain on the tin roof of this little house, I feel grateful. So unbelievably grateful. I have no idea how the next 2+ years will unfold and if you ask me tomorrow morning how I’m doing I may say “I’m a little homesick”, but I love it here. Moment to moment my thoughts ebb and flow like some great river – unable to make up their mind –
“Can I really do this?”
“I can’t believe I’m here!”
“2 years of everlasting bug bites? Yuck.”
“I get to drink out of a coconut every lunch?! Sweet!”
- and I think maybe I’m okay with this rollercoaster ride - with the unpredictability of it all. I am a giant ball of excited-scared-overwhelmed-humbled and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hello, My name is ‘Amenita.

Originally written on September 13:
I entered my very first Tongan Primary School today. The eagerness of Tongan students cannot be matched. Not in my five years of teaching have I seen such an enthusiasm for learning … and it doesn’t matter the subject. These students are bright and excited and just want to soak up knowledge. It got me very excited to finally have my own classroom here – teaching English. The majority of my time was spent in Class 2 (mostly students who are 7). The teacher who led the class let the palangis take over for a little bit. We drew a map of the United States and talked about (in broken Tonglish) where we were from (I talked about cheese and cows which was met with a lot of laughing.). Then we taught the students how to introduce themselves in English (In primary schools in Tongan students don’t begin learning English until Class 3). I had a group of 6 kids (though there were well over 30 students in Class 2) and here is how the interaction went:
Me: Malo e leilei (which means hello in Tongan).
Students: Malo e leilei.
Me: Malo e leilei i Inglisi te lea “Hello!” (waves hand). Hello in English you say “Hello!”
Students: Hah-loo!
Me: Hello!
Students: Hey-loo!
Me: Hell-oh!
Students: Hello!
Me: Yes!
Students: Yes!
Me: Ko hoku hingoa ko ‘Amenita i Inglisi: “My name is Amanda.” Oku te lea… (Now you say…)
Students: My name is Amanda.
Derp. We eventually got it right. They were each able to introduce themselves to one another and even handshake/high five/fist pound at the end.

Tonga in Pictures...

I want to apologize for the lack of pictures recently... the internet in Tonga is not the fastest.

The moment I came out of Customs.
Group 77 - Arrival Day

Prior to the jump.

We hung out with the Tongan Navy during Water Safety.

Jumping off of a Navy ship.

Water safety training (last Saturday). This is what you do so no one in your group drowns.

Traditional Tongan Dancing

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Una, Sala and Akapulu

This post was originally written on September 11, 2012:
The night time in Fatumu is my favorite. After I get home from language school I have time to unwind and practice my Tongan with Una.  She laughs at me a lot but is very patient with my language. Una, along with my host sister Sala (who is 7), went over the vocabulary I learned today and I attempted to form simple thoughts. (Side note: At first it seemed that Sala wanted nothing to do with this palangi, but as I learn more about the Tongan language and practice with her it is changing. She greets me every morning with a “Hello ‘Amenita! (my Tongan name)” and I respond with “Malo e leilei Sala!” and we both giggle as we walk into the kitchen to eat breakfast.)  

Tonight Una asked me if I wanted to go watch akapulu (rugby). The akapulu team in Fatumu has made it to the finals (for all the villages in the area) and will play another village in 2 weeks. This is a big deal since Fatumu is only made up of about 80 families. The boys/men that play on the akapulu team finish ngaue (work) as soon as they can to get to practice. Una tells me that they practice every evening at the ‘api ako (school). I told her that men in Tonga are much stronger than the men found in Amelika (America) because they can play sports without pads. She called me “fakaoli” (funny), but I think it’s the truth.

My First Kava Circle

I woke up and walked with Una and Christian across the village to the Methodist Church. I had been asked by Christian to accompany him to the Kava Circle before church. I was invited to be the to’u (kava server – the only female allowed in the kava circle). Kava Circles traditionally take place before church on Sunday and offer the local men an opportunity to hang out (and light-heartedly make fun of the to’u – in this case, me). 

The kava circle took place in a meeting hall next door to the church and I sat in front of the large kava bowl and filled empty coconut shells with kava. The men thanked me for coming, prayed and talked with each other and attempted to speak to me in Tongan (2% of which I understood). A very nice gentleman (who is close to my age) named Filemone was sitting to my right and whispering (in English) what the men were saying. 

As the kava circle pressed on I felt my right leg falling asleep. But didn’t really think much about it as my legs always fall asleep when I sit “criss-cross apple sauce”. Before I go on, I should let you know that the Kava Circle lasted close to an hour and I didn’t change the way I was sitting … at all. So when the men had their fill of kava, they thanked me again for serving them, invited me back to their kava circle on Wednesday evening and let me leave first (what gentlemen! - this is also Tongan tradition). 

As I stood up I realized that something was really wrong. - I couldn’t feel any of my right leg! It was so bad that I grabbed my big toe and felt nothing but a little bit of pressure – no tingles, none of that searing pain that occurs after you have feeling return to whatever appendage lacked blood flow. Nada. Feeling like a pirate with a peg leg, I hobbled to the door trying not to make it obvious that I couldn’t feel much anything.  This brilliant idea did not work the way I had planned it to because as I turned around I caught Filemone’s eye and he was giggling at me. I quickly turned back to the door and me and the dead leg hobbled to lotu (church). As I left the meeting hall, laughter and side comments about that silly palangi (white person/foreigner) were heard behind me. Sweet deal.

Sundays in Fatumu

I should let you know. I moved to a small village. It's called Fatumu and it rocks.
Sundays in Tongan culture are a day full of lotu, kai, mohe and eva pe. (church, food, sleep and walking around). Not a single shop is open. Like my host mom Una says, “it is a day of Thanksgiving.” Tongans eat like it’s Thanksgiving, too. Every Sunday.  I think I can get use to this.

Before I tell you more about Sunday, I should probably fill you in on the last few days. On Saturday all of the Peace Corps Trainees hopped into a Peace Corps van to head to our homestays. For the next 2 months we will be living and learning in tiny villages located on the eastern part of Tongatapu.

I moved to a little village called Fatumu. I, along with my friends Alissa and Mark (a totally awesome married couple that are also PCTs), can now call Fatumu our home. Fatumu consists of 4 churches, 5 falekoloas (shops), and 2 roads. Mark and Alissa and I live about 3 minutes apart from each other. If you are standing anywhere in the village you can usually hear the crashing of the waves on the beach. That is how close we are to the Pacific Ocean.

If you are staying in Fatumu you will always wake up to the sound of one (or more) of the following:
1)   Roosters – Somewhere in my life I learned that the rooster only crows once a day – alerting you that it’s time to get up. Let me tell you something: fairy tale books? The authors of all of them are a bunch of liars. This is just not true. They keep cockadoodleedoing all morning long. All morning long.
2)   Puaka (pigs) – This is my favorite way to get woken up. The snorting of the pig outside of your window. They make such funny noises.
3)   Kuli (dogs) – This is my least favorite way to wake up. The dogs sound like they are killing each other. There is so much barking, yipping and crying.
4)   Church bells – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday the bells to one (or all) of the churches in town alert you to the new day. My bedroom window is about 20 feet away from the nearest church. Ringa-ding-dong.

Many of the men in the village work in the bush.  Some women work in town (at the falekoloas) or at home, while others take the bus to Nuku’alofa.

My host mother’s name is Una. She is a 21-year-old (yep, you read that right her adopted daughter – me, is a whopping 7 years older) and has lived in Fatumu her entire life. She lives with her grandparents, half brother and a little girl named Sala (still trying to figure out how she’s related).

After church we all came back to the house and ate food cooked in the ‘umu (underground oven). We had loo – meat, onions and coconut crème baked in taro leaves and then wrapped in banana leaves. We roasted a pig, ate sweet potatoes and finished with Tongan ice cream (papaya cooked in coconut crème). It was delicious.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fefe hake? (pronounced: fay-fay hah-kay)

Toto atu! (Pronounced Toe-toe ah-too)

(The title of this post translates to "How are you?" in Tongan and toto atu means "excellent!").

Because I am. I am totally 100% toto atu!

Language school is one of my favorite parts of the day during Peace Corps Pre-Service Training. I have a teacher named Tulu (pronounced: Too-loo) and she is a native Tongan lady and is hilarious. She makes learning Tongan easy. It's totally okay to make mistakes with her. We sang a lot of songs today, learned the alphabet and how to engage in basic dialogue. Iooo! (This means: yes!)

We also learned about the Ministry of Education here in Tonga. It's interesting that Tonga faces a lot of the same issues that the U.S. does in terms of their education system (to centralize or decentralize? what do you do with data? what should be tested and how?). I can't wait for our fieldtrip to the Ministry of Education tomorrow.

It's been raining for the last 24 hours straight. I don't mind. Rain is sometimes nice.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tonga (so far) in Pictures

A picture found on the wall of the guesthouse.

Lunchtime after we arrived!

Coconut water is so yummy!

The view from my bedroom window.

The entrance to the guesthouse.

On our walk to the Peace Corps Office.

Peace Corps: Tonga.

Before the Kava Ceremony.

Kava Ceremony.

Kava Ceremony.

Joey drinking Kava.

Michael drinking Kava.

At the ocean.

5 things

Here are 5 things I learned/observed today:

1. This morning I awoke to the sound of church bells, roosters and barking dogs. The guesthouse I am staying at has windows that are permanently open. It's something else waking up in cool air and not having to use an alarm.

2. My breakfast consisted of fresh papaya, coconut and bananas.

3. On my walk to the Peace Corps Office (which is about 3 km away from the guesthouse in which I sleep) I was greeted by a group of little barefoot boys who waved and yelled out "Hi! Bye! Hi! Bye!" and proceeded to giggle as they ran to school in the opposite direction.

4. I watched as the men in my Peace Corps trainee group bought tupenus (pronounced: too-pay-news) - which are part of the professional wardrobe in Tonga. They look like long wrap skirts and come in a variety of colors. The boys seem to like them and say they are very comfortable. It's not a bad look!

5. Pigs, roosters and dogs roam the streets of Nuku'alofa. The baby pigs are my favorite. I want to adopt one but know that it'll probably be used for a pig roast.

Before I sign off, I want to say Happy Birthday to my little sister Molly. I will try to call you on your birthday but I can't promise. It's almost September 6th here, so Happy 26th! I love you!

Arrival Day

September 4: There's a moment in the movie "Hook" where Peter Pan is flying with Wendy Moira Angela Darling and they see Neverland for the first time. The clouds part and they are both greeted by the most beautiful island they have ever seen. I was thinking about that as we flew over the South Pacific today. Only I don't live in a Disney movie - this is real life. As we descended, the cloud cover gave way to an island covered in palm trees, compelte with a lagoon and both rocky and sandy shores. My new home for the next 27 months.

When the jet landed and we descended the stairs onto the tarmac we looked up to see a giant American flag, a poster with the Peace Corps symbol printed on it and a crowd of cheering people. They were screaming, guys. Screaming for me and my 14 friends. After we made it through immigration and customs we were greeted with more cheers and given the most beautiful (and wonderful smelling) leis.

Captain Cook wasn't kidding when he said that Tonga should also be known as the "Friendly Islands". The people here are amazing. I'm so grateful for this experience already and can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

T-Minus 5 hours til Departure

The past 24 hours have been a blur (and for some reason I don't think that is going to be the only time I use that phrase). Meeting 14 new friends (seriously guys, how did I get so lucky to go with such cool people?), eating In 'n Out Burger, and getting energized and even more excited about this journey, I can honestly say that I think I am as ready as I am going to ever be.

We are hanging out in the hotel right now, waiting for the bus to the airport, getting our last minute goodbyes in and letting reality sink in. In just over 5 hours we will leave LAX for Auckland, New Zealand, I'll cross the International Dateline (never getting to see September 3), then have a brief layover and hop on a plane headed for Nuku'alofa, Tonga.

In preparation for the 13 hour flight, I have my motion sickness meds packed (4 different kinds - don't want to vom on the plane), SeaBands, my childhood teddy bear and empty water bottles (my mom says it's important that I drink lots of water. See how I listen Mom?) along with everything I think I'll need for 27 months of service.

I'll update as soon as I can. In the meantime I'll let you take a gander at this fine-looking crew ... Let me introduce you to the 77th Group of Peace Corps Trainees heading to the Kingdom of Tonga (we're actually missing two in this photo, but I'm sure you'll see them on this blog soon!).

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Today is the day, people.
After an emotional morning (saying "see ya later" to the parents was not as easy as I expected it to be), I'm off on my journey into the Peace Corps.

First stop? LA ... also known as Los Angeles, California.
(Well, technically it was Chicago, but that was only for like 30 min. so I'm not counting that).

I'm waiting patiently in the hotel (which has a Sleep Number bed - sweet deal!) for
registration to start. Not too long now and I'll meet my fellow PCTs (PCT means Peace Corps Trainee), get some last minute training and prepare to board a plane tomorrow evening for Auckland, New Zealand.