Friday, December 28, 2012

'Ene'io Beach

Boxing Day (December 26th) started off pretty uneventfully. I woke up, made some coffee and attempted a medium level sudoku puzzle (which was actually a lot harder than I thought). Then my phone rang and Ane, my counterpart, asked me if I would like to "eva" with her family to the 'Ene'io Beach. I had heard very good things about this beach, which is located on the eastern side of the island, so I was very excited to receive the invitation. She said she would pick me up as soon as they finished cooking the food for the day. When it was time a caravan of vans and trucks came to the school. There were 20 people, the majority of them sitting in back of the Cinderella truck with the food. We drove the 45 minutes to the beach and when we entered, this is what I saw.


We spread out our Tongan mats (pictured above) and ate. Hot dogs, roast pig, chicken, etc. Then I went with the littlest girls to go swimming. Ms. Una (pictured below) was very scared at first, but after watching her sisters and the palangi (me) having fun, she jumped in.


They love to take pictures with the peace sign.


This is littlest sister.


Here is Una being fearless.



Una and I are kindred spirits. Based on stories my mother has told me throughout my life, I believe I may have been a lot like Una as a 2-year-old. The girl hates wearing clothes. She has an obsession with creme filled vanilla wafers and spent the majority of the day exploring with sticks.




This is William. He wanted to show me the new bouncy ball that he received as a Christmas gift.



Man, look at those tan lines. I may look like a lobster (even though I applied sunscreen three times), but it was an awesome day!



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

My Mom's 60th 40th birthday is on December 28th!

How lucky am I to have such a cool mom?

Darn lucky. That's for sure.

She and I have a lot in common - lots and lots. I got my creativity, always rightness, and love of dancing from her.


This picture was taken on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine back in May. What fun times we had up on those rocks.

Here is an acrostic poem for my mother on her special day:


Marvelous masseuse.
Youngest lookin' AARP member.  

Magnificent Mother.

Organized and passionate.

Many talents.

Really funny.

Opinionated and almost always right.  
Crazy good dancer.

Kind, caring and super generous.

Sassy and silly.





I was going to create a list of 60 reasons I'm glad she's my mom and think she's totally awesome, but I thought I would save that for when I see her in June.

Love you Mom! I hope you enjoy your special day!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Very First Christmas in Tonga

I love Christmas.

Probably more than the average person. So naturally, I was pretty nervous that the homesickness would peak on December 24/25 and that I would be wishing for snow, my family, things that smell like pine and Bing Crosby's sweet baritone voice.

Christmas came and went and I did find myself wishing for snow, missing what it felt like to be cold and to be close to my family. Oh yes, and Bing. But then I remembered back to a conversation I had with a good friend, Ben who spent some time in Eastern Europe. He reminded me that when integrating into a new culture that you should steer clear of wanting to compare the two, constantly deciding who does what better or worse. But ultimately, it's really like apples and oranges - they aren't comparable. They're just different and that's entirely okay. It's not like I will never experience another American Christmas again, but how often will I get to experience a Tongan one? I have to soak this in. So waking up on Christmas morning to cool weather and lots of rain, I was determined to learn as much as I could about Tongan Christmas and to try to have as much fun as I could in the process.IMG_0569.JPG

I am trying to make my rounds to every church in the village, so today I went with my friend Melia to the Church of Tonga. Walking by, you would think that this church was actually a house. It's tucked back in the woods a bit and isn't very big. The only thing that makes it stand out from the houses surrounding it is a small sign above the double doors. So Melia and I sat through the church service. Only an hour long, it reminded me a lot of a Baptist church in the USA. The minister was passionate - and by passionate I mean that he yelled the entire hour, cried occasionally and very rarely took a breath. After church finished, Melia refused to let me walk in the rain. She told me that she would go back to her house and find an umbrella and come back and retrieve me. I told her I would be fine, but she would not hear of it. She returned with an umbrella and then told me to go back to my house and change into something more comfortable.




We then made our way over to a feast at Melia's house. It was wonderful - there was chicken, roast pig, chop suey, sweet and sour beef, noodles, bananas, root crop, hot dogs, strawberry flavored soda ... and so much more. I practiced more Tongan and just took everything in. Playing in the corner were two little kids each showing the other their new Christmas gifts. One little girl was especially excited about her new Barbie Mermaid and the other, a little boy, was playing with a toy helicopter. They were barefoot, playing in puddles and enjoying life. In the background, Tongan radio was playing Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You". I sat next to Melia's little sister, Mele. Once Mele found out I had a camera she made sure to pose for as many pictures as possible. Here is a glimpse of her mini photo shoot. After each picture was taken I would turn the camera over to show Mele and she would giggle and smile and stuff more noodles in her face.





They sent me home with enough food to last me the entire next week - which included the foot of a pig. Awesome. Then I spent some time listening to Bing Crosby, making a list of people who make me smile, and watching Elf. It was a wonderful, yet different, Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

polaroid pieces.

pictures from the last couple of weeks.


pretty sky.


homemade calzone. homemade dough. homemade sauce. 



i dislike you so much, mr. molokau.



beach exploring.



sunset while beach exploring.



dinner with some new friends.

Photo on 2012-12-19 at 22.08 #4-pola.jpg


low humidity day. didn't wake up in a puddle of sweat on christmas morning! fist pump.


happy christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

interesting bits.


here's a list of interesting bits from this week:

1. baking buttermilk cinnamon & sugar swirl bread and then proceeding to eat an entire loaf of it in one sitting will do two things: 1. attract all the ants in tonga 2. give you a stomach ache.

2. people like to say hi to you when you are walking down the road. even if they are sitting on the toilet, doing their business and the door is open.

3. it is entirely possible to be on the other side of the world and run into somebody you know from america on the street (yay friends from camp!).

4. ants like the taste of molokau (poisonous centipede). so if you're feeling too lazy to clean up the bits of molokau that still exist after a hacking spree, you may just want to shut the door, leave the molokau corpse and check on it in the morning. i'm molokau free for the time being!

5. don't rest your hands on your laptop keyboard for too long when it's humid out. it creates puddles and may ruin your computer.

5. showering three times a day is perfectly acceptable. especially when it is 432,355,232 degrees celsius out and you can wring (yes, literally wring) your clothes out because of the sweat.

6. it is possible to forget what it feels like to be cold. i have zero concept of this. i even stuck my head in my mini fridge to try and remember. no such luck.

7. here in tonga, it is common practice for the post office to close from december 20 - january 2. i guess i'll see you in january, mail.

8. it is impossible to eat more than 7 bananas in a day. it doesn't matter if you have over 60 and they all ripen at the same time and you don't want to waste them.

9. sometimes lizards make the sound that a wood block does. did you play the wood block in elementary school music class? cuz i did.

10. febreze's falling leaves and spice air freshener smells 100 bajillion times better in tonga. i found it at the saturday market and snatched up the very last bottle. now my house smells like pumpkins and spice and everything nice ... or just a yankee candle store. that's pretty groovy since i didn't get to experience fall this year (the way that i'm use to experiencing it, anyway).

11. bored in tonga? the coolest place to hang out in my village is the local falekoloa (store). i recommend just sitting outside and saying hello to as many people as you can.

12. if you leave the gate to your house unlocked, villagers will think this is an invitation to visit. they won't always announce their arrival though, and sometimes you will be working on the dishes and look up to find someone staring at you through your window.

13. if you ever work the money table at a tongan catholic high school's alumni dance, be prepared to be asked to dance a lot. and if you aren't paying attention a very large attractive tongan man (that looks a little bit like gaston from beauty and the beast) might just pull you up on the dance floor and make you lead all 300 dancers with him. just smile and pretend like you have an idea of what's going on and what everyone else is saying. it'll be fine.

14. it's important to check the toilet for molokau or giant cockroaches at least once a day.

15. want to swim, but are hungry? sai pe (it's all good), just take a plate of food with you right into the water. it doesn't matter if your hot dog floats away or your drumstick... just pick it up out of the ocean and take a bite!

16. this is my 100th post in tonga!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

another one involving the bathroom.

seriously, people.

what a week it was at the zoo house.

i had my first run in with a molokau (poisonous centipede). and wait for it... i didn't just run into 1, i ran in to 2 of the critters. 2 in 2 days. 2 too many. yuck. excuse my language, but these guys just suck. they pinch you hard and it feels like a bee sting. i'm not convinced they help out mother earth at all except for being fakahela (annoying).

don't worry. i didn't get pinched. the first one i ran into i sprayed with good 'ole mortein black label and the second one... well that's a story i think you should hear.

my friend dominica was visiting. we were enjoying some cold water and talking about what to do with my 90 bananas that are all now ripe when i decided to go into the shower to hang up a towel.

i step into the shower area and look at the floor.

a sound then escaped my mouth that was sort of a cross between a half scream and a dog being tortured. this was quickly followed by, "no, no, no, NO!" and curled up on the floor is this guy. he's sitting perfectly still so i think he's dead. dominica does too. we grab the mortein again and spray him. he unrolls to show us just how menacing he really is. sick.


to give you an idea of how big he was, he measured from the bottom of my hand to the tip of my middle finger (about 7 or so inches long).  

dominica then says "get me the biggest knife you have". and i walk back into the kitchen area and find a butcher knife. we stop for a picture.


and then doms charges the bathroom like a bull. knife above her head, she goes into the shower area and chops mr. molokau to bits. as she is doing this she is giving me advice on how to deal with these guys in the future (doms has been in tonga for 3 years and will be returning to america in january). she tells me that they can actually regrow parts (excuse me? huh?) and stay alive for a long time, so it's very important that you chop up the molokau into very tiny pieces. meanwhile, i'm still making the yelp/scream/dog noises and have my hands on my face and am secretly trying to decide how i am going to sleep in my bed because i now imagine hundreds of molokau crawling through the walls. and there isn't much i can do to stop the molokau from coming. the only thing i can really do is be prepared. the weather in tonga has been very humid and very wet, so i'm thinking that's why these little demons have made their new home in my house. so i've decided that i am going to continue to sleep with a butcher knife next to my bed.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Preparing for Christmas.

Some food, some art, some trees, some good times.

*Side note: My parents are da bomb dot com (I am aware that this is a 1990's term to describe how awesome they are, but I'd like to bring it back into common usage so I'm going to use it here) and bought me the coolest Christmas present to date. I know that sarcasm doesn't read well over the internet, but I want you to know that I'm not using it. Not in the slightest. I am 100% serious. Just scroll down and see what they got me.

IMG_0416.JPG IMG_0417.JPG IMG_0431.JPG IMG_0370.JPG IMG_0439.JPG


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting for the storm.

This week I got my first real taste of what it is like to live in Cyclone Country. This is what I'm calling it. By no means is this a common term used to describe the South Pacific, but I'm going to use it. For now anyways. Hurricane/Cyclone Season has just begun and will continue until February or March (is what I have been told). Peace Corps warned us of Cyclone Evan last week. They told us that it would be very possible that we would have to make consolidation plans if the storm headed towards Tonga. Cyclone Evan did hit Samoa and Fiji (both countries are in this neck of the woods... or water). And while we waited to hear more news to see if it was headed our way, the sky began to do some pretty amazing stuff. Take a look.

Update: Cyclone Evan has been downgraded from a Category 4 Cyclone (on a Scale of 5) to a 2 as of this posting. It looks like it will be a Tropical Depression in less than a day. Good news.