Tuesday, December 24, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 25

It's here!!
 [Running around my house, flailing my arms and jumping up and down!]
Merry Christmas!

P.S. From now until the end of January the blog is going to be VERY quiet. I will be in NZ and at a Peace Corps conference until at least the 20th of January. Happy New Year! Hope it's wonderful and I can't wait to be back in 2014 with a few more Project 365 posts and fun ways to document my final nine months in Peace Corps!

Monday, December 23, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 24

When this posts I will have already started my journey to New Zealand to visit friends and my parents, but first a stop on the main island to celebrate Christmas with some Peace Corps friends.

Today's video is unbelievable. When I saw this for the first time I was immediately blown away and brought to tears. It's a great reminder of the real meaning of Christmas and why we are here on Earth - to love and support one another.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 23

Miss Touna kept pointing at the tree yelling "akau kilisimasi! akau kilisimasi!" (Christmas tree! Christmas tree!) I hope you show just as much enthusiasm this time of year as she does! (Or maybe you know someone who is just as excited for Christmas as she is!)

This is the final Christmas Carol Challenge. Can you guess which song Touna was singing? What is the next line?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 22

I don't have any pictures or videos or links for you today.
All I have are words. Hope that's alright.
I started my day by listening to a song. It's one of my favorites.
And you guessed it... it's a Christmas song.
If you have time go and look up "Joy to the World" by Sufjan Stevens.
And I don't know what it was about that song but it caused me to think about how I wrote a Christmas poem last year about my time in Tonga so far.
So I thought I'd do Round 2.

Christmas in Tonga - Year 2
'Twas three days before Christmas and all through this little town,
pigs and roosters could be heard - they make quite the sound!
Anyone who has skyped with me can surely attest, 
these animals very rarely give me a rest.
This includes fighting with cockroaches and trying to decrease the rat population in my house,
these rats are the size of North American squirrels - not your regular field mouse.
But that's alright because this year I became tougher,
I also listened to a lot of Sara Barielles - oh, I just love her.
In January I worked with Tongan teachers to prepare for the school year - we all fell in line,
In February I got the stomach flu and turned twenty-nine.
March I ventured to an outer island with some Peace Corps friends,
By April the high temperatures were coming to an end.
In May I started preparing for Camp GLOW and GROW,
June brought a trip to America and my sister's wedding to my new bro.
In July I started teaching yoga and zumba after school,
In August we practiced more English - and sang heaps of songs - which were cool.
At the end September my students took a big test and I swam with humpback whales,
October brought more English lessons, yoga and many funny school time tales.
In November I learned to make Tongan handicrafts with Class 5 and Class 6,
December meant the end of the school year, Camp GROW and GLOW and one epic Christmas song mix.
 It's hard to believe another year in the South Pacific has passed,
So many memories and adventures - new friends that will last.
This next year will go by quickly - I can already see,
It won't be long now until I'm back in the 53593.
Gotta make it count and help out where I can,
Teach, help and sing some more - this sounds like a pretty awesome plan.
So here's to you and yours, I hope you have a beautiful Christmas too,
Happy 2014 and much love to you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 21

Here are 20 Famous Christmas Stories for you to explore.
Also, I thought this was funny. Anybody else remember flipping through the JC Penney catalog as a kid?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 20

Oh, wow. There are only 5 days left until Christmas.
Where has the time gone?

Also, here's a Christmas letter I really liked reading.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 19

Some advice from a snowman.

Because we can learn something from everyone with whom we cross paths!

(Also if you know the source of this picture I would love to know!)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Guess what guys? This week it snowed in Tonga!! (Just kidding. I may have too much free time on my hands.)
- Doing: I just baked christmas cookies for my neighbors. Things I learned in the process: you really need to use granulated sugar otherwise the cookies turn out kind of chunky. Chunky sugar cookies? Meh. Also, if you give cookies to your neighbors be prepared for them to ask you for the recipe and be prepared to write it down for them in Tongan (unless you live elsewhere, but it might be cool to write it in Tongan for them anyway ... you could use words like maho'a'a for flour and fo'i moa for egg).

- Reading: Mountain Man by Vardis Fisher - it's the book that the movie Jeremiah Johnson inspired.

- Listening to: I am listening to Christmas music all day every day. The Pentatonix are amazing. As is Lindsey Stirling. If you know neither name... google it. For reals.

- Preparing for: Christmas! This week I get to go to my first ever grown-up cookie exchange, have a PCV Christmas night, and go to a candle light Christmas carol catholic mass. Next Tuesday (Christmas Eve) I fly down to Tongatapu to spend Christmas with my friend Michael (and some other PC friends) and then on the 26th I'm off to New Zealand! Woo Woo.

- Liking: My cold shower. Now with the heat back in (almost) full force taking showers three times (or more) per day is just something I gotta do!


25 Days of Christmas // Day 18

Everyone needs more Pentatonix in their life so grab a wooden spoon (or whatever utensil you're currently using to bake your Christmas cookies) and help them sing this magical lyrical jewel. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 17

The theme for today is: Christmas Things That Make You Go "Awwwwww" 
This is for you Ginny! (Also here is the source)
I hope one of the following links makes you want to hug your dad, sing at the top of your lungs, and/or be kinder than necessary.

These cute animals spread their Christmas cheer.

This little girl surprised her parents at her Christmas concert.

This airline and the generous thing it did for its passengers made me cry.

If you live someplace cold, I imagine that this would warm your insides right up!

Everybody needs a little puppy Christmas in their life.

What's new in this part of the world? It's Vava'u Week here on the island. This means that we've spent the last few days beautifying the village (putting up flags, sweeping our lawns and pruning our banana trees) and are gearing up for a week of feasting, fairs, dancing and singing. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 16

If you have yet to be exposed to this little gem, check it out.
Jimmy Fallon is a cutie-patootie and the kids are so adorable!
You can thank me later.

Christmas challenge: Be kinder than necessary and do something for somebody else that costs no money!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 15

Hahaha. Happy Holidays!
Taking these pictures also reminded me of when I was in Florida. While living in the Sunshine State, I realized just how interesting it was for those people who didn't grow up around snow. Have you noticed how many Christmas songs talk about the fluffy white stuff? So much of the world never sees it and I wonder what they picture in their heads when they sing these songs? After we photographed this set of lyrics I showed my students a video I made a few years ago where I am playing in the snow with my sister. Watching their faces was priceless - a mixture of awe, confusion and joy. It was really neat.
Hope you do something wonderfully Christmas-y today! (No matter the weather!)

What's the song? Betchya can't guess the next line...

Friday, December 13, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 14

When I typed that I thought about the musical "Fiddler on the Roof". Did anybody else?

Also, I think about Christmas. Obviously. But really, 99% of the stuff in my life now reminds me of this lovely, lovely holiday.

Each family that I know that celebrates Christmas has their own set of traditions attached to this special time of year. How these traditions have come to be is a story in itself (and I just love hearing them!). 

If you spent Christmas with my family you'd hang out at our house on Christmas Eve (crossing your fingers for snow) and then we'd head to church to listen to my mom sing in the choir. The last song sung every Christmas Eve is "Silent Night" and all 500 members of the church light a candle and sing together with a bell choir. It's still one of my most favorite moments of the year. So peaceful, hopeful... wonderful. Then we return home and feast on fried shrimp (with cocktail sauce), wild rice, and some yummy green salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. We eat in the dining room - a room that otherwise stays relatively untouched (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas). After dinner we gather around the Christmas tree. Dad takes a seat in the blue puffy chair next to the tree and Mom sits full lotus position on the couch across the room. Erik would be lying on the ground playing with the dog and Molly and I would take whatever seat was still available. The only gift that is opened on Christmas Eve are our Secret Santa gifts. We have known for weeks who our "Secret Santa" is. This gives us the opportunity to channel all of our creative powers into one gift rather - thinking really hard about what that person would want/need/like. We take turns opening the gift and thanking the person who selected it/made it especially for us. We then gather the left over ribbon and cover the dog with it. Erik then turns on Bing Crosby's "Jingle Bells" (has to be this version) and we all watch as Abby takes off running around the house barking (We've done this every year and I just do not understand why Bing elicits such a response in Abby... maybe it's just her love of his sultry voice?). Then it's time to watch whatever Christmas movie is on tv (meaning I secretly figure out which station is playing "White Christmas" and turn it to that one). After WC is over, we set out cookies for Santa and go to bed in our snowflake flannel bedsheets and wait for Christmas day to arrive!

In thinking about Christmas traditions, I thought I would use the power of the interwebs and create a list of crazy Christmas traditions. I've included everything from the creative to the obscure. Keep in mind, these are real people. 

Christmas Traditions:
1. On Christmas Day, South Africans eat fuzzy caterpillars [from the emperor moth] fried in oil. I'll pass.
2. Santa doesn't just use reindeer to get around - in Australia he hops on a kangaroo, he paddles a canoe in Hawaii, and is dropped from heaven on a golden cord in the Czech Republic. I still prefer Rudolph.
3. Every year, the Scottsdale Gun Club (in Arizona) hosts a "Santa and Machine Guns" event that allows members to take their picture with Santa and AK-47s. Peace on Earth, people.
4. Every year, workers at the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill near Cincinnati, Ohio string 30,000 Christmas lights across the garbage mound, which stretches over 234 acres and rises 279 feet high. The display includes 25-foot-tall candy canes. Hey kids! Let's all get in the car and go look at the Christmas lights... at the dump!
5. In 1902, as an avid conservationist and ardent opponent of deforestation, President Theodore Roosevelt banned putting up a Christmas tree in the White House. Roosevelt’s son Archie snuck his own Christmas tree into the White House, rigging it up in a large closet. Today, Americans celebrate Christmas by chopping down 27 million fir trees. That's a lot of trees.
6.  During the Santa Claus World Championships, held in Samnaun, Switzerland, teams of Santa Clauses from around the world compete against one another in chimney climbing, snowball fighting, sledge racing, donkey trekking, and Santa skiing—in the hope of capture the title “Santa Claus World Champion.” Who wants to buy me a ticket to see this? Because, YES.
7. In India, only about 2.3% of the population are Christians, but because of the large population they have, we are talking about 25 million people here! Christians here celebrate Christmas with midnight mass and gift-giving like the rest of the world, but with the absence of fir trees or pine trees to decorate, they usually made do with banana trees and mango trees instead. Good idea! I'm going to try this here!
8. Christmas is huge in the Phillipines since 80% of the population are Christians. Celebrations last all the way to January. Children will leave their brightly polished shoes and freshly washed socks on the window sills for the Three Kings to leave gifts in when they pass through their houses at night. The "Feast of the Three Kings" marks the end of the Christmas celebrations. Sign me up!
9. Did you know that Santa has his own postal code? Sweet deal! It's H0H 0H0 (with zeros instead of the letter ‘o’) and it’s in Canada where postal codes are alphanumeric. Letters – the kind that bypass parents – used to end up undelivered because there was no centralized address for Kris Kringle. I'd like to live in Canada. Just not near Santa, please. He scares me.
10.  Turkey for Christmas? Nope. Shrimp? Don't even think about it. For the Japanese it’s KFC. Since the beginning of this marketing campaign four decades ago, KFC has been associated with Christmas in the minds of the Japanese for generations, a tradition passed on from parent to child in spite of its commercialized beginnings. More than 240,000 barrels of chicken will be sold during Christmas, five to ten times its normal monthly sales. "In Japan, Christmas equals KFC." That's a lot of chicken.

What's something unique/crazy/cool that your family does?
Are there Christmas traditions you would like to start?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Camp GLOW/GROW [more pictures!]

There is just so much to share about this awesome week. I thought I'd post some more pictures of all the learning and fun that went on in Neiafu this week.
Playing games and making new friends.
Doing dishes and having a dance party.
Sometimes being a camp director is hard work. (Joey is sleeping.)
Writing out our goals and the obstacles we face when we set and try to reach them.
Getting excited to shadow local women who work in tourism, finance, college, environmental awareness and medical facilities.
Some food and discussion.
Making puletahas (the dresses) and kiekies (grass belts) look good
Hanging at the beach.
This is probably not going to be the last post about Camp GROW/GLOW 2013. I have over 1,000 pictures to sift through.

Also, questions about camp? Email me at beneathabalconyofstars@gmail.com


This week was amazing, wonderful, exhausting and crazy fun! Camp GLOW and GROW are officially finished for 2013. (We'll start planning in February for Camp GLOW/GROW 2014!). Here's a recap of what went on over the last week, but before I jump into that I want to say how grateful I am to work with these people. These girls amazed me every day with the way they treated each other, went above and beyond and were there to help whenever anyone needed it.
Highlights from camp:
1. New friendships. These girls came from different high schools throughout my island and many of them didn't know each other before coming to camp. It was so great to see the difference a week made - they started very ma (shy) and ended it by all hugging each other and sharing contact information so they can see each other after camp!
2. New skills. We learned about women's empowerment (the rights of women, domestic violence, where to turn for help if needed), decision making (what makes it hard/easy, what steps do we take to make decisions), goal setting (short-term and long-term), career choices (post-secondary options, local opportunities, etc.) and healthy choices (reproductive health, healthy lifestyle choices, etc.). 
3. Adventures. Even in the pouring rain we had fun adventuring out to a local beach. We even had the opportunity to talk with the owner (who did his studies abroad but returned home to open a successful business) about his journey and love of Tonga.
4. Team building. In order to learn our best, we spent a lot of time building community so that we were able to establish a community where the girls and guys felt comfortable sharing with each other.

5. Community. By the end of the week the girls (and guys!) were a lot closer group. They are excited to take what they learned back into their communities.

Many of the campers told me how excited they are to start Club GLOW at their schools so that they can teach other students about what they learned. I'm excited to check in with them next year to see what they accomplish!

25 Days of Christmas // Day 13

It's another round of the fun Christmas lyric game!
Do you know the song? (This is an easy one)
Can you tell me the next line?
Isn't Touna the cutest? I could just eat her up!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 12

Guess what we're going to do today?
We're going to explore a 1969 masterpiece that involves:
a teacher
a fakaofa (sad/pathetic) magician
a group of students
a certain man made out of snow
a train ride
and a bearded dude in a red suit.
You know it?

If not, sai pe [it's okay].

Next time I watch Rankin & Bass's Frosty the Snowman, I'll be sure and invite you.
It's so good, right?! I have so many memories watching this as a little kid. I gotta admit that I may have thought once or twice about hopping into a train car to see if it would take me to the North Pole. But there were no train tracks around where I grew up so it never really was an option. Also, I was really afraid that if I made it to the North Pole Santa would be waiting for me to let me know that I would forever be on the naughty list. Man, that would stink.

Also, it amazes me that these kids thought they would be back in time for dinner? Where do they even live? Northern Minnesota? Canada?
Ah. The nostalgia I have around Christmas time. So many good cartoons from the 1960's/70's/80's... what do kids even watch these days? Nothing compares!

Happy day to you and yours!

 P.S. Tomorrow we'll be over 1/2 way done with the 25 Days of Christmas. Are you sad? It's going by so quickly!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 11

I love reading about the history of Christmas and fun facts related to this time of year.
So I thought I'd let you in on 10 Things You Maybe Didn't Already Know About Christmas.

Did you know?
10. The Germans made the first artificial Christmas trees out of dyed goose feathers.
9. The “true love” mentioned in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” does not refer to a romantic couple, but the Catholic Church’s code for God. The person who receives the gifts represents someone who has accepted that code. For example, the “partridge in a pear tree” represents Christ. The “two turtledoves” represent the Old and New Testaments.
8. According to the Guinness world records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington
7. The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
6. Each year there are approximately 20,000 “rent-a-Santas” across the United States. “Rent-a-Santas” usually undergo seasonal training on how to maintain a jolly attitude under pressure from the public. They also receive practical advice, such as not accepting money from parents while children are looking and avoiding garlic, onions, or beans for lunch.
5. In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas trees decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. In fact, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas.
4. Ancient peoples, such as the Druids, considered mistletoe sacred because it remains green and bears fruit during the winter when all other plants appear to die. Druids would cut the plant with golden sickles and never let it touch the ground. They thought it had the power to cure infertility and nervous diseases and to ward off evil.
3. Early illustrations of St. Nicholas depict him as stern, commanding, and holding a birch rod. He was more a symbol of discipline and punishment than the jolly, overweight elf children know today.
2. In 1962, the first Christmas postage stamp was issued in the United States.
1. In A.D. 350, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ.

Also, did you know...?
Here in Tonga Christmas Eve (from my experience) seems to be a bigger day than Christmas Day. There are huge feasts and lots of church. 
People don't decorate much here either.
It makes you think about what is really important this time of year. :-)

Also, if you haven't already read this you may find some new/interesting info about Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 10

Top Ten Christmas Movies

10. Miracle on 34th Street (1994) - Such a great remake of a great story.

9. Home Alone (1991) - It's just so good.

8. The Muppet Christmas Carol - This reminds me of one of my best friends from High School and our sing-a-longs whenever we would watch it. He could/can do the voices so much better than I can!

7. Elf - I love love this! SANTA! I KNOW HIM!

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - A really well-done remake of a classic. Jim Carrey does the Grinch justice.

5. While You Were Sleeping - I know this isn't in everybody's Top 10 and some would argue that it isn't even all that Christmas-y, but I just love it. Sandra Bullock is awesome.

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas - Little Linus is my favorite.

3. Home Alone 2 - I believe it's better than Home Alone (the original). What do you think?

2. It's a Wonderful Life - So intense. So good. And I've often thought about running through town the way George Bailey does.

1. White Christmas (1954) - It's the best. Period.

Honorable Mentions: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Frosty the Snowman, & Christmas Comes to Willow Creek (the last one is from the 1980's and if you remember it... I'm impressed!)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 9

I've already talked about how I especially loved 1980's TV around Christmas.
Here's one of my very favorite Christmas specials for you to enjoy.
It's only 22 minutes, but so worth it.
I recommend eating lasagna while watching.
Lasagna isn't really a Christmas-y food (unless maybe you're Italian and enjoy it at Christmas time. But who am I kidding? All families have unique traditions. If I was at the Pederson home in Wisconsin, I'd be dining on fried shrimp Christmas Eve. Focus, Mandy.)
 I just love Garfield & Friends.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

[virtual] coffee date

so let's pretend we're having coffee, tea, sweet tea or hot chocolate together. 
there's so much to share about what's gone on the last week. maybe you'd tell me about the crazy lady you met at the mall while you were trying to buy some new headphones for your brother? or maybe you'd tell me about how you're nervous about uncle vern's christmas fruitcake and what it'll end up doing to your digestive tract? or maybe you'd confide in me that you actually prefer the jim carrey version of the grinch to the original? (gasp) that's cool. i'm hear to listen.
5:30am Mandy.
and then i'd talk. i wouldn't say much, but if we were having coffee (i'll take an vanilla latte made with almond milk, please) i'd tell you:

- camp glow is tomorrow and i can't believe i've spent the last 11 months planning for this.
- that even during year 2 i still get homesick. even this time of year. especially this time of year.
- that every time i walk by my neighbor's house (the one where kalo lives), this little sweetie gets the goofiest/biggest grin on her face and runs full speed at me. 
last night i hid behind a bush and she came running and jumped into my arms covered in dirt. i was wearing a white shirt and didn't care at all. her parents and i were joking around about her coming to live with me because of how happy she gets when she sees me. she almost never says a word, but i'm hoping i can get kalo to say my name by the time i leave here. 
- that it's a lot quieter on the school compound now. i can't believe it's summer break!
- that i spent yesterday at the beach with some friends and it was so wonderful to just sit with a book and relax before the craziness of this next week starts.
- that i have had no running water for three days and a rat definitely died some place in my house and i can't find him [again] and i'm not that upset about it. it'll work itself out.
- an american soft serve ice cream store opened in town. i'm too excited about this.
- my best friend turned 30 yesterday and i miss her heaps and heaps.
- i leave for new zealand in a little over 2 weeks!

happy sunday to you and yours.

25 Days of Christmas // Day 8

Fact: Sometimes music makes me a cry.
In a good way.
Like in the "I don't get how anything in this world could be this beautiful" way.
You know that feeling?
Here's an example of that:

I hope you are stunned into silence/awe/appreciation at least once this Christmas season.

<3 hugs! <3

Friday, December 6, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 7

So I'm a 1980's baby. 1984, if you were wondering exactly when.

And here I sit remincissing about this special decade.
There was a lot of really cool things that happened in the 80's.

But I don't need to talk to you about Marty McFly, My Little Pony, or Blondie.

It's Christmas time. So I'd like to go back and review some of my earliest TV memories surrounding Christmas.

McDonalds had some spectacular commercials in the 1980's.

So did Oreo.

And you can't forget 7-up!
Finally, one of my favorite cartoons (it's actually from 1974, but it played a lot during the 1980s so I'm counting it).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 6

Because I know you need a little more Claymation Christmas in your life, I'm gifting you with...


and this:

the california raisins are pretty darn rad.

happy day!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

25 Days of Christmas // Day 5

It's Day 5 of the 25 Days of Christmas and I hope you are just as excited as Gunter (he's the little boy in the bottom photo) that Christmas is just around the corner!

Do you know the song? What's the next line?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

End of the Year School Celebration

Today our little village celebrated the end of the school year by throwing a celebration for all the students. This is my second end of the school year celebration (wow, that feels weird to say). Today the program included a welcoming speech and prayer by the head pastor of the local Wesleyan Church. The principal ('Atu) got up and spoke and then the littlest students I teach English sang the first verse of Jingle Bells (it took them 2 weeks to learn it - maybe next year we'll add one more verse on?). Then each class came up and sang and each teacher put the students in order from Top Student to Bottom Student. To be honest, it's still as hard as it was last year to see the students put in order of their academic progress so that EVERYONE can see. I know it's a tradition, but it's just so different than what I grew up with and I don't know if I'll ever really understand. I'm trying though! I saw a few tears, but mostly students didn't seem to (visibly) mind if they were the lowest students in their class. Awards and gifts were given to those who were in the Top 3 of each class. Most Improved and Highest Marks in Each Individual Subject were also given. This gave a little variety in terms of who won awards.
Here are some moments caught on film from today:
The Class 6 students made frames from coconut shells. They added way too much glitter for my taste but I think they turned out pretty sweet.
Soni had a special hair-do for the big day.
Class 5 & 6 boys excited for another tutuku'ako (school break).
Kafoatu waiting to go up and sing/
Listening to the opening speech.
Waiting for the program to start.

Project 365 // Week 8 // #50-56

Wow. First off, I can't believe I've already done 50 days of this project. Time is flying.

This week was great for so many reasons.

I probably had 5-10 photos I could have posted for each day. Cool things are happening in my village. It seems that with school winding down, village life speeds up. 

This week I got asked to represent my village in a taolunga (Tongan dance for women) island-wide competition. I don't know if I'm going to do it or not, but I'll keep you posted.
Also, many of my students invited me over to play pele (cards) and it's so much fun to play with them. Every time they throw a card down they do it in the most dramatic fashion and then giggle. It doesn't even matter if you win or not!
Here's a recap of this week:
Day 50 (Nov. 27): VEPA (Vava'u Environmental Protection Association) came to our school to teach us a jingle that they made up. They videotaped us and it looks like we may be on the local (country-wide) news soon. The kids loved it and I caught them singing it all week.
Day 51 (Nov. 28): Happy Thanksgiving! We saved our Thanksgiving celebration until Friday so we could celebrate with all the Americans (remember how I live in the future?). I did do a fun activity with my students that involved some of my favorite Christmas lyrics and the chalkboard. So much laughing!
Day 52 (Nov. 29): It was Harrison's birthday today and our Thanksgiving celebration. We went over to Don and Norie's and taught some friends about our traditions!
Day 53 (Nov. 30): We headed to the Secret Beach and explored.
Day 54 (Dec. 1): Quiet Sunday at my house. Did some drawing for a t-shirt I'm designing for our Peace Corps group. 
Day 55 (Dec. 2): King Tupou I Day so instead of having school I hung out with my roommates for a bit (see above) and then went to singing practice in my village.
Day 56 (Dec. 3): First day back from a long weekend and what did we do at school? We cleaned! And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned!

Hope you have a wonderful week!

P.S. Next week's Project 365 is going to be a little late. With Camp GLOW (it's almost here!) going on I won't be able to post until later in the week. But I've prepared some juicy 25 Days of Christmas goodness to enjoy in my neti (internet) absence.

25 Days of Christmas // Day 4

In honor of Day 4 of the 25 Days of Christmas I want to write about 4 reasons I love being in Tonga at Christmas time.
This does not happen in Tonga at Christmas. I just thought it was goofy.
1. The people. Aside from the fact that I love my village there are so many people that journey home to Vava'u for the Christmas season. It's been really fun to watch families get reunited (even if I can't be reunited with mine this time of year). I get to meet more people, too!
2. My fingers and toes are happy. While I lived in Colorado and Wisconsin there were many times when I would "forget" my gloves or warm socks (I thought I was tough) and would end up with very numb appendages. I don't have to worry about that here. Wahoo for back sweat!
3. Local music. Sometimes after school I can hear the students running down the road behind my house singing the Christmas carols they learned from me while in school. There is something really special about that... even if they are singing "Sleep in Heavenly Cheese" instead of "Sleep in Heavenly Peace".
4.  The unique decorations. You won't find Christmas lights on the outside of homes here (we just got streetlights installed last week), but you will find tinsel and garland in stores, used as clothing, etc. The plastic window decorations that were popular in the 1980s are still alive and well here. 

Why do you like being where you are around Christmas?