Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Christmas in April?

The air is getting markedly cooler. It feels like autumn.

That’s because it is.
If Tonga had four seasons.
But they don’t – they only have the hot/wet season and the cool/dry season.

This is a little odd for me. I feel my internal clock wanting to listen to Christmas music, yearning to wear scarves and jeans (even though it’s not THAT cold yet) and wishing for things like Pumpkin Spiced lattes. The sun sets at 6:15pm and doesn’t rise again until almost 7:00am. The days are getting shorter.  I’m getting sleepier.

And it’s mid-April.

I should be getting excited for summer, but I’m not. Something inside keeps telling me that winter is right around the corner, but I know it’s not. And sometimes I daydream about snow. How cool would it be if there was snow on the ground in June when I landed in Colorado? Even though 99.999992% of the people in the U.S. would hate it (including my sister who is getting married at the end of June), I’d secretly LOVE it. I think about how if I’m like this now, barely 8 months into my Peace Corps service, wishing so badly for snow, I can’t imagine how I’ll be when I get home in November 2014.


I’m going to be honest with you; I will probably set up a tent and sleep out in the snow with my mittens, favorite jacket and a pumpkin-spiced latte in my favorite green thermos. THAT is how much I am a four-season girl.

And while I’m wishing for any weather that doesn’t make my face look like a bloated tomato, I am also trying to EMBRACE THIS MOMENT.

I’m not going to fight it so I’m welcoming this peculiar mid-April-is-it-fall-or-spring? phase. I’m listening to Christmas music, I’m watching “Elf” on repeat, and I’m making hazelnut lattes (erhm, the Tongan version anyway).

Confession: I may have sang “Jingle Bells” to one of my classes today and then proceeded to draw a picture of a “one horse open sleigh” on the board because they didn’t know what that was. And duh, Tongan kids obviously need to know what sleighs are. Vital information when trying to pass a test that determines a lot. And really, a sleigh is not a sleigh without Santa Claus. So I drew him, too. And I got a little out of control. I may have been waving my freak flag high in the sky. Really high. That’s okay though. The kids loved it and when 3 of my sassy Class 5 boys were walking home from school I heard them singing “Jingle Bells” at the top of their lungs. YES. IN MID-APRIL, PEOPLE.  [Fist pump]

I mean, it’s not like they don’t celebrate Christmas a bit early here anyway (I heard Christmas music as early as September). So I started 7 months before the average Tongan. Big whoop.

I’m sure this confusion will dwindle. And if it doesn’t… well then I guess this girl will just be celebrating baby Jesus and spreading her yuletide cheer far and wide for the next 240 days.

Friday, April 19, 2013

IST and some photos

When I was a school teacher in the States, I loved taking part in (most) professional development sessions. Some were so awesome and some were boring power points with no juicy ideas. Getting new ideas to make my classroom a better place for my students to learn was always exciting. I was thinking about that this last week while I was down in Nuku'alofa for a training with PC. This training, called In-Service Training, marks a significant point in Peace Corps: I'm 1/3 of the way done with my service.
This is both exciting and frightening. Exciting because it's moving way faster than I thought and frightening because I feel like I have so much more to do to feel like I've really helped the people here in Tonga. Oiaue. Baby steps. 
Here are a couple shots from the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy. I will be back to posting more frequently very soon! I promise!
This is Group 77 enjoying Nuku'alofa.

The sunset on Vava'u. (This picture was taken by my friend Katy)

Snorkeling in Swallow's Cave - Vava'u.
Harrison is like my Peace Corps brother. He listens to all my crazy ideas.
 Here's to getting back into the swing of things and being back in my little village. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The blog will be a little bit quiet this week because I am on a different island at a training, but I hope you are enjoying life! 'Ofa lahi atu! :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Interesting Bits

Random bits from my week and my brain:

1. I'm already 1/4 of the way through the school year. It's going crazy fast. (Also, that means I'm 28% of the way through Peace Corps ... excuse me? Hey Time, please slow down).

2. I looked deep into the eyes of a big pig that had somehow snuck on to the school grounds, pointed and yelled "'alu!" (go) and the pig actually left. I didn't even have to chase him.

3. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I watched a Tongan walk up to me in town wearing a red t-shirt with "Wisconsin" on it. #BuckyBadgerRepresentingintheSouthPacific.

4. One of my good friends, Kelly, introduced me to a song by Laura Welsh called "Hollow Drum". I advise you to listen to it ASAP.

5. Indian Apples look like giant green amoebas with spikes and taste like heaven. Tongans use them as medicine. According to my puleako (principal), Indian Apples are used for "diabetes and other illnesses".

6. Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is starting a boys' camp called Camp GROW (Guys Reshaping Our World). The camp will focus on positive decision making, goal setting and treating women with respect. The camps will run at the same time in different parts of town and the students will come together for certain sessions and work together. (I'll write more soon about this!)

7. I have had three lizards jump on me this week. A local resident of Vava'u told me that it's because I have "unique energy". She told me to research what kind of energy that is - she thinks that maybe I am "very nurturing". That's cool, but I don't need blue-tailed skinks throwing themselves at me.

8. I am headed to Tongatapu (a different island) in two weeks for a Peace Corps training. I need to clean my fale before I leave really well - I don't want any furry critters establishing their homes here like the last time I went out of town.

9. When I have downtime I sometimes watch New Girl (Season 1). Can somebody please tell me how Season 2 is going? Please? Is it any good?

10. Spinach does not exist in Tonga, but pele does. Pele is an 'ifo vegetable that looks a lot like spinach but only tastes like spinach if you cook it. It's especially tasty if you saute it with some onions and oil. My neighbor Noa has beautiful pele plants in her yard and she told me that the next time it rains she is going to transplant one in my yard so I have pele to cook with. I'm beyond pumped about this. SO EXCITED. Three cheers for leafy green vegetables!

14 families and the Pandanas tree.

Today during lunch I snuck away from the school and scurried to the Wesleyan Hall. Every Wednesday at noon a group of women, lovely women, meet to talk and plan and weave. A few weeks ago two of them came to visit me with a request.

They are weavers - all 14 of them. They use the bark of the Pandanas tree to create beautiful bowls and mats and they asked me to help them find funding. They are hoping to start their own local business, selling their handicrafts, and in turn create more opportunities for their families and children. But it's a process to get the bark from the Pandanas tree and there aren't many around the village where I live. So the women often times have to go the market and by the Pandanas in bundles and turn it into something magical. The women who live in my village did not grow up here - they married their husbands and had to relocate. Such is Tongan custom. But in their relocation they didn't stop weaving.

So I told them I would help. I couldn't promise that I would be able to find money, but that I would look in a few places, ask some people and make some connections. I'm hoping we can learn about micro-financing together or that I can help them get in touch with the appropriate grant to take their small business idea and make it into a reality. I'm not really sure where to begin but Peace Corps provides us with a few ideas and I will look elsewhere as well. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy my Wednesday lunches with this lovely women.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Monday

Easter Monday is a thing here.

I mean, it's a holiday, with no school.

So everyone on the island seems to run to the nearest beach with their families and their arms full of root crop and lu.

That's how I spent my day. And it was wonderful.

At one point during the day, Ane and I were sitting under a Fotulona tree weaving. Fotulona trees are something out of a fairy tale - they look about a billion years old, have large oval waxy green leaves and a fruit that has the shape of a tomato but is the color of the glow in the dark stars that dotted the ceiling of my childhood bedroom. Ane is teaching me to weave a taovala - a grass mat worn for special occasions, but first I must take the bark from the hibiscus tree which has been pounded out into a flight reed and braid it. So stuck between my big toe and the next one over, is hibiscus bark and I'm braiding and braiding ... I look up to see Touna. I've talked about Touna (Una) before and how she and I are kindred spirits. Today she has decided to keep her clothes on while she is kau kau tahi (swimming at the beach). She is thigh deep in water and playing with three other children her age. What she's doing reminds me of the mole game I used to play in arcades - you know the one. It's played with the hammer. When the moles come out of a hole you just bop 'em - Touna is doing something similar with the heads of the other three kids. They are laughing and loving life. Out beyond them I watch as a dozen kids ranging from 7-13 are participating in what can only be called the South Pacific's version of lumberjack log rolling. They are all balanced on the top of a floating coconut tree trunk and are singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (in Tongan). They are attempting to make it through the whole song while they are all balanced on the tree but barely make it past the first "A-weeeeeeeee A-weeee-um-um-ooo-wayyyy". There is a kava circle taking place next to me - as the day goes by the men are getting progressively louder and rowdier. Ane and I talk about family and we talk about Vava'u. We talk about Touna and her grandson who is spending the week down in Tongatapu with his parents "eva-ing" (wandering around).

*My apologies for the lack of pictures - the sky was questionable during the early morning hours so I didn't take out Carlton the Canon (Yes, my camera has a name).