Saturday, June 22, 2013

the last few days.

just arrived at LAX (los angeles international airport).
will write more soon, but wanted to leave you with a few snapshots from the last few days:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

random bits.

This is one of the Class 1 students at my school. She and I played with rocks at recess today. I taught her about the basil I just planted. She thinks the basil is going to grow into an 'akau (tree).
so here's what has been going on recently.
monday: i taught my students the word "gonna" because they saw it somewhere and because the curriculum, that the ministry of tonga has introduced, says we need to teach common idioms. i repeated "gonna" in a sentence six or seven times and told my students to try... only instead of saying "gonna", "kona" came out. kona means drunk in tongan. they all started laughing because they thought their palangi teacher was trying to teach them the word for drunk. sorry, kids. nope.
tuesday: had dinner with two of the peace corps staff that are visiting our island (and preparing for the new group that arrives in september). we ate sipi kale (sheep curry) and had a great conversation.
wednesday: taught school and then headed into town to do an hour of yoga at the local catholic convent.
tomorrow: my students in class 4 invited their parents to school for tea and reading. they each chose a book, learned how to read the entire thing and will read to everyone who comes tomorrow. i am excited, but not nearly as excited as they are.
friday: i'm flying to tongatapu - a different island group and spending the evening with my host family. i am so excited to spend time with them and catch up. we haven't seen each other since january! i can't believe it's been 6 months! on saturday i will fly to america and spend three weeks there. 

this means that the blog will be quiet for awhile. i may post pictures from america since the internet is zippity-quick there. enjoy the rest of june and summer/winter (depending on your hemisphere!).

Monday, June 17, 2013

'Ahiohio: The Tornado Myth

Tornadoes have frequented world news recently. I've been asked many times in the last couple weeks if "the tornadoes go where I come from". Being a girl from the Midwest, I confirm that they do, but the bad weather they are referring to is not where my family is currently located. I then show them the globe and point to Oklahoma and Tornado Alley and then point to Wisconsin. Recently, talks about twisters have turned to local legends and myths. I'd like to share one with you now. (I should note that this myth has many variations and what I'm going to share with you is only one version).

This story was told to me by one of the teachers I work with as we stood outside of the school this morning during "morning interval" (recess).
Many years ago in Tonga there was a woman and a man who were very much in love. They got married and were expecting a baby. When it came time for the woman to deliver the baby, the woman went through a difficult labor. Only she did not give birth to a baby, but a stone. The couple, who were very sad and embarrassed, quickly buried the stone in the ground at the cemetery. The couple visited the grave site every day and one day on top of the grave sat a little boy. The small boy was blind. But once he figured out that his parents were standing in front of him, he started to run. Feeling abandoned and angry, the boy ran all over the island. He could not see so his path was not very straight, but instead very chaotic (much like a tornado). Every tree he touched, every house he ran by, blew down. He avoided places that were loud and instead only went where there was quiet. The people living on the island heard of the boy and realized that if they made a lot of noise, their homes and family would not be touched. The people ran outside and banged sticks together, sang loudly and yelled for the boy to go away and he did.

True story: To this day, if there is bad weather in Tonga, people here will bang pots and pans, hit trees, sing REALLY loudly and make lots of noise, so that the destruction that comes with storms and twisters won't effect them. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

PCV Profile: Chiara

Chiara is da bomb dot com. (Yeah, I just said that. And no, I'm not ashamed. NotonebitItellyou.)

From the moment we met at PC Staging in LA and were assigned as roommates, she and I have had a special bond. I don't know if it's because we both have a love for all things camp (she worked the last four summers at the sister camp to the camp I spent the last 6 summers at - holywow small world!) or what, but she's great. I especially appreciate her this time of year - where it seems that she is the only one who really understands just how much camp means to me and how, even though I love my life here, my heart aches that I'm not in Maine. Back to Chiara: She was born in Italy, grew up in Indonesia and went to college in the States (What a cool life, right?). She is also a trained educator, too! Chiara has the biggest heart of pretty much anybody I've ever met. She is one of those people you talk to and instantly feel awesome - her positivity is contagious. Has it ever happened to you where you meet somebody and feel like you've known them for years? That's how it is with Chiara. 

Let's get to know her a little better:

Favorite drink: Coffee...mmmmm coffee.

Favorite movie: Love Actually

What do you usually eat for breakfast? In Tonga? Banana bread.

Tell me about the worst hair-do/haircut you've ever had. It was a short haircut that became kind of a bowl cut.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I don't know - where I'll be be, with who or what I'll be doing, but I hope and look forward to a life full of happiness and love - for what I'm doing, where I am and who I'm with.

What is your favorite song? "Littlest Birds" by Be Good Tanya's. Mostly for the line: "You pass through places and places pass through you but you carry them with you on the soles of your traveling shoes." Haven't Met You Yet (Michael Buble) and Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen) never fail to make me smile and want to dance.

By the way, Chiara is pronounced: Key/are/ah. The way the Italians say it.  
Isn't she so cool?

Check out the other PCVs I work with :: Sean // Joey // Harrison // Mark // Michael //

P.S. This is my 200th post in Tonga. Time flies when you're learning heaps and having fun.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Don't forget to play."

Library Fun Day.

Once a year the little library in Vava'u throws a fundraiser called "Library Fun Day"!

I channeled my former art-teacher-camp-counselorness and was in charge of the face painting booth. 
What a great fundraiser for the library. What a great chance to support a great place. 
I love books!
What a great day.

an exercise in writing lists.

1. I am leaving for America a week from tomorrow. As the date approaches I find myself getting more excited, but also scared out of my mind. What if I have troubles adjusting back to the pace of American life? I'm not joking. Island living makes you slow down and I happen to like that it now takes me about three times as long to walk to town as it used to.
2. The trade winds are here in full force and THAT makes me happy. I have never appreciated a breeze so much in all my life. 
3. As each day here passes I find myself caring less and less about whether or not my outfit matches. As long as my calves and shoulders are covered, that's all that matters. I'm not being lazy. Most Tongans just don't care about this. As long as you look somewhat professional and you're wearing a kiekie it does not matter if you have stripes and polka dots on at the same time.
4. I spent Wednesday walking around Neiafu with Sean. We introduced ourselves to EVERY high school principal and talked with them about Camp GLOW/GROW. It was such a productive day. We even had time for tea at the Youth Congress.
5. I am attempting to grow my own basil in an empty alumninum corned beef can. My thumb isn't green. Which is a reason why I owned so many succulents in the States. It's hard to kill an aloe plant.
6. At lunch on Tuesday I went into the library. One of my students crawled into my lap, another exclaimed "Mandy! Fi ulu!" ("Mandy! I'll braid your hair!"), and another grabbed a book. We spent the better part of an hour reading together, giggling and making the palangi look a little bit more acceptable.
7. I found a place on the island that sells brown rice. This is more exciting than you know. 
8. I accidently killed a blue-tailed skink in my rat trap. I hope that doesn't earn me any negative karma points.
9. I showed Disney's Little Mermaid to my class 5 and 6 students this week. They loved it. And I have figured out that "being grossed out" by kissing when you're 9 or 10 just may be a universal thing. ("'Oku na maholo pe uma, Mandy? Maaaaa-ni!" They might kiss Mandy? Oh jeeeeeez!")
10. Singing with students is the best. Especially with dance moves!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Random bits.

These two little sweeties are normally the first students I see on my "walk" (erhm... four foot commute) to school. They know no English (aside from: "Hello, How are you?, I'm fine, thank you...and Manatee!") but we still get each other.

This picture was taken a little over a year ago. Two weeks from today I will start my journey to America to watch my best little sister get married!

It doesn't matter my mood, these kids can instantly brighten my day.

Not sure the source (let me know, if you do!) but I love me some yoga.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Women and Water: My Thursday Night.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just love teaching these kids!
How are you going to spend your Thursday evening?

I spent mine hanging out with 6 of the most lovely women. After the sun set on Vava'u, I eva-ed (wandered) over to Ane's house. Ane and her friends make up one of the Women's Groups in my village. They get together almost weekly to help each other out, to chat, to fellowship and to most of all...have fun! They also work together on ideas to better their community and I felt very grateful to be invited to a meeting last night.
These women are so passionate. Weavers, teachers, mothers, sisters, grandmothers... and hanging out with them felt, surprisingly, normal. (Even if they spoke Tongan the whole time - I did understand about 50% of what they were saying - fist pump!) They made me laugh, their children gave me hugs and uma (kisses) and I wasn't allowed to leave without a huge piece of cake ("For breakfast, Mandy!").
One of their most recent projects is making sure that all the families in my village have consistent access to drinking water.
That doesn't seem so hard right?Well, it's a little trickier than what you may think.
Geography Lesson Time -
Vava'u (and Tonga) are located in the South Pacific. When I moved here I said goodbye to spring, summer, fall and winter and instead gave a big Malo e lelei (hello) to the wet (hot) and dry (not as hot) season. So from December to May it's hot than the dickens out and rains quite a lot (my sima vai [water tank] was constantly full) and then right around now the humidity breaks, the sun comes out and the rain goes away. We have "city water" here, but it's very expensive for families and is sometimes full of chemicals. So I'm going to help them find some funding/grants to make sure that every family in my village has an affordable way to get access to rain water!

P.S. Some of you were wondering what I drink - I have a tank next to my house that collects the rainwater that flows off my roof. Tastes good!

Monday, June 3, 2013

"She found joy and wonder in every little thing. And joy and wonder always found her."
- Katrina Mayer

this journey.

You measure it in the days that seem to crawl by and the weeks that pass in a blur. By the kids screaming your name as you walk the four feet to the classroom door. By the sheer volume of root crop you consume at local feasts. It's found in the chickens that wake you up in the morning, the weevils that infest your baking flour. 

You measure it in the quantity of blue tailed lizards that fall on you while standing in door frames. In the number of pigs and wild horses that dart out of the way as you walk through the village. 


You measure it in the number of “Malo e lelei”s you hear in town and the yells you get at the Saturday morning market. It’s found in the sea turtles that poke their heads out from the turquoise sea and the cups of kava consumed every evening. It sings with the choir at 5am practice. It’s in the number of pails of rainwater collected for drinking and the number of kisses received by your new village family.