Sunday, March 23, 2014

10 Common Things [that maybe aren't that common]

Daily life in Tonga has become so comfortable and so normal that sometimes I forget that a lot of what I do every day is not so normal (by American standards or comparing my life here to my life in America). 

There are heaps and heaps of things that I do or participate in here that have never been part of my life before. It's taken some adjustment, but some have been welcomed adaptations.

So here is a list of common things in Tonga that maybe aren't so common in America:

1. Waking up to the sound of a rooster, pig, rat. This morning I rolled over at 3:30am and heard something outside. In America my thought process would have been something like "Where's my iPhone? I gotta call 911. Some creep is trying to break in." But here I immediately thought "Ok. It's either a pig, dog, rooster or rat... now to decide which one." I knocked very loudly on the wall and heard a squeal on the other side. The pig ran away, I smiled and rolled back over.
2. Watch your cuts/scrapes. It seems because of the ridiculous humidity here that the smallest cut or scrape takes 503 times as long to heal vs. in America. I had three innocent-looking mosquito bites that I accidentally itched in my sleep (hey, it's an accident when you don't realize what you're doing) and have since blown up into huge infections (one might even be a boil - T.M.I.? Sorry.). The importance of bathing yourself is heightened when you are consistently in various stages of moist. (Least favorite word in the English language - had to break it out.)  
3. "That car does not have a windshield." (said with no surprise in voice) I have yet to read up on safety standards in Tonga when it comes to driving cars but I'm pretty sure they are a little bit more lax than the States. There are no emissions tests, either. The other day I saw a half car, half truck. Literally, it looked like someone had sawed a truck and a car in half and then welded the two together. There was no windshield and the right door was off (maybe air conditioning?). And the crazy thing, I wasn't that surprised. My favorite car in Vava'u is painted all red with a giant Tongan flag on the side and devil horns poking out through the hood. It's pretty cool lookin'. 
5. A stop sign? Huh? Intersections exist here, but stop signs? This is a new addition. As I was walking to my village the other day I looked up and did a double take. "Is that a ... what the ... Huh?" (came out of my mouth) A stop sign? Really? Oh yes and written in English. I sort of wish it was written in Tongan - it only makes sense, right?. 
6. Sundays. It took about a year to get used to the pace (or lack thereof) on Sundays. No businesses are open and the options are church, eat and sleep. It's inappropriate to exercise. It's inappropriate to go to the beach. It's inappropriate to do homework, watch movies or listen to music that isn't Christian. Most Sundays I'm grateful for the excuse to do very little, but sometimes I wish I could go to the Target dollar section. Just sometimes.
7. Sleeping under a bug net. When I was five I begged my parents for a canopy bed and I guess this is a version of that [or I'd like to think that way anyway]. It's become totally normal to crawl under my bug net and tuck all of the ends in to make sure that no unwanted critters find their way into my sleeping place.
8. Shaking your clothes out. One of my PCV friends here grabbed a shirt off a pile of clothing the other day, put it on and started buttoning it up. Right above the breast pocket sat a good-sized molokau [poisonous centipede]. Trying carefully not to agitate it, he unbuttoned the shirt, took it off and threw it on the ground. This happened a few weeks ago and now, no matter what, I shake my clothes. You never know what critters could be inside. 
9. "I have no clothes to wear because I did laundry three days ago and it's rained every day since." Relying on the weather to get clean clothing is something that is relatively new to me. It becomes difficult when you live in the Tropics and there are no reliable weather forecasts. It may say it's going to be hotter than Hades and sunny and then you walk outside five minutes later to a torrential downpour. It's kinda like living in Florida, actually.
10. "Careful, you might not want to sit there. I saw a [insert gross bug/insect/rodent] there earlier." I'm a floor sitter. Not sure why, but most times I'd prefer the floor over a chair. When I teach it's the same. But too many times here I've been told that it isn't okay to sit on the floor because there are too many molokaus (poisonous centipedes), rats, giant spiders or lizards around. It's gotten to the point that when I visited America last year I couldn't sit on the floor because I was afraid some lizard, rat, etc. was going to jump out and get me. Also, molokaus move fast.

I talked about molokaus an awful lot in this post.

So here's one for you to look at:
Imagine that crawling on your shirt. [shutters]

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