Friday, May 23, 2014

There was that one time...

...I received 10 postcards in the mail!
What a great day! About a week ago I stopped by the Post Office and picked up heaps of postcards for my students. We spent a lot of class time on Monday finding all the different places on the globe where the postcards travelled from. Special thanks to Dick and Ruth who sent many from their Baltic Sea trip! Thanks for thinking of us! Side note: If you're still interested in sending a postcard or two click the link above for more information! 
What wonderful mail!

...that I led aerobics in front of 1,000+ kids!
Two Mondays ago the Ministry of Education called up the principal at my school and told her that they were coming to pick up me and another teacher. 20 minutes later a white van pulled up and I was asked to jump inside. We then journeyed to ten different schools over the next two days teaching students and teachers an aerobics dance that we will present for the King at his birthday celebration in July. One of the Ministry officials said that I was voted their honorary Minister of Aerobics. Haha. Then I found out that every Friday every student from the entire island (1000+ kids) will be coming together to practice the aerobics dance. So last Friday we all bussed into town in the rain and I was asked to stand on a table in front of everyone so they could watch how to arobici (pronounced: air-o-bee-kee). It was a moment I will never forget.
Can you find me? I'm in blue!

...spent a Saturday on a sailboat. 
One of my fellow PCV's Harrison had his wonderful aunt visit from the States. He wanted to take her on an adventure so he asked if any of us would be interested in going on a day sail. I happily agreed to go. It was an amazing Saturday.
Abby and I enjoying the weather and the waves.

...adventured to an outer village to spend some quality time with other Peace Corps Volunteers.
Ryan and Abby (two of the PCVs in my group) happily hosted a few of us in their cute little outer village last night. We spent time down by the ocean, chatting, and swimming in Vava'u's only fresh water lake. (There was even a pine tree next to it and it reminded me of Wisconsin!). It was a great way to spend the weekend and I'm so thankful to them for hosting.
Jeff, me, Harrison hanging out next to the South Pacific Ocean.

...learned to hula dance and performed it in front of a whole restaurant!
For close to the last 3 months I have been taking weekly hula dance lessons with some fellow volunteers. We are taught by a lady that was born and grew up in Hawaii. It's been really great to learn even more about Polynesian culture and get the opportunity to learn how to sway my non-existent hips. There were many laughs and a lot of hibiscus flowers. Performance #2 will be next month!
Kat (Australian Volunteer), Misaki (Japanese Volunteer), Miwa (Japanese Volunteer), me, Amy (Australian Volunteer) and Chloe (Australian Volunteer).

Hope the last two weeks were filled with fun for you too!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sapate Fa'e + Church

 Nearly every Sunday you can find me here. It's the tiny Wesleyan Church in my village and is full of some of the most delightful people (and singing) I've come across during my time in Tonga.
 Today was an extra special day in church. It was Sapate Fa'e (Mother's Sunday) so we spent the majority of the service celebrating God, Jesus and Moms. 
The mothers of the congregation shared the responsibility of reading the hymns, preaching (notice the pulpit), and reading scripture.
 I spent the better part of the time trying to translate the hymnal (which is what I normally do every Sunday). Also it's hard to sing music when there are no musical notes to tell you where you should be. So I make up the melody most of the time.
 These ladies don't. They have the hymnal memorized. It was a great day celebrating them and gifting them with candy necklaces.
 And as always, Mele (whose name was just changed last week to Marie) and I hung out.
She held my hand for a good part of the service too.
 And when her grandmother got up to be recognized on Sapate Fa'e she stole her fan and fanned me with it. Ha.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there! You're wonderful!

Ketahi Beach [5.10.14]

Quiet Saturdays at the beach are my jam.

The weather here in Vava'u has been unseasonably cool as of late. Just the way I like it. Cool breezes, sunny skies and pure beauty.


Yesterday (Saturday, May 10) Joey, Harrison and I were able to get together with our campers and counselors from Camp GLOW/GROW 2013 for a morning full of fun and learning.
We began the morning with an ice breaker activity and just spent time reconnecting with the campers since it's been 5 months since we've seen them at camp! Time flies!
Next was an activity where they looked at how they had applied what they learned at camp (under the headings: healthy lifestyles, goal setting, leadership, and school/jobs). They were able to discuss what they had done since camp using what they learned and where they hoped to go with the new information.

We invited a local guest speaker to lead a session that covered goal setting and community involvement. 

'Alaipuke has been such a blessing to work with the last 2 years. His passion for Tonga and for working with youth is inspiring. He had the kids involved and excited about their futures!
The morning was wonderful. At one point 'Alaipuke spoke to the students about how proud he was of them and that they are continuing to work on building these skills well after camp. Commenting on the success of the students and the morning he said,
"It's really something. You have a vision. It's amazing to see these young people are working on their values and vision so they can be good citizens of Vava'u [our island group] and the world."

The morning concluded with lunch (delicious local fare provided by one of the counselor's parents!) and some hanging out.

Next up for Camp GLOW/GROW? Preparing for camp in September, finalizing funding, fundraising, curriculum development, an action plan for the current campers and ways for Camp GROW/GLOW alumni to get involved. I'm so excited! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Under the Mango Tree

During our Pre-Service Training (PST) we listened to the Peace Corps staff and seasoned volunteers tell us about the importance of integration. They then provided us with heaps of examples on ways to integrate and I remember one phrase that was repeated quite frequently. "Sit beneath the mango tree," they said. 

At the time we laughed at the phrase a lot. I mean...

What mango tree were they talking about? 
And where would I find it?
What were we suppose to do sitting under a tree?
Why would we sit under a tree?

But over the last 20 months this phrase "under the mango tree" has taken on a whole new meaning.

I quickly learned that besides coconuts, mango trees are found all over Tonga. Though they only bare fruit for a few months out of the year, these trees provide shade for many older village people who patiently wait to get into town, give reprieve from the scorching heat of the tropics, and a place to learn, grow and laugh. Each tree has stories to tell. Each looks old and weathered. Each has its own attitude. They're the kind that have been around for hundreds of years and I'm lucky that we have one on the school grounds.

And the space below its branches has become a very special place for me. 

It's a place that has...
...provided me with amazing beauty - getting to watch the sun seep through the leaves while I spend time in my hammock on Sundays.
...given me a space where I have been able to get to know each of my students individually.
 ...allowed me an area to get silly with these wonderful children (besides the classroom).
 ...conjured up a lot of laughs. So many joyful and beautiful moments.
 ...become a place for hugs and smiles (and monster faces). 
 ...turned into a barber shop on occasion because the teacher absolutely needs her hair braided.

What a wonderful place.
What a wonderful week (and it's not even half way done).
What wonderful memories.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

[virtual] coffee date + currently

Here's a look into my world lately.


spending my time: teaching English, reading, spending time with my neighbors, directing Camp GLOW for the second year in a row, teaching piano lessons, working with Tonga Voyaging Society, getting back into yoga, and working with the Vava'u Public Library (I'm their new chair person!). 
This is my PCV friend Katie's cat. His name is Niu (coconut in Tongan).
eating: Things that are green! Lately the market seems to have exploded with all things green - oh goodness is this lovely. I was even able to buy a head of lettuce - LETTUCE - salads for everyone!!

smiling about: my students and how sweet and interested they are! The other day one of the oldest boys at school and his little brother came to my door just to tell me how pretty I was (ha! i still had sleep in my eyes and was not even close to ready for school). What a great way to start the day. They are also hilarious, too. I love how humor can transcend cultural and language barriers. 
Mornings at school.
thankful for: The symptoms of the Chikungunya virus have pretty much left my system (aside from the joint paint which seems to move around my body depending on the day). Also, I'm super thankful that people are starting to send postcards for our postcard project! My students are SO excited to get them and learn where in the world they came from! (If you're interested in sending one just click the "keep in touch" button up top and send one to the address listed!)
Postcards from Spain, Tennessee and the Phillipines! So cool!
listening to: Slow Dance by John Legend. His voice is so sultry and I think is like a really good piece of dark chocolate, but for the ears. ...Tonight I wanna dance... 

contemplating: how we're going to improve on Camp GLOW and GROW this year. Last year was definitely a success but there is always room for improvement and there are definitely elements of last year's camp that I want to change. 

excited for: the change in weather. I cannot tell you how lovely 74 degrees feels after months of ohmygoodnessisitwarm outside.
Do you see the rainbow? The weather was great this week!