Sunday, June 15, 2014

1.5+ Years in Tonga

I'm a bit late with this post (about 2 months late ... Let's just blame the chicken-boom-boom chikungunya virus).
If you want to take a look at the highlights from my first year serving in Tonga take a look here and here.

Here are some highlights from the past eight months.

October 2013: After the Class 6 exam wrapped, my students started studying hard for the island-wide Solopani (Abacus) competition). They worked closely with a JICA (Japanese Volunteer) who was serving in Tonga and teaching students how to do math in a way that I had never seen before! My students loved learning about it and at the competition there was even time for teachers to participate (I chose not to because I know nothing about the abacus). It was a wonderful day in Neiafu.
November 2013: Lu is a Tongan staple food. It is made with coconut milk, onions and your meat of choice wrapped up in taro leaves and bananas leaves and then cooked in an underground oven called an umu. For a very long time there has been an annual Peace Corps Lu competition. What makes this day so much fun is that Peace Corps aren't known for cooking amazing lu and it gives us an opportunity to be creative when it comes to the lu we eat so often. It was a great night hanging with Peace Corps and some Tongan friends (and the trophy I won wasn't bad either ;-)). 
December 2013: After nearly a year of planning I helped direct Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) and Camp GROW (Guys Reshaping Our World). It was a week full of learning
January 2014: The 77th and 78th Groups of Tonga Peace Corps Volunteers came together in Tongatapu (the main island of Tonga) for a week of sharing best teaching practices and ideas about our service.
February 2014: My second school year in Tonga started up and the students were so excited to be back in English class. What felt so good was that they actually had retained a little bit of what I had taught them last school year. Their enthusiasm for learning is contagious and it makes it easier to teach them when they are excited about what they're learning.
 March 2014: Teaching continued and with it came more responsibilities for my students. I spent less time talking at them and at the board and more time getting them actively involved in learning English. Through centers and various games we learned about conversation, colors, food, ABCs, and other fun topics!
April 2014: This was a difficult month because I was away from my students and village so long because I was fighting the chikungunya virus. Part of the virus included a pretty gnarly rash that literally took over my body. The bottoms of my feet itched and I looked like I had been hit in the face with a ping pong paddle.
May 2014: With the King's birthday approaching, all the students, teachers, and Ministry of Education officials (Sione is the one in the white with the sweatband!) spent every Friday practicing a giant dance for the King. What is special about the King's birthday this year is that it will be the first time he's celebrated it in Vava'u (the island group where I live) since 2002. The Ministry wants to make it special so we have been practicing a program that doesn't only include dancing, but gift giving, singing and creating the Tongan flag out of red and white clothing. I can't wait to show you the final product in July!

Here's to enjoying the last few months of my service in Tonga.

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