Saturday, September 27, 2014

#thefinal30: days 11-20

These 10 days were filled with lots of wildlife, a few goodbyes, and a leadership camp I had the honor of directing. 
 Day 11: Tropical flowers constantly amaze me. They all remind me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. This one looked like it was a flower growing out of a flower. 
 Day 12: This evening I served kava to the men in my village to help raise money for a new school bus and in walked the Acting Prime Minister of Tonga. He smiled at me and said "Hello Peace Corps" and gave me this necklace. He is campaigning for re-election in November and stopped by the town hall to gain support. I did my best to sit as lady-like as I could.
 Day 13: "Anchor" in Tongan is "taula" which is one letter off from the name of my village (Toula). Anchors also remind me of camp and one of my favorite Bible verses (Hebrews 6:19). These are just some of the many reasons I got it. Special thank you to Kitione for this special gift.
Day 14: I love how slow and quiet Sundays in Tonga are. I've already talked about the fact that there are only three choices on Sundays: eat, sleep, church. I don't want to lose this when I get back to America. It's the perfect day to relax and recharge. Also, it's a great way to start the week!
 Day 15: What a beautiful first day of camp. The campers and leadership staff are already getting to know each other. We even played Biggest Fan!
 Day 16: We ended day 2 of camp with an off-campus adventure to 'Ene'io Botanical Gardens where we learned all about Tonga's only botanical garden, barbecued chicken, and swam in the South Pacific. We ended the day with the greatest campfire. 
 Day 17: Day 3 of camp included a career panel where campers learned what it takes to become a firefighter, police officer, teacher, Ministry of Agriculture officer, restaurant owner, or Tonga Communications Corporation. After the sessions they shared out what they learned about each career. 
 Day 18: Day 4 at Camp GLOW: now that they have learned what it takes to make healthy and smart decisions these great girls had the opportunity to apply their new knowledge to many different scenarios. Here are just a few of the campers discussing some sensitive topics.
 Day 19: Last day of camp and it's time for a final ceremony filled with what we learned, songs, poems, plays and a special video showcasing the events of the week. 
Day 20: Looking back on such a great week with these girls. One of the best things about camp (even if it's only for five days) is watching the girls grow and come out of their shells. The first night we attempted a dance party with very little participation and the last night of camp all the girls wanted to do was tisikou (dance). They had some sweet moves and laughed the night away.

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Here's to the final 10 days!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#thefinal30: days 1-10

I've been neglecting this little corner of the internet and I'm sorry that I haven't been filling you all in.

This time in this 2 year journey has been so sweet - so full of little amazing moments. It's a great reminder of how far we've come the last two years. I've started the process of saying goodbye and packing up my life here. But I've been in awe the last few days because there are still new things to learn, to experience and to appreciate here.

Here's what I have been up to:
If you'd like to follow in "real time" and have Instagram, I'm ms.mandymarie.

 Day 1: This is Koheleti and he has been working so hard to the last two years to learn English. When I met him he didn't know his ABCs and today he spelled "woman" correctly.
 Day 2: This boy. His excitement and love for the little things is contagious. Today he found a "tattoo" inside a candy wrapper that said "free bird" and you'd think he found real gold. And because he didn't want to waste our water to put it on (our water tanks are running dry) he just spit on his arm and stuck it on. He is helping to raise his 3-year-old sister and many times I find him holding hands with her as they walk through the village and teaching her all about the little things of this world.
 Day 3: Playing cards at recess is one of my favorite ways to spend time with my students during down time. Losalia used to think this palangi (foreigner) was not so good at pele (cards), but I'm slowly changing her mind. I love her sassy attitude towards everything... including cards. 
 Day 4: Today we started the morning hanging out playing cards. Peniteti sat in my lap for a good portion of the card game checking to make sure I didn't mess up. She also made sure to tell anyone in a 20 foot radius every card in my hand and somehow my teammate and I still pulled off the win. 
 Day 5: There are not many birds in Tonga (unless you are on the island of 'Eua), so when this little guy flew into my bag I was really surprised. So were the students and teachers. One of the teachers was so excited that she's decided to adopt him as a pet and plans to teach him to sit on her shoulder while she teaches. I wished her good luck with that.

 Day 6: First annual Camp GLOW/GROW 3K Fun Run/Walk was a success! What fun was had! We all met at the Vava'u Red Cross and had a blast walking through the bush past cows, coconut trees and pigs.
 Day 7: Sunday afternoons spent reading in a hammock. I spent the morning at church with some wonderful people from my village and now I'm reading The Fault in Our Stars.
 Day 8: The students received a very awesome donation of books from the Australian Rotary Club. We have been taking picture walks all morning and they are beyond excited to start reading them. 
 Day 9: This is Melinta. She is my co-teacher's 3-year-old daughter and today we drove to the Ministry of Immigration with her father to get her grandmother's passport information. Melinta loves to respond to "How are you?" by shouting "YES!" at the top of her lungs.
Day 10: This is the first thing you see when you walk into my house. Over the last two years this wall has brought me so much joy and good feelings. I've filled it with inspirational quotes, pictures of wonderful memories, cards and letters from abroad.

Hope you have a great Saturday/Sunday!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

30 days?

That's it. That's all I have left on this island. 
October 2012: The day we found out where we'd be living for the next two years!

It's crazy to me how fast the last two years have flown. There were moments when I never dreamed I'd be at this point - getting ready to say goodbye, enjoying the final few weeks of this little life I've made for myself here in the South Pacific. And then it feels like yesterday when I stepped off the plane in Tongatapu and my foot touched Tongan earth for the very first time.

I've been thinking about a special way to say goodbye (amongst the other things I will be doing in country). And I thought it would be great fun to include 30 of my favorite memories/stories/things I learned in Tonga/Peace Corps throughout my time on here... one a day until I leave the island.

And because some of you asked...
What's Mandy up to next?
On October 7th I will fly down to Tongatapu (the main island in Tonga) and meet with Peace Corps staff and make my way through a mountain of paperwork so I am free to leave the country. I will also hopefully have time to meet the 79th group of Peace Corps volunteers (who just arrived in Tonga yesterday!).
On October 10th I'll start my journey back to my homeland (Wisconsin!). 
This fall? I'll be hanging out in Wisconsin with my parents and making a few little mini trips around the States reuniting with some family and friends.
January 2015 I'll continue my graduate degree at University of Colorado - Boulder with a tentative graduation date set for December 2015.