Join our adventure in The Kingdom of Tonga

Archive for October, 2007

Everything cool at homestay 2

Well the boat ride was quite an experince.  It was a 1960’s model Japanese ferry boat, I call it “rustbucket class”.  We got on the boat late and ended up not getting a place in the Peace Corps room so we decided to make the 22 hour journey on the top deck under an underhang with Lara and Trenton, Joe and Cory,  Jason and Justin.  We were so lucky that it didn’t rain until when we were getting off the boat.  Karen, as many others, took dramomine and phenegan for seasickness.  I had the patch and eventually I took a phenegan to help me sleep.  It was a bit unnerveing where I was sitting becuase it was on the starboard side of the boat and as the boat rocked I’d look straight down into the water, startling me several times in the night.  Also we were heckled in the night with “mohe’a uli” and “Te mo lotu”,  “sleeping dirty” and “we need to pray” for sleeping next to our wives for warmth or so close together.  I also had the pleasure of someone stepping on me, presumably the guy who eventually yelled at us.  I’d guess this is a bit of the religious culture coming out.  It was a nice suprise when we found out that we were getting to Vava’u in 18 hours instead of 22.

We have arrived at our second homestay, where we will be until December 4th.  Our schedule has become less intense with formal Peace Corps training, but more intense on the language, which is good.  I think we are finally feeling a bit better about the Tongan language, but it is still very difficult.  Our group has been divided up into 3 groups with 11 in each of three towns (kolo).  Then we all meet back in one town 2 times a week.

Our internet access will be much more restricted because we will probably only be able to get to a computer on the weekends.  We miss you all and hope you’re doing well. 

On to Vava’u

We are moving to Vava’u for our second home-stay, which is a 24 hour boat ride from Nuku’alofa, Tonga. It sounds fun but it’ll be on top of a freighter ship in the middle of the night so it could be Indiana Jones esque.  We are currently in Fu’amotu which is the summer home of the queen.  We love our host family here and will miss them a great deal.  They have been so good to us.  The food here is very much like that of the states.  Some things are different, but generally it similar and everyone eats like they live in Tennessee.  They really like New Zealand corned beef (pulu) too.

We have no idea what our internet access will be like for the next 6 weeks so our updates and emails may be much less frequent than that of here in Fu’amotu. Vava’u is one of the 5 island groups here in Tonga and is much further north than our current position here in Tongatapu (which is where the capital city of Nuku’alofa is).  Vava’u is a mountainous island area and is warmer than here.  We will spend at least 6 weeks there and then we will be coming back to Nuku’alofa for the last couple of weeks before swearing in as Peace Corps volunteers.  Then we have no idea where we will be.

We are thinking of everyone and we hope you all are doing well!

Lessons in Fuamotu

I decided that my last post needed a little more explaining…  Scot and I are living with a family here in Fuamotu. Kesi would probably technically be our “host mom,” but she is only a couple of years older than Scot and I, so “host sister” seems like the most accurate way to describe our relationship.  She is one of six siblings, and all of her brothers and sisters have moved abroad.  Since she has gotten on the internet, she has gotten in contact with all of them!  For the first time in a very long time, the family was able to share current pictures of one another.  Scot and I are learning so much as well.  It is almost an overload of information.  The language is unbelievably complicated, but our entire group of 33 Peace Corps volunteers are wading through it together.  Each day, I am amazed and in awe of the kindness and hospitality intrinsic within the culture.  The unique Polynesian ways are evident in the art, food, rituals, ceremonies, dress, and handicrafts.  It is an honor to be here!

Learning to weave, the Pacific Forum, etc, etc

Hi everyone!  Just wanted to send a little update… All is well in the island Kingdom of Tonga!  I taught my host sister how to use the internet, so we are making frequent stops to the village internet.  She is loving being online for the first time ever!  A large amount of Tongans live abroad.  Many are in Australia or New Zealand.  I have learned that there is a Tongan equivalent to My Space or Facebook… it is called Bebo, and my host sister has found all of her family living abroad online!  While I am teaching her internet, she is graciously teaching me the Tongan art of weaving (or lalanga). I am loving it!  Tonga is getting ready to host the Pacific Forum for the first time ever, and dignitaries from all over the world will be here for the event.  Peace Corps trainees have a meeting set up for this Wednesday with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State!  He is actually a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Cameroon.  It should be interesting!  I can’t wait to update the blog with photos.  You will not believe the beauty and culture conveyed through the pictures… We just have to find a computer that we can upload the pictures onto… Anyway, thanks for all of your emails and comments.  We LOVE hearing from friends and family in the states:)

One week in Tonga!

Malo e lei lei ki he pongi pongi ni!  In case you are wondering, that is good morning in Tongan.  We have been here only one week, which is difficult for us to believe.  It feels like much longer in many ways!  We are currently in our Peace Corps training, in a small village in Tongatapu.  It is incredibly intensive, and we are in language and cultural lessons everyday from 8 am to 8 pm.  We are staying with a Tongan family, and they are incredibly hospitable and kind.  I am in awe of the cultural preservation of Tongan culture.  Men all wear skirts, called tapanus.  The women weave and paint gorgeous mats and rugs called tapas, made from local trees.  There is a great book called “Making Sense of Tonga.”  It was recently published by Mary M. McCoy and Siotame Drew Havea, and is a concise, colorful read about the culture.  It also includes fantastic photos.  If you are interested in learning more, see if you can find it on amazon!  We will post pics when we can… unfortunately it may be a while.  If you are interested in sending us goodies, fyi– I need long “hippie” skirts.  It is about the only thing culturally acceptable for women to wear!  We miss you all.

LA to Fuamotu, Tongatapu Tonga

Hi everyone! I hate to send a big ole mass email, but I just wanted to let you all know that we finally made it to the Kingdom of Tonga! The past few days have been an absolute whirlwind. We had our two day orientation in Los Angeles, after a fantastic weekend visit with my sister, Anne. We also got to see Elizabeth and her husband and their beautiful new baby in LA, which was a treat:) Our Peace Corps group consists of 33 people, including 5 married couples. There is a huge spectrum in age, backgrounds, etc, but we all instantly had a connection. After all of the build-up of going into this, it was refreshing to meet a large group of people who not only did not think moving to Tonga was insane, but also made the same decision! The flight was the longest flight of my life– over 12 hours!!! We crossed the international date line, and are a full day ahead of the states. I have absolutely no idea what time it is at home! The current PC volunteers all enthusiatically met us at the airport, which made us all feel very welcomed. Okay, we just figured out that we are 17 hours ahead of NYC and Charleston. How bizarre!! So we met the PC office staff and some of the volunteers, and had an authentic kava ceremony as a greeting. It involved chanting in Tongan, and preparing the Kava root by grinding it with a large rock and mixing it with water, and drinking it. Then we got to see traditional Tongan dance, with the authentic clothes, etc. Quite frankly, our heads are spinning. I don’t even know how to describe everything adequately. But we feel very safe, and happy, and excited about the coming adventure. Tomorrow we go to our first homestay, on the main island. We will be there for 3 weeks, and then we go to a homestay for 6 weeks on an outer island. The further island is a 22 hour boat ride from where we are now!! I’m a little nervous about the homestay, but we are optimistic and thankful for the opportunity to be emmersed in Tongan culture. We start our official language lessons tomorrow… Just to let you know, communication with the states seems like it will be quite difficult– at least at first. We are at the “fast” internet cafe right now, and it is unbelievably, painfully slow. Scot wasn’t even able to get the internet to come up. So if you don’t hear from us, please know that we are thinking about you all and we are doing great!!
Much love,
Karen and Scot

LA, CA Part 3

Well Karen and I wanted to let everyone know that we weren’t able to contact before leaving that we are sorry and that we will miss you and we look forward to hearing from all of you over these next 27 months.  Let it be known that you are invited to come stay with us in Tonga or meet us somewhere close, just give us a heads up.

Our group (Group 73) is awesome.  Everyone seems so nice and they couldn’t be more diverse and interesting.  There are 5 married couples, including us, and a total of 33 people going in this group!  It makes us wonder if married couples do better in Tonga.  There are recent college graduates, retired school teachers, and everything in between.

We have a full day of classes and then an evening of checking in at LAX, and then a roughly 13 hour trip to Tonga with a layover in Samoa.  So if you haven’t gotten a call from us, we are sorry, but it’s doubtful that we will be able to call you today.  Keep checking the blog for posts.  The next movie will be the going away party.

Our last day is December 31, 2009.  So if you can’t come see us, we look forward to seeing you in 2010.