Join our adventure in The Kingdom of Tonga

Archive for October, 2007

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.

LA, CA part 2

Something interesting happened Friday, a group of Hisidic Jews asked us if we are Jewish. I wasn’t sure how to take that, although it was funny.

Well Karen started getting sick in Tennessee and I came down with it yesterday it’s not terrible but it’s not great. We spent yesterday in Hollywood.  We ate at Coral Tree Cafe where we were behind Zack Braff from Scrubs. WWTDD is right, celebrities do look just like anyone else. I don’t know why I would have thought they looked like anything else. Everything just looks different on television. We then to to the pier at Santa Monica Pier and rode the ferris wheel, and then walked third street promenade.

LA is very interesting. It truly does celebrate diversity. There is no homogeny here, its very refreshing.