Join our adventure in The Kingdom of Tonga

Archive for March 15, 2008

A week of “ups and downs…”

It has been awhile since we have posted any new information, so I thought I would fill you all in on our week.  Honestly, it has been one of the most challenging times since beginning our service here.  As our photos show, we are definitely living in a geographic location of much beauty.  On this blog, we try and highlight some of our favorite moments here and generally share our perspectives with optimism.  But life in Tonga is not always easy.  It is not a perpetual honeymoon, and every day here isn’t spent lounging on tropical beaches.  Most of the time, the days are long and hot and extremely tiring.  Tonga is incredibly geographically isolated, and as you could imagine– the culture often reflects that reality.  Some of our struggles come from the lack of variety in terms of food here… Fresh vegetables are a rarity.  The diet consisting largely of carbs is helping me to pack on the pounds, while Scot is continuously loosing weight.  For those of you who know us, neither of us are practicing Christians.  I would describe myself as an agnostic, and Scot is an atheist.  The constant barrage of Christianity is neverending here.  It is absolutely integral in Tongan culture and traditions.  I’m reminded of it at church every Sunday, when we sit through an hour of being screamed at by an old man on a pulpit.  I’m reminded of it at a high school field day, when the winning teams repeatedly burst into a chorus of “Thank you Jesus!”  And I am especially reminded of it when I am asked to explain to my students the significance of the Sabbath Day and to teach a lesson in English about the Old Testament story of the “wise” King Soloman who offered to chop an infant in half to keep two “silly” women from bickering about a baby (hopefully sarcasm is conveyed via computer screen.)

Anyway, I guess my point is that life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is full of challenges and stresses.  And this week, that stress increased significantly due to two more incidences of crime against PCVs on Ha’apai.  We are told that crimes here are few and far between, but since our group arrived here three months ago, we have collectively experienced five incidences- ranging from an attempted break-in and possible sexual assault, 2 occurences of theft, intimidation, and now physical assault.  I was the lucky one to experience the physical assault category.  While walking home from watching the sunset with Scot, a kid about the age of thirteen approached us.  We had never seen him before, and he proceeded to hit me very hard with a large stick.  Scot was able to restrain him and we later found out that he is supposedly mentally challenged.  It was really scary and I have a black and blue bruise on my leg.  Unfortunately the nearby neigbors refused to tell us the boy’s name or where he lived.  Because this is such a “tight-knit” culture, there seems to be a real desire to “protect” one another, regardless of the guilt of perpetrators.  We are at a point of really processing what happened, and assessing our thoughts and feelings around safety issues.

Thankfully, this week also included some fantastic moments as well.  As part of “World Environmental Day,” I was able to integrate environmental education into classroom instruction this week.  With the help of Kiki, (another volunteer here) we taught lessons about organic vs. non-organic materials, their biodegradable life spans, and recycling.  For most of the kids, it was the first time they had ever learned about the topics.  The education culminated in a recycling drive.  88 children (mostly between the ages of 10-14) from four different schools, met us on Saturday morning to collect aluminum cans around Pangai.  The response was overwhelming, and we filled up three large crates full of cans (literally thousands) to be recycled!  What was so exciting about the project was the manner in which the children responded.  They absolutely loved every minute of it!  We will upload photos from the day soon:)