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Archive for May, 2008

The Southern Cross and Scorpio…

So our brief New Zealand holiday ended.  We saw the glow worms of Waitomo Caves, the beautiful New Zealand countryside, and feasted on “palangi food.”  But all good things must come to an end…  Even though we were only gone for a week, returning to Ha’apai required some adjustment.  For some reason, we hadn’t missed the all night dog fights, the 4 am rooster crowing, and the 5 am church bells!  But slowly we’ve adjusted back to the routine of life here.  Scot and I are co-teaching computer classes for 9-12 year olds, which has been a lot of fun.  Many of the kids have never used a computer (or seen a tv for that matter,) so the computer and the interactive educational software we are using are enormously entertaining and educational.  I think it also helps diverse learners master math and English concepts in a fun way….  If you are interested in donating additional educational software- let me know!  There is no doubt that the Ha’apai islands have a slow, quiet pace of life.  Yet I cannot deny that the skies are utterly amazing.  When we walk around at night, we rarely need a flashlight because the moon and stars are so bright.  For the first time, I located the Southern Cross and Scorpio constellations.  I guess they are visible reminders of how far we’ve traveled:)

New Zealand, Part 3

Hello from our postponed Honeymoon/30th birthday celebration/escape from Peace Corps vacation in New Zealand!  We are now in Rotorua, which is home to volcanoes, hot springs, thermal mud baths, and Maori Culture.  The actual town of Rotorua is adorable– and although it is a small, quaint place– it seems to be about the same size as the entire capital of Nuku’alofa!  The weather is quite chilly, so we are still adjusting to the major difference in climate.

Yesterday, we visited the Auckland Museum.  The entire first floor consisted of exhibits of Pacific art, ranging from Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia.  There were amazingly intricate shields and spears from Papua New Guinea, cannibal forks from Fiji, breathtakingly beautiful jewelry from the Solomon Islands, and in a tiny corner we saw a Goddess statue, found in Ha’apai, Tonga.  It was almost surreal to see, because there is absolutely no trace of indigenous religion left in Tonga.  A fervent and fiery brand of Christianity has permanently erased any evidence of spirituality that once embraced the Divine Feminine.  The Museum also displayed elaborate Maori carvings, which are far more stunning in person because of their incredibly intricate and detailed designs. 

We passed through Auckland at the same as the annual comedy festival, and bought tickets to the “Heavenly Burlesque” show.  We had never seen a burlesque show, but were quite curious.  It was an absolute blast!!  They described it as a naughty “Cirque de Soleil”… There were trapeze dancers, fire dancers, and lots of erotic performances celebrating femininity, masculinity, and eroticism.  After spending the last seven months in an incredibly repressive culture (one that considers knees and shoulders to be erotic), it was really refreshing! 

Tonight we are going to the Maori Village of Mitai, to see a traditional cultural performance.  Tomorrow we are going caving at Waitomo Caves, which has thousands of glow worms that illuminate the caverns.  Hopefully we will squeeze in some time for mud baths and thermal springs as well:)

One more thing I wanted to mention online was the extent of US election coverage here in New Zealand.  In the States, we always heard sentiments like “the whole world is watching this election.”  It wasn’t until coming to this region of the world that we realized the accuracy of the statement.  Every single backpacker we’ve met in Tonga (from Finland, South Africa, Holland, France, etc), all know the details of the Primaries.. down to the electoral votes in each state.  Here in New Zealand, one of the major news stories was the recent primaries in NC and Indiana.  It is such a reminder to us of how very important this election is– to everyone!

New Zealand Part 2


I thought I’d write a little more about our vacation in New Zealand!  Auckland (or ’Tamaki Makaurau in Maori)  really is a fantastic city.  It is larger than we expected, and sort of reminds us of a cross between London and Seattle.  The fact that New Zealand is a part of the Commonwealth is incredibly evident.  Yesterday we went to the top of the Sky Tower, which is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere.  The view of the city skyline, harbors, and volcanoes in the distance was incredible.  It was absolutely insane to watch tourists bungee jump off of the tower. 

Tomorrow we head to Rotorua, which is known for its volcanic landscape, thermal springs, geysers, bubbling mud pools and lakes, and vibrant Maori culture.  We’ll be there for my 30th birthday, which is hard to believe.   After our Tongan diet of boiled mystery meat and root crops, the ability to eat organic salad bars, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cuisine has been heavenly.  My hair and skin is looking better after a trip to a spa and salon, and Scot is ecstatic because we are going to visit the set of “Hobbitown” from Lord of the Rings, as well as the glow worm caves outside of Rotorua.  We miss you all and promise we will do a HUGE update of photos as soon as possible!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mama’s in our lives )

New Zealand part 1

We landed in New Zealand around 2:15am in Tuesday and made it into bed around 4:30am at our Hotel. The hotel room is extremely small, but for some reason it just doesn’t matter. A hot shower and a comfy bed  goes a long way!  Prices here are very expensive compared to the States. Keep in mind that the US to NZ dollar is currently about 1 to 1.35 or so. Example, your average paperback book ranges between $25 and $35 NZ. Food isn’t too expensive, but when your eating 4 times a day it can be. The restaurant choices are incredible.  We are loving some city life!!! Auckand is just a really beautiful area, surrounded by water and volcanoes.  It is an incredibly international city, with over 100 enthnicities living in the area.  Tonight we are going to a comedy show performance, and we are spending the day at the Auckland Museum.  The Maori artifacts are really amazing.  It’s going to be hard to go back to Ha’apai.

We have only been to Auckland so far, but we are going to Rotorua later in the week.

A funny experience last night is how different movies are here. Depending on what movie you are seeing at what time it costs different amounts, you can bring in food and drinks from other places, and there are assigned seats. We ended up seeing Iron Man, big mistake.

I feel like I need to do a post on how terrible Iron Man was a later date after I calm down.

Check back later for more.

IST in retrospect

Well, looking back at IST. It was interesting, but at the time it felt like we were back in training. Karen and I flew into Nuku’alofa early so Stan and I could work on the computers we were going to use for classes on basic computer troubleshooting and develop the class powerpoints. It didn’t go as planned, but it seems that nothing ever does. The computers needed quite a bit of work and we couldn’t get in to work on them most of the time we were there because of a PC conference going on in the room they were in. By the time we got them into the room that we were giving the class in we have very little time to get them working and of course some failed in the class. None-the-less its over and we were glad.

We got moved from Sela’s guest house to Friendly Islander hotel for HILT, which stands for high intensity language training. Friendly Islander turned out to be highly intense, but for a different reason alltogether. After moving in on Friday afternoon we went to dinner, and on arriving back to the hotel, James noticed that some of his things were missing as well as some of Steve’s (as it turned out alot of Steve’s). The police ended up coming and fingerprinting and told our security officer that the fale had been broken into 3 times in the not too distant past, which concerned us PCV’s and why we were staying there. As they were investigating we noticed that our keys could open any of the doors, meaning anyone with one of these keys could open any doors and get into our rooms with us there or not. PC was concerned, but not enough to move us until the morning. Creepily, Karen and I received a call about 5:30am from John stating that he had just been robbed at knife point in his bed and the guys had stolen his backpack with numerous important things and “squirmed out the window like a rat”. This concerned PC to the point that we were moved the next morning and it subsequently damaged HILT. This was a very large blow to the group morale for our sense of security had been stolen too. Four or more people had things stolen inside or out of there houses equaling thousands of dollars stolen as well as our sense of safety. It was a real bummer.

We ended up finishing on Monday and for whatever reason our talking chief of Ta’anea, John, decided to ET, or early terminate. He will definitely be missed for his humor and tales.

Karen and I caught our plane on time on Monday night at midnight for Auckland.