Tongablog

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Archive for October, 2008

Earthquake

Hey everyone!  We experienced the strongest earthquake since we have been in Tonga, today, a magnitude 7 or 7.1 depending on where you look.  We live right next door to the seismographic geologic station here on Tongatapu so I’ll stop by in the morning and check the official record.  It’s somewhere between 33km and 47km deep so there isn’t much to worry about in the way of a tsunami effecting us.  It’s one of the beauties of the earthquakes here is that we are right over a convergent plate boundary and all of the earthquakes are extremely deep.  It usually takes a underwater subsidence or large volcanic eruption to cause what the world saw happen in 2004 in Indonesia.

It was really cool to feel this earthquake because you could walk outside and see the bushes and trees shaking like crazy and the telephone/power lines swinging.  It was almost like being on a boat swaying with a really strong wind hitting you suddenly.  Probably the coolest part about it was being on the phone with Steve and being able to tell him what was happening right before it got to him in Vava’u.  Also being inside, it felt like the floor was jello and the room going back and forth. It lasted several minutes so there was plenty of time for observation. No damage has been reported yet.

The earthquake in Ha’apai in 2006 was reported as a 8.0 or 8.1 and it has been said that the island system asctually dropped by 18 inches.  That’s pretty darn hard to believe, but when you talk to old folks there they say that parts of Lifuka are erroding that were never effected by erosion pre-earthquake, you start to wonder.  I could see some signs of damage from this quake in the building that I worked.  There were large cracks in the walls and some in the floors.  Some older structures had collapsed as well due to neglect pre-earthquake.

A quick note…

Hi everyone!  I’m sorry we have been a little M.I.A. lately.  First off, I want to say THANK YOU to returned PCV, Roger Reed!  I just received your very kind and generous gift of the world map.  I promise that it will go to good use here!  Thank you so much for thinking of us, and for donating to the Tongan educational system.

The past few weeks have been rather busy for us.  Scot is editing a short documentary about Peace Corps Tonga and I have basically been glued to the computer, following U.S. election coverage:)  We saw our year anniversary of life in Tonga come and go, and welcomed a new group of 24 volunteers to the island nation.  Check out their cute photograph below:)

Because the seasons are reversed here, my summer break starts in two weeks.  So for now, we are finishing up the school year with exams and closing ceremonies.  I am looking forward to using some of the break time to get involved with a small business project with a group of “at-risk” young women from the Tongatapu National Youth Congress (TNYC).  They are creating an innovative business to promote STI prevention.  Tongan women create a beautiful paper-like fabric by hammering, flattening and painting the bark of an indigenous tree into tapa cloth.  The young women with the TNYC are making and selling small tapa cloth condom holders!  It is a great way to create some revenue for them, while continuing a traditional craft and educating about safe sex and HIV/STI prevention.

As I mentioned, I do have a lot of free time here.  No matter where I am living, this former Political Science major cannot stop being an avid political enthusiast.  I have to say, that it is absolutely horrifying to read about some of the hate-talk from McCain/Palin supporters.  Contrary to what people may assume about me, I do have Republican friends and family members that I love and respect.  I actually have voted for a Republican (ok, only once) in the past.  I am sure that the ignorant, racist hate speech is not representative of all Republicans.  Yet it is imperative that both GOP leaders and everyday Americans denounce this hateful speech.  Barack Obama is a Christian man, who was Democratically elected into the U.S. Senate.  He is an Ivy-league scholar and a loving husband and father.  He was raised in Hawaii by his mother and grandparents.  These are the facts.  Yesterday I watched footage from a Palin rally in Ohio.  Her supporters screamed vile hate talk on camera, calling him the N— word, an Arab, a Muslim and saying that “he hates whites.”  How on earth could he “hate whites?”  He is biracial and his mother and grandparents are white!  Like Obama or not, these words are not acceptable. They are LIES.  And ridiculous, hateful, slanderous lies at that.  Then today, I read that Republican Congresswoman Bachmann accused members of the U.S. Congress of being “anti-American” based on partisan differences.  Palin said she “likes speaking in the pro-America parts of our country” and the McCain camp called Southwest Virginia “the real Virginia.”  So our question to them is this:  Are U.S. soldiers in Iraq who vote Democrat (and there are PLENTY of them) Anti-American?!  What about all those registered Democrats, who serve our nation as teachers, firefighters, and ministers?  Are they “anti-American?”  Here in Tonga we earn around $300 U.S. a month, in order to foster U.S. diplomacy and humanitarian goodwill and service abroad.  Are we “anti-American?”  I LOVE my country, but through much of what I am reading in the news, I am starting to not recognize it. Keep it classy, America!!

And one last thing (I know, I get on these tangents..)   I have read some about these allegations against ACORN.  Obviously I do not know all the “ins and outs” of the current situation.  I do have a very good friend that I know and trust, who is a head organizer with ACORN.  Here is what I do know.  The goal of ACORN and Project Vote’s voter registration drives is to empower low-income and minority communities by giving them a voice in the political process.  Guess what, in the U.S.A., these communities have a RIGHT to vote.  Yes, there were unfortunately some fraudulent registration forms submitted by a few people not taking their job seriously.  Yet all official documents must (by law) be submitted to the voter boards.  ACORN separated those applications and flagged them for election officials. They turned any suspicious applications to election officials separately.  They immediately dismissed any employees suspected of submitting fraudulent registrations.  My final point is this:  There is a MAJOR difference in registration fraud and actual voter fraud.  Does the GOP really think an individual who filled out a registration form as “Mickey Mouse”  could come end and cast a vote as MICKEY MOUSE?  Of course not.  Once again, Keep it classy, U.S.A.!  We are a powerful world leader and a beacon of hope for nations that strive for Democracy.  Yet right now, I am inclined to believe that the goals of the people orchestrating these attacks against ACORN are to distract the organization from helping people vote and to justify massive voter suppression.  Our nation is better than this!!!  We hope to return to a nation that we are proud to have represented abroad.

Welcome to Tonga, Group 74:)