Tongablog

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Archive for November, 2008

Happy Holidays!

We just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to our friends and families back home!  This year was our second turkey day in Tonga.  A group of Peace Corps Volunteers got together for  a pot-luck dinner to celebrate.  We all tried to make it as “traditional American” as possible, with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc.  I don’t know that it felt like a traditional Thanksgiving for anyone, (it’s too hot!) but it was really a fantastic get-together.  A handful of the new volunteers were there, and it is just so nice to have some new friends and faces in the mix!  We are all looking forward to getting to know one another and welcoming them to Tonga!

I just wanted to say a special thank you to Marcel Walker. Ms. Walker is an American photographer who was traveling in Tonga.  You can check out her beautiful photography at http://marcelwalker.us.  She had never met any of us, but brought some fantastic little gifts to all the PCVs here!  She is the fourth American stranger to essentially come to Tonga, with gifts (coffee, tea, school supplies, candy, etc) to share with Peace Corps Volunteers.  Something as small as that gives me a warm and fuzzy, patriotic feeling.  The fact that other Americans who have never even met any of us go out of their way to support our volunteer service is just amazing!  Scot and I decided that if we visit any Peace Corps countries in the future, (approximately 75 nations) we will pack some goodies for the volunteers serving abroad there.  You would not believe how much those little goodies mean to us!

I am FINALLY getting over a very torturous ear infection, and am starting to feel a little more human again.  The challenges around health care and treatment can be really daunting… Between the shark sightings and swimmers ear, I think I am going to keep my head out of the water for awhile!

Scot’s 32nd birthday is Monday!  Don’t forget to wish him a happy birthday.  Our Fiji trip is just a few weeks away, so look for some photos/updates from our trip!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Tongans for Obama, Great White Sharks, and our VERY friendly neighborhood “Beauty Hair.”

Well, now that the U.S. Presidential election is over, this blog will most likely return to postings about Tonga.  I know our readers will miss my incessant left-wing rants (haha!), so maybe I’ll occasionally have to sneak something in for fun:)  I will say that experiencing this election in Tonga has further shaped my belief in how incredibly interconnected our world is now.  Because of the time difference, our election day was November 5th.  A bar/restaurant in Nuku’alofa with satellite tv graciously allowed us to watch the election returns.  I was there at noon, catching all the CNN commentary.  Although MSNBC is my favorite news network (surprise, surprise), I must say that I was happy to see ‘ole Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and Soledad O’Brian on the screen.  Am I political dork or what?!  Anyway, by 2:00 pm, a large group of PCVs gathered around the tv, anxiously watching the returns.  And by 5:00 pm, Barack Obama was declared the next President Elect.  I immediately started crying tears of happiness.

What has been interesting though, is to talk with Tongans, Kiwis, and Australians about the election.  This victory is truly being celebrated throughout the world.  The Principal of my high school, a Tongan woman named ‘Ungatea, was so inspired by Obama’s acceptance speech that she memorized it.  I chatted with our Zoorastrian/Persian neighbor today, and he told me how he had read all about the Obama’s visit to the White House with the Bushes, and how happy he is that the Bush era of U.S. politics is nearly finished.  Several of the surveyors (“blue collar,” working guys) at the Ministry of Lands could not wait to talk to Scot about their happiness of Obama’s win.  The Australians hosted a victory party.  It has all been really touching to see their support, yet it is such a reminder to me of what a role and responsibility the U.S. has around the world.

Okay, on to Tonga talk!  I am wrapping up my school year and getting ready to go on “summer” break for the next two months!  I am hoping to spend some of the time on Secondary projects, but for now I am sleeping in, reading, and taking long bike rides.  The HEAT has set in, and it is just ridiculously warm here right now.  Imagine Charleston, SC in the summertime, but no air conditioning.  I keep telling myself that the heat is directly correlated to my current lack of motivation. Scot just returned from a business trip to the main island in Vava’u, to do computer work for the satellite office of the Ministry of Lands and Survey.  We are planning a two and a half week trip to Fiji next month, which is really exciting.  We are especially interested in the Indo-Fijian culture, and are excited to see the ornate Hindu Temples in both Nadi and Suva.

The past few weeks have been emotionally difficult for me.  One of my best friends from home is getting married this winter.  I am ecstatic for them, yet it is really difficult to accept the fact that I am missing so many important events back home.  When we joined Peace Corps, we knew that there would be sacrifices to make.  It is just the reality of being thousands of miles away, working as a volunteer for our country and the host country.  Yet there is still a sadness when I find myself unable to take part in moments that are so important to my loved ones and myself.

You may be wondering about the title of this blog post… Well, on to the Great White Sharks.  Some of you may know that I have a total fear of sharks.  I think it stems from watching “Jaws” as a young child.  It seriously traumatized me.  I am well aware that there are large sharks in Tongan waters, such as the black-tipped reef sharks and tiger sharks.  But the conventional thought was that the warm Tongan waters kept away Great White Sharks, who prefer colder temperatures.  Yet that idea was overturned when three transmitting tags from Great Whites washed up on the shores of Tongatapu.  From the article to be found at http://www.matangitonga.to/article/tonganews/visitors/tonga_great_white_sharks_141108.shtml,

Regarding the tags- “They may have grown out of the sharks, or caught on the bottom and pulled out. When this happens the tag will only drift for three days before it begins transmitting. This is triggered by the constant depth setting in the tags program -so if the depth does not vary by more than 4m in three days the tag automatically begins to transmit data. So there is no way that the tags could have drifted into Tongan waters,”

Meaning- the sharks brought them to Tonga. The sharks that once carried the tags are each approximately 4.5 meters long.  This discovery is NOT helping my shark phobia one bit.

Now that I have explained the Great White Sharks, (which seriously makes me shudder with horror) on to the next subject.  Scot and I live a few doors down from a small Chinese store.  It is owned by a husband and wife, who are probably in their late thirties.  We are quite friendly with them, and buy all of our small items from their store.  The wife also has a “hair salon,” next to their store.  I’ve actually written about it in a previous blog post.  Anyway, I go there about once a month, and she does a fantastic job of washing, conditioning, and blowing my hair dry.  A lot of Tongans in our neighborhood also visit her “Beauty Hair” shop.  I went in last week, and she was busy washing a Tongan man’s hair.  He was probably in his sixties.  She asked me to come back in about 20 minutes.  So I did.  Now keep in mind that the “Beauty Hair” is right next door to the husband’s little grocery store.  They are maybe ten feet away from each other. I walk in to the salon, and there is the Chinese hairdresser, with her shirt pulled all the way up and the Tongan man sucking on her breast!!  I seriously almost had a heart attack.  So yeah.  I have no idea what that was all about.  Your guess is as good as mine.  When they saw me in the doorway, she immediately dropped her shirt.  They both looked a little flustered.  I started to leave, but then decided… I still want my hair washed!!!!  So I pulled a book out of my backpack, and sat down and waited.  Thankfully, there was no more “funny business.”

Just a reminder to you all, we love hearing from you!!  Keep us updated on your lives!  Special thanks to Sam Stone and Virginia Friedman for the amazing care packages we received this week, and Anne, Sarah, and Elaine for letting us know goodies are on the way.  You guys are the best:)  Make sure to watch the new videos we uploaded on the blog!

New Videos!!!

So I hope that everyone voted today!!  I am sorry if people had to stand in lines for hours and hours, but I think that this time is historic enough to do so.  I remember standing in line for 4 hours to vote in 2004 so I can only imagine what it’s like to stand in a line for 10+ hours.  Anyway, thank you very much if you did!!

At any rate I wanted to let the loyal readers know that there are some new videos up on the videos link in the third column.  One is of Patties Place on Uoleva in Ha’apai, and the other is a promotional video for Peace Corps Tonga that Steve Hunsicker and I just finished.  I hope you will check them out!!

Time to Vote!

Today the emotions of it all really hit me.  For anyone who has read previous blog entries, talked to me in person or over the phone, visited my facebook page, or read emails from me– you know that I have been completely consumed with the U.S. Presidential election.  As I read an email from my mom today, describing her incredible “Get Out the Vote” efforts (almost 200 phone calls to voters in swing states, volunteering all day on election day, continual canvassing, etc, etc) I burst into tears.  I am so honored to serve my country as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.  I just wish that right now, I could be on the ground, giving every ounce of my energy to this election.  I guess the reality is that my incessant online activism, the numerous letters to the editor, the campaign donations we could afford, and my absentee ballot will have to suffice.  The reality is that I have ate, slept, and breathed this election, even from thousands of miles away.  I cannot even begin to describe the pride and ecstatic joy I will feel when American citizens elect Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.  So all the way from Tonga, I am asking you to help make it happen.  Our nation deserves far better than what we have encountered over the last eight years.  If you haven’t already, go to http://www.barackobama.com and find out how you can help volunteer during this final stretch.  Although the polls look good, they have been wrong before.  The election is still critical in swing states.  You can call voters from the comforts of your own home, and the Obama campaign will walk you through the process.  I ask you to vote on Nov. 4 for Obama, and to do everything in your power to help him get elected. Will he be a perfect President?!  Of course not.  There is no such thing.  Yet I am confident that he will work tirelessly to restore our economy.  The lies and smears against him have been vicious, but the reality is that 95% of Americans will receive a much-need tax break under his plan.  His educational policy includes raising teacher salaries, which is imperative for the success of our educational system.  His administration will restore diplomacy with our allies and the respect we have lost during the Bush administration.  The Obama/Biden team will continue the incredibly important work started by Joe Biden with the “Violence of Women Act,” thus ensuring that our nation offers protection and safety for future generations of women who desperately need it.  The reasons to support Obama for President go on and on.  Cast your vote for a better healthcare system and an energy policy that is sustainable and creates jobs. Now is the time to make history.