Join our adventure in The Kingdom of Tonga

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,

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!


1 Comment»

  Marcel wrote @

The beauty story is priceless and the best part of the whole scenario was your reaction!!!

I too have a phobia with sharks. In fact, while I was in the Peace Core office Enrique and Emily were kind enough to show me the article on great white sharks in the area. This was after I told them I was shared with them my fear and said I was gratfeul there weren’t any great whites in the area. So much for my bubble.

And I had many Tongans tell me, there are no shark attacks in the islands. But I later learned Tongans don’t really swim. I mean, they can, they just don’t, except the kids.

It’s a little mind blowing to be on this amazing island with hardly any marine recreation at all. So incredibly different from Hawaii.

Enjoy your time there. Most people never get an opportunity like you and husband. While it must be hard to be away from family and friends, you will treasure your experiences for a lifetime!!!

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