Tongablog

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Archive for February, 2009

Powerful Stuff…

One component of this experience that I will always treasure is the exposure to South Pacific writers. It is a genre that I knew very little about prior to my time in Tonga. I wanted to share another poem by Dr. Konai Helu Thaman. Gender, culture, and tradition are often themes in her poetry. For a more detailed biography of Dr. Thaman, visit the fantastic blog http://anapesi.blogspot.com/2008/11/words-from-wise-dr-konai-helu-thaman.html.

We recently discussed the following poem in my Form 6 (12th Grade in the States) English class. It was a pertinent discussion because arranged marriages are still common in Tonga, especially in the more rural islands/villages.

You, The Choice of My Parents

You came clad in your fine mats and tapa cloth
Your brown skin bursting with fresh perfumed oil
And your eyes shining like stars in a clear night-
YOU, the choice of my parents.
You will bring them wealth and fame
With your Western-type education
And second-hand car.
Yet you do not know me, my prince
Save that I am first-born and have known no other man;
I fit your plans and schemes for the future.
You cannot see the real me
My face is masked with pretense and obedience
And my smiles tell you that I care
I have no other choice.

The priest has left the altar now
And the dancing has begun;
I see myself dying slowly
To family and traditions;
Stripped of its will and carefree spirit,
Naked on the cold and lonely waters
Of a strange family shoreline
Alienated from belonging truly.

I love as a mere act of duty
My soul is far away
Clinging to that familiar ironwood tree
That heralds strangers
To the land of my ancestors.
I will bear you a son
To prolong your family tree
And fill the gaps in your genealogy.
But when my duties are fulfilled
My spirit will return to the land of my birth
Where you will find me no more
Except for the weeping willows along the shore.

Dr. Konai Helu Thaman
konai1

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Sicknesses

Well Karen and I are finally getting over the crazy tropical illness that we both had for the past 8 days. We were both on IV’s for multiple days and it was violent on our GI systems. We are just now getting back to normal and feeling like we can eat solid food. It had similar symptoms as that of Dengue Fever, but we think it wasn’t Dengue. It did leave us bed written for nearly a week though. The doctor believes that it was a stomach virus that affects many kids here. At any rate thanks for all the well wishings and we are glad to be over yet another tropical illness!

H.R. 1066, The Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009

Well, I’m home sick for the eighth day in a row. Scot now has the same stomach virus. We are definitely better than we were, but still far from where we would like to be! Getting sick here is just really brutal. At least I am well enough to surf the internet.. The latest of my political activism involves “H.R. 1066, The Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009.” For more information, please visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.1066:. Honestly, it takes about 5 minutes to write your Congressional Representative. If you don’t know who it is, google it. Below is the letter I sent to Henry Brown (don’t even get me started on that guy.) It isn’t my best writing and is a bit dramatic, but I’m home with the flu. Please take a few minutes to send your own version of this letter. Thanks:)

My name is Karen Moldovan. I am a S.C. registered voter, currently serving in the U.S. Peace Corps. I am not sure as to your extent of knowledge about the Peace Corps. As a volunteer, I can tell you firsthand that it is an unbelievably difficult endeavor. Volunteers dedicate over two years of their lives, in service to our great nation. We go to serve in developing nations, as allies and counterparts. Volunteers work in all sectors, notably education, health, human services, infrastructure, environment, and business development. Living conditions are extremely challenging. Here in Tonga, I have experienced dengue fever, stomach parasites, months of eating no vegetables (seasonally they do not grow well) scorpion bites and sweltering heat. We live on very modest stipends. Post Peace Corps service, I will return to the U.S. shackled with student loan debt. As a federal employee, I believe that our government could relieve some of that federal student loan debt. My $6,000 “readjustment allowance” is truly inadequate for the myriad of needs we will face when returning to the U.S. As you know, $6,000 will not go far in today’s economy, especially when faced with unemployment upon return. If you look at the Japanese and Australian volunteer organizations similar to the Peace Corps, they provide a much more ample readjustment allowance for their citizens. The Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009 is currently referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. I ask that you support this bill.

Thank you.

Nothing new really.

Well what has happened since our last post….???

We made it through another Peace Corps training (MST), which could be described as similar to teeth pulling or watching grass grow or some combination of the two.  I did make a few good contacts though.

We got a cat.  He/she was really cute and we were feeding it for about a week and a half.  Then the neighbors took her and locked her inside all day.  Which seems to be the typical sort of Tongan activity at this point.  These are the same people who wash dishes and clothes in the middle of the night (between 12 and 2) right behind our bedroom window because our water tank is there.  As well it seems they might be vampires because they sleep through the heat of the day and then stay up all night partying, washing things, slamming doors, yelling at each other, smoking cigarettes and whispering sweet nothings to each other next to our house, and stealing cats, etc.  One nice thing is that it is easily explainable away as “the Tongan way”.  There, problem solved.  No worries, go back to sleep.

On a lighter note.   Both of our jobs are going well.  Karen is teaching English to Form 5 and 6 English (which is like grade 11 and 12  in the states) and Form 5 Geography which she is liking much better than last years Form 1 and 2.  The kids seem to be much more mature and willing to learn, which good times for everyone.  Unfortunately she got really sick last week and spent a few  days in the Peace Corps medical office, but she is getting better now.  We’ll find out today what it is/was.

My job is also much better.  I am working with various parts of the ministry now and not only doing some IT work, but also hoping to do some biofuels demonstrations/initiatives for Tonga.  We will see.  I can only imagine how far I’d be along with some of the things I am working on if we had been placed here in Tongatapu from the beginning of service.  I guess I can only be thankful that we are here now.

Not much else is new, but we are planning a trip to New Zealand soon.

We hope everyone is doing well!