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Favorite Photos…

We have gotten a bit behind at posting photos, so I thought this blog post would mostly include some of our favorite images over the past few months. They of course don’t capture the full picture of our lives here, but I wanted to share them anyway.  There isn’t an enormous amount to report these days.  I feel like I am teaching all the time; 22 classes a week to be exact.  As you can probably imagine, there are a lot of challenges that come with a rigorous teaching schedule, language barriers, and lack of resources.  Scot is continuing his seismic data mapping for the Ministry of Lands/Survey and Geology.  Tomorrow is my thirty-first birthday.  It is hard to believe that I was twenty-nine when we came to Tonga… We joke that our time here is a bit like being on the television show, “Lost.”  It sometimes feels like a time warp, and I somehow expect to return to the U.S. with everything the same as when we left.  Birthdays are reminders that time is in fact moving!! Anyway, a longer blog post is to come.  Enjoy the pictures and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in our lives!


The man next to Scot in this photo is the Prime Minister of Tonga.

Traditional Tongan Dance

Traditional Tongan Dance

Lizards in our kitchen

Lizards in our kitchen

Students of mine performing traditional dance

Students of mine performing traditional dance

One of my favorite students!

One of my favorite students!

Fire dance at Hina Cave

Fire dance at Hina Cave

Hina Cave Fire dance

Hina Cave Fire dance

Quintessential Tonga

Quintessential Tonga

A snipet of news…

So here were the two main stories in the Nuku’alofa newspaper this week.
1) A man was acquitted by a magistrate Court Judge of a quite horrendous domestic violence charge because his wife “provoked him” into brutally beating her with hedge clippers.
2) A primary teacher, to break up a fight, hit a child 20 times with the leg of a table. Her punishment: buy the kid $50 of candy.

In lighter news, 900 high school athletes (from the islands of Tongatapu, Vava’u, ‘Eua and Ha’apai) competed in Tonga’s 86th Inter-Collegiate Sports Athletic competition this week. Even though I am incredibly un-athletic, it was really inspiring to see the dedication and skill of these students. It was especially humbling (and a bit heartbreaking) to watch dozens of students race and compete in the track and field events with no shoes. Fantastic photos are available at http://www.matangitonga.to/article/sports/other/sports_150409_1806_pf.shtml. My students are the teenagers dressed in the royal blue and white uniforms.  The website gives a real sense of the crowds and energy around the competition. It is truly one of the largest and most festive annual events in Tonga.

We are settling back into our routines here, after our incredible New Zealand vacation. The second school term begins on Monday and Scot is hoping to be involved with a South Pacific Regional Energy Conference that is taking place next week. We put up some more NZ photos under 2009 pictures on this blog. Check them out if you get a chance:)

Back to Reality…

Well, our New Zealand trip is completed. The weather started clouding over, so we left the hiking trails and headed in for some city life. We had a beautiful view of the harbor and mountains from our room in the capital city of Wellington, but it wasn’t entirely restful because someone pulled the fire alarm in the middle of the night! All the guests had to trek down multiple flights of stairs and stand out in the cold until the fire department cleared the building. Despite that, we did really enjoy Wellington. It has sort of a San Francisco vibe to it. The botanical gardens were amazing and it culminated a really lovely trip. We will update a slide show with more pictures, but I wanted to go ahead and post just a few of my favorites… See below! Now we are back in Tonga. It took a few hours to get re-adjusted. I shrieked at the multitudes of ants and wanted to throw a temper tantrum, remembering that our toilet barely flushes. The following day I walked about two miles to buy an $18 jar of Jif peanut butter. But oddly enough, all of that seems about normal now. The ubiquitous lizard poop, the all hour crowing roosters, the ice cold showers… we are definitely back in Tonga:)

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Happy Travels!

FYI– The South Island of New Zealand is INCREDIBLE!! Just being here makes us feel humbled by nature. We left Lake Tekapo and went over to Aoraki/Mt. Cook. At 3755m, it is the tallest peak in Australasia. The Maori name, Aoraki, means Cloud Piecer. It is absolutely mesmerizing and majestic. Seriously, I could have gazed at that mountain for days on end. Instead, we did an incredible hike thru the Hooker Valley. I really think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever experienced. We also hiked to the Tasman Glacier.. Next, we headed south to the Otago Penninsula. The roads were sosososo curvy, but provided beautiful Pacific views and quientessential rolling green, NZ hills. We stayed in a great little backpackers and then set off on a quest to see the seals, sea lions and penguins. Scot got some great film footage of the marine animals, so we’ll be sure to post it with the photos. Next we drove thru the Catlins regions and did some amazing waterfall hikes. We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary at Lake Manapouri. I have never seen such a starry sky!! Our cabin at Manapouri was amazing.. we had a little wood burning stove and the most incredible lake view! At night, you could hear nothing except howling deer… I never knew deer howled, but apparently during mating season they get quite boisterous. We took a boat cruise down Doubtful Sound in Fiordland.. The boat was a bit crowded for our tastes, but still really incredible. Then we headed to Queenstown. It is a darling little town (nestled in between massive mountains and Lake Wakatipu) that reminded us of Vail or Aspen, Colorado. We caught up some with a girlfriend from Charleston who is living there, and I ate one of the best meals of my life. Venison!! Today we crossed the Haast Pass. The mist on the hills reminded us of the Smokey Mountains, but these mountains are much larger. We reached the Tasman Sea and will go see Fox and Franz Glaciers tomorrow. Nowhere else at this latitude do glaciers come so close to the ocean. The Maori legend behind them tells of a girl losing her lover who fell from the peaks, and her flood of tears froze into the glacier. After the Glaciers, we aren’t sure where we will explore next. We fly back to Tonga on April 13, and are truly enjoying every second we are spending here!! But we do miss our friends and family and hope all is well. Thanks so much for following our adventures:)

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Hello from South Island!

We flew into Christchurch and had a great visit with our friend Justin! He’s a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Tonga, who has resettled in NZ. Christchurch had great food, great beers, and lots of shopping. It is a beautiful city, with a huge amount of green space, large side walks, intricate architecture, etc. We loved it!! Then we rented a car and headed off to Lake Tekapo. We spent the day hiking Mt. Johns Summit, gazing at the surreal, turqoise blue lake below us and the massive snow capped mountains surrounding us. We are staying in a little cabin by the lake, and it is truly heavenly!! Tomorrow we will head to Mt. Cook. We’ll write some longer blog posts and upload photos when we get a chance! We are just really thankful to have the opportunity to visit this corner of the globe.

If you are coming to New Zealand, declare your tent

Well our flight was delayed until the afternoon of the 21st, which was fine because we got a good night’s sleep and got a ride with Peace Corps to the airport.

Air New Zealand is awesome.  They have these killer little personal entertainment devices in the back of each seat and you can watch TV, Movies, and listen to Music!  In fact it is so distracting/entertaining that when they hand out the declaration for landing in New Zealand it will make you totally look past “tent” in the declaration statements.

I mean you look at it and see “Tent”, it’s between  “microbial contaigens” and “bizzare chinese delicacy”.  At any rate there was a lovely German fellow, I say this scarcastically, who took the tent off to a room and then told us to wait by a door so they could sift through the possible destructive things I had brought with the tent (introduced species are awful I know.. just look at Australia).  He later walked out and said ominiously, “This does not look good for you, it looks like you will be facing a $200 fine.”  Later a woman emerged with a dustpan full of leaves, dirt, bugs, etc (the last I had this tent unpacked it hung on a line drying, in Vava’u at James and Steves houses).  So I was a bit skeptical, but we accepted irresponsiblity and stupidity and she let us go after a thorough talking to.  Honestly, the one thing that I think got us out of the fine and losing our tent was that Peace Corps was on our occupation on the declaration statement.  She mentioned it multiple times.

Karen got a cold right before we left and then I got it Saturday, and we have been sick all weekend.  So we haven’t gotten much acomplished here in Auckland.  But we’ve had some delicious miso soup and sushi and saw a couple of movies.  Of course, the hot showers are fantastic!  We fly to Christchurch tonight.

Check back later for more….

Earthquake….big one.

Well, Karen and I woke up to a really large earthquake this morning lasting from 35-45 seconds. From the feel of past earthquakes, I would have guessed that it was in the mid 6. magnitude by the time it got to us.  My dad called and said that CNN was reporting it as a 7.9 magnitude, and looking at my little tremor skimmer widget that grabs USGS data from the web, it says 7.9 as well!  I am anxious to see what the guys here at geology are reporting, and mapping the location.  It makes you wonder if it was associated with the Hunga Volcano, I mean it makes sense, but Tonga is on a convergent plate boundary in the ring of fire so….

I’ll have updates as soon as I can talk with the Geology folks

Here is the msnbc.com article: here

Update:  Here is the USGS information from their website: here

They are saying it was “210 km (130 miles) SSE of NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga” and about 10km deep which is rather shallow.  Friday, March 20, 2009 at 06:17:37 AM at epicenter