Friday, January 21, 2011

Warm and Toasty in Tonga!

Hello dear blog readers!  Wait a second.  I just remembered that I’ve been letting this blog collect dust for the past two months.  So… there’s probably no one but my dear mom checking it at the moment.  Nevertheless, I think it’s time to make another entry [this entry being the first of a continual stream…hopefully!]. 
Here’s a VERY short encapsulation of my Peace Corps journey, thus far.  I arrived in Tonga in the beginning of October.  I lived with an amazing Tongan family for about 2 months while I [along with my 26 fellow new PCV’s] learned the ins and outs of Tongan culture and language and received TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language] training.  Now, let’s fast forward to today.  It has been 103 days since I waved goodbye to the ‘rents [and of course took a stereotypical ‘airport farewell’ picture] and set off for [is]lands unknown in the South Pacific. 
I know 103 days sounds like quite a long time, but I feel like this adventure is absolutely still in its beginning stage!  For my dear Truman friends, I think I just had 103 days of Freshman Week.  However, substitute the parties we attended for ‘concetis’ and ‘hulo hulas.’  These are two kinds of rockin’ dances I had the pleasure of attending in my homestay village.  They usually consisted of Peace Corps volunteers being shown up by Tongan ten year olds in possession of killer dance moves while the rest of the village looked on and giggled.  Also, substitute experimenting with dorm dining hall food for embracing ‘taimi ti’ [Peace Corps Tonga LOVES to supplement a good day of learning with plenty of tea and snacks.] and new Tongan foods [more on interesting foods later!].  Finally replace Truman Week faux classes and summer camp-esque activities with days full of presentations and team building activities.  Also, much of our time during Pre-Service Training was spent among fellow new volunteers.  It was definitely very comforting to be in the company of 25 amazing people who were experiencing many of the same challenges as myself.  So… I’m realizing this analogy may be kind of weak.  My point, though, is that the beginning of Peace Corps, much like Freshman Week is a transitional time meant to prepare us for a successful segway into confident and independent service.
But, moving on to more interesting news…  I am now quite comfortably settled in my new home!  My village has almost 300 people which is huge by Tongan ‘kolo ‘ [that’s the word for town] standards.  My town is a hodgepodge of many houses and churches all scattered on a pretty steep hillside overlooking the bay.  I would consider walking anywhere in my village to essentially be hiking. ;) 
The people here are pretty amazing and very generous.  On an almost daily basis, pineapples and papaya are brought to my front door.  Sidenote: Pineapple here is SO much better than any pineapple I’ve tasted before.  I will admit that I have eaten a whole pineapple by myself in one sitting here.  People are also very, very friendly here.  Tongan culture is very communal compared to our individualistic American tendencies.   People in my community have offered to stay and keep me company in my teeny house, because it is very odd in Tongan culture that anyone would live alone.  I quite happily declined, though.
I’ve also had the pleasure of experiencing many, many church services since arriving at site.  Going to church is a great way to meet people in my community.  However, I never quite expected to spend my New Year’s  Eve [10 pm to 1 am] at a church service!  It was quite a sight.  All the families brought pillows and woven mats and kids slept under the pews during the service.  There are also very early morning services at churches in my village.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday church bells start ringing at about 4:45 am.  Yes.  A.M.!!!  In the spirit of trying new things, I attended one of these services.  I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon, though. :) 
If you’re wondering why I haven’t talked about my actual job, it is because I haven’t quite started yet!  It is currently summer vacation here.  We begin school in one week and I’m very excited to actually start doing something productive.  I feel a little guilty that thus far, I’ve just been enjoying my new home and getting to know my neighbors.  Soon the real work begins and I will be sure to have lots of great ‘school stories!’
Ok. I PROMISE I will be blogging more regularly now!  Sorry about the delay, Mom. :) 


  1. Actually as the mom of another PCV currently serving in Group 76 (Kaitlin), I have become a blog stalker :) and check yours frequently as well. Glad to read your post and hear about your doings as well.

  2. Hi. Uncle Jeff and Jack here. We too look forward to your blogs. It is well understood that there is quite an effort on your part to get time in front of a computer w/internet access. We do enjoy seeing a new update! However, your comment about it being 'summer break' there really hurts as the snow accumulates outside and there are 14 degree temps. That's jealousy talking! Anyway- just spent yesterday with your 'rents at Uncle Randy and Aunt Dee's place. We all watched the Bears loose to the Green Bay Packers:-(

  3. We miss you Nora! Randy and I look forward to any and all information that you send along. We are watching the news, too. Recently it was reported that a cyclone was reported in Tonga and we were concerned. But you did not report anything, so everything must be fine in your area. My students all say hi and are eagerly awaiting word that you received their collection of school supplies. Hopefully you will receive it soon!
    Be safe on your journey. We love you!
    Uncle Randy and Aunt Dee xoxo