Friday, February 18, 2011

A Day in the Life of Nola

                It is pretty hard to describe my life and experiences here through blogs, emails, and pictures.  I am even able to communicate with folks back home via telephone, which is amazing! [In some Peace Corps locales, I wouldn’t be so lucky.]  However, it feels like trying to explain a movie that you’re never going to see.  I can tell you about the characters, the plot, and some exciting scenes.  Alas, even if I was a stellar storyteller there would be so much left unsaid.  

I suppose that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.  …and who am I kidding?  All you really want/need to know are the highlights.  Even if you could watch my imaginary Peace Corps ‘movie’ in its totality, I don’t think you’d want to.  The reality is that my life here is, in many ways, just like yours and just like mine was back home [possibly more akin to C-SPAN than a thrilling blockbuster].  So, for future blogging ventures you’ll be getting just the highlights.  However, as a one-time only treat today I present ‘A Day in the Life of Nola…’

4:30 am            Reach semi-conscious state because bells for early morning church have begun ringing. [Luckily, that’s only Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.]

5:00 am            Sometimes…. sleeping!  Sometimes… I am listening to the very enthusiastic singing voices of the churches down the street from my house.

6:00 am            Definitely awake now.  I don’t even need an alarm!  There are always roosters and pigs making a ruckus and sometimes people like to crank up the tunes before breakfast [this can include anything from Justin Bieber to Celine Dion to various rap artists to LOTS of Taylor Swift to Josh Groban to old school Mariah Carey Christmas songs].  This doesn’t happen all the time and I really don’t mind. How could I be mad when Josh Groban + squealing pigs are serenading me on a lovely Tongan morning?

7:00 am            I’ve just finished doing a few sit ups [let’s be serious, this doesn’t happen every day] and taking a shower.  Some days, I boil a pot of water and use it to take a warm shower!  [By warm shower, I mean I take a cold shower and then pour warm water over my head before hopping out.  It feels better than it sounds!]
7:30 am            Now I eat breakfast, the best meal of the day!  If I have bread, I love a good piece of toast.  Often, I eat oatmeal and a banana which is great too. [note: appreciate your pre-sliced bread America! Without the help of slicing machines, I am forced to eat texas-toast sized slices and use way too much peanut butter!] 

8:00 am            I clean up around the house and begin my trek to school.  Sometimes this includes turning around, because I tend to forget my ‘kie kie.’  [The ‘kie kie’ is my traditional Tongan woven belt/waist garnish that is worn in formal settings. aka…every day at school!]  Luckily, it’s a very short walk!

8:30 am            The bell [which is actually an old propane tank] rings.  All the kids line up, sing the national anthem, pray, and then head to their respective classrooms.

9:00 am            After opening ceremonies ;) I usually wander over to our school ‘office/library.’  I spend a bit of time sorting and cleaning books with intermittent visits from my friend, Pita.  He’s 4.  He comes and chats with me [I apparently do not yet have the equivalent of a 4 year old’s vocabulary because he confuses me sometimes!] and sometimes I attempt to read to him in English.  Naturally, he just wants to look at the pictures.

10:30 am          Taimi Malolo!  Recess!  During recess, I usually find at least 15 kids who want to have story-time! 

12:30 pm          Kai Ho’ata! Lunch time!  Snack time/laundry/last minute preparations for class!

1:30 pm            English Class!  I have about an hour long lesson with the 20 Class 6 kids.  This week we’re learning about ‘Shopping’ words!

4:00 pm            Now, I’m off to our Community Library.  I am hoping that soon, this will be a time for high school kids to come read, work on homework, etc.  During our first two days, it has been a literal circus with running, screaming kids, lots of mud, and giant bugs. We’ll see what next week brings.

6:00 pm            Home, sweet home.  It’s time to feed the dog.  Did I mention I have a dog?  This did not occur by choice.  She adopted me.  I make some dinner [which is occasionally a bowl of cereal :) ], have a cup of tea, and read a bit.

9:30 pm            Mohe! [Sleep!]  I don’t go to bed this early every night, but I will admit it is beginning happen quite often.  Sometimes if I’ve had too much tea I manage to stay awake until 10:30 or 11:00.  This is a wild life I lead.

This Week’s Update:

§  I am officially the Class 6 English teacher and very happy about it.  This is going to be quite an adventure, as I have pretty much no teaching experience!  I am enjoying it already, but if anyone has any tidbits of teaching advice I would gladly accept it!

§  We have had 6 straight days of non-stop rain this week. Oiaue!! [that’s an ‘Oh my!’ if I haven’t told you already.]  I got my first opportunity to use a blanket last night.  It was delightful!

§  Osi! [That’s it!]  I hope I haven’t bored you with this far too detailed account of my daily activities. ; )

Have a wonderful week in the states!  


Friday, February 11, 2011

Crawlin' around Tonga

      Whew!  As I write, it is Thursday night and I’ve just had one of those weeks…  I feel as though I blinked on Monday and during that 10th of a second, the week passed.  I think that is just a sign that the pace of life for little ‘ol Nola is finally beginning to pick up.  I’ve been living at my site for almost 2 months now [holy moly!].  School only began last week, so during the rest of that time my schedule was relaxed, to say the least.  Sometimes I’d find myself standing in my wee ‘combo-kitchen/living room’ just wondering what to do next. [My conscience tells me I should study my Tongan, the little devil on my shoulder says ‘relax…eat yet another PB & J and read a book.’  If you’re wondering how that debate usually ends…. I’ve read a few books already ;)] However, all that free time has come to an end. 

      The second week of school has given me a taste of the hustle and bustle on the way in coming weeks.  I am at school from around 8am-3pm.  In the evenings I attempt to cook [I use that term very loosely…] and do a few chores around the house.  If it’s a sunny day, that of course includes fo [laundry]!  This week, in the midst of my evening activities, I hear ‘nola…nola….NOLA!’ called from the street [or sometimes from right outside my window].  High school has just begun as well and there are lots of students from my kolo [town] looking for some help with their English homework.  I am happy to help, but some of their homework is tough!  I hope I haven’t led any kids astray by wrongly interpreting their short stories.

      It probably comes as no surprise that I am learning a bit about myself here in Tonga.  Before the past few weeks, I hadn’t realized how much I coveted my privacy.  I suppose that’s because, as an only child AND a kid lucky enough to have her own room for 3 years of college, I’ve had an abundance of privacy for most of my life.  Flash forward to Feb. 2011… I literally crawl around my house sometimes, so as not to be beckoned outside.  Also, my house is a teeny square with a bunch of windows and semi-transparent curtains.  If I happen to forget a shirt on the way to the shower, I then have to duck and sneak to the living room [I only have one shelf area, so it’s sort of an all-purpose books/clothes/miscellaneous items HQ] so as not to shock any neighbors in my risqué towel-clad state.  I think I am taking this change in stride, though.  I definitely didn’t come here to sit in my little house and read novels courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. ;] …and to be honest, after all of my free time last month I am happy to have lots of diversions.  I suppose I am just now beginning to value my bits of silence and privacy as they’ve deserved all along.

      Back to this week’s activities, though!  I attended a Scholarship Committee Meeting on Tuesday.  Most towns have a group that raises money for scholarships [did the name give that away?], transportation costs, etc. [I say etc. because I’m sure I don’t know half of what they actually do…].  Transportation is a pretty big cost here.  All high school kids attend school in Neiafu, so our town has three buses that take everyone into town and back every day. [Sidenote: I always have a laugh in the morning when the bus doors open and it begins speaking automated Japanese to all the students.  The bus must be instructing them to hang out the doors on the way out of town as that is what usually happens... but I may never know.]  Sorry, my attention span is not at its peak. Back to the Scholarship meeting… There is a study hall/library building in my town that has been closed since the last PCV left.  I asked the Scholarship Committee if we could open it up for business again and they gladly complied!  Next week, po’ako [night school!] will begin!  A few nights per week, this library will be open for kids to come read, ask questions, etc.  Maybe this will decrease the traffic outside my windows…we’ll see.    

In other news….

I think my mouse/rat friend has moved to a new abode.  I am cautiously joyous. :)  

A big thanks to Mrs. Bator for sending books to my school! We appreciate it very much!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Uluaki Uike 'o Ako! [First Week of School!]

I logged onto the internet today just in time to see pictures (thanks, Mom!) of the mountains of snow blanketing the Midwest right now.  I know you all probably won’t believe this, but I am a bit jealous.  I have so many great childhood (…and of course college too!) memories of giant snow forts, sledding, and lots of hot chocolate.  However, I may be romanticizing your ‘snowmageddon’ [Thank you Alex for that delightful term.].  It’s easy to wish for snow when I’m hand washing my laundry in 98% humidity.  It may not be quite so enchanting after 30 minutes of shoveling the white fluff.  Also, I am now remembering the many walks to and from campus during Kirksville winters with soggy, freezing boots!  So…reminiscing; finished!  Best of luck to all of you snowed-in at home.  Enjoy our hot chocolate and when you get frustrated with the weather, imagine Nola in the blistering heat of Tonga! 

Enough about the weather, though!  Here is a little update on the happenings of ‘Nola’ this week.  Da da da da duuuummmmm…..[ that was a drum roll by the way. ] School finally began!  Every morning I take a little 5-7 minute stroll to school, usually collecting about 15 kids by the time I arrive.  The kids are pretty precious and all wear little red uniforms.  Don’t be fooled though, in large groups [like the 130 kids who attend my school] they can be a wild mob!  The first week of school in Tonga is a pretty relaxed atmosphere.
The schoolyard at dusk... :)
Our class 3,4,5 and 6 classrooms.
 Monday was essentially ‘school clean up’ day!  All the school kids picked up trash and swept classrooms.  Meanwhile, moms were out cutting the grass with machetes!  Mo’oni! [That’s Tongan for ‘for real’ or ‘really’!]  Our schoolyard is a giant open hill overlooking the bay, so cutting the grass is quite a bid job!  By Wednesday, we had gently eased into the normal class schedule.  I spent this week doing lots of work in our “library.”  I’m going to leave that word in quotations for the time being, only because the “library” needs a lot of work!  My school is pretty fortunate in that we actually have some nice books.  So, I am not starting from scratch!  There are even a few sets of books with multiple copies that might be great resources for me to use in lessons soon!  There are also some ridiculous books.  How did “A Beginners Guide to Cross Country Skiing” end up in Tonga?  : ) So anyway, my week mostly consisted of chasing a ton of wasps out from behind dusty books.  They built quite a few mud nests all over our bookshelves….even on actual books!  [If you haven’t noticed a theme here, I don’t think anyone has been using the “library” in a while.  That will change soon, though!] 
My time in the library was punctuated by “taimi malolo” [recess!].  Newsflash: Red Rover has arrived in Tonga.  The kids play and I hover hoping no one is going to break an arm! I also spent a bit of time wandering into each of the classrooms at my school and observing the teachers.   Soon, I will actually be doing some teaching! 
Sidenote: I also spent a lot of time this week trying to catch a mouse who has decided to inhabit my house.  So far…  Mouse-5  Nola-0.  I have set multiple kinds of traps and even chased the little bugger with a broom!  The little devil eats the bait off of my hardcore mousetrap every night and then scampers off into the night.  I even bought a ‘sticky trap,’ but each morning the bait has disappeard and there are little footprints in the glue!  All of my efforts have been to no avail.  I wake up every morning wondering what mischief he/she has gotten into.  He even ate through the plastic lid on a peanut container!  Mice apparently enjoy cereal, pineapples, bananas, and peanut butter. 
ok. That’s it for now.  Hopefully next week, I’ll be reporting library progress and victory over the mice/mouse!  Toki Sio!
p.s. If anyone has questions or just wants to drop me a line…feel free to email!  My address is