Friday, April 29, 2011

Oh dear sweet electronic commerce...

Oh dear sweet electronic commerce…How I miss you!  I imagine some of you out there occasionally curse your credit cards (or perhaps just the credit card bill), but today I ask you to pay a just a little homage to that plastic marvel.  I don’t know about you, but I think I sometimes forget just how amazingly convenient electronic commerce made my life in America.  You don’t want to walk 10 feet into the gas station?  No problem… Just insert your card into the magic slot!  Don’t want to change out of your jammies and leave the house? No problem… you can buy everything on the internet!  Literally, you can even have your groceries delivered to your door! 

Why all this blabber about commerce, you ask?  Well. It all started last Saturday afternoon.  I arrived back at my village after a nice trip to ‘town.’  I began my ritual Saturday cleaning.  I swept around the house, attempted to search out and destroy an army of ants and the occasional enormous spider.  After cleaning I relaxed with a large glass of ice cold water.  Delightful!  Naturally, not soon after my beverage, I needed to take a trip to the little girls’ room. 

This is when I discovered my dilemma.  The roll of toilet paper in my bathroom was precariously small.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem at all.  I live right across the street from a very well stocked ‘falekoloa’ [what we call little concession stand type stores scattered around most villages].  However, I opened my wallet only to discover a $50 pa’anga note.  I know, I know… how can a Peace Corps Volunteer have big bucks like that?!  ;) The $50 P note is all the bank gives out, so we all have to discreetly go to one of the few stores that can make change for a fifty and get some small bills!

The ‘falekoloa’ by Nola’s house does not have change for a $50 and it most certainly does not take credit cards!  Thus began my week of fasting.  Juuuuuuust kidding.  I don’t have that kind of self-control.  However, I did have to utilize some tricks from my dear mom’s childhood.  The limit is apparently two toilet paper squares per child when you have a houseful of hooligans. So…I adhered to that policy and thankfully just barely made it until the end of the week.  Crisis averted! 

Moral of this story. Nola: keep an emergency fund under your pillow for toilet paper and the occasional piece of candy!  The rest of you: Be at least a little thankful for that magic plastic card!

[sidenote: I’m relatively sure my friendly ‘falekoloa’ owner, Peni, would have just given me some toilet paper if I’d asked him.  So…. maybe a crisis was not actually imminent, but it sure makes for a better story.]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Palangi Invasion!!! [The foreigners are here!]

This week, my dear home of Vava’u was quite a sight to behold.  Wednesday morning brought a giant cruise ship, the USS Cleveland, and multiple helicopters into our usually sleepy harbor.  The U.S. Navy is here in Vava’u as the first stop of their Pacific Partnership.  The Navy will visit various Pacific countries, contributing to all sorts of humanitarian projects at each stop.  Here in Tonga, they are building schools, town halls, doing water catchment projects, and providing all sorts of medical services. Verrrry nice!

School essentially screeched to a halt as the kids were enthralled by helicopters noisily buzzing around our usually quiet island.  Feasts were prepared in many villages to feed the soldiers volunteering at makeshift medical clinics and building schools in the always toasty Tongan sun.  The soldiers passed out all sorts of great ‘me’a ‘ofa’ [gifts] to Tongans.  Women received all sorts of helpful household items.  They were, surprisingly, very excited about receiving blankets. [I suppose there will be one or two chilly nights when a blanket will come in handy here!]  The Navy even bought Peace Corps volunteers a little goody package with exotic necessities like razors, shaving cream, and lotion [which were all very much appreciated!].  

It is Saturday here in Tonga, and the USS Cleveland is ‘shipping out’ on its way to another Pacific Partnership in Vanuatu.  We were ecstatic to see the Cleveland chugging into our Port of Refuge last week. This week, we’re happy to see the crew head to their next destination and for our little island to morph back into its calm and slightly sleepy state of normalcy. 

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Pacific Partnership, here is a State Department Blog with great pictures from the mission.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Back in action! almost....


I have officially returned from my little 2 week training session in Nuku’alofa.  It was faaaaaantastic to relax and catch up with Peace Corps friends who I haven’t seen since December.  We always stay at Sela’s Guesthouse in Nuku’alofa.  It is essentially our 2nd home here in Tonga.  It’s a rambling house with a big common area where we sit for hours talking, fakakata pe [joking around], and swatting mosquitoes.   Occasionally, we worked up the energy to venture out into the city in search of some delectable palangi [which just means foreigner!] food!  I won’t bore you with the menu of each delicious meal I savored, but it was amazing to have some great restaurant food.  I think my body was thankful for the influx of vegetables considering my usual diet consists mostly of hot dogs, crackers, and far too much peanut butter.

Did I mention this was a ‘work trip?’  I know it sounds as though I was just gallivanting around for two weeks, however there were plenty of Peace Corps meetings throughout our stay!  The first week consisted of lots of TEFL activities.  We shared successful lesson plans, talked a lot about the challenges we’ve encountered thus far, and picked up new teaching resources to bring back to our sites.  The second week continued the stream of lahi ‘e ngaahi fakataha [lots of meetings!].  We had meetings on the VRF, the EAP, the TGSP, and a plethora of other acronyms.  I actually have a little Peace Corps dictionary explaining what all the acronyms mean.  Ridiculous!  We also had a lot of language training, which was great!  My Tongan is slowly, but surely improving and it was really nice to have some actual instruction again. […although I am actually learning a lot just by teaching my kids English!]    

All in all, IST [in service training…and yet another acronym] was a great experience.  It was nice to take a break from my usual routine and, of course, exciting to catch up with friends.  I am headed back to site rejuvenated, ready to dive in to a few new projects, and generally just happy with life.

sidenotes:
1.       I know the videos below don’t work. My computing skills apparently are not that impressive.  You can see the videos if you visit my web albums, though!
2.       That was really the only sidenote I had.  Toki Sio! 
 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Livin' Large in the City

Hello All!

Be forewarned that this is a cop-out blog post.  I am essentially just writing to say I am on hiatus/vacation for 2 weeks in Nuku'alofa.  Nuku'alofa is the capital of Tonga and the biggest city.  I live in Vava'u the island group that is farthest away from Tongatapu (the island that Nuku'alofa is located on).  It took us about an hour plane flight to travel here.  This time we had the pleasure of flying on a 20 seater airplane with shag carpeting on the seats...quite retro!

We are here for 2 weeks of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Training and IST (In Service Training).  But really, it's just a great time to reunite with all of the great Peace Corps kids I've been missing, gorge myself on delicious restaurant food, and take (semi) hot showers!  Paradise!

I'll be back with real blogs in a few weeks. Toki Sio friends!

-Nola