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.