Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Difficulties of Exercising in Tonga

During my first year of Peace Corps, I was a pretty devoted exerciser!  When I first arrived at my site, I had a lot of free time and a tiny house….so; I got out into the fresh [although usually stiflingly humid] air and ran.  I like running….and Peace Corps can be tough sometimes, so I needed the endorphins, too. 
I had a pretty good rhythm going my entire first year.  The school year was winding down in November and I was taking relaxing morning runs almost every day.  Then Christmas arrived and I was lucky enough to head back to the states for some “clean life” time.  Flash forward to January.  I am ready to commence Peace Corps: Year 2 and I just can’t get my feet into running shoes!  Now here we are at the beginning of May and I’m getting back on the horse.  I took a run yesterday and it felt great.  However, it also reminded me why exercising in Tonga can be a bit of a challenge.  I’ll just lay out my timeline for you.

4:00 pm -    The sun has now reached only 80% scorching level, so I’m going to attempt to go outside.  I  
                        stretch a little, throw my shoes on, and head outside.

4:05 pm -    I leave home briefly chatting with a few neighbors along the way.

4:10 pm-     I’ve walked nearly to the edge of my village and am about to start running when some ladies              in an approaching truck flag me down.

4:15 pm-     We’ve exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes when they finally say  “Fakamolemole Nola,             Can you help us fix our video camera??”  It’s the Tongan way to always apologize [the     fakamolemole] before you ask someone for help.  I respond, “Of course, I can try. When                should I come look at it?”  Their answer…“ Well, now?  Here is our camera, the screen is     broken!”

4:20 pm-      A random cloudburst has arrived and it’s pouring rain!  I hop in the back of said truck & off   we go back into the village.  They’re headed to decorate for tomorrow’s church service and                it looks like I am, too.

5:00 pm-     After unsuccessfully fiddling with the camera and reading 80 pages of the user manual…. I    give up.  Technology wonk I am not.  Although people often confuse me with a member of   the Geek Squad and ask for help with any variety of electronics.  I sit and talk with the girls    for a few minutes  about food, the weather, and reasons I should marry a Tongan.

5:05 pm-      Alright, attempt number two; I’m heading out into the bush [a.k.a the farmland outside of my town] for some much needed peace and quiet.

5:20 pm-      Awesome timing! I don’t encounter any cars….only a few friendly looking horses and cows.                Now I’ve arrived at a little house out in the bush where a lovely older couple lives.  They’re            the only people who live outside of the villages, so they always seem happy to have a visitor.

5:30pm-       Back on the road!  I carry on until I reach my spot [an opening in the trees where I have a     phenomenal view of the water and Mt. Talau, Tonga’s tallest and only mountain!]

5:45pm-       I am running back past the lone little house in the forest when the woman runs outside to flag me down.  She gives me a few dollars and asks me to go ‘top up’ her phone so she can                 make a call.  Yep, that’s how it works around here. 

6:00pm-       I roll into my village and stop at the first falekoloa [little shop] because there is a crew of my               students loafing around and I spy a cute baby. I mean to hold the baby for a minute, but as            soon as I pick him up the brother who had been minding him disappears!  Hence, I become a        babysitter.

6:15pm-       I manage to convince one of the kids to take over baby duty as my arms are getting tired     [Tongan babies are big babies!]! Then I head on to a neighbor’s house who sells phone        credit!

6:30pm-       After catching up on the news about said neighbor’s TEN children and buying phone credit, I              am finally home!

Big picture; a run that should have taken me about 30 minutes actually took 2 ½ hours.  However, the real moral of this probably far too long and in-depth blog is that The Difficulties of Exercising in Tonga are the little tidbits that make living here an unforgettable experience.  I can already picture myself back in ‘clean life,’ taking a jog with no disruptions, and wistfully reminiscing about my eventful exercising in Tonga.

p.s. I apologize for the terrible formatting of this blog, but the website was just being very disagreeable today! 

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