Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One week ago we landed on Ha’apai. When the plane took off again we had to wait until it left to go on our way.  They close the road so the plane can use the runway and have a long enough one to go. That was my first aha! moment. There have been many. A week full of firsts and new ways of doing things.

I’ll talk about the food today. Our host family gives us wonderful food. We have ika (fish) often that has been freshly caught and cooked. (We asked that we not have it served raw, though that is the way the people here really like it. They serve it with coconut milk and vegetables. Our neighbor  PCT loves it that way.) We often have it cooked with vegetables, or, my favorite way lu ika, which is taro leaves wrapped around fish and cooked in an umu (outdoor oven made with hot lava rocks in a fire pit and then covered with banana leaves). We often have moa (chicken). Our host mother bakes delicious bread, and we even have peanut butter. Today for lunch we had a banana—what flavor! I do miss “real” coffee. We get instant, and I’m coming to love it, too. Once in a while we can go to the Peace Corps staff house and get coffee made with a French press. Heaven.

Mangoes are coming into season, as is pineapple. Yum!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This week I’ve learned to make lu and get moa (chicken) ready for the umu. It’s cavity is filled with onion and other vegetables, coconut milk is poured over it, and it’s wrapped in banana leaves.

I’ve also had a lesson in mat weaving. I have an even bigger appreciation for the work and time it takes. They are a work of art! The weaving of these mats is one way women help to earn money for their household. They are sold to Tongans overseas, and there is great jubilation when one is sold. They are large and cost a lot of money. Usually several women will work on one together.

Jim was able to help plant banana plants in our host family’s garden in the next village.  They take young plants off an old tree and plant them so they will mature.  Our family has a vegetable garden in the backyard, as well as a “plantation” on the outskirts of this village for other foods. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday in Tonga

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It has been a jam-packed first week for PCT (Peace Corps Trainees)! We were greeted by PCV (Peace Corps Volunteers) and PC Staff at the airport on Monday. What a wonderful sight. There are 26 of us in group 76. Language, culture, and safety have been the main topics. We have been served wonderful breakfasts before starting out for the Peace Corps office each morning. The staff is very professional, yet friendly and helpful at all times. The schedule is well laid out and we know we are in excellent hands, all to make us more comfortable in Tonga and able to eventually serve here.

Sunday is day of rest in Tonga. Legally we can walk (stroll), eat, go to church, and rest. It’s a day I really needed. Time to catch up with this new and interesting life. We had an opportunity to attend one of three different churches: Weslyan Church of Tonga, Catholic Church, and Church of Tonga. We went to the Weslyan Church. It was very large with a high (3-story?) ceiling. Doors on the sides open to the outside air. There was singing before church began—a capella and in harmony from the congregation. But that was just the beginning. The brass band and the choir came in, and then the music really soared, filling the church with praise and thanksgiving. So my word of the day is faka oko oka! Beautiful!

We came back to the Peace Corps office for a feast with many traditional foods. There was a whole pig baked in an ‘umu, along with taro leaves stuffed with chicken and other meats. We had salads of all kinds, and fresh coconut milk and coconut scraped out of the shell after we drank the liquid. The kumala (sweet potato) is delicious, too. We walked back to the house and I was really ready for the next Sunday activity—resting!

We finished our day with a stroll to the ocean and around about. We’re starting to get a little familiar with where things are—and how to get back.

It was a faka ofo ofa day!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Packing up

Since we learned 5 weeks ago that we would be invited to serve in the Kingdom of Tonga, we have been making a zillion decisions--the house, possessions, packing. Now it's one more week. We have a pile of things to pack and are wondering if it will all be able to go. We've spent time learning all we can about Tonga and following a couple of blogs of current volunteers. (Very helpful!) Been working on learning a few Tongan phrases and words that the Peace Corps sent us. Some nervousness, many questions, much excitement!

We're counting down....

Only a few days left until we fly to LA. We're in Group 76, and we've found several blogs from Group 75. THANKS! You've given us packing lists, and a good feel for what we might expect. It's been a huge help.
Our house is getting very empty as we load the storage unit. Many friends and family have given us support and help and we couldn't have done this without them.