Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In a far, far galaxy... (or, same same, but different)

In other words, a Sunday School Christmas Program is pretty much the same here as in any church we've ever been to. We were invited to attend a program at an Anglican church. There was a Christmas tree and decorations, joyous Christmas music, earnest children presenting the message, and anxious adults directing them.  And it was in English! The biggest difference? A 3-hour program. A little long for American tastes and sensibilities, but normal here. Every class level had something to share--songs, dramas, dance, and most of all, joy. Each child received a present by name from the pastor, and delicious refreshments followed. Here's a small sample of the sights and sounds of the evening:
In a corner on the stage.

Older youth present a drama and dance.

Preteens sing and dance.

Another dance with holiday music and a message for the season.
An adult director dresses for the evening.

The littlest angel didn't quite make it to the finale.

We were invited to be a part of an International Volunteer Day program, and I wanted to share this music from it. The singing group is from Tupou High School, and the band from Tupou College.

Kalisimasi fiefia! This is our Christmas card to all of you. May you have a blessed Christmas with family and friends, and a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pomp and circumstance, Tongan style

Students wait for the practice and others bring benches for additional seating.

Prizes for students vied with reports for room on the library tables.

I arrived in the library on Wednesday, November 30, to find the tables piled high with wrapping paper and "prizes" or awards for the top 3 students in each class. Teachers were wrapping, while others were completing their grades and reports. Outside a tent had grown in the playground overnight, and students were bringing the benches from their classrooms for the program's seating for tomorrow. No one wore uniforms, and many students elected to stay home. It was a 1/2 day, with only the practice scheduled for it.  At midmorning the form 2 students went through their marching routine, and students were taught how to receive their awards. The top 10 in each class would be recognized, and the top 3 would receive prizes.

A final sweep to the area before the big day.

Students are ready and waiting.

A class 3 student waits quietly.

It was not a normal day when I walked onto the school grounds the next morning at the usual time. It was too quiet. Only a few students were around and a teacher was giving the area a last sweep before the day began. Two Form 2 students came in the library and were already sad and nostalgic to see their years at Hilliard ending. A little before 9 the Beulah Band arrived, more people came, and it was beginning to look like something special was not only planned, but was going to happen.

Form 2 students march in and salute and wait during the playing of the National Anthem and the raising of the flag.

A student receives recognition for a job well done.

Top 10 class 6 students bow after receiving their awards.

The students of Form 2 marched in, the band played the National Anthem, there were prayers, hymns, welcomes and speeches before we got to the real reason for the day: the awarding of recognition to the top ten students in each class for their academic work and achievement during the past school year. Children were festooned with kahoa, (leis) and proud and adoring parents presented them with more. Photos were taken. 

The band played during a couple of interludes. My favorite piece was a medley of "In the mood," "Rock around the clock," and "Barbara Ann." The top Form 2 student made a short speech. 
Form 2 students getting final instructions before receiving their awards.

Valedictory speech by the top Form 2 student.

The National Anthem played again, and it was over. Another school year done, achievements acknowledged. It wasn't long before most had left, the band members were served lunch, and the process of putting everything away was begun. Now, a holiday break--a time for resting and recharging. Soon the 2012 school year would be under way.... A teacher and her husband had offered me a ride home, and as I crossed the playground to climb into their truck the thought was--how will I feel at this time next year?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Let's have some fun!

Last week exams were over and the days became unstructured and long. Why not have some fun? Our principal decided we’d have some sport competitions. The day before all the students, from class 1 to form 2, were divided into 4 groups and told to wear white, red, yellow, or blue shirts the next day. 
Some of the red teammates getting ready to compete.

After school got started the next morning, everyone came outside and gathered in their teams by color. There was singing, marching, and cheering. Then the games began. Our principal had been able to use some end-of-the-year money to purchase sport equipment and the timing was wonderful. (I hadn’t seen any equipment that belonged to the school before this.) Students competed in volleyball, tennis, ping pong, jumping rope, and relays.
The blue and white teams running relays.

Jump rope competition.

A teacher takes a turn at ping pong--not easy when you're holding an umbrella, but it was sunny.
 The teachers set up a radio and we had music blaring all over the playground. (At one point it was “Achy breaky heart.”) By the end of the morning, the games were over, but the students continued to play and have fun on their own. During lunch there were pick-up games of soccer and rugby. 
Always time for rugby!

 I am always pleased at how well they take turns and rarely complain about whose turn is next. Everyone just wants to have fun!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Tale of Two Libraries

Peace Corps Volunteers who are teaching are often asked to also take care of, or set up, a library at their schools. As a person who is a "library-aholic" I'm always looking for libraries to visit. Any library! There are two libraries on the eastern end of Tongatapu that I was particularly eager to see, and both are run by PCVs who are leaving this month, so it was time. My Peace Corps Program Manager suggested that we go together, and the date was set. Field trip!

Our first stop: the Nakolo Community Learning Center.
To my knowledge there is only one community library on Tongatapu, and it was set up and is currently being run by a PCV. Her town officer was the force behind it, and he actually built on a room to his house to have the library (learning center) in his town of 400 people. He used a lot of recycled materials to build it, such as wood from shipping containers. (BTW: The town officer is 80 years old.) The Volunteer has gathered all the materials and books through donations of both books and money. As it is a community library, the collection has special needs as it is for all ages. There is a nice collection of children's books as well as fiction and nonfiction for adults. She found out what the members of the community would like to have, and planned accordingly, for example, textbooks and dictionaries. The nonfiction collection is arranged by the Dewey Decimal System as well as the books having colored stickers by subject, to make it easier for shelving after the PCV is gone.

Inside the learning center.

Inside the learning center and browsing for books. It's orderly, attractive and inviting.
 The second library we visited is part of Olive College (high school), which is a Wesleyan school. It's fun to see the differences in each library, often depending on the emphasis placed by the PCV. This one has nice windows with a view to the ocean (WOW) so it's bright and cheerful, as well has having neat shelves of books and displays and posters. She also has a small puzzle and game collection that she finds the students like and it's something completely new to them.  There are tables and chairs for the students to use for reading and study. 

Welcome to the Olive College library.
Nice displays. It's a bright and welcoming room.

Positive messages and books to browse.

A room with a view: that's the ocean out there.
 We talked at length about how they went about running the libraries and their ideas and thinking. The libraries are very different from each other, but each is fulfilling the needs of the patrons and starting to encourage, not only reading, but the gaining of knowledge and understanding. How wonderful to open new doors, in more ways than one!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Agriculture Show, October 14, 2011

A large banner hung outside the Queen Salote Memorial Hall proclaiming an Agriculture Show was being held on October 14 and 15 in 'Atele, which is near Tonga College. That would mean a bus ride, and since I didn't know any more about it, I didn't think we'd attend. Then on Thursday, October 13, our principal announced that we'd only have a half day on Friday so students and families could attend the Agriculture Show. Well, that got me interested. I asked about the show and what it was like. Sounded like a worthwhile trip. When I got home there was a call from Peace Corps saying we had an invitation to attend the program on Friday afternoon, and the Peace Corps driver would bring it to our house so we'd have it. Now it was a given--we were going. It's the Royal Agriculture, Fisheries and Industries Show, 2011, and hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries.

The long view, across the field. There were 2 rows like this with displays.

Visitors view displays of villages' fruits and vegetables.
As we walked onto the grounds it had the air of a county fair. Long lines of booths showed off vegetables and fruits, all beautifully displayed by the villages. There were informational booths, too, such as showing the fish of Tonga, diseases of plants, healthy eating for people, and an area for the judges to sit to make their decisions. Many of the booths displayed handicrafts to be judged. After the awarding of prizes, the food and handicrafts would be for sale.

Some of Tonga's fish and ocean bounty.

Fruits of Tonga.

A pile of tapa and mats to the right. To be judged and sold.

A beautiful display of handicrafts.

Many root crops, bananas, squash, papaya. All being judged and later sold.

During the program we sat in the shade and listened to speeches, the Police Band played, Queen Salote College students danced, and children from 'Atele GPS performed synchronized aerobics. While the Princess toured the exhibits, we were served refreshments (on china). Afterward she gave out the prizes and the proud recipients lined up for the congratulations. What a great idea to reward the efforts of the farmers and the weavers. It's such a wonderful (and important) part of Tonga!

Dancing by Queen Salote College students.

Synchronized aerobics performed by children from GPS 'Atele. They're lining up and waiting to begin.

The Princess views the displays before handing out the awards.

Monday, October 17, 2011

There are markets, and there are markets....

Buying and selling pandanus at Talamahu Market.

Back in March I wrote about Talamahu Market, located in the heart of Nuku'alofa, and full of fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, and a flea market and clothing, too. Open Monday through Saturday, the main days for selling are Friday and Saturday.

Ocean bounty.

Octopus and eel.

There are other markets, though. The fish market and the flea market down by the waterfront are a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. At the fish market you see all the gifts of the sea. The astounding shapes, sizes and colors never fail to amaze this mid-western woman. 

 If you keep walking (after coffee at Cafe Fresh, which my feet just can't get past without stopping) you will come to the Flea Market. Here is a garage sale lover's dream. All the world for sale in booth after booth--clothing, toothpaste (if you want Crest or looking for Jif, this is the place to buy it!), shoes, tools, jewelry, housewares, cake mixes--well, you get the picture. There is chicken grilling and other ready-to-eat goodies, and bakery, too.  It has a festival/fair air about it. People watching here is great.
Flea Market booths
People out enjoying the day at the Flea Market.

Can you smell it?

Some markets, are yearly events, like the Wesleyan Bazaar, which is held at the end of September.  It's women's month in their church calendar, a time for rededication and an acknowledgment of God's work in their lives. The bazaar has foods to buy, handicrafts, kava circles, and vegetables. Different Wesleyan schools have booths and sell goods as a fundraiser. As I was leaving the bands were getting warmed up to play.
Baskets of vegetables for sale at the Wesleyan Bazaar.

Root crops. The long root is 'ufi (yams).

Baked goods. Kiekie hanging in the back.

Kava Circle.

There are always roadside stands that someone has set up to sell fruits and vegetables. 

Yes, there are markets, and there are markets!