Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fans/The Market

January 23, 2011

Don’t leave home without your…fan?

I’ve been thinking about fans in Tonga, and when I went to church this morning and realized I forgot to bring mine, much to my dismay, I knew it was a worthy topic for the blog.

Even though the church is open to the world with windows and doors, and there are overhead fans whirring, you really want to have your fan. They come in all shapes, sizes, and designs, but the most common is what I’ll call the leaf shape. They can really move air, too! Although mostly women have them, men do, too. You also want them at work, sitting in restaurants, classes---well, everywhere!

I have three now. Two were made and given to me in Ha’apai. They are on the sides in the photo. My leaf-shaped fan, in the middle, I purchased at the Handicraft Center in Nuku’alofa. I like them all, but for real air movement you can’t beat my leaf!

Fans. An art form. Creative. Beautiful. Fashion accessory. Functional. Who knew?

To market, to market to buy….?

The Talamahu Market is in the heart of Nuku’alofa. What a pleasure to shop there. Right now there is so much available, and it’s just a joy to look at the heaps of fruits and vegetables to buy. Here’s a partial list: bananas, pineapple, watermelon, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, manioke, taro, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, eggplant---well, you get the idea. Also being sold are handicrafts, eggs, cakes, flowers, leis, and more.

You buy fruits and vegetables by the heap. Usually the cost is 3 pa’anga (Tongan dollars). If it’s full season, you get a larger heap for your money; when they’re scarce you get less. Well, of course I want it all. Luckily we are limited by what we can carry as we are walking and bussing to get there, and also by the size of our refrigerator, which is small. Sometimes the heaps are too big, so we are able to split them with another volunteer.

Here are a few photos. Take a walk through the market with us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More this 'n' that/Books

February 5, 2011

More this ‘n’ that….

Rain (‘Uha)

It’s Saturday and the first semi-cloudy, rainy-type day in a while. I welcome it! There’s a breeze again.

Saturday is a time to clean up the yard and get ready for Sunday. The family next door had everyone out early this morning raking, cleaning, fixing up the yard, both parents and children. Rain shower? Sai pe (Kind of like, ok, no worries. Pronounced “sigh pay.”). Just keep working. No one runs for cover or worries about getting wet. In fact, a good rain is a great time for taking a faka’uha, or rain bath. Remember as a kid running outside in a swimsuit during a shower and playing in the puddles? We need more of that! Sai pe.

Bananas (Siaine)

A single banana is called a finger; a cluster of fingers is called a hand; a stalk of hands is called a bunch. There are several kinds of bananas, not just one, like in the States. There are fat, short ones called butter bananas, some that are smaller with good banana flavor, but not quite as strong as ours, and we’ve also had a variety that is starchy, and is boiled or baked. You can buy bananas by the stalk or by the hand, and a hand of bananas can go from green to ripe in a couple of days. So share, share, share. Of course I’ve made banana bread, and that’s good for sharing, too.

Oh, yes, and he’s my cousin

Coming from a small town where we were related to no one because we had moved there as adults, we got used to knowing that everyone (well, almost everyone) was related. Guess what? We moved from one “small town” to one “small group of islands.” The culture here is very family-related, and people know the generations forwards and backwards. When Jim asked a co-worker if he knew the Tongan player on the Pittsburgh Steelers, he said, “Yes, and he’s my cousin from the same island I’m from. His brother plays for the Washington Redskins.” Another PCV was talking to a co-worker about a librarian on Tonga, and she said, “Oh, yes, and she’s my mother-in-law.” And so it goes, as in small town, U.S.A., it is in Tonga.

A cover of one of the new books.

February 6, 2011


Friday, February 4, was a big day for Tonga, especially the children, but probably no more than 60-70 people witnessed it. Since my assignment is to work at the CDU (Curriculum Development Unit), I was there to witness it and mark the occasion. It wasn’t learned until late on Wednesday that the newly printed pupil books would be arriving on Thursday from New Zealand. These books had been written by the CDU staff to accompany the new curriculum for Tongan language (Classes 1-6), mathematics (Classes 1-6), science (Classes 1-6), and English language (Classes 3-6). The exciting thing about this curriculum is that is has a Tongan focus in all the areas, and it is integrated into the learning. Funded by New Zealand, this is the first time that student books will have high quality printing, illustrations, and standard formatting. I haven’t seen them yet, but I can’t wait!

On Friday afternoon a ceremony was scheduled to “hand over” the books from the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Minister of Education.  On Thursday a tent was erected. On Friday morning the 3 shipping containers of books arrived, along with deliveries of flowers, chairs, and mats for the floor. Caterers delivered food, as well as the staff making delicious sandwiches. (I got to help!) The ceremony began at 3 P.M. with a hymn and prayer. Words of thanks were given by the Acting Director of Education, the CDU Chief Education Officer, and the Deputy Director of the CDU. After a short ceremony when the New Zealand High Commissioner and the head of the printing company officially gave the books to the Minister of Education, Women Affairs & Culture for the people of Tonga, the Minister also gave a formal response of thanks. Students of the Tonga Institute of Education (a college for teacher preparation) sang and danced.

I loved the Tongan ceremony, and the desire by them to mark this special occasion with all the formality, pomp and circumstance it deserved. It was all planned and accomplished in a very short time, with all the details arranged to make for a beautiful and meaningful celebration.
Getting everything ready.

Guests are arriving.
The official ceremony to receive the books.

The entertainment.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

School days, school days....

January 17, 2011

Teacher Dedication Service

Today when I got to work I found out I, along with everyone else, would be attending a church service this morning. If you read an earlier post about being flexible, here was another opportunity.

This is the week for teachers to prepare for the new school year. The church service, really a dedication service, was being held by the Ministry of Education, Women’s Affairs, and Culture. The new Minister, Hon. Dr. ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki, was the guest of honor. She had recently been selected to be the Minister by the newly formed government, and she was one of two Ministers who were not part of the elected assembly. She has a long history of being part of education in Tonga, and is highly respected.

The service was held in Queen Salote College’s (High School to us.) Hall at 10 A.M., which isn’t too far from my workplace. The Hall was large and was filled with teachers. The Tonga Police Band played. Hymns were sung and prayers were said, along with Bible readings and a sermon. There was a presentation of certificates and gifts to retiring teachers, and it closed with the National Anthem. Afterwards a lunch of traditional Tongan foods was served.

I thought myself very fortunate to be able to attend and to experience another slice of Tongan life and culture.

Acknowledging retiring teachers.

Music provided by the Police Band.

Food and fellowship

School Days

The week of teacher preparation is over and it’s time for the children to come to school. You remember the first day of school, don’t you? It’s the same here. There is a primary school right next to where I work, so I strolled over to get a feeling for a Tongan first day. Parents were dropping children off. Those with young children stayed with them.
The uniforms were crisp and new looking, and the sandals were leather. Everyone looked his/her best. Everyone was funneling into a center area of the school. When it was time, everyone got quieted down. The children sang a hymn, a prayer was said, and teachers began having students line up by grade level. The beginning of a new school year is always full of such promise, and there’s that buzz of excitement. Yes, it’s the same.
Coming to school.     
Gathering and waiting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

At last---a Volunteer!

January 14, 2011

I’ve just begun writing again. We were without a computer for the last 3 weeks, and now we’re back in business. But before I move forward, I need to take you back to our Peace Corps Swearing-In Ceremony because it’s not every day that you become a Peace Corps Volunteer!

December 15….

I’ll only do a little commentary and let the pictures speak for the day.

We were taken by bus to a beautiful spot on the Lagoon. The weather was sunny and warm. We had posed for pictures outside the House where we were staying after getting dressed in our finest. We had practiced what we would be doing, and 2 groups were going to perform the dances they had learned for Culture Day in Ha’apai. How wonderful that Peace Corps does everything possible to make it a very special ceremony. We sang the U.S. National Anthem, dignitaries were there to greet and congratulate us from Tonga, as well as our Country Director. One of us gave a thank you speech—in English and Tongan. Hymns were sung. Then it was time for the certificates to be given out, and we each had our moment.

Afterwards we had a delicious light lunch before it was time to board the bus as Peace Corps Volunteers, Group 76.

A photo op before we left.           



Speech by our fellow Volunteer.

An official Volunteer.

Me, too!

Entertainment by our new Volunteers.

First week in December….

This was the week called Attachment. We had a wonderful opportunity that week to connect with my future co-worker. Although she couldn’t really help with learning my job, as she is in another department, getting to stay with this woman and her family was very special. She lives 22 miles to the east of Nuku’alofa, and we got to see a part of the island we hadn’t been able to see before. There is a significant historical site nearby that we saw and we hope to explore more thoroughly in the future. She loves to garden, and how I enjoyed looking at all her flowers. They have a wide, welcoming porch that we sat on that caught every breeze. It was a wonderful 2 days.