Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

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.

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