Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bits 'n' Pieces: Communication

Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Communication
License plates. They have a system for license plates. What a concept! A rental car plate has an R, and a taxi has a T (very handy because taxis are mostly privately owned and there’s nothing on the vehicle to tell you it’s a taxi). If it’s a Ministry vehicle, there’s a P (for Portungaue), and a rental car has an R.All privately owned cars have a C, leased cars, an L, and pick ups and vans, a J. Prime Minister cars have a PM. There are even a few personal vanity plates around.
Language double-takes. A lot of the time when I’m in a meeting or others are talking in Tongan, I kind of zone out because I understand so little. Then they’ll pop in with an English phrase like “minimum requirements” and my mind wakes up. There are just some ideas and phrases that haven’t made it into Tongan easily.
One day I was walking home from work past the primary school, and the children were all around getting picked up at the end of the day. All of a sudden I heard “I’m riding shotgun. I called it.” What? No, I must have misheard. But then I heard it again. Talk about a mental double-take, and wondering how that phrase made it to Tonga and out of the mouth of a child.
A co-worker recently told me they just keep it “easy-peasy.” That gave me a mental smile. It’s so much fun to be taken off-guard by unexpected language.
Hopa bananas. A co-worker gave me a hopa banana to eat, and gave me a Tongan story, too. “Why the seeds of the hopa banana look like ants.” First, let me tell you about the hopa. It's much more squared-off and rectangular than the bananas we have in the U.S. It doesn't have the banana “smile” shape, either. It has a line of big black seeds all down the center.
One day a rat was chasing a group of ants, and, of course, they were anxious to find someplace to hide and get away from the rat. Finally, they saw a hopa banana up ahead and they quickly ran inside, all in a row, and waited for the rat to run on by. The rat, however, saw where they went. Since he couldn't get at them in the banana, he decided to teach them a lesson and he closed up the end where they ran in and they couldn't get out. That's why hopa bananas have a long line of large black seeds all down the middle of the fruit.
As I ate the banana, I have to admit it was hard not to think of those big black seeds as ants. Somehow, though, I managed it, and the banana was tasty! The story definitely added to my enjoyment of the fruit.
Eyebrow talk. Why talk when a flick up of the eyebrows can say so much? I think people's faces here are so expressive. Where we might say “sure” or “ok”, etc. to show the speaker we are listening or in agreement, or even doubt them, here it's the way you raise your eyebrows. And the message gets across! I've been practicing....

A photo is worth.... Couldn't leave a blog without a picture, especially one titled "communication."

I'll explain this when I write soon about sharing. See if you can guess!

Monday, April 18, 2011

International Women's Day

March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

The guest speaker, Hon. Fatafehi O Lapaha Tuita

Once again I found myself at the Queen Salote College hall, this time to celebrate women, as it's been done for 100 years around the world. The theme: “Access to education, training, science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.” Along with the prayers, hymns, and speeches, we were entertained by the Tonga Police Band and traditional dance by students from the Tonga Institute of Education (Teacher Preparation). Awards were given for essays written by high school students on the theme, as well as for the winning team of the debate on the subject. My favorite part, though, were the displays all around the room. The Peace Corps was represented by information about Camp Glow, a camp for girls to improve confidence and self-image. I spoke with women who showed their handiwork, and to those there from the Girl Guides. It is also the Girl Guides 100 year anniversary. When I said I had been a Girl Scout they wanted to know if I still knew the pledge. It's been a long time! But yes, I did. All the women were full of joy and excitement and it was contagious. There was morning tea, too, with many traditional Tongan foods. It's a wonderful worldwide tradition.

Three of my co-workers.

Displayed weaving of a kiekie.

Displayed basket weaving.
Three more of my co-workers.
TIOE students performing a traditional Tongan dance.

Displayed jewelry.
TIOE students waiting to perform.
This is a kafa, used to tie the tu'ovala. It's braided from the husk fiber of the coconut.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tonga National Soroban Competition

March 30, 2011
Soroban Competition
It was quiet in the hall as I came in. The National Soroban (We know them better, perhaps, as abacus.) Competition was already in progress and there were only a few students seated at the rows of tables and chairs. It was the end of the class 4 oral competition. Sefo was rattling off numbers almost as fast as he could say them and the remaining few students were mentally arriving at the answers. Soon there was a winner to much applause and congratulations.
This is a competition for class 3, 4, and 5 students from all over Tonga. It is a part of their curriculum. Only the best are competing. Students have come from ‘Eua, Ha’apai, and Va’vau, as well as those from Tongatapu. It had been explained to me by a JICA volunteer at the CDU, Toru, that there would be 3 rounds. One with the soroban (abacus), one would be aural (no soroban), and the third would be visual—numbers flashed on a projection screen.  (JICa=Japanese International cooperation agency)
Next the class 5 students took the seats at the tables and had their sorobans with them. After about 5 problems, there were only 20 students left, then 10 (7 girls and 3 boys), then 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). A student from ‘Eua won.
The teachers had a turn, too. Their test was written and timed. (Hey, teachers, that’s some pressure, huh?)
When I left there were students from all 3 classes at the tables and the visual round had begun. After a few problems, I was glad to know I could at least keep up with class 5….
The results: I heard from Toru that students from Ha’apai, Vava’u, and ‘Eua won. Evidently the individual scores are part of a team competition.

Thanks to Toru for sharing these photos!