Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Saturday, July 23, 2011

WISE (Women in Sustainable Enterprise)

There has been a banner outside Queen Salote Hall for about a month proclaiming that WISE would be launching there on July 23rd. We also read about it in an email we get called "WOIT: What's on in Tongatapu?" We couldn't seem to grasp what it was really all about and what/who would be there. And did WE want to be there? Today was the day, and since we were going to town to buy a supply of vegetables, we decided to stop there on our way home (It's right on the way.) and see what it was all about.

I'm so glad we did! Around the perimeter of the Hall there were twenty-five to thirty booths. It was all about women and the businesses they have, or are starting. Many had beautiful handicrafts and jewelry (You know my weakness.).  The Talitha Project was represented, which is an NGO trying to meet the needs of women 12-25 "who are in need of empowerment, security, counseling, skill development, support and love." Women were there with businesses in flowers and plants, either to sell or rent for occasions, and there were representatives from the Women in Law Association, just to name a few and to give you an idea of the variety.

In the center of the Hall there were chairs and a stage. The day began with a choir singing, and a pastor offering scripture and prayer, as well as various women extending a welcome. Later the stage was used to introduce the 'Ikale Tahi (Sea Eagles) Rugby Team and the candidates for the Miss Heilala competition for the Heilala Festival.

On the far end, on the built-in stage, a woman-owned preschool provided a play area for children. They were having a great time! There was also the Escape Cafe (owned by the woman who initiated the WISE idea.) which was serving its full menu. Add a raffle.... And, well, a good time was had by all. At least we certainly did!

The entrance to the Hall. Note the tapa cloth on the windows.

Children's play area and the WISE Launch banner.

This bouquet came from thegarden of the woman at this booth, which had nothing to do with flowers.

Meet the 'Ikale Taha Rugby Team and the Miss Heilala contestants.

The 4 Miss Heilala contestants are introduced.

Plants to buy or rent for occasions.

Ok, this isn't from the WISE Launch, but, perhaps, future WISE members? Students from Beulah College selling their product: peanut butter. It was at the Heilala Festival block party the night before. Their motto, "It's tasty.....It's yummy.....It's crunching....." We bought a jar....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Island hoppin'

 Well, not exactly island hopping, but when it's low tide you can actually walk to it. It's a 45 min. walk and the water is knee-high. Sounds a little too aerobic for me.  It's a small island off the central northern tip of Tongatapu, just off Nuku'alofa, and it's called Pangimotu. . They have a small boat that will ferry you there. It leaves at 11 AM and the last boat back is at 4. It's only a 5 min. ride. Since we're Peace Corps they give us a discount and it's 10 pa'anga for the round trip. A great deal!

We spent a very nice day with David and Jinnet beach walking, snorkeling, eating lunch, reading, and a little mohe (sleep) on the beach. What's not to like? Jinnet and I both looked at each other and both of us had the same thought: is this really us having this experience? Wow. For a midwestern gal I sometimes just can't believe it! We're starting to try to do a lot of things now when we can. When we realized that 1/3 of our time here is over Jim and I said that we didn't want to go home and wish we had done some things and hadn't taken the time. This was a good start. This won't be our last trip to Pangimotu!

Pangimotu: view from the water taxi.

Boarding the water taxi. (Yes, we have our life preservers. PC policy.)

The perfect  tree for us and our gear.


Yachts anchored off the island.

Good snorkeling around this partially submerged small ship.

Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu in the distance.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome home, whales!

It is now time for the whales to return to Tongan waters, and a few had been sighted around ‘Eua, an island to the southeast of us, and a part of Tonga. We signed up with Deep Blue Diving for a Saturday trip to welcome them back. Would we see whales on the trip? No one could say, but we would be thrilled if we did.

We gathered on the dock in the morning, and the weather was good. We got on board and made the 1 hr. 15 min. voyage to a Gilligan’s Island-sized island named Malinoa. We had time on the beach (15-minute leisurely walk took us around the island), a ceremonial kava circle, a delicious lunch, and a ceremony to welcome the whales. By the time it was time to go and look for whales, however, the weather had turned. The sky was gray, the wind cold, and rainclouds threatened, so we headed right back for Tongatapu. Alas, no whale sighting this time, but we have a whole season ahead. The whales come, give birth, and stay in the area until November.

Here are photos to tell more of the story:

We begin boarding for our adventure to welcome the whales.

Jim goes on board.

Our sighting of the island, Malinoa.

This boat will ferry us to the island.

Puaka tunu is the fire for our lunch.

A young woman, the tou'a, prepares the kava for the ceremony. Kava is made from water and the pounded root of the kava plant and drunk by men. It is used here ceremonially, but is also used by groups of men who gather for fellowship.

Our chief for the ceremony returns from the sea after giving the first bowl of kava to the sea god. He is wearing tapa cloth.

The chief and the talking chief go out to call the whales and welcome them back.

The chief blows the conch shell while the talking chief calls to the whales.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A story, a story…. (with apologies to Gail E. Haley, who won a Caldecott Award for her book with this title.)

Once in a while we eat lunch at the Korean restaurant, small and family-owned, in the heart of Nuku’alofa. What I want to eat when we go there is bebimbap. That’s because one of my favorite (and they are legion) children’s books is Be bim-bop by Linda Sue Park, about a Korean-American family that is joyfully buying the ingredients for this delicious dish and then goes home to make it. In the end the child “stirs like crazy” before eating it.  So I enjoy reliving the story each time we go, because that’s what I always order.

Usually the son waits on us, and he has this friendly smile, and his English is very good, so I decided to be especially nosy and ask him a few questions. His family came to Tonga 20 years ago. (He’s 25.) He just received his BA from NZ in biochemistry. His older sister has received her Masters in political science in France. When she gets home in August, he’ll be leaving for Switzerland to pursue his Masters in biochemistry. He knows some French from high school in Tonga and in NZ. He doesn’t think he’ll learn to ski. As I wrote to my sister in an email, “Not too shabby, huh?”

There—2 stories. Everyone has a story, and I love stories!

(Note: Linda Sue Park won a Newbery Medal for her novel, A single shard. A great read!)

Here we are eating and enjoying, you guessed it, bebimbap.