Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hilliard Memorial School

Having been at Hilliard for a full term now, it seems like a good time to show it to you. First, a short introduction. Hilliard is a primary school, classes 1-6 and forms 1 and 2. Class 1 students are 5 years old. The school is run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and is in the heart of Nuku'alofa, the capital city. We have more than 400 students. It is an English-speaking school, though many students come initially with little English.

My main assignment there is the library, which I am organizing, cataloguing, repairing, etc. (It's important for me to remember to keep it as simple as possible, so it can be maintained after I leave.) Almost all the books are stamped "obsolete" and "withdrawn," and they come from New Zealand or Australia libraries. Many are very old and worn out. I meet with each class each week, reading stories, and/or teaching them about a library and how it's used and organized. I've put up signs about the Dewey System for nonfiction, and I'll be starting to teach that to some classes during term 4. We'll see how it goes! We also have time to look at books and check them out.

The "Library Lunch" I have started is very popular, as students can come in and read and check out books during lunchtime, in addition to their weekly scheduled library time. My best customers are in class 3 and 4. Libraries in Tonga are rare, other than in some schools. I only know of one community library on Tongatapu, the island we are on. Reading is not a part of Tongan culture. The language was only oral until the missionaries came and developed a written language.

I am also meeting with class 6 students twice a week for English class.

I really like these kids, and the staff has been so welcoming and helpful. I've been learning a lot, too! Here are some photos of the school, students, and staff. Please let me know if you have any questions about the school. I know I'll be writing more about it in the future, too.

Hilliard Memorial School

Assembly on Monday mornings. Religious songs and the National Anthem are sung, and announcements made.

Some of the Form 1 students.

Library Lunch students.

Patsy, class 1 teacher, me, and Mrs. Satui, the principal at a workshop hosted by the Peace Corps.

Some of Hilliard's teachers. They're dressed in red in support of Ikale Tahi, Tonga's rugby team, that is playing in the World Cup.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On the trail of a sale

As we left our house this morning to go to the market for our weekly supply of vegetables, Belinda was outside washing the sidewalk from their porch to the gate. She told us that this morning was the handicrafts sale at Queen Salote College, and that it was just this morning. Well, we couldn't miss that and it was on the way to town. We got there about 9:40 and it didn't start until 10 so we thought we'd go to town and stop on our way back. Then a woman we recently met told us that the program would begin at 10, but we could come in now and sit with her. Okay. Take opportunities when you can. Queen Salote College is the only school that teaches all their students how to make kiekie and other traditional handicrafts as a part of their heritage. These are then sold as a fundraiser for the school.

We were waiting for the Princess, the guest of honor, to come, but there was plenty to look at while we waited. All the students were already there in their uniforms (even to the way their hair was braided and tied), sitting on the floor in orderly lines. The band was in the back wearing their uniforms and ready to play. All around the sides of the large hall there were tables set up with handicrafts, mostly tu'ovale and kiekie, with some baskets and embroidery (which was exquisite). 
Students sitting on the floor in lines. The band is in the background.

Waiting for the Princess. Tables filled with handwork in the background.
Not invited nor expected, we still were given salusalu (leis)
Side note: The crocheted tu'ovale uses a fiber called fau, which is obtained from the bark of the giant hibiscus. It's quite an involved process to make it. It's also used to make other items, like placemats and coasters. For those, it is wound around the spine from the coconut leaf. (This spine is used to make brooms, too, but that's another story....) 
The guest of honor, Her Royal Highness Princess 'Ofeina-'e he Langi Fakafanua.

The Princess views the table with embroidery. Her daughter, who is teaching there this year, is on the far right.
 At the front, on the stage, was a chair set up for the guest of honor. As soon as the Princess came we began. It was a short (for Tongans) program of about an hour, which included prayer, hymns, a band selection, welcome, and a gift of handicrafts to the Princess. Afterwards the Princess took a tour of all the tables, and we were allowed to follow behind and begin buying. And we still got to town and bought our vegetables, so an unplanned, but successful, fun day.
Ready to sell the kiekie and tu'ovale at their table.

A view looking down a row of the tables with buyers and sellers lined up on each side.

Teresa helps Jim make a decision on which tu'ovale to buy.

Jim, wearing his new tu'ovale and almost ready for church.