Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Viva Vava'u!

We have crossed another item off our "Things we must do before we leave Tonga" list. We visited Vava'u. This island group is to the north of Tongatapu and Ha'apai. Although we planned on one week, it was extended by two days due to a plane cancellation. Not to worry! An extra two days in Vava'u? Yes!

Here are a few photos. If you're ever in the area, be sure to see Vava'u, preferably from a boat. We took two days to tour, snorkel, and visit various islands and beaches. I'll be writing more about some special people and places, but here's a pictorial overview:

The view from our porch at Mystic Sands Resort.

Don, Hakau Adventures, showed us islands, beaches, and where to snorkel.

Coral Gardens snorkeling.
Want to own your own island? Ben does. He and his wife are building here. Beautiful plans and dreams!

One view from Ben's island. It's about a 5min. walk around the whole thing.

Disappearing Island. Ocean in all directions as we explored this sand bar that comes and goes with the tide.

Welcome to Port Wine Guest House in Neiafu. My favorite place to stay (so far).

The living area at Port Wine.
A visit to Heilala Vanilla Plantation.

A view of Neiafu's harbor.
Pay dirt! Neiafu has a public library!

Children's drawings displayed in the library. Note the book shelves you can see through the pass-through window.
The dream, vision, and work of one man. What a treasure!

Here's the man who made it all happen--Hanitelo.
The view of the ocean from the Botanical Garden. The man is bringing in pandanus that has been soaking in the sea.

Last stop, and part of the unexpected 2 extra days. Breakfast at Island Explorer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

We're Tongan!

The last week of the term 3 at my primary school it was decided that we'd highlight and celebrate what is being learned this year by some friendly competition in the different curricular areas: English, Tongan Society and Culture, Tongan, math and science. Each day we took an hour at the end of the day for each class to have a short competition. For example, the English contest for Form1 and 2 was writing a poem in English on "Discipleship."  They had 24 hours to write and submit it.  Younger students showed off their knowledge by participating in a matching game of words to pictures.

The day everyone really shone was Wednesday when students were asked to dress in traditional Tongan dress instead of uniforms. We started the day with Tongan music and a parade of classes marching around the school area. There was so much pride and excitement!
Students of class one getting ready to parade

A class 3 on parade.

Form 2 

After other classes competed, Form 2 concluded the day with Tongan songs and  a dance. 

The Form 2 boys take part, too, in the dance.

Form 2 provides a song and Tongan dance.
The highlight of Tongan Society and Culture was a competition between Class 5 and 6. They made coconut cream, starting with husking the coconut, opening it, grating the coconut, and then using coconut fibers to make the cream. They weren't done until it was all cleaned up. There was a lot of cheering and laughing!
Grating coconut.

Grating coconut.

Making the coconut cream.

We have a week holiday and it's back for term 4.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Group 77

We have waited so long to welcome this new group of Peace Corps Trainees and they're here! So let me introduce you....
Group 77
This is the first new group to arrive since we came in October, 2010, and many of the staff and Volunteers on Tongatapu went to the airport on September 4 to welcome them. We had Tongan flags, a large U.S. flag, and Peace Corps emblems to wave from the observation deck as we watched them deplane.

Then we waited outside the doors to customs, and there they were! The 15 came through one-by-one and each time we shouted, welcomed, and greeted them. They were presented with a kahoa (lei).

Later that afternoon there was a kava ceremony and a dinner to share with them at Peace Corps. It was a good time to start getting to know them. 

What enthusiasm and excitement. How wonderful to have them here. We'll have a few more opportunities to share with them before Group 76 starts leaving Tonga, some as early as mid-October. We wish them all the best in their adventure as Peace Corps Trainees, and later, Volunteers.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


As we near the end of our service we know there are certain places we still want and need to see. In July we crossed one of those off our list: to revisit the island group of Ha'apai, where we had our PST (preservice training) in October and November of 2010. We hoped to visit our host family and also see parts of Ha'apai as a tourist and enjoy the beautiful islands as we couldn't while in training.

We began by going to the island of Uoleva, and staying at Serenity Resort. Ahh! Totally peaceful and the beaches...well, every view was postcard perfect. 

There's a lot of beach, and no one for miles, but us.

On the porch.

Our fale, outside
and inside.
Our walk through the bush to the mounds.
After our walk to see the mounds.

Aren't these stunning? Orchids, maybe?

What's not to like with this picture?
Weaving demonstration.

Modeling his new hat.
Inside the Gathering Room. This is also where we ate.
Bonfire on the beach with a serenade.

The last few days we went back to the island where it all started, Foa. Our village, Faleloa is at the end of the island. Sandy Beach is the best! We stayed at Matafonua Resort in a fale on the ocean. The roar of the surf, snorkeling, beach walking, and we had plenty of R and R.
The fale outside...

and inside.

On the porch.

A fale and the ocean.
 We walked into Faleloa to see our host family, and did get to see some of them, though a few were away.
Visiting with host family members.

A beach-side picnic given by a former host family.


Lots of memories, and a realization that we had come a long way, not just in miles, and soon it all would be memories. Thanks, Ha'apai!