Monday, October 19, 2009

First Weekend in Ha'api

I went to church with my host family for the first time yesterday. I wasn’t really sure which denomination they were, but I was hoping they belonged to the Free Church of Tonga because I had heard they have the shortest services. I had also heard from one of the current volunteers that this denomination has the “yell-singing.” After attending yesterday’s service, I think that is an accurate description! There were only about 20 people in the church including the children, but they all sang at the top of their lungs. I’m not sure if it was to make up for the small number of people or if there is some kind of competition among the 6 churches in the village to have the loudest singing. The church itself was down the road in the next village, Fotua.

I was surprised to discover that my host father, Sio’ata, led the service. I had no idea what was being said, but he seemed very serious about it, and it was strange to contrast that with his normally goofy personality. There were little kids fidgeting, playing, and just walking around the building the whole time- at one point this little boy actually went up and started swinging on the railing in front of the altar. Nobody seemed to be phased by any of it- I kept expecting someone to run up and pull him down, but I guess they just ignore it. I was happy to discover that, as promised, the service only lasted about 45 minutes, and then we were on our way.

After church we ate, my host mom made a dish call lu, which is corned beef, onions, and coconut cream wrapped in leaves and baked in an umu. I’m not crazy about corned beef, especially after learning that it contains “75% meat and 25% beef hearts,” but Tongans seem to use it in a lot of dishes, so I tend to sort of eat a little and then say I’m full and that seems to work. It’s funny, because there is all this delicious fresh fish and shellfish here, but instead they use canned meat! I think I’m going to try to mention how much I like the fish and hopefully that will do the trick.

Our Tongan class is going well, I’m learning a lot. It’s funny, because there are lots of works that start with “faka,” which means “like,” and I always sort of feel like I’m cussing, especially when I say the Tongan word for “pitiful”- “Faka’ofa.” It’s nice to be able to sort of understand what people are saying to me, although I certainly still have a long way to go!

We learned at our training on Friday that we have to learn and perform a Tongan dance for “Culture Day” in November, and we also have to teach someone in our host family something American. I think we’re going to get all of the neighborhood kids together for our performance, but we still haven’t decided what to teach them- we were thinking maybe the Macarena or some kind of line dancing (or something else hilarious). Our host families are really excited about teaching us a dance too- me and Pele (Blair) are going to perform one together and there has already been talk of costumes by our host moms, so I’m sure our performance will be interesting to say the least.

Anyway, sorry about the lack of new pictures- the connection at the internet café here is incredibly slow and the last internet mission on Saturday was a failure picture-wise. I’ll try again next time but I might have to wait until the end of training when we go back to the capital. We are going to find out what our sites will be next week, so that’s exciting. We have meetings today (Monday) to discuss our preferences for placement. I’m pretty sure I’ll be working in a Secondary school, so I that means I won’t get sent to any of the really remote islands (which I’m glad). I’ll try to let everyone know as soon as I find out! Have a nice week!



  1. Please don't teach them the Macarena ... or line dancing, the chicken dance, the hokey pokey, etc. That is just cruel. Make them do readers theater to "Where the Wild Things Are" or something. I'm making one of my speech groups do it to help them with fluency and they are loving it. Sounds like you are having a good time despite having to go to church and eating canned meat.

  2. Oh Melmo! You are so funny! I can totally picture you saying all of this! Needless to say-- I miss you. I am so glad you are keeping up on this blog; its such a great idea!

  3. HI Melissa. Nice blog. What about the YMCA?