Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Site Placement!

This was an exciting week, because on Saturday we were told what our site placements will be! I’m going to be working at a secondary school (like junior high and high school combined) called St. Andrews. It’s an Anglican school on the outskirts of the capital, Nuku’alofa, on the main island, Tongatapu. We were given an informational packet when we were told our placement, and mine says I’ll be teaching English to forms 1 and 5, which would be the American equivalent of 7th graders and high school juniors. I was able to find out that I’ll be living in a house on the school grounds, near the principle’s house (so hopefully he’s cool). According to the packet I was given, the school grounds tend to flood during heavy rains, so I hope that doesn’t become an issue!
Anxiously waiting for the site announcements

Me picking the next person whose site to announce

One good thing about being near the capital is that I should have electricity and running water, and I heard that the house I’ll be living in already has a stove and refrigerator. If that turns out to be true then I am definitely buying a washing machine with the money I’ll save- I had enough hand washing in Ghana and to know it’ll be worth it! About eight other trainees have been assigned to places on Tongatapu as well, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other. I also learned that the other side of the island has some prehistoric monuments, which I hope to be able to check out, and some good reefs for snorkeling. I wish I had brought a snorkel, but hopefully I’ll be able to find one in Nuku’alofa. I’m kind of sad to know I won’t be seeing a lot of the other trainees who have been assigned to the other island groups, but I plan on visiting at least a couple of times in the next two years and seeing all the island groups.
The Tongatapu crew

Other than that I have just been doing the usual- language class, training, and church on Sunday. I was entertained/scared by the kids in church again- these two boys were playing with huge pieces of broken glass and pretending to stab each other during the last service. We started teaching the neighborhood kids our American dance last night. It’s going to be a medley of American songs with simple dances to go with them. So far it looks like it will be good-the kids are really cute and they seem to have fun with the dances.

Our dance practice for the Tongan dance that Pele and I have to perform has been going alright. We learned the entire part that we need to know, and now we just have to work on doing it gracefully. It’s mostly hand movements, with just a couple of stepping parts. When people perform that type of dance they put coconut oil on their skin and if the crowd likes it, they will stick money to their arms and legs. Our group decided we need to do a good job so we can earn some internet money!

On Saturday we had a lot of things going on. We did a breast cancer walk through Pangai (the main town on Ha’apai). Apparently, there is very little awareness about breast cancer in Tonga and it often doesn’t get diagnosed, much less treated. Also there is a stigma around having it, as it is sometimes seen as a punishment from God for doing something wrong, and also discussing breasts at all is viewed as inappropriate. So the Peace Corps in Tonga decided to do this walk to raise awareness. It was just the Peace Corps trainees and staff walking down the main road, and I don’t think we got much exposure, as I think we passed about 5 people total. But oh well.

Fanagale'ounga crew after the walk

After the walk we got on a boat and travelled to Ha’ano, an island a little north of us. 
The boat ride was sort of cool at first, but after a while it got pretty old, especially if you were sitting in the sun. When we got there we split into teams and did a scavenger hunt. We had to ask random people questions and take photos. It went pretty well, although there was quite a bit of awkwardness and blank stares when we tried to explain what we were doing and ask people questions! My team wasn’t too competitive, and we came in 5th place (out of 8), but it didn’t really matter, because everyone got the same prize anyway (some school supplies) except the first place people. After that we ate snacks and learned how to open coconuts with a machete (I’m going to need a lot more practice on that one!). It was cool for Pele, because she got to see her house and the school she’ll be working at (she’s taking over from another volunteer who’s leaving).

On the boat to Ha'ano

Me posing at one of our "hunt" items- a weaving house

After we got back, we went home and tried to figure out something to do, since it was Halloween. We ended up just getting together with the group from the next village over and watching “The Office.”

Sunday was pretty much the same as usual- lots of relaxing and eating. There was some kind of performance put on by a Pentecostal group from ‘Eua, so we watched that for awhile, along with the rest of the village, even though we didn’t really understand what they were saying.

Yesterday (Monday) we had a cooking session where we learned how to make Tongan food, although the Tongan-ness of a few of the dishes was questionable (like the salad and the vegetarian stir-fry). After we cooked we had a little feast and it was great! It made me excited to get to my site and cook for myself- no more boiled root crops and corned beef! I also got a letter yesterday from Cheryl (one of the clients, for those who don’t know). It was so cute, it made me cry! 

Anyway, that’s what’s been happening. I’ll try to post some more pictures soon! Hope everyone is doing alright. Feel free to write or call any time!


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