So I haven’t been able to put up a blog in a while. Its been a busy few weeks. We’re back on Tongatapu -we flew back on Friday. Now we’re staying at the same guesthouse in Nuku’alofa that we stayed in at the beginning of training. We’ll be there until we swear in next Wednesday and move to our sites.
Anyway, to backtrack, the last couple weeks in Ha’apai were good, but we were all getting really tired of home stay by that point and were ready to move on. We had a great going-away party that our families got together to put on. They had a sound system and everything. My host mom, Petelina, loves to dance and she was very excited about that aspect of the party. We were also asked to do a bible reading at the Free Wesleyan church, which is interesting because none of us went there. Petelina, insisted upon dressing me up in one of her “church outfits,” which wasn’t the most flattering thing I’ve worn. It went pretty well, even though it was in Tongan and I had no idea what I was saying. The local Catholic church also threw a little party for us, because Feleti and our health officer Jacinta went to church there regularly. It ended up being pretty sweet for them because they were presented with gifts of a large tapa cloth and a mat, both of which are very valuable.
I was also, after a great deal of hassle, able to get my dog, “Scooby” (I realize that is a boy name - she was already named) to Nuku’alofa with me. She belonged to Poli’s neighbor and all of us would always pet her and play with her when we went to class. She is exceptionally friendly for a Tongan dog and will always greet people by running up to them and then rolling over in hopes of getting her belly scratched. Lani, Poli’s neighbor, told me that I could have her, so I thought I would give it a try, being that she is such a good dog. To make a long story short, turns out bringing a dog on plane is a huge hassle, involving apathetic airport staff, endless phone calls to a variety of government agencies, wrong email addresses, people not sending emails until the last minute, fruitless searches for nails, and washing an unhappy dog. But in then end I was able to get her here! She is currently living at Poli’s house, where she will stay until I move into my place.
Once we arrived back in Tongatapu, me and another trainee, Ashley, stayed with a volunteer, Carole, at her house in Pea, a village about 20 minutes from Nuku’alofa. She made is spagetti, which I was very excited about after my diet during homestay. They fed me very well, but Tongan food is in general, pretty bland and most of it is either fried or boiled, which gets old fast! On Saturday morning she took us to the flea market and the regular market, which was fun. They have lots of really cool Tongan handicrafts that I think I might blow my budget on! I just bought a couple pairs of earrings though.
Later that day, I was really happy because I was able to see my school and my house! The school secretary, Naite, and her two daughters, one of which is a teacher at the school, picked me up from the Peace Corps office, and drove me to the campus. It’s actually really nice- they have an awesome library and computer lab, which has wireless internet (yay!). They also have a Home Ec. Department, so I’m really hoping I can use one of the sewing machines to make some clothes. The house itself is nice too, it’s pretty small, but not too small. It has a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, with a lot of furniture and appliances already in it! I was so excited to discover that it already has a (large) refrigerator and stove, as well as a bunch of kitchen utensils. There is a big table and chairs in the living room as well as a small couch, which I was really hoping to have but didn’t think I could afford! The bedroom has two beds, which will be great for having guests over, and they already have mattresses on them! Another great perk is that there are screens on all the windows and a screen door, which should be a big help in cutting down the bug problem. The one drawback is the bathroom, because the shower is really small and doesn’t have any space to put toiletries, and there isn’t a bathroom sink, so I’ll have to use the kitchen sink to wash my face and hands, but that’s ok. There is also a storage room that I can keep my bike in, which I’m glad about, because bike theft can be a problem here. Naite said she would take me shopping for more household stuff next Friday too!
On Saturday (the 5th) night, Carole took us to a concert called “Carols by the Sea.” It was outdoors on the palace grounds right by the ocean and they had a bunch of different Christmas carols performed by different people. The King and his sisters came too and sat in a special tent, and nobody could sit between the King’s tent and the stage. I was excited because I got to see St. Andrew’s band perform. They had a cute thing where this boy played the trombone with his foot.
Sunday was really nice too…no church! Instead we went to a beach resort on an island close to Nuku’alofa- about a 10 minute boat ride away, called Pangaimotu. It had a bar and restaurant and shaded tables, and a sunken boat nearby that people could snorkel around. It had some really cool fish near it, but the water was kind of murky so I was getting nervous! Anyway, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday, and I was glad to know about, especially for when I have visitors!
We checked into Sela’s Guesthouse again on Tuesday, and the rest of the week has been more training sessions. Today (Friday) we had our OPI (final Tongan language test). I’m relieved that it’s finally over, and I scored as “intermediate,” which was my goal! Now I can just relax for the next few days before swear-in!