Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holiday Time in Tonga

Happy New Year! As one of the first countries over the International Date Line, Tonga is one of the very first places in the world to greet the New Year. To celebrate, I joined some of the volunteers and some of the Aus-Aid people at a beach campout at Fua’amotu beach on the southern tip of the island. It was pretty fun, despite the fact that I’m not a big camper. 

I got to try out my new snorkel, which was awesome! Unlike the one I bought at the Chinese shop, it didn’t leak at all! (Thanks Mom!) The snorkeling wasn’t as good as Ha’apai, so I think I’m going to have to keep looking for good spots on Tongatapu. Later we made a bonfire and made sure to cheer at midnight (though there were some cell phone time discrepancies, so we celebrated twice) and even lit some fireworks. The night was a bit cold and the ground was hard, reminding me why I don’t really like camping, and by the next morning all I could think about was getting home and taking a shower. We hung out until around 1:00 waiting for our ride, during which time we watched this group of Tongan kids carry an entire litter of puppies to the beach, throw them into the water, let them swim to shore, and then bury them in the sand up to their necks. 

When I finally got back to town, I managed to get myself stranded at the Peace Corps office for a long couple of hours because I had sent my backpack containing my house keys ahead with some Aussies, which didn’t end up arriving until hours after me! To top it off, my cell phone died, so for awhile I was seriously wondering if I would be spending the night in the volunteer lounge! Happily, they eventually showed up and I could finally head home, where I promptly showered, ate, and fell asleep!

So, to backtrack, Christmas Eve, was nice, as I got to eat a feast of delicious Palangi food and visit with the other volunteers. Christmas day itself was a bit lackluster, I admit, due to boredom and the fact that my dog had somehow gotten hurt the night before. She showed up that morning with two deep gashes and a bad limp. I was actually pretty convinced that her leg was broken by the looks of it! I made some phone calls and found out that there is only one vet in Tonga (but in Nuku’alofa, luckily for me!) and he works for the Ministry of Agriculture, so (unluckily for me) he would be on holiday until January 4th like all the government employees. So there was pretty much nothing I could do about it. The next day I called our health officer, Jacinta, just to see if there was anything I could do, and she was nice enough to come look at Scooby for me, and concluded that the leg wasn’t broken. So that was a big relief! She’s still been limping since then though, so I think I will try to take her to the vet when they are back next week.

I also spent the rest of that weekend at home just hanging out. I didn’t go to church on Sunday, which was a nice relief, but I feel like I probably should since I’m supposed to be interacting with my community. I think it’s more difficult for us in Nuku’alofa to do, since our “community” is essentially the whole city, and for me, since I live on a school compound, I don’t really have neighbors to meet. I think most of my community integration will have to happen when school gets back in session and there are actually people here. All I have as of now is Naite (who has 10 kids and is incredibly busy), and the kids in the band who come around intermittently in between rounds of Christmas caroling/fundraising. They’ve been playing all around town for weeks! 

So, anyway, by the end of the weekend I was so happy for Monday to finally roll around so I could at least go out! I did some grocery shopping and was happy to discover that four packages had arrived for me when I got to the Peace Corps office, although then there was the dilemma of how I was going to get them back home on my bike! Luckily, Seini, one of our medical staff, gave me Sarah, and Louis a ride back to our houses! Of course I opened them shortly after arriving home. They contained all sorts of fun stuff and my parents sent me an awesome video camera for Christmas, which is exciting, although I’m still debating what I should videotape!

On Tuesday I hung out with Marie, another volunteer who lives in a village on the Eastern side of the island. We ate and did some shopping, and I discovered a really cool place that sells handicrafts. I guess it’s like a women’s collective where women who don’t have time to sit at the market can bring in their handmade goods to sell. I got some earrings and a flower hair thing made out of bark fibers. Then I assisted Marie in an attempted cat-napping! 

One of the volunteers, Sandy, inherited a cat from a volunteer who lived in her house before her, but she isn’t really into cats, so Marie was going to adopt it. As cat-carriers are pretty hard to come by in Tonga, she brought a cardboard box to transport it in. Turns out, it’s very difficult to get a cat into a cardboard box, much less keep it in there! We tried about ten different times to get the cat into the box, to no avail. The funny thing was, the cat is so friendly that it would come back to us every time, even though we had just been trying to stuff it into a box! I guess it’s been pretty starved for attention since it’s owner left. So Marie finally gave up on the box idea, and went to catch her bus, but she had missed the last bus out by that time, so she stayed at my house and then went for another attempt on the cat the next day. This time, a backpack was used, which proved successful!

Anyway, other than New Years, this week has been another slow one. Yesterday I hung out at home, although Louis came over for a while and brought his puppy to play with Scooby. It was great: they immediately became friends and played together the whole time, until Louis had to go somewhere and I said he could leave the puppy to play. No sooner had I turned around, and the puppy was gone! I looked all over for him and finally realized he had somehow gotten through the fence to the police training center and was eating the scraps from their ‘umu. I called to him for about 15 minutes and tried to lure him over with dog treats, but he completely ignored me! Finally, one of the police officers came by and handed him to me over the fence, which was rather embarrassing. Following that incident I decided to tie him until Louis returned for him!

Today (Sunday the 3rd), I actually had every intention of going to church, since I was feeling guilty about blowing it off last week. I asked Naite yesterday if I could go with them and she said sure, that they would pick me up at eight. I got ready and waited. Eight rolled around, then 8:15, and finally I called Naite. She said they all decided to sleep in instead, which was fine with me! So no church after all. I might be getting my fair dose of church this week though, because this coming week is actually Uike Lotu, “Prayer Week,” where people go to church every day of the week, and I think they also have a number of feasts and whatnot. It’s always the first week of the year, but I haven’t been invited to anything so far. I think that is one of the advantages/disadvantages of living in the city and not really knowing anyone! The volunteers in smaller villages seem to already have a whole schedule of church activities and feasts planned out for them. I guess I should enjoy the time to myself while it lasts, because I’ll start teaching February 1st!

Well, Happy Holidays to everyone! Here’s hoping this year is a good one!