Saturday, March 27, 2010

March: Classroom Inspection, New Dog, and Toru

Well, March is already almost over! I’ve had a cough for most of the month that has just started to get better with the aid of a round of antibiotics, so that hasn’t been to fun, since I haven’t been able to sleep very well as a result. Most of my free time has been taken up planning for my classes and trying to figure out their IA (Internal Assessment), which consists of a research paper, speech, listening comprehension, and an exam, and how it all fits in with their grade. It is very complicated and confusing, so I have decided to stop trying to figure out the grading system and just teach them what they’re supposed to know! So far I have been focusing on the research paper, which is due in May, but I seem to keep finding out new or conflicting information regarding how it is supposed to be done. This has been rather frustrating, as I have to keep changing the due date and the requirements for the students. I’ll be happy when it’s over. I think teaching will be a lot easier next year just because I’ll have experience with this school system.

My new (ill-gotten?) puppy, who I named Molly, has been taking up a lot of time and energy too. She’s cute but really naughty, and has been wreaking havoc on my house. She must put a lot of thought into it to, because it seems as though she is constantly coming up with new and more creative ways to destroy. So far she has both urinated and defecated multiple times in the house, chewed up rolls of toilet paper into tiny bits, torn the lining out of my bike helmet and pooped on it, pulled my jeans off the clothesline and pooped on them, chewed up the screen, vomited on the couch, peed on two blankets (that had to be taken to the Laundromat) and much, much more. She also is constantly jumping on, scratching, and biting me. I can’t wait until she outgrows this phase. The police (randomly, one day) assured me they won’t kill her, but sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind if she “disappeared.”

We also had “classroom inspection” by the Principal and Chairman of the Board last week, so all of the teachers and some students were working hard to get our classrooms decorated for it, even working past midnight the night before. However, the actual inspection was pretty anticlimactic. I never even heard how our room measured up! I also lost a bunch of my precious colored sharpies to thieving students in the process, and no one has ‘fessed up. I guess that’ll teach me to share!

At the beginning of the month we had a lady from New Zealand who is in charge of the Anglican schools come for a visit. She looked at the hurricane damage, met with the teachers (but not me!), and gave us a training session. Before she left, the school took her out to dinner as a thank-you for all she had done, and I was lucky enough to be invited for some reason. We ate at this restaurant called Sea View, and it was delicious! I had a steak with mushrooms, and it was definitely the best meal I’ve had since leaving the States. I was seriously in a trance as I was eating it.

When we were leaving, we saw this palangi who was stranded, as his taxi had never shown up, and Naite offered to give him a ride to his guesthouse. His name was Stephan and he was from France, and he ended up coming to visit the school the next day for some reason. I think he wanted to see the “real” Tonga, which I guess the school is, though not “real exciting.” Of course the principal had him make a speech at the assembly even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the school. I’m sure the kids thought he was a new teacher. Anyway, we hung out with him on Friday night as well, or I should say I did, since Kulaea decided to flake out. So I rounded up Marie and Mele (one of the teachers at our school) to entertain him. We ended up going to the Billfish, which is probably the most popular club in Nuku’alofa, to eat and hang out. Though I think I’ve seen enough of the Billfish even in the short time I have been here, it was still fun. It’s always interesting to meet different people in Tonga, not only Tongans but other random foreigners too. Since Tonga is sort of an “out of the way” place to go in the South Pacific, I always wonder how exactly they ended up here.

This month I started helping Toru, one of the JICA (like Japanese Peace Corps) volunteers, with English once a week. He has a blog that he is writing in both Japanese and English, so I’ve been helping him edit the English part of it. If anyone wants to check it out the address is: . His blog is about him being in Tonga and also about this cat character he made called “Yamaneko.” He gives little figurines to people and has them take pictures of it in different places they go and send them to him. I got one a couple weeks ago but I haven’t taken any pictures yet!

Yesterday, I went snorkeling right off the north coast of town. You have to walk in shallow water pretty far out, to the edge of the reef, but once you get there it is well worth it. The view is really awesome: tons of different types tropical fish and lots of beautiful coral. It’s good to know it’s so close too. I will definitely be taking any visitors I have over to check it out. Now I need to find an underwater camera!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

January and February: School Starts and a Cyclone

Hi everyone! It’s now March and I’m just getting around to putting up a new post. There’s been so much that’s happened since January, so I’ll just go briefly over the main events:

Month of January: Pretty uneventful. I didn’t do much, just hung out at my house most of the time, waiting for the madness to begin. I did manage to get my hands on a sewing machine from the Home Ec. Department, which kept me occupied for a while.

School Begins: Wow, what a change! I went from doing nothing to being busy at all times, trying to figure out what on earth I’m supposed to be doing. I have three classes- two Form 1 and a Form 5. Like pretty much all of the volunteers, despite being led to believe that I would be team-teaching, I have the classes completely to myself and definitely no observation period. So that has been a learning experience, to say the least. The main issue has just been figuring out what it is that I’m actually supposed to teach. I’ve been slowly getting more and more information, but the process has been pretty frustrating. I’ve been learning a lot as I go and getting the hang of teaching everyday, but I still feel pretty lost at times, and I feel like I spend all of my free time either grading papers or lesson planning! I also said I would help out with the Girl Guides (which is like an international branch of Girl Scouts) since all of the teachers are supposed to help with at least one of the extracurricular activities. Somehow, the other teachers decided that I should be the “captain” of it, so now it seems I’m in charge. Yikes!

Dog Saga: So my dog Scooby disappeared at the beginning of February, the first to be exact, because it was the first day of school. I went to the computer lab to use the net, and when I came back out she was nowhere to be found. I was hoping she would return during the night, but she never did. The next day I told Naite and the principle about it, and they immediately suspected that she had been taken by the police trainees next door for their ‘umu. They made an announcement to the students about it, and a couple of kids told the principle they had seen them calling to the dog. The head tutor, Maake, was in charge of the “investigation” and went to ask the police about it, who said they never saw the dog. Apparently, they got in trouble for this very thing a couple years back, when they decided to indiscriminately shoot dogs (they are allowed to shoot strays, but not dogs with collars) and ended up killing and eating the king’s brothers dog, who complained and got some people fired. Anyway, Scooby never came back, and I was really sad and angry about it, not to mention confused. A few weeks ago, some kid came up and gave me a puppy, saying it was from the police, who evidently still claim they didn’t kill her, which has added a whole new level of strangeness to everything. I was under the impression that Maake was going to complain to the Police Commissioner, but a few days ago I asked him what happened with that and he never did. Apparently, to the Tongans, the new puppy was the solution to the problem. He said I could still go complain if I want to, and I’m debating if I want to go through the hassle.

Hurricane/Tsunami Warnings: In the middle of February, Cyclone Rene hit Tonga. We were all “consolidated” which means all of us on Tongatapu came to the Peace Corps office to wait it out. We ended up staying for a couple nights, as the storm took longer than expected to pass through. I have to admit I was kind of excited then to see what a hurricane is like, but now I think one was enough for me! Staying in the Peace Corps office for nearly three days got me a little stir-crazy, and the aftermath was even worse. 

Luckily, my house was undamaged, but there was quite a bit of water on the floor that had to be mopped up, including a large puddle under the “capeti” (vinyl mat), which had to be pulled up to dry and became very smelly. Also, the power was out a few days, which made everything in my fridge go bad. Even worse, the hurricane had blown off a section of the roof of our computer lab, and several computers and the air-conditioning unit were water-damaged. The Internet was down for a couple weeks and the lab had to be moved to the staff room. When the students came back to school on Wednesday, we spent an entire day cleaning the classrooms and picking up fallen branches. So basically, the excitement of the hurricane is far outweighed by the hassles of the aftermath!

Not two weeks later, we had our second consolidation for a tsunami warning! As everyone probably knows, the earthquake in Chile caused a tsunami warning for the entire pacific region. So I was woken up at 2:00 AM to let me know we would be consolidating at 7:00, and again at 5:00 to let me know it had been moved to 6:00. Our principal and his family came by as I was getting ready to go to the office and they were nice enough to give me a ride. Once at the Peace Corps office, we were loaded up and driven to the “high point” of the island, (which really isn’t very high- the whole island is flat!) where we waited for the tsunami to hit. After waiting about 5 hours, it became apparent that it wasn’t coming, and we were taken home.

So anyway, that’s a general rundown of what I’ve been doing. I’m hoping March turns out to be less stressful than February was!