Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Day in Fangale'ounga

I've been here about three weeks, so I've somewhat figured out the routine for training. I'm sure you're all anxious to find out all the details of my days, so here you are:

5:30 am - There's a church about a stone's throw from my backyard (and another one down the street, and another one around the corner), and they hold services at 6:00 am Monday/Wednesday/Friday. I haven't gone (my family's Mormon, so we go to church for 3 hours on Sunday), but they ring their bells at 5:30, waking me up. I'd like to go back to sleep, but soon after that, the traditional scream-singing of the churchgoers commences. I wait in bed until a more acceptable hour.

7:00 am - I'm awake by now. Since we go to bed at about 9:30 pm with nothing to do, I've definitely gotten a full night's sleep. I'll get water from the rainwater collection tank, tote it to the bathroom to wash my face, then pour that dirty water into the back of the toilet to get it to flush. My host mom, Ana, has breakfast ready for me. It's most often hot chocolate, crackers with butter, cookies, and a hard boiled egg, but yesterday I bought bread in town. That means that every meal will be bread-oriented until the bread runs out. So, the last time that happened, I got a bunch of fried bread and bread-butter-tomato sandwiches for breakfast. Today, I got sandwiches of spaghetti and corned beef. Ana made about a dozen. I ate two. And I still had my hot chocolate.

8:30-12:30 pm - Language class. I'm in a group of 4 PCTs and one Tongan Tongan-language instructor. Even though we've only been here a few weeks, I can communicate, sometimes at painfully slow speeds, what I have done/am doing/will be doing. Ana speaks English, but we try to speak in Tongan more at home so that I can practice.

1:00 pm - Lunch at home. Really, it could be anything. I feel like meals here are like my meals in college: I eat what there is. Once lunch I had watermelon and potatoes. Another day I had raw fish salad. Another day I had an ear of corn.

Since Ana is a weaver, she and her weaver group of two other women come to the house to work on a mat almost every day. They have business meetings every Friday, and sometimes they organize selling mats to Tongans as far away as America. Usually, however, they'll sell their mats to someone in the market in Nuku'alofa, the capital city. Ana says that there are a number of these weaver groups in every town. So after lunch, I usually hear them talking, but I don't understand anything but a word here and there. Even so, I know they're often talking about the palangis in town. I suppose in a town of only a couple hundred people, the details of four palangis would be interesting.

3:00 pm - We usually don't have organized activities in the afternoon during the week, so we can go to town (like I did today), go for a run (a shocking concept to some Tongans), study language (necessary, but sometimes overwhelming), or sit around (a favorite Tongan pasttime). My town of 4 palangis usually has an extra language class for an hour in the evening, so that sometimes is the entertainment.

All the PCTs are participating in a culture day in about two weeks. We have to: 1) learn a Tongan dance, 2) do a skit in Tongan, 3) teach at least one Tongan something of American culture. Trying to do these things has also become the thing to do in Fangale'ounga. Melissa, the other girl PCT in my town, and I are learning a graceful dance, but we're not nearly as graceful as the Tongans. The two guy PCTs in town are learning a war dance, but it doesn't look nearly as masculine when they do it. We're trying to teach some kids a dance to a medley of American songs. If we can pull it off, it should be good, but that's a big if.

7:00 pm - Dinner. Again, anything. I've had ramen noodles with canned beef but also an enormous lobster. (Seriously, it was the length of my fingertips to elbow.) I think my family likes having me as their guest because, since I can't eat all they put in front of me, they'll just eat all my leftovers, which is usually a lot.

9:30 pm - With nothing much to do in town, and host parents not wanting us girls wandering out alone after dark, we're usually all at home by 9:30. I'll probably sit around on the big porch with Ana and my host sister, Valu, or I'll study. All that sitting around can really tire me out, though, so I go to bed soon after.

And soon enough, the church bells are ringing again.