Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun in Fangale'ounga

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to use the internet. We’ve been teaching at local schools for the past week and a half, practicing lesson plans on the kids. It’s the end of their school year, so some are rather apathetic, but I’m teaching a 4th grade class, and they’re pretty interested in everything this palangi (white person) has to say.

Also, I’ve been told that the picture on the heading of this page isn’t Tonga; it’s Samoa or something. So sorry for misleading everyone, but it really looks like that anyway, so I’m not going to change it.

Last Friday, we didn’t teach at my school. Instead, all the primary schools in the area (that is, the four of them) got together for sports day. It seems the schools keep a running tally of wins and losses in their sports, and there might be an award at the end, but I’m not really sure. Girls play a sport called netball. It’s kind of like basketball, except once you receive the ball, you can’t dribble or run, so you pass the ball a lot. (One Peace Corps Trainee explained, “Oh, it was like a game girls played in America before they realized girls could run.”) For boys, they play rugby. That’s a pretty rough sport. These kids are pretty brutal too. “Touch” rugby is non-existent, and it seems all games end with a number of ripped shirts. Some of the PVT boys wanted to play rugby, just to see what it was like, but I think the Tongans told them no because they’d get hurt.

Friday night was a big night on the island of Foa. Since churches are often central to the social life of a village, they are often the hangout on nights and weekend. On our island, each town has a Mormon church, and each Mormon church has a basketball/volleyball court. (It really is the happening place with either sport happening any given evening.) On Friday, however, my town had a big dance at the Mormon church. It was explained to me by an American Mormon missionary working in Tonga that the dance traditionally was for Tongan youth to find their spouses. (Since the towns are so small, I can’t imagine not realizing someone living there until the Mormon dance, but ok.) Friday night just seemed like a time when the youth could dress up and dance, without being deemed “improper.” The dancing was conservative – boys and girls were so far apart you weren’t really sure if you were dancing with that other person, but the music was pop and hip-hop American stuff. Black-Eyed Peas, Akon, a remix of “Everything I Own,” all jazzed up with a tropical beat.

The Peace Corps Trainees that were there laughed about the premise, going to the dance to find you family (eternal family, if you’re Mormon), but overall we had a good time dancing and doing something on Friday night. Usually we sit around, like all Tongan do. Case in point, Saturday night, the three other Peace Corps Trainees and I watched “Sister Act” on one of their computers. Though I love “Sister Act,” the dance was a change of pace.

On Thursday, I’ll be teaching in the morning, but after that, we’ve got a feast for Thanksgiving planned for all the Peace Corp Volunteers, Trainees, and staff. My town is in charge of mashed potatoes for 50 people. We’ll be busy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Puna Mo'unga Afi (Flying Mountain Fire)

The title has nothing to do with the post, except it's my new favorite phrase in Tongan. Of course, the more accurate English translation would be "volcano," but flying mountain fire is so picturesque.

I saw my future house in Ha'ano over the weekend! We were doing a scavenger hunt on the island for cassava plants, people roasting pigs over fires, women weaving, etc. My team of three was in a different village than Ha'ano, but after the hunt, we had lunch and festivities at my future home. It's big and clean. There are only three rooms (kitchen, bedroom, living room), but it's well-made (no tin walls for me!), and there's even running water in the kitchen sink. The shower (no bucket bath for me either!) and toilet (it flushes and everything!) are in an outhouse sort of situation, but, like I said, it's all clean and well-made. There's a big porch that looks out onto the ocean, which is about 30 feet away. I've even got two trees that will hold my hammock perfectly. It's inside the school compound, and next year the principal will move in next door to me. I got to meet her on the scavenger hunt, and she seems very nice.

We go back to the capital city of Nuku'alofa in December, so I'll buy my oven/stove for my house there, but that's about the only exciting amenity in the house. There's limited electricity (only 7pm-2am), so fridges would be useless, and the island is so short (maybe 2 miles long) that a bike doesn't make sense either. Since there aren't many chances to get some foods I'd like (fake cheese, canned vegetables, olive oil) on my island, I'll probably buy those things in Nuku'alofa too.

Next weekend is the performance of Tongan dances, Tongan skits, and American songs. It should be good.