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.