It’s been so long since my last blog and so many things have happened, so here’s a quick update:
1. After living in Fangale’ounga for 2 months with my host family, I (and all other Peace Corps Trainees) spent a weekend with a current Peace Corps Volunteer to see what it’s “really” like to be a Volunteer. I went to another town on the island with two other PCTs, but rather than experiencing the true Peace Corps lifestyle, we just enjoyed eating palangi (foreigner/American) food (tortillas, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, pizza) and resting. We met up with the rest of the group in Nuku’alofa (the capital city) for about a week more of teacher training and language classes.
2. On December 16, the 25 of us swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. We said the whole “I do solemnly swear to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America” bit, there were speeches by the Minister of Education in Tonga and a Tongan minister, I participated in a traditional Tongan dance, and some other newly-anointed Volunteers read hymns.
3. We left for our respective sites the next day. For me, that meant heading back to Ha’apai, the island group where we all had lived as PCTs. There are 4 new PCVs in Pangai (the main town in Ha’apai), and 3 new PCVs in outer islands of Ha’apai. I’m on the island of Kauvai in the town of Ha’ano. The 2 other PCVs in outer islands in Ha’apai are living so far away that they don’t even fly into the airport like we 5 do; they take the ferry from Nuku’alofa straight to Ha’afeva, then smaller boats to each of their islands. (If you want to look their islands up, the islands are Kotu and Matuku. Matuku’s not even labeled on some maps in Tonga. If you can’t find those islands, they’re 2 green dots in the ocean. After 2 years, those PCVs will have the best answers to the question, “What would you take if you were stranded on a desert island?”) The PTA president of my school came to pick me up, and after a drive to the wharf, we took a boat to Ha’ano, and I was home.