As most, if not all, Volunteers in the Peace Corps do, I have my ups and downs. Some days I think, “Ugh, nothing’s going right. I can’t speak Tongan. I have no true friends here. My students aren’t learning anything. What am I doing here?” And so on. (Note: I’ve found the best way to combat those days is to go for a run. As I go along the road, everyone says hi to me, and people two villages call my name even though I don’t know who they are. I live in Tongan Mayberry.)
Other days, I think, “This is amazing. I learned so much today! I practiced Tongan a lot, and I hung out with neighbors. I live a stone’s throw from the ocean. This is great.” This past month has included a number of those good days.
The youth group in Ha’ano was preparing for another night of singing. We met about 3 times a week in the evening to practice. One day, we went to the far part of the village to practice. As we were walking back, the bright moon silhouetted the coconut trees. There aren’t streetlights on this part of the road, but we could see the overgrown path in the moonlight. One girl put a Bollywood song on her phone, but we muffled that sound as we were all singing one of the songs we had just learned. It was a great moment when I felt like a true part of the community – I could even sing along in Tongan!
The night continued with more great times. All Mormon churches in Ha’apai were preparing to gather in Pangai for a showcase of different styles of dancing. The Mormon church in Ha’ano chose… square dancing. I thought they were joking when they told me, but sure enough, at practice, we were do-si-do-ing as if we were at a dancehall. Well, not exactly like we were at a dancehall; they were playing reggae and hip-hop songs to dance to. I was so excited about my bit of Texicana that I told a couple of people that square dancing is popular where I’m from. Their response: “Would you like to teach the dance?” I politely declined.