Peace Corps Group 75 was in Nuku’alofa for In-Service Training (IST) last week. For 4 days we had language lessons in the morning and other trainings in the afternoon (grading systems, cultural sessions). Though I got some information out of those sessions, the best parts of were outside the meeting.
I went shopping. Not only are most things cheaper in Nuku’alofa than Pangai or Ha’ano, but there actually are things to be purchased. Even for the expensive items, I was very able to spend the money, since I hardly spend money on my island and there are so few things in the store in Pangai Here is part of my purchased list:
1. Mats. I bought huge mats for my living room, since the only furniture in there is a table and a chair. Now, guests can sit on these mats, not old ones that I inherited from other PCVs. I also have floor pillows on their way, though who knows when I'll get them.
2. Clothes. I had been on the hunt for more thing to wear to work, since most of my clothes are wearing out from my handwashing, or they’re getting holes from climbing over barbed wire fences that keep pigs out of yards. Unfortunately, most clothes in Ha’apai (read: the second-hand clothes sold out of a big cardboard box at the market) are about size 20. But in Nuku’alofa, there are stores. I had a choice of clothing. I bought a number of skirts and shirts, spending more money than I would ever spend in Ha’apai in a month on all my expenses.
3. Kitchen stuff. I finally bought an electric tea-kettle that works. I had been boiling only a liter at a time, but now I can boil a whole 2 liters at a time. And if you don’t think that’s exciting, come live with me for 4 months.
4. Tea. It’s a staple in my life, and I bought 120 bags.
We also ate really well. Nuku’alofa has yogurt, “fancy” cheeses like cheddar and gouda, and fun things like salsa and really good Indian food. It’s easy to say that the food in Nuku’alofa is really good. There is variety. I didn’t eat boiled fish or a boiled root crop all week.
We went to the one “nightclub” in all of Tonga: the Billfish. It’s mostly a bar, but it has a dancefloor, so the Peace Corps flocked to dance. It seems like the one place in the whole country where we can act like we might in America – drinking and dancing – and no one cares, since all the Tongans that go there are acting the same.
Any PCV from outside of Nuku’alofa could stay at a guest house close to the Peace Corps Office in downtown Nuku’alofa, so I and about 20 others did just that. It was fun to be around everyone again, just like during Pre-Service Training. We were able to catch up on all the things that are going on in everyone’s villages and lives.
Though we’ve only been in the country for 6 months and at our sites for 4 months, some people have really great secondary projects(as opposed to their primary projects of teaching English or business) beginning. People are planning gardens, doing English tutoring, and starting exercise classes. Many of them have inspired me to start more projects outside of my class. I’m most eager to start a world map project. I hope to paint, with the students’ help, a world map on a wall in the school. Currently, there are no maps in the school, not even of Tonga. There is one outdated globe written in German, but, not surprisingly, we don’t use that much.
After 4 days of meeting and eating, everyone parted ways. I’m back in Pangai, ready to head to Ha’ano tomorrow. I’m looking forward to enhancing my house and wardrobe and getting back to my regular life.