Friday, December 17, 2010

Photos of Ha'ano Before America Trip

Around town before heading home for Christmas

What I'm Looking Forward to in America

Last week, Misa, a Tongan friend, was over at my house. We were talking about when I first got to Ha’ano, just about a year ago. He was in Tongatapu, but when he got back to Ha’ano in January, he told me he had heard about me, the new Peace Corp.

Pele: What did you hear about me?

Misa: Oh, that you just say yes to everything.

Pele: Haha, that’s true. I just say yes because I either don’t understand their Tongan or don’t have anything else to say.

Misa: Yeah, but you would say yes to things you shouldn’t say yes to. I was on the road with some boys one day, and you passed, and one boy said, ‘Hey, Pele, we’re going to go over there and eat, and then we’ll come over and sleep at your house. Ok?’ And you just said, ‘’Io’ [yes].

The funniest part of this, to me, is that it still happens. A year later. People will still make jokes too quickly for me to understand or to have any comeback. Of course, the joke isn’t whatever I say, it’s whatever the other person says, so my response doesn’t much matter, but I at least wish I could participate a little more.

So in going to America, in just a couple of day, I’m looking forward to understanding pretty much everything that’s going on around me. More than that, being able to respond to it all.

Here are a few other things that I’m looking forward to, just for good measure: no chickens/pigs/church bells waking me up, bagels with cream cheese, understanding how the system works. Oh, and my family. (I didn’t forget you, Mom!)

And in the month I’ll be gone, I know I’ll miss these things: Papi, the people in my community, the freshest fish I’ll ever eat, the Ha’apai PCVs, swimming at sunset, mangoes.

Well, Rats.

One PCV woke up during her homestay with a cockroach on her face. Another PCV has been bitten 6 times by 6 different molokaus – the highly aggressive centipedes that have a (supposedly) horrendously painful bite. Yet another PCV regularly finds scorpions in his shoes.

Knock on wood, I haven’t had any issues with those pests. For the most part, my house has absurdly large but harmless spiders. Some cockroaches. A bunch of mosquitoes. And the occasional hermit crab. (I found one climbing up my curtain. How on earth did he get there?)

About a month ago, I had a new infestation, rats. I saw them in the evening, crawling on my kitchen shelf and countertop. They would scamper in through the doors and run around, not doing much more than pooping on everything.

A friend who often visits me at night would point them out. “Pele, kuma.” Once, Sila decided to go after them. He pulled out my shelf from the wall and planned to scare them my way so that I could get them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have rat-killing weapons. All I had were hard plastic flippers. It didn’t much matter though, because when he scared out the rats and they ran at me, I threw up my hands, screamed, and jumped around.

For a few weeks they came in and seemed to enjoy hanging out in my kitchen, eating whatever I didn’t happen to wrap up. But then they started getting bold. Late at night, they would bang around in the oven, they would gnaw and scratch through a thick plastic flour container, and they would come into my bedroom and chew holes in any low-hanging clothing. I was getting fed up. From Ha’ano, however, there wasn’t much I could do about it. There aren’t rat traps, rat poison, or sticky traps in the store. So I just got more frustrated and less sleep as they noisily took over my kitchen.

Juleigh brought me rat traps from Pangai. Sila set them up. We set a little peanut butter on them, but the next morning, the traps were unsnapped and peanut butter was gone. For the next few nights, Sila set the traps with different assortments of food – bread, cheese, tomatoes – but every morning the food was gone with no rat body. We were just offering the rats a midnight snack.

One night I woke up to the sound of relentless scratching. It was about 2:30 am, so the electricity was out, and I had to explore with a lantern. All I could do was scare away the rats and go back to bed with ear plugs, but they were so loud that I got up again with more resolve to do something. I tried to move the trap to where the rats were running with the hopes that they would accidentally step on it. Instead, I accidentally snapped my thumb in the trap.

That was a low point. Here I was, on a remote island, alone with the rats. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about them. I couldn’t just go to the store to buy anything to kill the rats. I didn’t get a neighbor’s cat to catch them for fear that a cat trapped in a strange house overnight would do just as much damage as the rats. I had to wait for someone to help me.

For over a week I put up with the incessant scratch-scratching at night a surprise in the morning to see what the rats had destroyed, and then Todd brought leftover rat poison from his own most recent infestation.

Within two days, all was well with the world. The days were sunny again, and, even better, the nights were quiet. I’ve left out the poison since that first infestation. I’ll sometimes see evidence that they visited in the night, and one morning I found a moribund mouse on my kitchen floor. And now, for any future rodent infestations, I’m ready, and I have more in my artillery than snorkel flippers.