Friday, May 27, 2011

What's Ha'appening in Ha'ano

With my end date in December looming, I’ve been trying to makes sure I take advantage of the rest of my time here. I made a list of things I’ve wanted to accomplish and projects I want to try (or keep trying!). Here are a few things of that list, and how they worked out:

- Start an after school program with the kids. Status: Score! At one of our PTA meetings, I asked the parents if they would like their kids to participate in an after school program twice a week to do art, music, and PE – classes that easily get overlooked as the teachers focus on the core subjects. We’ve played with Play-Doh, created mosaics, learned “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” (it’s a Christian country…), played volleyball and soccer, and had a great time!

- Organize a program to bring money into the town from tourists. Status: So far so good. I may be jinxing it by getting excited about it, but it could be a good, long-lasting program. This is a two-fold project: first, to get a day-trip organized for tourists from the main island in the island group to see the “traditional Tonga” – see the sights of Ha’ano, learn about the culture, have a traditional meal. One of the resorts on the next island over has even expressed interest in offering the “Ha’ano experience” to customers. Second, to promote selling vegetables and fresh fish to sailboat travelers who often anchor near the island. Last year, during sailing season, several tourists asked about buying vegetables of the island. Though there aren’t many vegetables on the island that Americans would recognize, there are several leafy vegetables that already grow in Tongans’ backyards, and they could easily be sold for a few pa’anga. I’ve talked to the two women’s groups in the community, and both sound interested in doing these things, but they’re busy doing a community clean up this month. Hopefully they’ll still be interested in a few weeks…

- Grow a garden. Status: Fail, but I haven’t given up. Yet. Everything just eats the seeds. First it was the pigs. Then we got a lock for the gate so they can’t come in. But the chickens still come and eat everything I put in the ground. I’ve tried starting things inside, planting in a window box, using different kinds of seeds, and so on and so on. I need to try to get some kind of netting to cover the area, but of course, there’s nothing like that on my island. When I go into town next time…

- Go with the women at low tide to collect shellfish. Status: Not yet. Though I’ve asked the women to tell me when they’re going, they never seem to. Hopefully I’ll be able to go before I finish here – maybe I could pick up my very own sea urchin! Delicious!

- Make/Use a solar oven. Status: Half-way there. The solar oven is built according to instructions I found online (using a cardboard box, foil, black construction paper), but it rains off and on so much that I haven’t been free for 4 hours (it’s supposedly very slow cooking) to set up and watch the oven, lest it suddenly rain and ruin the oven.

- Knit something that takes some skill. Status: I’m getting there! With all this time on my hands, I’ve decided to re-take up knitting. Though I’ve tried several times in the past, I’ve usually been confined to squares completed in the same stitch. Now, after receiving a how-to book called “Ready, Set, Knit,” I’ve been able to make a couple of scarves that have patterns. Of course, I should have been taking diligent notes when I tried to learn knitting from my grandmother and aunt, but I guess this book will have to do in Tonga! I haven’t made anything that exciting, but I gave one scarf to a friend here, and she says she loves it. Next up, hats.

- Make my own pasta. Status: Haven’t yet tried. I’ve still got time.

- Work with the island’s clinic to do a community health project. Status: Fail, and I’ve got other things to do anyway. Since the clinic is a 40-minute walk away and I don’t ever just “run into” the nurse, I haven’t been able to find her. I mean, she is working, right?

- Prepare applications for law school. Status: A work in progress. While home for Christmas, I was able to do some research for law schools, find applications, read guides about writing personal statements, and look up financial aid forms. Since I’ll be applying in August/September, from Ha’ano, I’m trying to get everything in order as best I can. I’ve finished the LSAT, letters of recommendations, and a few other things, so I’m on my way, but it certainly won’t be easy to complete!

Those are only a few of the things on my to-do list. I try to keep them in mind especially on those days that seem to just drag on. Those days and weeks when nothing changes but my school lesson, I try to work on something different. I haven’t been successful in projects every time, obviously, but for every frustration I have, I just remind myself to keep on trying here, since in just over 6 months, it’ll all be memories. Phew.