Thursday, November 11, 2010

'Ako Hiva

Yes I’m starting up my blog again. No excuses/reasons why I haven’t done it… I’m just starting again. ;)

After being in Tonga for over a year, many things have begun to feel more natural. That is, until something new happens and I am reminded that there are many things I don’t understand. And then I feel right back to square one.

Recently I started feeling like I needed something else to do. The school year is coming to a close and things have felt pretty slow. (Granted this is Tonga and everything is slower….) I decided it was time for a new undertaking, something that would help me be more social with my village in a more regular manner. And again, this is Tonga, so the only social events in my village are church related. Therefore, I am now in a church choir. (Don’t laugh, I sing well enough for this!)
So tonight was my first choir practice, or in Tongan, ‘ako hiva. Now I’ve been in music quite a bit and have a good ear so I figured I could just read the words (printed in a hymnal without any written music,) like I do every Sunday in church and listen to the tune and catch on eventually. Not so much. Apparently before even learning the words to the song, they learn the melodies. And that is NOT done by reading music that looks like ours. It looks something like this:

3:- 3: 3: 3: etc …………………….
5:-5: 5: 5: etc …………………….
8:- 8: 8: 849: etc …………………….

When I arrived at the practice, I was given a paper that looks like this and everyone just starting singing. A good friend of mine, despite the fact that she can speak English well, was not entirely helpful. I asked her to explain and she simply responded by singing it to me. Needless to say, it didn’t help much.

The small amount I deduced from this practice tonight is that they sing the first syllable or the number that is written, (in Tongan.) The numbers seemed to correspond to a scale but not in sequential order as I expected. The lines following the number notate how long the note is held and the closer the numbers are together, the faster they seemed to be sung. But that doesn’t help much when there are pages of this stuff. J

When practice ended, people were thanking me for coming and asking if I had fun. I told them yes, but I have no idea how to read their music, it’s so different! From this I had hoped someone would say “Hey, I’ll teach you!” But again, not so much. The response was laughter and “Come again Thursday!”

I guess this will be another “learn as I go” experience, one of many here in Tonga!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


For some bizarre reason, up until last week, I had thought I had experienced enough life to know not to be too surprised when things don’t turn out how you expect. However when these past two weeks happened, I was surprised at how shocked I was at the speed of the changes. As I wrote about in my last entry, I’ve had to move sites. This entry is about the grand adventure I went on to make this happen.

The first step of this adventure was to take a plane from Pangai down to Tongatapu. The flight’s not long and I arrived early enough to grab lunch before a meeting at the main Peace Corps office with the other volunteers who were being moved and PC staff. At this meeting we were given details about the rest of the plan. The PCVs were to ride a chartered boat up to our islands (we were all in the same district,) that evening and ride through the night. We would have 24 hours to pack our things and have them ready to be taken out to the boat. (This is done via small boats from the island; the big boats can’t actually come all the way in.) The other new PCV, Sarah, and I were to then travel with the same boat back to Pangai where she would stay and I would wait another day to get on an airplane again and fly back to Tongatapu. The other volunteers who have been there a year have two weeks to stay and wrap up projects and say goodbye.

I was quite apprehensive about this plan to start with but I accepted that it was the only way I was going to be able to pack my things and say goodbye to my community. My apprehension wasn’t helped when a Tongan friend told me the sea was rough and wanted to make sure I was riding a good boat. While I completed trusted the judgment of the PC staff on deciding whether the conditions were safe, I could tell this was shaping up to be quite an uncomfortable ride.

Uncomfortable turned out to be an understatement. I won’t go into details about the boat ride since much of it is a blur to me, but I will tell you that there were two real options for places to ride. One was outside in the rain/ocean spray (which was terrible,) or inside where I my seasickness was drastically increased. I however created a third option; I ended up riding for about 7-8 hours of the 15 hour trip in the bathroom where I could quickly be sick every few minutes. Throughout this journey, I kept saying to myself, “I signed up for this?!?!”

Thankfully, the PC staff member who was with us, made the wonderfully wise decision of giving us an extra day when we arrived at our islands. For me, this meant I had an afternoon to recover from the trip before going to the evening meeting with the community and the PC staff to explain why I would no longer be working with them. This meeting was pretty tough for me and I’ll even admit that I cried during it.

Somehow everything got packed, I recovered from the boat, and said goodbye to my community. I even managed to go to the school and explain to the students in broken tongan why I couldn’t be their teacher anymore. They didn’t seem to upset about it when I passed out all the notebooks and pens that I had. Throughout all of this, I had many people cry for me, tell me they love me, and tell me they were going to hide me on the island so the boat wouldn’t take me away. When the time came to actually leave, the entire school came to my house and helped me carry my things to the beach. (Only 18 kids though, don’t be too impressed. J) Most of the village came to the “road” or down to the beach to say goodbye. The town officer, who is a large and old man, even carried his chair down to the beach so he could wave as I left. We all waved until I could no longer see them anymore.

The rest of the story is slightly less eventful. Luckily, the boat ride into Pangai wasn’t nearly as bad and I arrived with a feeling of relief. While I still had a plane ride the next day, I felt as if the madness of the journey was over. I spent the evening with some Tongan friends and was able to just relax. The final day of the trip, I spent the morning helping Sarah move into her new house and then just preparing to leave. The flight I took that evening was of course delayed by over an hour, but by this point in the journey I barely noticed. When I finally arrived back in Nuku’alofa, I turned down the offer to go out with some friends and went straight to sleep!

To wrap up though, much good will come out of this move even though it wasn’t my first choice early on. When I was on the island again those two days I realized just how isolated I would have been for two years and how potentially lonely could have been. Now I’m placed close enough to other PCVs so I can see them if I need to but far enough that I can have a good Tongan experience. I have a couple Tongan friends in this area that I’m really happy to be near as well. Exercising will include running in one direction longer than 5 minutes before needing to turn around and I’ll have access to vegetables! So hopefully I’ll be able to stay healthy. And……

It makes visiting me that much easier!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

‘Ofa aupito!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fakakata pe

Fakakata pe or Just Kidding......

So this blog post has been empty for a while as I'm trying to put into words what I need to update you all on....

I know some of you have heard, but I'm being moved from my site to a new one due to transportation issues. The one boat that used to run out to the district I was living in has been deemed "unseaworthy" and therefore cannot run any longer. This came as a huge surprise because I was in the capital of the Ha'apai district for a meeting when it happened. I was told completely unexpectedly that I would not be returning home. :(

Initially I was very upset about it. As you know I was very excited about the prospect of living on an island with no electricity and running water. I had also began to feel part of my new community and had come up with some ideas for projects to start. The people of my island had also gone to a lot of trouble to get me there and now I have to tell them I'm leaving.

Clearly however, I cannot argue with the lack of transportation. So as my Tongan friends have been reminding me, since there is nothing I can do about it, I should just relax and go with the flow. That's proving tricky though since I'm not always the most patient person in the world. ;) (Tonga is being very good at making me practice though....)

My new site is a smaller village on the outskirts of the main island of Tongatapu. I'll still be working at a primary school and I have been assured this community is very excited to have me come. I'll be near some close Peace Corps friends and I've been told there are beautiful beaches in the area. I'll have running water and electricy and get this..... access to vegetables! I'm living the high life now! So in other words, I'm starting to accept the idea and am looking forward to meeting my new community.

The current dilemma is how to return to my island to get my things and then transport it all to Tongatapu. That should be happening sometime next week. I'm sure I'll be able to keep you all posted easier now that internet is more accessible. (Still none in my village but I can get to a city now.) Oh and my address won't change... still go through the Peace Corps office.

I'll post again soon once things start to fall into place. Prayers, thoughts or whatever are greatly appreciated during this transition!

Much love!