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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!