Congratulations!! It is with great pleasure that we invite you
to begin training in Tonga for Peace Corps service.
That's how the letter began, ending months of speculation and confirming that I will be heading to the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga in October. Included with the letter, lots of information about Tonga, about my Business Development program and a few surprises. (More on those in a minute).
First, where is Tonga? Tonga is "Where Time Begins". That means it is the first country across the International Date Line, the place where each day begins. The Islands are south west of Hawaii and north east of New Zealand.
Tonga is a Kingdom and is the only Pacific Island Country never to have been under the rule of a foreign government. For detailed information, read the Wikipedia Entry.
My job title will be "Business Educator/Advisor" in the "Business Education and Development" program. I won't know until I complete three months of training exactly what I will be doing, but the information from the Peace Corps says it will either be "business education in schools" or "Business advising with local governmental and non-governmental institutions". There are opportunities in the "development and sale of handicrafts, agricultural and marine products, and tourism services." Regardless of what I do specifically, I will probably have some business teaching responsibilities in addition to my main work area.
I will gather with the other people in my group, which is called "Peace Corps Tonga Group 73" in the United States on October 2ND and then leave for Tonga on October 4Th. My training is scheduled to be completed on January 15, 2008.
I am allowed to have visitors and hope that many of you will come visit. However, I can't have visitors until at least April 15Th of next year. That gives you plenty of time to pack your bags..
There are many details about the Kingdom of Tonga and what I can expect in the Peace Corps Welcome Book. However, it is a large document and I would not recommend downloading it on a dial-up connection.
I mentioned there were a couple of surprises in the packet.
The first is that I will likely be based on Tongatapu near the capital city of Nuku'alofa or in the city center of an outer Island. If I'm on the main island, it is likely that I will have Internet service and even cell phone access. Internet and e-mail are also available in the cities on the outer islands. That would be great if it works out. A pleasant surprise.
The second surprise has to do with the dress code. I am quoting below from the assignment materials I received:
Men wear a cotton button down shirt with a collar (long or shirt sleeves) and a wrap around skirt (tepenu) or long pants.
Yes, that did say a SKIRT. It also goes on to say that shorts, my favorite form of dress, are never appropriate in a work setting. Nothing I can't get used to, but a surprise none the less.
I have lots more reading to do and many forms to fill out, including an updated resume, a passport application (can't use my current one) and insurance forms.
In addition to all the Peace Corps paperwork, I'm going to get back to my Tonga Blog Reading and hopefully even make contact with some of the other members of Peace Corps Tonga Group 73.