Peace Corps Videos

Friday, November 02, 2007

Here comes the rain (again)!

Remember the movie Forrest Gump? There is a scene where Forrest is in Vietnam and he says “One day it started raining, and it rained and it kept raining”. That pretty much describes the past week in Vava’u. Not only has it rained but it has poured. It’s hard to believe this little island in the middle of the Pacific gets so much rain, but that’s probably why Tonga has the most fertile soil in the world. Interestingly, I have yet to hear a Tongan complain about the rain. They like it because it keeps it cool. It also is the primary source of water for the island.

The water here in Ta’anea is a pretty interesting story. There is a water tank at the top of the hill and the pumps are controlled by the guy who lives near the tank. When he turns the pump on, everyone has water. If he turns it off, most houses do not have water. (I have water full-time thanks to a cistern that supplements the town water.) Everyone in the village pays the same amount for water. If you have 10 people in your house or just three, you pay the same. If there is a leaking faucet or toilet, there is no incentive to fix it because your water bill won’t change.

As an assignment, we had to interview people in our village about their opinions on the town’s most important needs. While the survey was certainly not scientific, fixing the water was a top priority listed by the older people in the town. However, no one really had a great solution. We might think that installing meters on each home and charging for the water makes sense, but who is going to pay for the meters and what happens if someone’s bill goes up because of it. For now, the people here just deal with it and it probably isn’t really that big of a deal. I’m learning that when something is broken or doesn’t work, Tongans just do without or accept it.

In my house, the kitchen light burned out on Saturday. There was no spare, so we ate by candlelight until Monday when a new bulb was purchased. The light still didn’t work, so then another light was moved into the kitchen. It’s the same with food. If your garden has bananas in it, you eat bananas. If it doesn’t you eat something else. The concept of being able to buy tomatoes, bananas or any other perishable item at any time is foreign to Tongans.

The priorities are also different here. We have one trainee in another village that has full-time Internet access at his house, but doesn’t have full-time water. He was able to update me on the World Series since we hear nothing from home and the rest of us have very limited access to Internet. (Glad Boston won!)

We’ve now been here for one month. In many ways, it seems like a lot longer because we have done so much since arriving, but it also seems like we have so much more for us to learn. Many of us were very disappointed to find out that the Peace Corps cut 25 hours of language training out of our schedule. That means we have 25 fewer hours to pass our language test than previous volunteers here in Tonga. Instead they are giving one extra full week for model school for the Education volunteers. The business volunteers will be doing business-related stuff during those two weeks but we haven’t heard the specifics yet. The good news is that each day I start to feel more confident with the language.

I’m really looking forward to next week. We get to spend two full days shadowing a current volunteer. There are only three business volunteers on Vava’u right now, so there will be four volunteers with each one but hopefully we’ll get a lot of insight into what to expect after we become volunteers.

This weekend we are going to be working on our projects for “Faka Tonga Day”. (Like a Tonga) Each village has to prepare a skit in Tongan and learn a Tongan dance. We also have to individually make one Tongan dish and make one Tongan handicraft. I’m going to learn to make Ota Ika, which is raw fish served in coconut milks. It is by far my favorite Tongan dish. For my handicraft, I’m planning to make a broom with some help from my host father.

No new photos to share. Because of the rain, I haven’t taken any.

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