Peace Corps Videos

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Unexpected Result

I've been working this week with the owner of a Falekoloa (small shop) who, like most Tongans, doesn't keep any records.   I got involved after he ran up a substantial overdraft at one of the commercial banks..  

During my first visit, I discussed with him the importance of record-keeping and showed him some simple ways to better track his sales and his cash.   He immediately seemed to grasp what I was telling him.

Another problem that is very common in Tonga is that storeowners take whatever stock they need for their personal use and they don't account for it in anyway.  I explained to this particular business owner, that while it was ok to take stock for his own use, he needed to keep track of what he was taking and also what he was giving away to family members.  I could tell he immediately understood why that was important.

On my next visit, I was thrilled to see that he had been recording every sale that he made, had documented all of the "mo'ua" or credit that he had extended to people and had started counting all of his cash.  He told me that because he knew that I was coming back to check on him, it inspired him to keep good records.  I told him I would keep checking on him.

Then something unexpected happened.  He told me that he had been writing down everything that he was taking for his own use and for his family.  He then said "Once I realized how many cigarettes I was smoking every day, it has made me cut back.  I'm not smoking as much now".  It never occurred to me that better record keeping would help someone cut back on smoking but it was a pleasant if unexpected result.

A Morning Feast

I had just finished eating Breakfast at my house Wednesday morning and was sipping some coffee when I heard a woman in my yard calling my name.  (In Tonga, people don't knock on your door; they just stand outside your house and call your name until you come out.)    Outside, I see a woman I work with at the bank and she says "Steve, I've come to take you to a feast".  A feast I ask.  What time does it start?   She says 8am.  It's now 7:55am and I haven't showered or shaved and I have an appointment with a client in one hour.   Of course, I really wanted to go and wish that she had told me the day before so I could have been ready and could have rescheduled my client visit.  But like everything in Tonga, there is little planning and she probably didn't even think about inviting me until she decided to drive by my house.  I tell her I can't go and she promises to bring me food later.

I visit with my client, get back to the bank and here she comes with enough food to feed not only me, but every bank employee with food to spare.  There is fresh beef, which is a rarity in Tonga, the usual pork, fish, chicken, etc.   We go downstairs and I'm handed a plate and fork, but every one else just digs in with their hands.   The beef is delicious, like roast beef in the states.  

Only in Tonga would there be a feast at 8am in the morning.  I later learn that the feast is from a church conference that is going on all week.

Winter arrives in Vava'u Tonga

There has been a noticeable change in the weather here in Vava'u.   It's still hot, but I haven't felt any sweltering heat since I returned from Nuku'alofa early last week.  At night it is very breezy and there is even a slight chill in the air.  It's very pleasant and is starting to remind me of the beautiful weather we have in South Florida every winter.   I've started sleeping with the windows closed and I've only run the fan in my bedroom once in the past week. 

Another indication that winter is approaching is the preparation for the season.   In Vava'u the season means whale watching and the arrival of the "yachties".  Most of the businesses that were closed during the summer have now reopened and a few new businesses have opened as well.   The season will officially kick off in early June when 40 yachts from around the world are expected to sail into the harbor as part of an around the world yachting trip. 

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