Peace Corps Videos

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Year in Tonga

It was one year ago today that I walked out of my home in West Palm Beach, said good-bye to my friends and family and began the adventure of a lifetime.

Since that day everyone with whom I associate and interact with on a daily basis are all people I have known for just one year or less. It amazes me to think that I have seen NO ONE that I knew prior to September 30th, 2007 in the past year. However, I'm also amazed by the awesome friends I've made. While I may have only known my fellow volunteers for just a year, I've spent more time with many of them than with some of my long time friends back home.

When I first met the people in my training group a year ago, it seemed the only thing we had in common was that we were all going to Tonga. For the most part, we were all strangers even though some of us had been in contact with each other on Blogs, Facebook and My Space. We had 10 married people, something which was pretty unusual for Peace Corps at the time, 12 single women and 11 single men. Thirty Three people and we would get to know each other very quickly. Today one year later, we have 29 people from my group still here in Tonga. It's easy to understand why so many of us have stuck it out because even with all the problems, this is a pretty awesome place.

After spending two weeks in Australia, I found myself missing Tonga and my friends here. I think it took being away to realize how attached I have gotten. I got a great welcome back from the people at the bank where I work and they even sent a car to pick me up at the airport. It was a great surprise to walk out of the Vava'u airport and immediately see a friendly face. Friday I drove around to see several of my clients, people who I have worked with in the past year. They also gave me a very warm welcome back. One woman told me she was afraid I wouldn't come back, which fits with the attitude of many Tongans who can't understand why a palangi (white person) would choose to live in Tonga when they could live in Australia, New Zealand or the USA.

Saturday afternoon I joined most of my fellow volunteers and about 15 other Americans to watch the Presidential Debate which was shown at one of the bars here. After the debate, I was talking with a couple of tourists from California who had watched the debate with us. As they were getting up to leave, they turned to us and thanked us for doing our part to serve our country and to help improve America's reputation abroad. That really touched me. I often hear thanks from Tongans for doing something, but here were some fellow Americans doing the same thing.

I doubt they will ever know how much I appreciated their words, but it was a great way to close out my first year in Tonga and begin the second.

Malo aupito pae 'ofa atu (Thank you very much and love to you) for the support my family and friends have given me in the past year. I couldn't have done it without you.

Steve

****Note****
A special thank you to those of you have visited this blog in the past year. Since I arrived in Tonga, my blog has received 16,817 Page Views and 8,768 visits. Those visits have come from 94 foreign countries and territories and include visits from all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Not included in the statistics are those of you who get the latest updates e-mailed to you each time I post. If you want to subscribe, just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page and press the subscribe button.

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