Peace Corps Videos

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fishing and Phone Numbers

Fishing in Tonga

I went fishing Saturday with two Tongan friends.  Both have a lot more experience fishing than I have and I was keen to get out and enjoy the day.    As it turns out, I caught the only fish of the day, a small grouper which I landed shortly after we threw our lines in the water.


However the trip was a great Tongan experience.   My two friends, like most Tongans don't have rods and reels.  They have fishing line, some fish hooks and some weights.  My weight was a small piece of rebar with the hook tied about 12 inches above it.   We used pieces of smaller fish as bait.

I felt a tug on my line, but didn't really think I had a fish, but when I pulled it up, there was the fish in the photo above.   Six hours later and it was still the only fish we had caught but we did do a great job of feeding the fish underneath us because they kept eating the bait.

The fish weren't the only ones eating.   When we first got out on the water, my friends pulled out a big container of sandwiches, probably 20 sandwiches for the three of us.    Then once we got to the spot where we dropped anchor, out came more food.  A big can of fatty meat and a huge bowl of root crops.   Tongans love to eat and even when fishing, we had more food than the three of us could eat.

As we headed back to shore, we ran out of gas.   We were near the shore, but still a good distance from where the car was parked.   We ended up spending more than an hour swimming the boat back.

New Phone Number



I now have a new phone number.  It is 12566.   I had to switch after Digicell customers were shut off from being able to call TCC cell phones and land lines.  Since most of the people I know have TCC, I finally made the switch.   Digicell launced here in May with a huge fanfare and a great marketing campaign.  Unfortunately, their marketing has not lived up to its hype.  

Because of the problems, the Peace Corps has had to issue Digicell phones to its key staff because in the event of an emergency, we would be unable to call Peace Corps or even the police from our Digicell phones.     There has also been another annoying problem here in Vava'u.  If a Digicell customer sends a text message to a TCC customer, the TCC customer will get the message 25-30 times.    I didn't really want to give up my phone number but finally realized it wasn't worth the hassle to keep the Digicell phone.   

Now here's a funny story about my new phone number, compliments of my friend Alice, who also switched from Digicell to TCC.   The last four digits of both our new phone numbers are 66.  If you say the number 66 fast in Tonga, you are actually saying a slang term.  So unless I'm careful, when I give out my new phone number, I'll be saying my number is "125 Bend Over".

Empty Shelves in Vava'u

It's been three weeks since a boat brought supplies to Vava'u.  All of our groceries, supplies, mail etc come up on one of two boats that usually arrive on Wednesday each week.   Both boats have been out of service and you can tell it by walking into any store in Vava'u.   A small boat did show up on Saturday with some chicken, other food and some mail, but there still is not a lot in the stores.  But don't worry, we are not going hungry.   Tongans grow a lot of their own crops and there is still plenty to eat, just not the stuff (like chicken and milk) which are imported from New Zealand.

We are expecting a boat this week.   

Meet the Peace Corps Trainees


I've been getting to know some of the new people who are training to become volunteers here in Tonga.  A number of them are keeping blogs about their experience.  I've added a list of all of their blogs in the column on the right hand side of the page called "Blogs from Tonga Group 74 Trainees".  For those of you who get this on e-mail or view it on Facebook, you will need to click the Title Link to access the web page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Economics, Earthquakes, Parties and Castration

OK, I admit, that's kind of a weird headline.  But those are four things that have happened in the past week here in Tonga.

I'll talk about castration first, since that's the probably the one that jumps out at you.   As you may know, I recently adopted a dog who belonged to a Peace Corps volunteer who completed his service.  "Solitia" is two years old, great with people but a bit aggressive towards other male dogs.   He's never been fixed.   Part of the  reason is that there are no veterinarians in Vava'u and there is only one vet in the entire Kingdom of Tonga.

Last weekend, I heard that a vet from America and her husband were on a yacht visiting Vava'u.  That's how the coconut wireless works.  I met her husband on Saturday and I can thank our unreliable electricity for the meeting.   We've been without electricity several times recently, the longest was on Saturday when it was out for about five hours.  It's gotten very hot again and it was pretty miserable with no fan running in the house.   I decided to head down to a local restaurant that is on the water to sip a few beers and enjoy the ocean breeze until the power came back.

That's where I bumped into Ben, the vet's husband, who told me his wife would probably be happy to fix my dog for me and already had plans to fix another dog next week.    Today, I took "Solitia" to have it done and I watched.  It's the first time I've watched an operation take place and it was interesting to see Shawn, the vet, work. "Solitia" was knocked out the entire time.   He's now recovering.  

I first heard about the vet at a party at my house on Friday night.  We gathered to say so long to Sarah Kate, the first member of Group 72 to complete her service.  


Sarah Kate has spent the last two years living in Hunga, a small village on an outer island.  She is the only American in her village and it took a long boat ride for her to get into the main island here in Vava'u.  While I think we all have different challenges in Peace Corps, I think Sarah Kate had more than most.  It's not easy living in a place with no electricity, running water or easy
 communication to the outside world.  However, she made the most of it and I know her villagers are going to miss her, as will all of us.  

It was a big gathering, probably the most people I have ever had in my house including a bunch of the Peace Corps staff who are here in Vava'u training the new group of volunteers, Group 74.

I had a chance this week to meet  with 10 of those new trainees this week.  I worked with the trainees who will be in the Peace Corps business program  on both Tuesday and Wednesday and am looking forward to getting to know them and the other members of their group.  

During my first session with them, we discussed the Tongan economy and the way business gets done in Tonga.  I gave them all an article I recently saw online which I thought did a good job of explaining some of the issues here in Tonga.  (I've pasted the text of that article at the end of this post.)

Finally, there was the earthquake on Sunday.   It hit the main island of Nuku'alofa and I happened to be on the phone with my friend Scot when it happened.  He does a good job of describing it on his blog.

I never felt much, but James was sitting in the yard with our landlord when it hit and said he could feel a slight vibration on the ground.   We're about 150 miles North of Nuku'alofa so we didn't have the same strength.  I guess it made the news in the US because my Mom's cousins, Howard and Gloria, immediately send me an e-mail to make sure I was okay.   It's nice to have people checking on you.

So now you know, it's been a week of Economics, Earthquakes, Parties and Castration.  Now perhaps that headline doesn't seem so weird after all.  It's just my life for the past seven days.

***Tongan Economy***

Here's the article from Matangi Tonga Online about the economy that I mentioned above.

Low productivity cripples Tonga's economy
16 Oct 2008, 13:03

Nuku'alofa, Tonga:

TONGA'S No. 1 economic problem is that it cannot provide employment for its growing population, including the estimated 2000 school leavers who annually join the work force, according to an Asian Development Bank report that looks at why Tonga's economy is not achieving its potential.

Released in Nuku'alofa on October 8 the report notes that the failure of the Tongan economy to provide jobs for its growing population has resulted in many educated and skilled Tongans taking high-paying jobs outside the country.

The report called 'Transforming Tonga: A Private Sector Assessment', makes a frank assessment of why Tonga's economy is underperforming and identifies constraints on investment and growth. It points to an over-sized, under productive but over paid civil service as well as unfair competition from loss-making state-owned enterprises that are eating up revenues that could have been better spent on health and education. The report also states that there is no apparent justification for the high power prices - which are the highest in the Pacific by a large margin.

Migration

There are now more Tongans living abroad than there are in Tonga and that is a major loss of human resources for the country as Tonga is trying to build up its economy and have some control of its destiny, the report notes. Today there are about 44% of the expatriate Tongan population living in New Zealand, 32% in the USA, and 19% in Australia.

Migration, however, has some benefits; it has kept the population stable, at about 100,000 and brings in remittances, which account for 40% of the Gross Domestic Product. The remittances partially fund Tonga's trade deficit and increase the per capita GDP, that in 2006 was 50% higher than in 1990. It is now $US2000, which works out to about $US5 per person per day, but the authors of the report believe that "with Tonga's benign living conditions, fertile land, and abundant sea, it means that there is almost no extreme poverty in Tonga."

But many Pacific Island countries at the same level of development as Tonga have had higher growth rates. "Samoa, for example, grew at 4% per year over the same period. If Tonga had grown at that rate, per capita GDP would be 30% higher than it is now. . . . So it appears that Tonga's economy has been performing well below its potential."

Despite the push for Tonga to develop its economy in order to provide employment for its growing population, Tonga's reliance on foreign aid and remittances continues, even more so now with a seasonal work scheme with New Zealand, and a similar scheme with Australia scheduled to start before the end of the year. It is yet to be seen but it is anticipated that the returning seasonal workers would try and push up the labour rate in Tonga.

Two major constraints

The sluggish growth rate of the Tongan economy has been identified by the ADB report to have been caused by two fundamental constraints: an over-sized, under productive but over paid civil service; and state owned companies, which were over patronised by government to the point where there is an uneven playing field for commercial competition with the private sector. These two phenomenon have scared away investors. 

The Tonga government has 17 state-owned enterprises (SOE) or Public Enterprises, and is therefore a large investor in the commercial sector of the kingdom. It has also been found that government provides services at a loss or below the level of an economic-risk adjusted return on its assets. This is because government, in effect, provides free or heavily subsidized capital to these enterprises.

The government has $TOP111.5 million ($37 million in loans, $74.5 million in equity) invested in the 17 enterprises that it owns.

The most recent financial statements of these SOE show that their combined profits are equivalent to only 4.8% of the total assets owned by the state. Taking into account that SOE assets add up to 45% of Tonga's GDP, the poor return reresents foregone revenues that could have been used to improve health and education services.

Value destroyed

Only four of the 17 SOEs earned profits. During the eight years from 1999 to 2006, cumulative net profits were $15.9 million, or $2 million per year, representing a very poor return from investment. 

A recent analysis of the profitability of SOE's in Tonga by the
ADB, found that the economic value destroyed by SOEs between 2002 and 2006 was T$34 million, almost exactly 50% of the spending on education over the same period.

The only SOEs that earn profits were Leiola Duty Free (now privatized), the Tongan Communications Corporation, and the Tongan Development Bank.

Low productivity chronic problem

Because the SOEs crowd out competition from the private sector, underperforming SOEs also perpetuate low productivity, "which is a chronic problem in Tonga". Crowding out occurs because the private sector is not likely to want to engage in activities where SOEs are receiving subsidized capital, states the report 

A recent example is the investigation by the Tonga Water Board (TWB) of the possibility of setting up a water-bottling operation. "Currently TWB is operating at a loss. The private sector will certainly be crowded out of that market if the government allows TWB to invest in water bottling. Keep in mind that its existing operations are losing money and TWB
is not required to achieve a return that fully compensates for the risks it is taking on existing and new investments."

Recommendation

The introduction by government of the Public Enterprise Act in 2002 was hailed as a definitive move by government to embrace privatization. The Act however fails to stipulate that Public Enterprises must operate as successful businesses, meaning that it should be profitable in a way that is comparable to businesses in the private sector.

The report recommends that Tonga would be well served by the government's freeing up underperforming capital and then using it for new public services, such as health and education. Selling these low-yielding assets to private operators would not only raise revenue for investment in infrastructure, but also increase the growth rate. 

"Newly privatized enterprises would probably treat existing customers better- to retain them before seeking to expand. They would be under pressure to obtain a commercial return on their investment."

Downsizing did not work

The government however has announced its intention to reduce the presence of the state in the economy through downsizing, contracting out, and privatization, and a Ministry of Public Enterprises has been established. 

But the Tonga government's attempt at downsizing the civil service by contracting out jobs, and privatizing some of its ministries in an effort to encourage economic growth did not work out as it was envisaged. 

In many ministries there are not enough staff members with the knowledge and the skills for the work that needs to be done. Following the general strike and the 60/70/80 salary rise in 2005 government no longer could afford to pay so many civil servants, and a further employment cuts are planned.

Highest power prices unjustified

The privatizing of public enterprises has not worked out either and these services were either dropping in quality or becoming very expensive. The cost of electricity in Tonga has been reported as the highest in the Pacific region despite the fact that it is subsidised by government.

The report stresses that If Tonga had reliable electricity, it would be possible for offices, hotels, and shops to avoid the expense of installing backup generators.

"Over 80% of the population of Tonga has electricity, which compares favorably with other countries in the region, especially in light of Tonga's geography. The demand for electricity has been growing rapidly. Over the past three years, growth has exceeded 6% annually. The cost of power in Tonga is the highest in the Pacific region by a large margin, even though the power supplier receives government subsidies. There is no apparent justification for the high power prices."

Introducing competition into the electricity market is recommended as a way to bring down the very high electricity prices. 

"We recommend that before returning the operation to private hands, the government restructure the power sector in a way that brings competition to generation, transmission, and distribution."

Two economic shocks

As Tonga was trying to find a way to boost the development of its economy the general strike by the civil servants and their 60/70/80 salary rise in 2005, and the destruction of the Nuku'alofa Central Business District in 2006 has been regarded as "two economic shocks for Tonga".

Top on the priority list to restore the confidence of investors in the government and the economy is to rebuild Nuku'alofa. Reconstruction work will start in November and it will take three to four years to be completed.

Low growth

The report concludes that unless both the investment rate and the amount of foreign direct investment can be raised, Tonga's growth rate will continue to be low. "The productivity of labor, which has declined over the last 10 years, will remain low. Productivity is disappointing despite Tonga having the best-educated population of the Pacific Island economies.

"When Tongans emigrate, they immediately earn much higher wages and salaries than they do in Tonga. This suggests that the cause of low productivity lies not in the workforce, but in factors that limit its ability to produce. These factors constitute constraints on growth and are the focus of this report."

The report 'Transforming Tonga: A Private Sector Assessment' was written by Paul Holden and Chris Russell, under the supervision of Winfried Wicklein, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office, Sydney, Australia. Terry Reid contributed to the chapter on rationalizing commercial laws and regulations. The report was funded by the Private Sector Development Initiative, an ADB regional technical assistance project cofinanced by the Australian Agency for International Development.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Return to Television

It's been 16 months since I walked out of a TV newsroom for the last time. Since then, I've haven't had anything to with the content of television programs. That changes tonight when a program I put together will air on the local TV station here in Vava'u.

But this program is unlike anything I've ever done before and by US standards, I would be the first to say "it sucks". However, by Tongan standards it's a leap forward in local TV.

The TV station here has been on the air for just less than a year. The equipment is VERY basic and they have no way to edit what they shoot. For a 30 minute program, they shoot 30 minutes of tape and then play it back the way it was shot. If there is something that must be edited out, they will dub the tape to a DVD. Stop the tape then skip past the part that needs to come out and then start the DVD again. The station only broadcasts in the evenings unless there is a special event. It's most popular programs are those that it downlinks off of Sky TV (Like Directv) and rebroadcasts, especially Rugby matches. In the US, of course, that would be illegal and copyright infringement. Here is it just the way they do things. (Tongans see no reason to pay for something they can get for free, which is why all the software and movies here are bootleg versions)

The TV program I put together is about the Alonga program, which is a program for mentally and physically disabled Tongans. The group wanted to get something on TV and asked me if I would help. I said sure, not fully realizing what I was getting myself into. I did tell them that if I was going to edit it, I would perfer to shoot it myself it they could get my a camera to use.

Last Thursday, the guy who runs the local TV station showed up at the Alonga class with his gear, which is a decent pro-consumer camera. He handed me the camera, tripod and microphones and left. As I was shooting the battery died. I tried the second battery, it was dead as was the third. I had about 10 minutes of raw footage at this point and no interviews. Clearly not enough for a 30 minute program. One of the Alonga volunteers got in her car and tracked the guy down who returned with a charger. However, as it turns out, it was a problem with the camera. To get the batteries to work, you had to switch to play mode and then back to record mode and then the batteries worked fine. (Of course, he didn't tell me this when he dropped off the gear.)

One of the Alonga teachers interviewed two parents who had children in the class while I manned the camera. I then interviewed the teacher, asking my questions in English and having her respond in Tongan. Finally, I had about 50 minutes worth of tape and said I was done even though I had only a vague idea of what the interviewees had said.

I packed up all of the gear and the guy from the TV station asked for the tape I had just shot. I asked him if I could hold onto it until I got it transferred to my computer where I would edit it. At this point, he tells me the program airs in a few hours and he'll just air it the way it was shot. Clearly this would not work. It was not shot the way he was used to shooting. After a few minutes of discussion, it was agreed I would come to the TV station on Monday to dub the tape into my computer and he would delay airing the program until tonight (Wednesday).

Once I had everything on my computer, I started editing. I had decided not to use a narrator and just use video and interviews (sound bites) together to tell the story. With a narrator, I would have had to write a script, had it translated into Tongan, get it recorded and then edited. I simply didn't have the time to get that done by today.

Using a dictionary and my basic Tongan skills, I went to work on the video editing. It was a lot harder than I expected. It was especially hard to edit down the sound bites because my grammar is not good enough to know if the next word or phrase is relevant.

Now you might be wondering why I didn't have anyone from the Alonga program with me. Turns out, they were all in a conference and were not available or they didn't speak Tongan either. I finally recruited my counterpart at the Tonga Development Bank to help me. I could not have done it without him.

So I get everything edited and I'm as happy as I can be with what I have, but it's only 22 minutes long, not the necessary 30. What to do? In the US, I would grab a camera and go shoot some more interviews and footage. But I don't have a camera and have to make do with what I have. I decide to put together a basic music video at the end and edit the footage I have with some Tongan music. So I put together a four minute music video and then insert it twice into the end of the program. It's now 30 minutes.

In a million years, I would NEVER have done something like this in the USA. But I'm not in the USA, I'm in Tonga. As I said earlier, I might think it sucks, but an edited local program on TV is a first in Vava'u. And since the people here have only had TV for less than a year, it will probably look pretty good to them.

I have been teaching myself to edit. Even though I was in TV for 23 years, I did very little editing. However, since being in Peace Corps, I've been playing around with it. I put together two good-bye videos for fellow volunteers who were wrapping up their service and my friend Scot and I have been working together on a video for Peace Corps but Scot is doing the editing on that one.

Group 74 Arrives

They're Here!! The newest Peace Corps trainees arrived in Tonga last Thursday. These 24 folks make up Peace Corps group 74. (I am group 73)



After spending a few days on the main island of Tongatapu, they flew up here to Vava'u on Tuesday. They are very lucky they got to fly. My group had to take a 22 hour boat trip to get here. However, the boat is out of service, being repaired in Fiji, so they missed out on that experience.

My fellow volunteers and I met the new group at the airport to briefly say hello as they left to meet their homestay families. They will be here in Vava'u for six weeks and we all are looking forward to getting to know them better. I'll get to know the business volunteers as I'm helping out with their training.

I previously posted the blog addresses for several of the trainees if you want to read more about what they are doing.

Tonga Development Bank Workshop



Last week, we held an "Improving Your Business" workshop in the village of Falevai, which is located on an outer island. The workshop is designed to help Tongans learn important business skills such as record keeping and money management.

There is no electricity in this village and no tables and chairs. We rented a generator so we could show our presentation on a screen to the participants who all sat on the floor.

This photo was taken after the workshop inside the hall. From left to right are my counterpart, Kolokesa, the bank manager Fuka and myself. These are the two people I work closest with every day at the bank. And Kolokesa is the one who assisted me with the video project described above. This photo is now on the bank's web site as well.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Vava'u Peace Corps Updates

Since I've been a Peace Corps volunteer, we have never had every Vava'u volunteer in the same room at the same time. Generally there is one or sometimes two people missing. Often it is because two of our volunteers live on outer islands and we don't see them as often. Last Friday, to celebrate the one year anniversary of Group 73, my group, in Tonga, we ended up with every Vava'u volunteer in the Peace Corps office at the same time. The first time that has happened.


These are people I associate with most often. From left to right are Sarah Kate, Jessica, me, James, Sarah, Shannon, Stan, Amy and Janis. Our group will soon start to get even smaller as the members of Group 72 start to complete their service. They will be wrapping up just about the time the new group of volunteers will swear-in and begin their service.

New Peace Corps Trainees (Group 74)

There should now be 24 new Peace Corps Trainees in Tonga.  I haven't met them yet. They were scheduled to arrive on the main island this morning.  They are due to arrive in Vava'u next Wednesday and will train here for six weeks.   Some of the trainees have blogs, which are listed below.
There are 10 men and 14 women in the new group.  Of those, there are two married couples.  We have 10 business trainees and 14 education trainees.  Everyone is between the ages of 22 and 30 except for two men and one woman who are in their 60's.  

Solitia

There is a new member of my household here in Vava'u. His name is Solitia, which means Soldier in Tongan.

Solitia has spent the last two years with Justin, who just completed his Peace Corps service and has left the country. Solitia is a great dog, but she doesn't like to be left alone. The first few days he was at my house, Solitia would climb back up the hill to Justin's old house. Then last week he followed me to work and I had to walk him back home.

The most amazing moment was last Friday when I joined all of the other volunteers and about 25 other people to watch the Vice Presidential Debate. We all gathered at a bar on the far end of town, that is down on the water. To get there, you have to take the main road then walk down some steep steps, by another bar and around several corners before you get to the bar. Even for a person, it can be a hard place to find. About an hour into the debate, Solitia came walking into the bar. I have NO IDEA how he found the place or even knew we were all there. I had no leash so I coaxed him back up the stairs and to the Peace Corps office which is near-by. From there, I found an old piece of wire and used it as a leash to get him back up the hill to my house.

I'm sure he is a bit confused still about where Justin is but was amazed he was able to find us.

Tapa for Cars?

I've been meaning to share this photo for a while and haven't gotten around to it. As you walk up the hill to my house, there is a car repair shop with a bunch of abandoned vehicles out front. The road to my house is also the same road you would take to get to the Royal Palace. During the coronation activities here in Vava'u in August, everyone cleaned up and there was no litter to be found. That presented a problem for the owners of the repairs shop. Instead of moving the cars, they decided to cover them in tapa.



Tapa is the bark of a tree that is pounded by hand and then stained. It's probably the most famous type of Tongan handicraft and it takes many months to create a full size piece of Tapa. A Tapa the size of these would sell for well over a thousand dollars. I found it funny that they would take something so valuable and use it to cover up junked cars. The day after the king left, the tapa was gone.

Interesting Reading

Here are a couple of things I found online you might be interested in checking out.


Also, you might enjoy reading this blog from some people who recently visited Vava'u. Lots of nice photos in it. It's in two parts. Tonga Part One and Tonga Part Two.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Outer Island Adventure

By Peace Corp's definition, the island of Vava'u where I live,  is an outer island.  That simply means that I don't live on the main island of Tongatapu.  We have electricity, running water and cell phone service.

But my "outer island" experience is much different than the volunteers and the Tongans who live in the small villages on the small really "outer" islands.   They have no electricity, they take bucket baths with water they haul from a tank filled by rain water and their choice of food is extremely limited.  All trips are by boat to go anywhere.

On Thursday, I had the chance to visit six villages on three different outer islands in the Vava'u group of islands.   The bank is hosting a workshop for outer islanders next week and my counterpart Kolokesa and I went to deliver invitation letters to participants.

The first stop was 'Otea, which is close enough to the main island that a good swimmer could probably swim across the channel.   It's close enough that you can still get cell phone service.  We arrived in 'Otea around 7:30am and I immediately called my fellow volunteer Amy, who lives on the island.  7:30am may seem early by American standards, but I knew Amy would have been up for hours.   It's a small village and when she answered the phone, all she had to do was look out her door and she saw us.   Amy, like most people who live on these islands, goes to bed when it gets dark and gets up when it gets light.  The only illumination they get in their homes at night is from kerosene lanterns or candles.  

While Kolokesa delivered the invitation letters, Amy showed me around her village and her house.   She has a big house by Tongan standards and we spent almost as much time looking at her house as we did seeing the village.  

After leaving Amy, we got back on the boat and headed to the village of Kapa.  It's on the same island as Amy but too far to walk.   Kapa is not on the water.  We hiked quite a ways up the hill to find this village which at first glance looks like it has been abandoned.    Actually even at second and third glance it still looked abandoned.  It reminds me of a "hollow" that you would find buried in the mountains of Appalachia.


Not only are there only a few people in this village, but they don't get many visitors.  It's just not that easy to find.   We finally found a person and asked him if there were any businesses here, like a small shop or a weaving hut.  The answer, not surprisingly was "No".   If you look at the picture above, the white stuff that you see on the ground that looks like snow is actually "Tongan cotton".  It grows in a seed on a tree and Tongans will use it to stuff pillows.

From Kapa, we head to another island and the village of Taunga.  This is an oceanfront village with big beautiful banyan trees along its beach.   It's pouring rain and we take refuge inside the house of a Tongan family.  There is a small boy there who keeps looking at me with wide eyes.  I'm guessing he doesn't see many white people and may never have seen one inside his home before.  I reach in my pocket and hand him a fresh mango that I had picked up earlier.  He devours it never taking his eyes off of me.

After waiting out the rain we head to our third island of the day and the village of Nuapapu.   This village is also a hike from the dock but you can see it from the water.  It sits on a cliff overlooking the water, but you have to follow a trail to get there.  It's beautiful walk and there are fresh mangos everywhere, both on the ground and in all the trees.   As we approach the village, there is a metal fence, obviously designed to keep the pigs in the village and out of the forest.   Once in the village you can tell they have lots of pigs.  I've never seen so much pig crap in all my life.  It's everywhere and to make matters worse, it's been raining so the pig crap is mixed in with the rain water and it's running over our sandals and mixed with the mud.  It was pretty gross.  As I'm walking around I'm thinking the village should be named Nui-Poop-poo.    

As soon as we got back to the water, I thoroughly washed my feet and shoes in the ocean before getting back in the boat.    We then head to Matamaka, which is on the same island.   This village is now more well known because there is a new beer being marketed in Tonga called Matamaka. 



Here there are no fences and the pigs wander right down to the water as you can see in this photo.   However, it's a much cleaner village and probably the most active of any place we have visited so far.

Our final stop of the day is in Falevai.  It's the other side of the island where 'Otea is located and it is where we will be holding our workshop on Wednesday.   As we walk through the village we hear the familiar Tongan cry of "Ha'u Kai" which simply means "Come Eat".  Tongans almost always have food to share and share it generously.   We go in and there is a Tongan man who pulls out two pans, one with root crops in it and the other with pork.   I look for a piece of meat first, but it's all just pork fat.  My counterpart is chowing down on the pork fat but noticing that I'm not eating, he finds me a piece with a little bit of meat on it which I eat.  I then reach into the pot of root crops and pick up a small piece of 'ufi, which is probably the most common of all Tongan foods.  As I'm putting it into my mouth I notice that there are teeth marks on this piece. That means someone ate part of it and put it back in the pot.   That's not unusual in Tonga.  Food is shared and generally eaten with fingers, just as we were doing.

We saw this little boy playing in the mud as we were heading back to the boat to make our way back to the main island.   Thankfully it has stopped raining by now and we were able to dry off a bit as we headed back to town on the boat.

Vava'u Youth Congress
That wasn't the end of my day.  Thursday evening I joined my fellow volunteers at a fundraising dinner for the Vava'u Youth Congress, an NGO for the local youth.   It was a charity auction and a Tongan feast.  Most of the people attending were tourists or non-Tongans who live in Vava'u.   The entire event was coordinated by my fellow volunteer Stan, who is the Peace Corps representative at the Youth Congress.


Stan did a great job coordinating everything. James and I even helped out a bit as guest auctioneers.  

The Welcome Back I missed!!
I mentioned in my last post the great welcome I got when I returned from Australia.   However, the welcome was almost even better.  My friends Trent and Lara just wrote about their attempt to welcome me back, which didn't go exactly as planned.   This would have been a complete surprise to me if it had worked out.