Peace Corps Videos

Thursday, May 28, 2009

25 Things about Peace Corps Tonga

My friend Sarah, who completed her service here in Vava’u in December has put together a list of the 25 reasons “You know you volunteered in Tonga” I think it is a great list and my personal favorite is:

7. You have friends named Loketi (Rocket), Telefoni (Telephone), Vai (Liquid), Feiloaki (Introduce yourself), Venitaleita (Ventilator), Puke (Sick), Makoni (Telegram) and Vaka Puna (Airplane)

The list is growing as other volunteers make suggestions.. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

New Baby

My friend’s “Ofa and Hangale just had a new baby daughter. These photos were taken at the hospital just two days after she was born.

Hangale and 'Ofa with new daughter Hangale and 'Ofa's new daughter

“Ofa’s mother died two months ago and the baby is named after her.

Religious Recruiting?

The Church of Scientology has come to Tonga. The picture below is from downtown Neiafu.

Scientology Tent in Neiafu

Officially the church says it is here to target drug and alcohol abuse in the South Pacific. Of course, I’m guessing they are also hoping to educate Tongans about their church and perhaps even do a little recruiting.

Religious Recruiting is a big business in Tonga and the Mormons have pumped lots of money into the Kingdom to bolster its ranks in this region.

It’s Diving Friday!

I got a chance to get back in the water on Friday. This photo was taken at about 30 feet when I decided to take my mask off to pose for a picture.

Steve with his mask off at 30 feet We dove in the harbor, which was a bit murky but still great to gain more experience underwater. It’s the second dive I’ve done since getting my Open Water Certification.

Peace Corps Tonga Group 75

From my perspective, the most important thing that Peace Corps does each year is to develop sites for new volunteers. That process started this week for the members of Peace Corps Tonga Group 75 who will arrive here in October.

The first step is to meeting with schools who are interested in hosting a volunteer. (Only schools will be hosting beginning this year since the Business Program where I work has been eliminated). Volunteers will either teach English or Business as their primary volunteer project.

Here in Vava’u, I was asked by Peace Corps to attend the meeting and do part of the presentation for new potential sites.

The program was put together by Puke Esau, our Peace Corps staff member here in Vava’u. I thought he did a great job outlining what is required of potential site locations and also the benefits.

I’m sharing the PowerPoint that he put together below. It will primarily be of interest to those who are coming to Peace Corps Tonga in October, but it may also provide some insights into what Peace Corps hopes to accomplish with Group 75.

Group 75 will start its training in October and will become volunteers in December replacing all the members of my group (Group 73) when we complete our Peace Corps Service.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy

I’ve never been much of a cook. I know how to do the basics and back in the USA I could do a pretty “mean” steak on the grill and I make decent gravy. However, the whole idea of baking is a pretty foreign concept unless you count “microwaving” as baking.

In Tonga, there are very few “pre-made” food items available. It’s pretty much the basics like sugar, flour, salt, etc. And even the basics can disappear at times. A few weeks ago, there was no flour in most of the stores for a few days until the boat came with a new supply.

The bottom line is that if you want a cake or pizza dough, you make it from scratch. Sunday morning I woke up with a craving for one of my favorite breakfast meals: Biscuits and Gravy! I knew I could make the gravy, but wasn’t sure about the biscuits. I found the recipe book that Peace Corps gives to each volunteer. I have to confess, it was the first time I had opened it. Inside was a recipe for biscuits. I didn’t have all the ingredients, but I figured I would substitute and leave out some things. Amazingly, the biscuits came out great. They weren’t anywhere as good as Bojangles’ biscuits but were pretty tasty.

Climbing Mt. Talau

I live on Mt. Talau, which at 430 feet, is the highest point on the main island of Vava’u. I live a lot closer to the bottom than I do to the top and while I may say I climb Mt. Talau every day, I don’t climb all the way to the top.

Twice in the past two weeks, I’ve ventured all the way to the top. First last week with my friend Chad and then again on Friday with Chad and Katie.

Chad and Katie admire the view from Mt. Talau Katie and Steve at the entrance to the park Katie and Steve admire the view from Mt. Talau Chad and Steve on Mt. Talau

Near the top is also a place where you can do some rock climbing. It’s actually pretty easy and not very challenging, but that didn’t stop me from posing for a photo!

Steve rock climbing on Mt. Talau Legend has it that Mt. Talau used to be the tallest mountain in Tonga, but many years ago some evil spirits from Samoa tried to steal the top of the mountain but only got a short distance away when they top was dropped into the Pacific, forming what is now the island of Lotuma. Lotuma later served as a Tongan military base and was the site of our American July 4th celebration last year.

Funeral Photo

Two months ago I attended a funeral for the mother of my friend ‘Ofa. On Thursday, ‘Ofa brought me this photo which was taken at the funeral.

Steve at a Tongan Putu

As I mentioned in my previous post about the funeral, it is tradition for everyone to kiss the forehead of the deceased person.

Solar Power coming to Vava’u High School

The University of Canterbury in New Zealand is spearheading a project to put solar panels on the roof of Vava’u High School. The school hopes the new system, scheduled to be installed in July will provide the school with 10 to 15% of its total electrical needs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Day at the Office

My workload  at the Tonga Development Bank has slowed down and there have been a few days recently when I have not had much to do.  Last week, I was walking to work thinking that I only had one appointment that day at 9:30am and I had a feeling that my client might cancel leaving me with nothing on the agenda for the day.    I had been at work for less than a minute, when the phone rang and it was my client saying she couldn’t make 9:30am and wanted to reschedule for 2pm.   I agreed and sat down to read my mail.  A few minutes later, the phone rang again and it was the same client telling me she was going to go look at a boat she was thinking about purchasing and asked if I wanted to go with her.  Since I had nothing else to do, I said sure and we agreed to meet a little later.

I got to the dock and saw my friend Riki, who owns a dive shop.  Turns out we are going in his boat and while we are out, he is going to replace the chain on two boat moorings.  I tell him I’ll be glad to help, so he tells me to go grab dive gear and an air tank out of his shop and before long, we are on the water heading out.   

After a nice 45 minute boat ride, we get to the moorings, I suit up and go diving for 45 minutes.  It  is my first dive since getting my certification.   I helped Riki a little but mostly just dove around on the ocean floor.   

After surfacing, we go and check out the boat with my client and then ride back to the dock.   We get back late, but I still am happy to spend some time helping my client with her books.   What I thought was going to be a boring day ended up being great.   How often do you go to a bank to work and end up diving in the Pacific.   Just a “Day at the Office” in Peace Corps Tonga.

Goodbye Stan

Wednesday afternoon.  3pm.   Most of the Vava’u Peace Corps volunteers are gathered at The Aquarium Cafe.   There are tears and hugs as we start to say good-bye to our friend and fellow volunteer Stan.    On the radio, an old Beatles song is playing.

There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all.

The song, while random, seems appropriate to the occasion because for all of us, The Aquarium Cafe and Vava’u will always be places we remember.   And those memories will include Stan, who has been part of our Peace Corps adventure for the past 20 months.

Stan is on his way back to the USA and he’ll certainly be missed here in Vava’u.   Even though his Peace Corps service is over, I’m confident the friendships he has developed will be long lasting.  I’m going to miss having him around but look forward to seeing him once I return to the States