Sunday, December 26, 2010
- I am lucky. My neighbour has a washing machine. So I get to put my clothes in the washing machine and the only thing I have to do by hand is rinse them. No hand washing for Kaitlin! Sweeeet!
- In an effort to be nice, some of the Tongans in my village try to translate my name back into English. They translate Katalina into Katherine, despite the fact that I explained my name is actually Kaitlin. As a result, I respond to Katherine, Katalina, Lina, and of course, palangi.
- I successfully cooked for myself the other night, for the first time in Tonga! I made rice and vegetables. It was delicious. I was also very proud of myself, since I am not much of a cook. However, Tongans don't really understand vegetarianism very well- it took a bit of explaining. So when my principal's wife, Vau, asked me if I had cooked myself dinner and I proudly explained what I had made, her reaction was "...that is all? Tomorrow, I will look for eggs for you. I am worried you do not eat enough." I then had to explain that it was okay, I could get my own eggs and I actually eat fine. They are always so worried about me!
- I tried to bake a cake for Viniseni (my principal), Vau, and their family since they have been cooking so many meals for me. Baking is also a great way to make friends and integrate in Tonga. But, I am not much of a baker either. So my cake was not very good. But my neighbours ate it anyway and even said it was good and I was poto, smart, for making it.
- I have mice housemates. I think they only come out at night. They recently stole my toilet paper. Silly mice. They don't bother me now but hopefully they don't get any worse!
- I eva pe (just walk around) a lot to wave to people in my village so they know who I am. Eva-ing is a big activity here in Tonga. It's a little weird to them that I do it alone but the kids come with me sometimes too!
- I recently finished my first journal! That is the one Jamie gave me for my 21st birthday- thanks Jamie! Next is the one Monica gave me as a gift before I left. So everyone be proud- I've been writing a lot, even if it hasn't been on my blog.
- Tongans have beautiful voices. The singing in church is absolutely amazing.
- No, I do not go to the beach everyday.
- Tonga Group 76 is by far the most fascinating group of people I've ever met in my entire life (no offense to any of you). Everyone has such interesting backgrounds and stories that they are very willing to share. They are also very intelligent. We mesh pretty well.
- I had my first proposal for a Tongan moa (boyfriend or girlfriend) the other day. First let me explain that boyfriend or girlfriend must be used loosely. You can be texting with someone and be their moa, you can be walking with them on the street, you can actually be dating them- it's quite a wide range of activities and relationships. Tongans also frequently have multiple moas. So one of the boys in the group I was doing Christmas stuff with said "I think it is time for you to have a Tongan boyfriend." I said "Oh, really?" and he said "Yes, you should, would you like one?" I laughed and said "I think I am okay right now, I have not been here too long. I'm alright." And he said "You are okay?" And I said yes. He then didn't talk to me for the next couple of days so I felt kind of bad but we're okay now. A better way to handle it would have been with humour, such as "Oh, I already have 10 moas!" Or to just laugh and say, "You'd have to ask Viniseni first!" or something like that. But I was so caught off guard that I did not handle it well. Oh well, now I know for next time!
These are just random bits of information that have come to mind while I've been sitting at the computer. If there are questions you have about my life, or day to day activities or anything, definitely leave a comment and ask! I'll do my best to address them when I next get the chance to be online.
I recently became a real PCV, yaaaaay. We were sworn in at a nice ceremony by the water on the 15th of December. I moved last week to my site and am now in my own house. It's summer break in Tonga right now so school is not in session. That means I have nothing in particular to do except get to know people in my community and integrate.
This past week that has involved participating in various skits/dances/songs with a group of youth in my community. Youth is basically the kids who are in or have graduated from high school but are not yet married, so I technically count as youth even though I will be a teacher at the school. It's a weird kind of in between. The youth are split up into different groups and have been performing every night. I jumped in with the group of which my principal's daughters are a part. We practiced a lot during the day and then did the performances at night. It was a big to-do- tents were rented for the school grounds, huge speakers were set up, and there was a stage. I played the Virgin Mary on a couple nights, danced a few times, and pretended to get married in a reenactment of a scene from Glee (from an episode I had not yet seen, which was frustrating!). I spent most of the time not being sure exactly what was going on and only understanding half of the Tongan spoken to me. However, a lot of the people in my group speak pretty good English so they were sure to help me out.
No matter what I did on stage, though, the Tongans thought it was great just because it was the palangi (white person, foreigner) doing it. All the young men in my village also got a great deal of entertainment out of posing for pictures with me. I just stood there and laughed while they rotated through. Everyone in my village is so friendly and welcoming- it's been a lot of fun.
For Christmas we went to church, had lunch, and then went swimming at the beach. After that my principal dropped me off at a PCV's house in town were a group of us had a potluck and did a yankee swap. I got two very nice coffee mugs! I'm still in town staying with my friend, and will head back to my site tomorrow. It's been a fun little break but it will also be good to get back to my site and continuing getting to know people.
I know this post is a little all over the place- we are in the PC office watching Eat, Pray, Love so I'm trying to multitask. But I just wanted to give you all a little update while I'm here!
I emailed my mom some pictures since it was taking to long to load them on the blog, so she will be putting those up soon. You will get to see my house, my group of youth, and the Peace Corps I did Christmas with. Hopefully I'll figure out how to make albums and stuff soon so I can put up lots of pictures!!
Once again, Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and have a great New Years. I'll be thinking of everyone! Love and miss you all tons.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Anyway, they landed safely on the main island of Tongatapu, where they stayed in the capital Nuku'alofa for 3 or 4 days before flying over to the island group of Ha'apai for their 12 weeks or so of language and other training. Kaitlin made it through her overweight luggage problem thankfully without issue. Someday we WILL be better packers! She did not even get charged from L/A to Tonga for having one overweight, which was very nice. The group has been split up into different villages. They train with their village grouping Monday through Thursday, then come together as a bigger group on Fridays. Kaitlin loves her homestay family, there are some children and grandchildren in the home, but I don't remember their ages. Mondays through Fridays are really pretty much occupied with classes, currently a big focus is on language skills, which her homestay family helps with. Weekends are free thus far. She attends church on Sunday mornings with her family and then they gather for lunch.
Kaitlin was very happy this past week. They had interviews for their placements early in the week and were notified on Thursday of where they would be assigned. Kaitlin was thrilled to get her first choice. She will be heading back to the main island after training completes in early/mid December. She has been assigned to a Wesleyan Church School in a small village to teach 5 & 6th graders (9 to 11 age range) English. Also, the Wesleyan Church Schools are planning a transition to bilingual education, so she will be assisting the teachers there to put that in place, as well as assisting in the library. But more details of her assignment will become clear as time goes on. Tonga has two schools, government and the Wesleyan Church schools. Anyway, she is, as I said, thrilled to have this assignment. She doesn't think that there has been a Peace Corps placement in this village, or if there has, there has not been anyone there for a long time. And it is about 30 minutes outside of a larger town.
She has had some beach time and snorkeling time and has made some good friends in the group. I think some of them will be within close (relatively speaking) traveling distance once she is at her village. The food has been fine although she has not been able to be strictly vegetarian. There are a lot of root vegetables, yams, etc and chicken, pork & fish. She has not had any illnesses, but has a cold right now. It has been somewhat rainy since they arrived, and of course humid, but she doesn't seem to mind that greatly.
We don't have a handle on how long mail takes, but her address right now is
Kaitlin Tufts, PCT
PO Box 147
Kingdom of Tonga
(You must include the South Pacific, otherwise it tends to end up in Africa)
She will have a different address once she is in her village, but any mail sent to the above address will eventually get to her. She will update her address once she knows it.
She does have a phone, but has not lately been able to buy more airtime for it due to difficulty in getting to the bank when it's open and then the store. There is no cost to her to receive calls and she is on a plan that allows her to call anyone in her group as well as the Peace Corps offices without charge, but she must of course pay for calling here. Her phone number is 011-676-77-85690. I use a calling card which puts it at .43 a minute. Although I haven't tried using Skype to call her cell phone, I checked the price on that and it is also .43 per minute.
From the East coast, there is currently a 17 hour time difference (they are ahead). But guess that will be 18 hours once we return to standard time. I am of course, not suggesting that anyone call her, just wanted to relay the calling situation. But if anyone wants to ever take the plunge, right now her weekends (beginning Friday afternoon into Saturday here) seem to work. She is in church usually until around noon on Sundays, and then lunch. Of course, any night owls out there have a few more options (that doesn't include me) :)!
Well, guess that's it for now. Hopefully Kaitlin will be able to take this blog up soon. She always has excellent information when she does it, and I would also like to see some pictures!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
I leave in less than two weeks. I'm not sure I've fully grasped the situation as of yet, but maybe it is better that way. I am not packed, I have not purchased everything I need, and I have paperwork I still have to fill out. But it'll get done. I work best under pressure...I hope.
Instead I have spent time just chilling at home, hanging out with friends, and reading. I went to DC this past weekend to see my brother, Jeff, as well as some friends from college. Jeff and I went to King's Dominion (an amusement park in VA) on Saturday which was super fun. We also saw some track kids Friday night. It was really nice to get to spend time with Jeff and see him one more time before I leave. I feel very lucky that I got to see him twice in one month! He is my absolute bestest friend in the world and I adore him more than anyone else.
After hanging with Jeff, I met some friends Sunday for a picnic. I got to see some TriDelta girls who live in the area which was amaaaaaaazing because I miss Delta and those girls so freaking much, it is unbelievable. I saw Smullen again while in DC, so that was nice too. And I also got to see LSG, Lea, and Kev! Kev flew over from Indiana to be with us for a few days which was incredibly nice of him. We stayed at Lea's Sunday and Monday night, before heading to Baltimore late Tuesday night and staying a hotel there for our early flights. I honestly can't say how happy I am that I got to see the three of them. We had great meals, wandered around DC, went to coffee shops and bars, snuggled. Nothing too exciting but that's how we roll. Just spending time together. At one point we were in Laura's apartment with Kev, Lea, and I dozing on the couch while Laura did work at the table. The set up of the room was even similar to that of Newell 26 and everything was the same as senior year. It was perfect. When it came time for Kev and I to leave, we all just sat at the table at Laura's in silence. It's weird to think that we might not see each other again for a very long time when being together feels so natural.
When I came home Wednesday we went out for dinner for Nicole's birthday- we actually got Nicole, Bria, Hannah and I together at the same time! Amazing. And Ally is coming home this weekend so that will be awesome and we will for sure get the five of us together. Can't wait!
So while it was really good to go to DC and see everyone, it was also kind of sad. I couldn't help but think about how that is the life I'd be living if I weren't joining the Peace Corps. I'd for sure have found a way to be in DC. I'd be near my brother, track kids, Deltas, and my very best college friends. It would be amazing. And even if I weren't able to be in DC and had to stay home for a bit while job searching, I would have my best friends since elementary school right there with me. But, on the other side of that, it also reminded me that I am so genuinely lucky. I have the most amazing friends in the world. I don't have to worry about losing touch with them or having our friendships fade before I get back. In a sense the people that I am sad about leaving are the same people who let me know that it is okay, and even wonderful, to go.
I don't mean for any of that to sound as if I am doubting my choice to join the Peace Corps. I'm most definitely not. It is what I've wanted to do since junior year in high school and that hasn't changed. It was just interesting to have a little snapshot into the alternative path my life could've taken. And who knows, DC might be where I end up after the Peace Corps (if all goes according to plan) and some people will still be there. Best of both worlds, baby. But that's not for awhile and I certainly don't want to wish my time in Tonga away.
All in all, I'm very excited to go. Now, about that packing and paperwork...
Monday, August 30, 2010
It feels a little weird to actually be preparing to leave for the Peace Corps. Up until my junior year of high school I had fully planned to be a preschool teacher. Then I did a project on the Peace Corps for World Lit/Geo and decided that's what I wanted to do. So for six years I have planned on this part of my life and here it is. I opened my application in October 2009, submitted it in March of 2010 (okay okay, so I was a BIT of a slacker when it came to the application), interviewed in April, got nominated in May, medically cleared at the end of June, and invited in August. Quite a process, although once I submitted my application it did go more quickly than I expected. Now there is so much to do before I go! It is a little overwhelming, but exciting nonetheless.
I will try and keep everyone updated about my experiences getting to and living in Tonga. For any of you who experienced my epic blogging failure while in Trinidad, I promise I will be a little bit better this time around- although, to be honest, that isn't saying much. You'll still have to be pretty patient!