Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Harry Potter

I missed the 2nd part of the 7th Harry Potter movie! (Okay, granted I missed the first part too but that wasn’t the last one…) So weird! It’s like the end of my childhood. Someone here has it- thank goodness for bootleg movies!- so hopefully I will be watching it soon but it just won’t be the same as seeing it in theaters would have been. Pretty much everyone’s facebook status was related to Harry Potter on opening night. It made me super jealous. Oh Harry…. Can’t believe it’s officially over!

Update since I originally wrote this post on my computer at home- watched a bootleg version of the harry potter movie, from Russia. Thank goodness for people who video tape movies in a theater....


Kindy Conversations Part Ua

And we’re back with Kindy Conversations, Part 2! Those crazy kindy kids…

Kindy Conversation #3

This is Lesa again. If you don’t remember her, please see Kindy Conversations, Part 1. She’s the one whose baby is named Baby, duh….

I enter the kindy room while the kindy kids are playing and sit down on the floor. Lesa runs up and sits down next to me.

Lesa: Katalina!

Me: Lesa!

Lesa: Where is your baby?

Me: What?

Lesa: Where is your baby?

Me: What baby? I don’t have a baby.

Lesa: Is your baby in your stomach? (as she reaches over to touch my stomach)

Me: (bewildered and totally appalled at the idea of someone thinking I’m pregnant) What?! No! I don’ t have a baby!!

The kindy teacher then laughed and explained to me that Lesa’s mom is pregnant so she probably just thought that if her mom is having a baby I must be too, naturally…. Somewhat terrifying, to be completely honest.

Kindy Conversation #4

This conversation takes place with ‘Eliesa. ‘Eli is a 4 year old boy in the kindy class. I’m a little confused as to his life… I’m pretty sure he’s Tongan, but he has a Fijian nanny/family member/someone who takes care of him, I think… he might be part Fijian. I don’t really know. But there is some Fijian influence in his life. This means that he knows random English words, random Fijian words, and some slang in both languages on top of Tongan. It can get a little bit confusing when he mixes all of it together. But this time it was just funny.

After short recess in the morning, students brush their teeth. There are always a few students who don’t have their toothbrushes, including some kindy kids. The kindy kids play in the sand during short break. As I was walking back to the library, after all the students had returned to their classes, I found ‘Eli and a couple other kindy boys still playing in the sand. Because of how this conversation went, I’m going to write it in Tongan and translate it in parentheses after (sorry, I’m not including some of the correct accents, too lazy. Also, my Tongan spelling sucks…).

Me: Ko e ha me’a oku mou fai? Foki ki api’ako! Osi taimi malolo! (What are you doing? Go back to the classroom! Break is over!)

Boys: Look innocently up at me and then keep playing.

Me: ‘Alu ki he holo! Vave, taimini! (Go to the hall! Hurry, now!)

‘Eli: (continues playing calmly while he talks to me) ‘Oku ou va’inga. Ikai fufulu hoku nifo. Hala…hala… (I am playing. Didn’t brush my teeth. I don’t have a…I don’t have a…..)

Me: Osi taimi fufulu nifo. ‘Alu ki he holo! (Toothbrushing time is over. Go to the hall!)

‘Eli: (Looks earnestly up at me.) Hala…hala…hala…. toothbrush! (I don’t have a….I don’t have a…. I don’t have a…. toothbrush!)

Me: (briefly silent as I process the fact that he said toothbrush in English, then starting to laugh) Sai pe ia… ‘Alu ki he holo! (It’s okay! Go to the hall!)

I found this one really funny because I wasn’t sure if he couldn’t think of the word for toothbrush in Tongan (polosi) and so used English, or if he was trying to think of it in English so that I would understand what he was saying. Either way I was completely caught off guard because I was not expecting him to say toothbrush. I didn’t even know he knew the word for toothbrush.

Kindy Conversation #5

This conversation takes place on a regular basis with the same student, Tina. She’s super tiny and super adorable and somewhat loud. She really likes to shake my hand, as lots of the little kids do because that’s what they learn to do when they are learning to introduce themselves. So this conversation with Tina could happen anywhere at school, any time.

I’m walking down the path to a class. Tina runs up to me. This is entirely in English

Tina: Katalina! (sticks out her hand to shake mine)

Me: Hello, Tina!

Tina: (as she shakes me hand, she recites what she understands as the proper words to go with it.) HellohowareyouI’mfinethankyouhowareYOU?!

Me: I’m great, Tina, thank you! Go to class now.

This happens like, every day. She’s actually gotten a lot better about it and sometimes stops after the “Hello, how are YOU!?” so that I can actually answer. But then once I do she still responds with “I’mfinethankyouhowareYOU?!” no matter which way she does it the you is always really loud and excited. It’s pretty cute and I have a hard time correcting her because I don’t want to crush her enthusiasm; you can always tell how proud she is that she knows what to say to me.

More Kindy Conversations to come later!


Culture Night

The school year is already more than halfway over! Craaaaaaaaaaazy. To mark the end of term two, we had a Culture Night at school. Each class performed an English presentation and a Tongan presentation. Even though I technically probably should have been helping all of the classes with their English items, that would have been nearly impossible. So instead I helped Class 1 and was entirely responsible for Class 6.

At our last similar event, my principal had chosen two short dramas from school journals for Class 6 to put on. Although Class 6 did a decent job with them, it was hard because the plays contained a lot of humour that only a native English speaker would get. For example, one play was entitled “I’m So Hungry, I Could Eat a Horse!” Since that is an English expression (and Tongans actually do eat horse on occasion), my students didn’t really get it. Despite my best efforts to explain the meanings of the lines and plays as a whole to them, my students were more focused on memorizing their lines than actually knowing what they meant. As a result, they had a really hard time learning their lines and practicing was more like drilling them than having fun rehearsing a play.

Since I was put in charge this time, I took a different approach. We had recently read and studied the story of Cinderella in class, and then I let my students watch it. We had also read a traditional Tongan fable in English and turned it into a drama. So I presented them with three options- Cinderalla, the Tongan fable (‘Aho’eitu, about the first King of Tonga), or writing their own drama as a class. We voted and they chose Cinderella. I wrote it, making sure there was a part for each student and that it was simple enough for them to memorize. My students told me it was too long. So I made it shorter. We practiced for the week leading up to the culture night. The kindy teacher kindly helped me by giving students stage instructions and being a bit more critical than me (as I was afraid of discouraging my students), but doing so in a way that made the students laugh and enjoy themselves. It was amazing what a difference this approach made. Instead of barely knowing their lines only hours before the performance, all of the students memorized their lines within a day and a half. They were genuinely excited to be performing Cinderella for their family and friends.

On the night of, all of the girls brought beautiful dresses from home. The boys wore button-up shirts and tupenus (the skirt-like piece of clothing worn by men in Tonga), and the boy who was playing the prince even wore a full suit- tie and all. They had made crowns in class, which of course most of them didn’t end up wearing, but we had them! The students were nervous, and the boy playing the prince tried to run away. But they were also excited. I was as well.

I am proud to say that my students performed their parts flawlessly. They missed one tiny part because someone went on too early, but I didn’t even notice (I only found out after when one of the girls who was in the skipped scene expressed her displeasure to me). There were whistles and cheers as the girls walked on in their gorgeous dresses. Everyone was loud, spoke clearly, and did exactly as they had practiced. The audience laughed at all the right parts and my students were smiling broadly at the end of their performance. I really can’t even describe it. Maybe it sounds ridiculous- after all, it was only a 10 minute version of Cinderella by a bunch of 10 and 11 year old kids. But I was so incredibly proud of every single one of them. They did so well. When the night was over, every teacher commented on how well Class 6 had performed. All the students had done well, but Class 6 had really owned that night. They were not simply recited memorized lines which held no meaning to them- they were actually acting! In their second language! I can take no credit for this- my students did it all themselves. They chose the drama and they ran with it- they basically came up with all the staging based on what they had seen in the movie and what their lines were. Their brought their scripts home and practiced. Many of them can still recite their lines now, 2 months later. They were absolutely kickass. My only regret is that my camera had recently been stolen so I have no photos of them performing Cinderella. But I promised them they can do other plays after their exam in October, so hopefully I will get some pictures then! I know they’ll do just as well, as long as they are allowed to take ownership of their projects.


Everyone hits a rough patch sometimes....

Generally I have been quite happy in Tonga. Occasionally I get homesick, or miss random things in the US (particularly food). Missing Christmas was a bummer, but not as bad as I thought it would be since I was so happily and quickly adopted by my community. But overall these moments are few and far between. I love my community, my students, my fellow teachers, and the other Peace Corps volunteers/staff here in Tonga. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been placed here despite any job and life frustrations that might arise.

Unfortunately, not all bad moments are as easy to move past as the odd case of homesickness or bad days at work. One of these moments came in early June, shortly before the end of the term. On an average Friday, after adventuring with friends (since I don’t teach on Fridays) I swung by the office to check my email and such as I wasn’t planning to head into town again until I went on vacation to Ha’apai. At the end of what had been a beautiful, completely carefree day I was shocked to receive the news that Andrew, the boy I had been dating when I started my freshman year at Colgate, had died.

I don’t want to go into too much detail as I don’t want to broadcast the incredible pain felt by his family and friends over my blog. But essentially what happened was that Andrew was accidentally shot by a friend while they were hanging out in an apartment in Farmington, shortly after Andrew’s graduation from UMF as well as his 23rd birthday. I got this information in an email, but by the time I received it 10 days had already passed. I spoke briefly to a mutual friend via facebook, who informed me that the funeral had taken place earlier that week.

To say that I was stunned by all of this is an understatement. Andrew and I have not really spoken much over the past few years, but we had caught up briefly just before I left for Peace Corps. As a family friend of the Ficketts, who are essentially my family as well, Andrew has been in my life for a very long time. I saw him every year at the fooseball party and frequently spent much of the weekend with him, especially as we got older. He was my first boyfriend and is someone who has always been very important to me, as has his entire family.

Like I said, I’m not trying to broadcast this in a gossipy or insensitive way. I’m trying to explain to all of you something that I know is a significant part of my time in the Peace Corps. People say that it must be hard to be so far away from home, to miss my family and my friends and everything that I had in the US. I guess that’s true to an extent, and I can see how people think that. But to me it is not that much of a challenge. A large part of the reason for that is how absolutely amazing my family and friends are. I cannot honestly say that there is anything in the US I “had” but no longer have. I am incredibly blessed to know that when I go back I will still have incredible people there to welcome me; there is not really anything else worth missing.

What is difficult is being away during things like this, as morbid as that may sound. I missed Andrew’s funeral, and in doing so I missed the opportunity to grieve in the way that I am used to and that we, as Americans, consider to be an important part of accepting death and moving past it. I could not be there for his family and friends, and although I know there is nothing I really could have done to offer them comfort, physically being there would have at least been something. To be quite honest, if I had found out in time to make it back for the funeral, I would have done my best to find a way. I sent a letter back for Andrew’s family with another PCV who was going back to America. I don’t know if they received it, or if I said anything worthwhile, but it was the best (and literally the only) thing I could do. I spoke to Caitlin and Darian (mutual friends) on the phone. I exchanged messages with a friend of Andrew’s. My Peace Corps friends were absolutely fantastic, inviting me over for the night and watching out for me all weekend. My friends in America sent really loving messages. But I know that this is something that will be a challenge for me until I am able to go home and make peace with all of it myself- and that won’t be until next May, a year after it has all happened. I still think about it every day and though it only brings me to tears sometimes now, I know it is because I have not fully processed the reality of the events. And there is no way I can while I’m here. My life in Tonga is too separate from my life in America and it is too easy to retreat into this life, too hard to force myself to truly absorb bad news from so far away.

If it is in your nature, please pray for Andrew and for his family and friends, who have lost someone so amazingly dear to them. If praying isn’t your style, any sort of positive thought or energy will do. I do not usually ask people for their thoughts or prayers to be directed in a certain way but I feel this should be an exception. Thank you.


Camp GLOW Fundraiser

Hello team! I’m alive. Sorry it’s been five million years. I don’t really have an excuse. But I’m about to upload a ton of blogs so I hope that makes up for my complete lack of presence on the interwebz over the past few weeks (months?).

So… Going way back in the day, the first thing I have to tell you about is the fundraiser we had for Camp GLOW back in the beginning of June. I’m technically the Fudraising Officer for Camp GLOW Tonga. What this means is that I’m in charge of setting up fundraisers to get money for the general GLOW account- not any of the specific island camps, but money that can be used for administrative costs, shared materials, and back-up money should we need any for the actual camps. I kind of forget how I got this job, but it is now mine. All I really have to do is plan events throughout the year. We had our first one early in June at a bar/restaurant in town called the Billfish. We had done a similar fundraiser there last year but this year Liz Sullivan, the owner, really went above and beyond to help us. She graciously gave us the entire restaurant, provided a munchies and some punch, a floorshow and MC, and her staff to work with us. She also made a generous donation herself. Basically, Liz is awesome and if anyone ever comes to Tonga you should totally go to the Billfish.

Basically the event was a little cocktail hour where we had information on Camp GLOW, sold raffle tickets, and had a floorshow consisting of various Polynesian dances. It was originally supposed to be made up of people we invited- I had an extensive list of important people who I wrote really formal letters to (mostly by Liz’s request), and all the volunteers were also invited- Peace Corps, Australian, and JICA (the Japanese volunteers). We sent letters to all of the embassies/high comms, and put fliers at various locations in town. Despite all these efforts, it mostly ended up being us hitting up unsuspecting Billfish patrons, including lots of palangis who were just there for dinner. I almost felt kind of bad about harassing people while they were relaxing and enjoying dinner BUT they got a free floor show soooooo I got over it pretty fast. We raffled off a couple gift certificates to local businesses (other places to go if you come to Tonga: Beach Hut Café, Café Reef, and Beauticious! Thanks to them!). Two out of three of these gift certificates were collected on the day of, when I was freaking out since I barely had any raffle items. But that’s just how it goes here- everything is last minute.

Overall the event went pretty well. We made just under 500 pa’anga in about 2 hours. Our goal was between 500 and 1000, but even though we fell a little short we nearly doubled the amount made last year so that was good. I’m kind of trying to plan another fundraiser for next week at another bar but the owner is out of town so we’ll see how that goes…. Even though I have a decent amount of experience planning philanthropy events in the US (through TriDelta and Konosioni), it is significantly different here because there isn’t such a pressing sense of time. It’s also very hard to get donations because the same restaurants/businesses get hit up by various organizations and groups every day so even though there are a lot of kickass businesses in town who want to help us, they can’t really because they can’t give money to everyone who asks. I totally understand and respect that but it makes things like raffles extra difficult. Thus we will see how the next one goes!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Can't wait for group 77! ....oh.....wait.....

I'm not really sure if I'm supposed to be writing this on my blog but no one told me not to so.... it's fair game. Sorry, DC censors.

Due to recent budget cuts, Peace Corps is doing a bit of downsizing. Tonga appears to be on the blacklist. Reasons are related to size of the program, dropout rate, effectiveness, and mostly cost of running the program. As a result, it's being shrunk. Some people from DC came earlier in the year to evaluate Peace Corps Tonga and see how to proceed. After barely meeting with PCVs and generally ignoring everything we had to say, they decided to both shrink the program and narrow the focus. From now on, only primary school English teachers (which, just to throw in my two cents, is the thing that pretty much EVERY SINGLE PCV in Tonga told them NOT to focus on), and much smaller groups (think 15 instead of 25). This was supposed to be a gradual downsizing. Okay, not ideal, but tolerable.

News later came that this would be an immediate downsizing. As in, they could now only have 25 PCVs in Tonga as of the time the next group ends their service. AKA the end of this year. Problem: there are currently 25 PCVs in my group, group 76. Thus.... no group 77 this year. WAIT WHAT?! Group 75, the group above me, is leaving this fall. No new group is coming in. It will be just Group 76 left in Tonga. I certainly hope we don't get sick of each other.... (okay we won't, we all like each other, but still.) A new group coming in is always exciting because it means new, inspired volunteers, new friends, people to train and teach about Tonga, etc. etc. Well, not for us. Bummer, man.

Supposedly there will be a group 77, of about 15 primary school teachers, but they won't be coming in until my group is about to leave in fall of 2012. Needless to say, I'm skeptical. I am personally of the opinion that some time next year they will announce that they are shutting down Peace Corps Tonga. But, keep in mind that this is just my opinion and does not express or represent the opinion of the US Peace Corps or Government. Ha ha.

I'm not entirely bitter about this because I do see Peace Corps's side of things in terms of the use of PCVs in Tonga and the overall effectiveness of the program in terms of the amount of money spent. I'm not going to get into details about it because a.) my feelings on it are somewhat confused and b.) I'm not super informed about said details. So I'm not trying to be critical of Peace Corps because I definitely definitely understand where they're coming from and it's an unfortunate situation because of budgeting. However, I definitely am bummed because I love Tonga and the people here and mostly it makes me sad that it's unlikely other Peace Corps volunteers will get to experience this in the future. And my group doesn't get all the perks of another group coming in, like missing school to help train them, getting fed by Peace Corps, teaching people about Tonga, etc. Boo.

So yeah. That's that. Bummer, man.


Hard Week at Work

This has been my week this week:

Monday- It poured. About 30 kids showed up at school. We had morning prayer, then all 30 kids piled into my principal's van and were driven back to their homes. We had a brief teachers' meeting (about all the same stuff we talked about at the staff meeting last Friday). I was home by 11:30

Tuesday- Started out as a normal day of classes. My principal got a call from the Ministry of Education that some administrators and educators from Kiribati were visiting Tonga to take notes on the education system in order to better develop Kiribati's and could they please come see our school. Various other Weslyan schools had already said no because they were not prepared. My principal, being the confident and proud man that he is, said that sure they could come and whatever was ready would be ready. Thus, the entire afternoon was spent rearranging, cleaning, and organizing the school building and grounds instead of having class. This included painting the library shelves which I had not finished repairing or sanding, and painting literally half the school- to the height where the kids could reach- while the children were still wearing their school uniforms. Needless to say, paint EVERYWHERE.

Wednesday- First half of the morning = continuing to clean up the school and make it look pretty and far more organized than it actually is. Second half of the morning = the Kiribati people coming and meeting with my principal, meaning that I took the class 6 to my house for class so that the people could meet in the classroom/rapidly constructed library. Lunch break. Kids return to school and do some sort of thing where the older kids are in charge and talk to the younger kids, while the teachers have a brief meeting. My principal asks me if I had anything to do for the afternoon. I respond that I was going to teach classes 4 and 5. He says that everyone is tired so he's going to send the kids home. I'm home by 2.

Thursday- It's the opening of Parliament so there is a huge march with all the secondary and tertiary schools in it. My principal tells me I should go because it's cool and it's my first year (which was really super nice of him). I also had a fundraiser for Camp GLOW in the evening. So, I went to town, watched the march, did my fundraiser and spent the night.

Friday (today)- I'm still in town. Some people are coming to my school to donate school supplies, apparently. I stupidly said I'd bake a cake. Obviously did not have time, so am going to go buy a cake and go back to school. Not concerned about being late because nothing happens on Fridays, especially in the morning- the kids have religion with the minister and the teachers have a meeting. There will be a mini dance/concert for the donors. Then school will probably end early.

Keep in mind that this is not a typical week for me in the sense that all this stuff doesn't usually occur in the same week. But we usually have at least one day each week where something happens that takes priority over actual classes and we don't get much structured learning done. It's always an adventure, though.


Kindy Conversations

As I may (or may not) have mentioned, my school also includes a Kindy. This is the Tongan equivalent of an American preschool, so the kids are about 4 years old. I only work with them for about 15 minutes twice a week, and that working usually includes playing or just chilling and talking to the kindy teacher about school (or various other things). I don't feel terribly bad about this because a.) my Tongan is really not good enough to communicate with 4 year old Tongan children- it's hard enough to understand kids of that age when you speak the same language, much less when they speak a language you're relatively terrible at and b.) chatting/gossiping is an integral part of building relationships with people in Tonga so it's kind of like integrating into my community, which has clearly worked because I'm closer with the kindy teacher than the other teachers.

Despite the limited amount of time I spend with the kindy, some pretty entertaining conversations pop up, as they always do with young kids. I'll tell you just a few. Keep in mind that these conversations also took place in somewhat butchered Tongan.

Kindy Conversation 1: Soane
(Soane is a little 4 year old boy who is in some way connected to my principal and his family. He's also quite bold. Also, important background: sharing food is a HUGE part of Tongan culture and it's both expected to do it as well as rude not to. So when the kindy kids bring snack they always share with each other, no questions asked and no fits thrown.)

Earlier that day a student in Class 4 had given me a lollipop. I decided to eat it during recess time, while I was sitting on a bench outside the school. Enter Soane.

Soane: Katalina, what are you eating?
Me: A lolli.
Soane: A lolli from where?
Me: From Kavakava. He gave it to me.
Soane: More lollis?
Me: No, I only have one.
Soane: From where?
Me: Kavakava. He gave it to me as a gift.
Soane: More lollis?
Me: No, Soane. I only have one.
Soane: From where?
Me: Kavakava. He gave it to me. It's mine.
Soane: Oh. (pause) From where?
Me: From Kavakava. It was a gift.

This conversation went on in the same vain for about 5 minutes until I, exasperated but incredibly entertained, took the lollipop out of my mouth and handed it to Soane (I realize that might sound weird to you all in the US but trust me it's not here). He immediately stuck it in his mouth, went away, and I could here him talking to his friends going "Look, I got a lolli from Katalina."

Kindy Conversation 2: Lesa
(Lesa is a tiny four year old girl in the kindy class. She's one of my favourite students- she is super adorable and really lovey, she always gives me hugs and kisses and she has a really cute giggle. Background: the kindy recently acquired some toys from a kind donor and this happened on the first day they got to play with their new (and only) toys.)

Lesa decided to play with a cloth doll that was probably about the same size as her.

Me: Oh, Lesa! Who is that?
Lesa: My baby.
Me: Oh, so beautiful! What is your baby's name?
Lesa: blank stare, as if I'm stupid
Me: What is your baby's name?
Lesa: ...Baby (complete with a "well, duh" look).
Me: Oh. Okay. Well... she's beautiful!

More Kindy Conversations to come.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Names and Answers! Thanks for everyone for playing! (AKA Sarah and Kathleen, and kind of Mom, haha). Those of you who didn't... you're totally lame.

Viniseni- Vincent

Sekope- Jacob

Kulisi- Chris

Taniela- Daniel

Siaki- Jack

Tevita- David

Siosiua- Joshua

Sione- John

Female Names

Mele- Mary

Malia- Maria

Siniti- Cindy

Sela- Sarah

Suli- Julie

Telesia- Theresa

Lepeca- Rebecca

Sinitalela- Cinderella- no, this is not a common name, but yes, I have a student named Cinderella! She's in my class 6 and she's adorable.

Okay love and miss you all! Will write more real stuff soon!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Stupid Formatting

I apologize that all my blogs are in stupid one big paragraph format. The interweb is being ridiculous sooooooo they're just going to have to stay that way until I can figure it out some other time. Hope it doesn't give you a headache! xoxo k

Camp GLOW!

So normally I hate asking people for money. As many of you know, I could barely stand to sell Girl Scout cookies when I was little- and everyone loves a good Girl Scout cookie! However, I'm in Peace Corps and projects need funding so this is a shameless plug for a project I'm working on. Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is a week long sleep-away camp that is designed to empower it's participants by providing them with the knowledge, support, and skills necessary to set and acheive their own goals. It takes place in various Peace Corps countries around the world through the cooperation of Peace Corps Volunteers and local organizations. Camp GLOW first came to Tonga in 2001 but did not continue past that. It was restarted last year by a fellow PCV, Sandy, who used to run the camp in Benin (this is her fourth year in Peace Corps- 2 in Benin and then she extended two years in Tonga). We'll be having Camp GLOW again this year. There will be 5 camps across the four islands. A Girls' Camp in Ha'apai in June, and in 'Eua, Vava'u, and Tongatapu in September. There will also be a Young Women's Camp in Tongatapu in September. The Girls Camps are for 9th grade girls (around age 14) who display academic excellence and leadership potential. The young women's camp is for school-leavers ages 18-21. The camps include speakers, activities, and games geared to educate and inspire the participants, and are run like sleep-away camps. Last year was a lot of fun and very successful, and we're hoping to expand the number of participants this year. I'm working on this as a secondary project and am in charge of doing fundraising within Tonga, but we also have a link online that allows people in the US to donate directly to our project. The awesome thing is that 51% of our budget is already covered by the local community- through venues, labour, etc., not necessarily cash- so it isn't just a handout, it's something that people in Tonga are already investing a lot in themselves. I know a lot of people have asked my mom about sending me stuff in Tonga and that kind of thing, and while I absolutely appreciate that, I would prefer that you use the money to donate to Camp GLOW. The donation is 100% tax deductible and this is a project that means a lot to me. I also request that should you decide to donate, you check the box that allows your information to be released. I promise it will only come to me and my fellow PCVs working on this project, not to other people who want your money. Having the information will allow us to send you a thank-you note later in the year! So, here is the link: No obligation or pressure, just an opportunity to get involved in my Peace Corps service if you so desire. If you have any questions about Camp GLOW or want more information, feel free to contact me at any time and I can tell you more about it! Thanks everyone! Love and miss you tons. xoxo k

Guess This Name

So there are some Tongan names that translate into certain English names. For fun, I've decided to provide you with a few and see if you can guess what the English translation is. This really only works if you actually comment and tell me your guesses, though. I'll give you the answers next week! (Hopefully.) Male Names

  • Viniseni

  • Sekope

  • Kulisi

  • Taniela

  • Siaki

  • Tevita

  • Siosiua

  • Sione

Female Names

  • Mele

  • Malia

  • Siniti

  • Sela

  • Suli

  • Telesia

  • Lepeca

  • Sinitalela

The last one of the female list is a bonus because it's not really a very commonly used name but it's a super fun one! Good luck!

Love and miss you all!



6 Months in Tonga!

First, I apologize that it's been fifteen million years since I last wrote. I've been pretty busy and keep neglecting my blogging duties. So if you happen to still actually read my blog, sorry about that! Second, it's official- I've been in Tonga for 6 months! As of April 4th. I've been at my site for 3 months as of March 17th. One school term is over. I can't even begin to say how craaaaaaazy that is! I feel like it hasn't been nearly that long, but at the same timeit seems like I've lived in Tonga forever. Time is absolutely flying and I feel as though I've barely accomplished anything, yet I've learned so much. It's a hard sensation to describe. The first school term just ended. I missed the last week because I had TEFL training in Nuku'alofa for a week, and then our In-Service Training for a week. So I've been in town for two weeks without returning to my community and it's incredibly weird. I miss my kids and my friends and my Tongan family! It was great to see all of my training group (everyone was flown in from their own islands) but I'm ready to get back home and start school again on Monday. I have a lot of ideas for this term that I got from the TEFL training, so I'm excited to start putting them in place. I also have 8 weeks of teaching under my belt (woo-hoo!) and know my kids better, so hopefully we'll be able to accomplish more this term. A lot of my students have already improved their English just by being willing to practice and speak with me. I rarely speak Tongan with them (even though I probably could), so usually if they want to talk to me they are forced to use English in some capacity. Cute story about this. First, a little background. My principal, Viniseni, and his wife, Vao, (the class one teacher) are my neighbours, and also kind of my Tongan parents. They have 8 children (although one is really a niece but she lives there). There's Lolini, Akesa, Kalea, Mafi, Siniti, Neomai, Senileka, and Tupou. Lolini, Akesa, Kalea, and Mafi all attend boarding school in town and so are only home Friday afternoons through Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Siniti and Neomai go to the Weslyan English speaking middle school and come home in the afternoons. Senileka and Tupou are my students. Senileka is in class 6, and Tupou is in class 3 which means that he's 7 years old. Siniti, Neo, Senileka and Tupou often come in and out of my house after school and in the evenings to colour, read, and get homework help. Apparently at some point Tupou decided that only English is to be spoken in my house, although that's not a rule I have. He's great about practicing his English and not even remotely shy. If he needs to know what something means, he'll just ask and then use the English word. He's also decided to enforce this rule upon other children who come play in my house. One day he and a classmate, 'Ofa, came over and were looking at all of the pictures I have on my walls. 'Ofa started to ask my something in Tongan and Tupou immediately yelled "USE ENGLISH IN KATALINA'S HOUSE!" Poor 'Ofa just kind of looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders. I didn't mind if he used Tongan, but if Tupou wanted to make him use English then I certainly wasn't going to discourage it. It's a great way for them to practice and if it means they'll also practice with each other, then that's even better! So speaking has improved at my school and this term I'm really hoping to work on writing- especially with my class 6 students. I'm starting to get a little nervous about their exam (although I won't tell them that!). I'll let you know how it goes! Love and miss you all! xoxo k

Sororities in Tonga?

This is a shout-out to all my Gamma Phi Beta friends. Tongans wear the most random t-shirts, and half the time they don't even know what they mean because they're in English, slang is involved, there are innuendos, etc. Example of this: I recently discovered that my 11 year-old neighbour girl has a Gamma Phi Beta tshirt. It's for intramural sports. On the front it says "Gamma Phi Beta IM Sports" and on the back it says "Always looking to score..." I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my neighbour doesn't fully grasp the joke (and I'm certainly not going to explain it to her!).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Climbing Trees


I tried to climb a coconut tree this week with one of my PC friends. In our Emergency packet, they tell us that if a tsunami is coming, climbing up a really tall coconut tree is a potential means of staying safe. I don’t think anyone on Peace Corps staff has ever actually tried to climb a coconut tree. It’s pretty damn hard. You can only do it barefoot. I can’t get more than five feet off the ground. I encourage all my friends who live anywhere near palm trees to try it. That means you, Jamie and Daniela.

I’m not giving up, though. My plan is to work on my upper body strength and try again some other time. Unfortunately, I think what is holding me back most is my fear of all things incredibly steep. That includes trees which go straight up and have no branches to climb on. I would never even climb the tree to the zip line at camp because it was steep, and that had notches and you were attached with a rope. (Don’t tell my campers that, though- I always told them that it was because I wanted everyone else to have a turn. I didn’t want to make them scared. So shhhhh.)

Sorry Peace Corps. If there’s a tsunami, there’s no way I’m getting up a coconut tree. Especially not in 20 minutes.

(Don’t worry, Mom and Dad. There won’t be a tsunami. I’m safe.)


Faka'ofa :(


So I had a really sad experience this week. My neighbour’s dog had puppies. I have been deliberately avoiding adopting any animals because I know I will get too attached and not be able to leave it when I finish Peace Corps. But since I don’t know what I’m doing/where I’m going after PC I can’t truly commit to bringing a pet back with me. So I had been really successful with this even though I could hear the puppies, because I hadn’t yet seen them. But then they all came out of hiding. Long story short I fell in love with the runt of the litter, who was half the size of all the other puppies and black and just so cute.

I decided Tuesday that I was going to adopt him. But I went to another village Tuesday night to have dinner with a friend so I left the puppy outside with all the other puppies which is how he’d been living anyway so I thought it’d be fine. Well on Wednesday I couldn’t find him anywhere. I was so sad all day. Then my principal found him behind their house, where the puppies had been born. I was sooooooo excited! I jumped up and down and said thank you over and over again. I’m sure they thought I was crazy but oh well. So then I brought my puppy- named Tisikou, or Disco- inside and discovered that he couldn’t stand up. Whenever he tried he would stumble a little bit and then fall over. I gave him a bath and I tried to feed him some bread and water but he wouldn’t eat it. So I went to the store and got tinfish (fish in a can) and milk. I tried to feed him that and he wouldn’t eat it. So I put some milk in a honey bottle, pried his mouth open and fed him that. He drank a little bit of milk. By this time I had figured out that he was dying. A similar thing had happened with my friend Cecilia’s puppy a few weeks ago.

I was obviously really upset because even though he had only been my puppy for a day and a half, I loved him a lot. The only reason I decided to get a puppy at all was because I loved that specific puppy. I kept trying to feed him milk but he wouldn’t eat it anymore. So I just let him lie on the mat and hoped he was comfortable. He was making really pathetic squeaking noises whenever he breathed and his breathing was getting shallower and shallower. I put him in my lap and pet him until he died, around 10:30 that night. I was crying and crying and crying, it was so sad. My neighbours came home and they said they would bury my puppy for me the next day. I tried not to cry in front of them but for anyone who knows me well, you realize that obviously failed miserably. They were really nice about it though.

It was generally a pretty traumatizing experience and it still makes me really sad. Maybe that is stupid but it’s easy to get attached to animals! Haha. My neighbours kept trying to give me another of the puppies and I kept trying to say no but I think he might be mine anyway. We’re kind of just sharing the last two dogs, one is a girl and belongs to the kids over there. That dog is named Pretty. The other one is a boy and is kind of mine I think but I’m not really sure. It’s kind of confusing. But his name is Spoon, or Sepuni. I named that one, haha. I’ll keep you updated on whether or not he actually becomes mine. I really liked the name Disco and am kind of bummed I can never use it for a puppy again but my dying little puppy deserved a name and that is the best one I could give him. But I like Spoon, too. Maybe he will come to America and you will meet him someday. Or maybe not. That’s a ways away.


Yup, More School Stuff....


School since the first week has been a bit disorganized at times but generally much better. I’ve learned how to say a few important classroom phrases in Tongan, but mostly I just speak to the kids in English as if they understand me. Sometimes the Tongan teachers will help me if the kids don’t understand, but you’d be amazed at how well these kids pick up instructions based on my gestures and actions. It’s not that I don’t want to use Tongan with them, or that I’m being lazy. It’s that listening to English from a native speaker is not something they usually get to do and just having that practice is a lot of the reason I’m here. Not to mention that even though my understanding of Tongan has gotten a lot better, my speaking is still pretty slow/broken so sometimes chances of the kids understanding my English are better than them understanding my Tongan, hahahaha. How sad.

The school day generally goes something like this:
8:00- most of the kids start showing up for school
8:20- the bell rings and the students start to clean up the school grounds, picking up trash, pulling out
weeds, etc.
8:25- line up by class, some days have their finger and toe nails checked for cleanliness and length, have
one of the teachers tell them if there’s anything they need to know or that is different about the
day, and say a prayer
8:30- if it is Monday, have assembly where the principal does some Bible stuff with them and does roll
call for the whole school. That goes until 9ish. If it is Friday, the Faifekau (minister) comes and does
some churchy stuff with them. If it’s Tuesday-Thursday, class starts.
10:30- break time, during which the kids eat and play outside
10:45- the kids get the toothbrushes they keep at school and everyone brushes their teeth together
11:00- class resumes
12:30- lunch break, during which pretty much everyone goes home to eat
1:30- school starts again
3:20- school ends

I work Monday through Thursday. I start every morning with Class 1 for half an hour. Mondays and Wednesdays I am with Class 2 for half an hour, Tuesdays and Wednesdays with Class 3 for half an hour, Tuesdays and Thursdays with Kindy for 15 minutes to half an hour. When exactly I go to those classes and how long I stay varies depending on what the teacher is doing with them and how long I decide I want to stay. Usually it ends up being longer- I was only supposed to be with Classes 2 and 3 for 20 minutes, but I can’t do much in that time so I extended it to half an hour. Then every day from 11:30 to 12:30 I am with Class 6. That’s in the morning. In the afternoon on Mondays I am with Class 6 for another hour. Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays I am with Classes 4 & 5 (who are combined) for half an hour in the afternoon. The rest of the time I spend lesson planning and working on the “library.” Right now it is just a room filled with books, a computer, a printer, and a photocopier. The books are never used and it’s kind of messy. My job is to organize it and create a functioning library in the time that I’m here. I haven’t gotten all that far yet but I just went and visited the library of another Peace Corps in my group and she gave me a lot of great ideas so hopefully I’ll be able to get a little more done soon.

The kids at my school are really great, as are the teachers. Granted sometimes I still have no idea what is going or what exactly I should be doing but I consider myself really lucky. The principal and teachers are all very supportive, and the kids are enthusiastic and smart. For the most part they listen to me. Some classes are better about that than others but I can’t blame them too much because I know it’s hard to focus when someone is speaking in a language you only partially understand- I totally drift in and out when I listen to something that’s entirely in Tongan. But they really do try and they pick things up pretty quickly. So we’ll see how it goes!


Beginning of School Adventures


Hey team! Sorry, it’s been awhile. Things have been a little crazy with school starting up.

I guess that’s what I’ll start with- school! After two weeks of planning (and I use that term very loosely), school started on the 31st of January. The first week was just half-days and I did not have my schedule yet, so I spent the time helping the Class 1 teacher, Vao (who is my principal’s wife/my neighbor/my mom in my village). I spent most of the week having no idea what was going on or what I should be doing. Fortunately Vao is a great teacher and really energetic/enthusiastic. She uses a lot of English with her students anyway, so I got a pretty good idea of what I should be doing when I work with Class 1.

However, there were also some interesting situations that first week. Best example is that Wednesday. Every day school starts at 8:30, and goes until they have a short recess at 10:30. Well, during recess on the first Wednesday one student managed to get a giant gash right below one of his eyebrows. As we were getting ready to start class again, Vao came back and told me that she had to take this student to the hospital and could I please do class for the rest of the day (only until 12:30, fortunately). Of course I said yes because what else was I going to do? The kid had a huge cut right by his eye. Class 1 and Kindy were combined at the time, so it was me and the Kindy teacher, Seini. This was challenging enough because for a lot of the kids it was their first time in school so there was a lot of chasing kids, bringing them back to the classroom, taking them off the tables, etc. After all, Kindy is 4 years old and Class 1 is 5, so they are pretty young.

I did the best I could in terms of some simple activities and Seini handled all the Tongan speaking. At one point we decided it would be good to go outside because we were doing basic verbs with the kids- walking, running, hopping and so forth. I thought we were all going outside. But when I started to take Class 1 outside, Seini said “okay so we will stay in here for a little bit and then join you!” I just kind of stared at her and she asked if I wanted her and the Kindy to come out, too. Of course that would have been ideal but I totally understood the need for them to be separated for a little bit. Thus, I said “oh, no, it’s okay, we’re fine!” Well, silly me. My Tongan is not even remotely good enough to control nearly 20 5-year-old Tongan children while running around outside. The best I could manage was “Fakalonglongo!” (quiet!), “Fanongo!” (listen!), “Tuku ia!” (stop it!), and “Kapau oku ikai te mou fanongo, oku ikai te mau va’inga!” (a very butchered attempt to say, “if you don’t listen we are not playing!”) Unfortunately it took me so long to say the last one that by the time I got to the “we are not playing” part they had stopped paying attention to me.

Basically, just picture me standing in a field with 20 small Tongan children running around crazily as I tried to get them to listen to me using a mixture of broken Tongan and English. Pretty ridiculous, exhausting, and hilarious. But Seini and the kindy kids came out after a little bit and we attempted some other games with them (which failed) and eventually just resorted to letting them run around anyway. I learned after that someone important from some education office- possibly the Weslyan office, maybe the government? I don’t know- was visiting at the time to meet with my principal. I’m sure I looked quite professional. Ooops….


Friday, January 21, 2011

School Countdown!

School starts on the 31st- it was supposed to start this Monday, on the 24th, but they pushed it back a week for various reasons. I found that out this week. Ohhhh Tonga! Haha. This week was planning week number 1. There is a new curriculum for primary school so this week consisted of various sessions on that. The new curriculum seems like it is good for the schools. The government primary schools (GPS) are changing it so that English doesn’t start until class 3 (which is age equivalent to 2nd grade in the US- kids here start class 1 at age 5). This is because they found that there was so much focus on English that kids didn’t even know the rules of Tongan grammar. They could speak it and understand it and such but didn’t know a refined level of it- for writing papers and such. However, I don’t work at a GPS, I work at a Free Weslyan primary school (FWPS). So they’re using the new curriculum in terms of what is taught but instead of pushing English back to class 3, my school is actually trying to transition to a bilingual system. Not sure yet exactly what they mean by bilingual, but they’re going to be starting English at class 1, possibly even kindy. So I’m going to be working mainly with class 1 and class 6, but also doing some stuff with every other level too. Class 6 is when they take their major exam, as you remember, to figure out where they go to high school and there’s an English section so they need a lot of practice at that level. Last year none of the kids at my school passed the exam. While I would love for even one to pass this year, I know that it’s not that simple. My goal for now is to improve their English as it functions in real life situations first, and then focus on the exam later in the year.

Anyway, the sessions this week were all in Tongan so I didn’t understand a whole lot of it. I concentrated really hard and ended up with a headache, haha. I did get some of it, and there was a PCV there from Group 75 so she explained some of it to me as well.

Next week is planning week at our individual school. I should find out what my actual teaching schedule will look like and start to get some stuff ready for actual classes. I’m really excited to get to know the kids at school and be in a classroom. I’m also a little anxious about it, since it’s not something I’ve really done before- teaching at a preschool is not the same as teaching in a primary school classroom. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Love and miss you all.

Mice Adventures

Hey look at me! I’m actually writing a blog ahead of time! Everyone should be incredibly proud. Hopefully they internet will work when I head to town tomorrow and I’ll get to post this. If not… at least I wrote it, right? That ought to count for something.

Update on my lovely little housemates that I mentioned awhile ago. They have continued to scurry around my house in a quite obnoxious manner. Thus far they have destroyed my 1/3 measuring cup, the bottom corner of my shower curtain, a lot of toilet paper, tinfoil, my food storage container, some plastic bags and who knows what else. I’ve even had a few stare downs with them. Although I have never actually wanted to kill a creature in my life, these mice are getting on my nerves. Thus, I’ve tried to eliminate them from my life in various ways.

The first way I tried was mouse traps. My friend Cecilia and I bought some in town. After snapping his finger in one and saying it didn’t even hurt, one of our other friends deemed them relatively useless. Despite this, I decided to attempt it. I had four . I put peanut butter on them, placed them in a couple different locations, and left them over night. The next morning when I woke up I laid in my bed for a few extra minutes, trying to figure out exactly what I would do if there were actually dead mice in the traps (and kind of hoping there wouldn’t be, to be honest). I crept around the corner into the kitchen where the first traps were, only to find that two had been set off and the peanut butter was gone but there were no mice in them. The other two traps were just still chillin, peanut butter and all. That was a failure but I was slightly relieved to not see any dead bodies.

The next time I tried to drown them. By my dad’s suggestion I set up a bucket that was filled about halfway with water, put a piece of wood in the bucket with a cracker and peanut butter floating on it, and set a ramp up so the mice could get in. The idea was that the mice would jump into the bucket to get the treat and not be able to get out, drowning instead. Once again, I woke up the next morning secretly hoping to not find any little mice bodies. Or, worse yet, living mice swimming in the water. Then what would I do?! Leave them there knowing they were drowning or rescue them and thus defeat the purpose? (Un?)fortunately there were no mice that time either.

At this point, one of my good friends expressed concern about my emotional health should I actually find dead mice in the morning. He was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I admitted that I was lacking true commitment to killing the mice. I wanted them to leave my house but not necessarily to die. My ideal situation would be to sit down with them and say, “Look guys. You need to go. It’s nothing personal but your lifestyle isn’t compatible with mine. If you don’t leave by choice I’m going to have to kill you.” But honestly, I think they’d call my bluff.

I debated getting a cat. After much discussion with other friends, I decided against it- mainly because I didn’t want to have to worry about it when I went on vacations or when I leave in two years. I know that I wouldn’t be able to raise it fully faka-Tonga (keep it outside, let it fend for itself in terms of food, not play with it, etc.). Also I didn’t want to accidentally starve it, since I can barely feed myself. So, no cat.

That left poison. I don’t want the mice to die in my walls and smell but I’m willing to take my chances. I’ve put out four packets of poison. Three have disappeared so far, but it apparently takes 4-7 days for them to actually die. I can still hear them scurrying around at night, although there hasn’t been any damage recently (knock on wood). Hopefully they disappear and die outside somewhere. I feel a little bad but I guess I had no choice. Poor mice!

Love and miss you all!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life as Usual

I would like to start this post with a shout-out to two of my lovely best friends, Nicole and Curtis, who got engaged at Christmas! Congratulations, guys!! I'm so happy for you.

Related, that's one of the things that has been kind of weird about being in Tonga- missing important events in the lives of people I love. Knowing that something fantastic has happened and I'm unable to be there to share it is a weird sensation. I'm completely stoked for someone but a little sad at the same time. It's only happened a few times- Lea getting her NatGeo job, Nicole and Curtis getting engaged, Josh getting an A in religion (side note: wish he had been studying religion when I was still in college because I bet he totally could have helped me out in some of my classes). I am so so happy about all of those things, it just always catches me off guard to be reminded that everyone's lives are going on without me, hahaha. I know that sounds kind of self-centered but I don't really mean it in that way at all. I would imagine it's kind of the same for some of you, knowing that so much is going on in my life and having little sense of what exactly it's like.

Anyway, sorry, that was kind of a depressing note to start off on but I don't mean it to be! It's more interesting to me than anything else. I'm really quite happy and doing very well. School hasn't started yet but it's planning week beginning on Monday, so I'll finally be getting prepared for the school year! Ahh! I can't wait to get to know the kids in my village in a school setting as opposed to just playing around. And it will be really nice to have a schedule and specific tasks to accomplish. I'm likely going to be working with the whole age range of kids at my school, not just the older ones, so that will be pretty awesome.

I really have been doing the same thing as usual. Running, cooking, battling mice, hanging in the village, coming to town occasionally. Nothing too exciting. The first week of January was Uike Lotu, prayer week. I went to church twice a day every day, at 5 a.m. and 6ish p.m. I've been attending the Weslyan church as I will be teaching at a Weslyan school and right now most of the people I know in my village are Weslyan. I hope to venture to the other churches someday but I'm going to wait until I know people better so I can go with someone instead of alone.

I also hit up a couple feasts for New Years and the end of Uike Lotu. Feasts in Tonga involve a lot of food- roasted pig included- and speeches/prayers. It's all in Tongan, obviously, so I don't quite understand all of it but I do my best. The Tongans always tell me "kai lahi, kai lahi!" which is essentially "eat a lot, eat a lot!" which I am not very good at doing. By Tongan standards I eat very little, especially because I am a vegetarian- a concept which usually takes some explaining before it is understood. But at feasts I do my best to participate in the eating! Haha. Everyone in my village is so nice and welcoming. When I go to town for the day (like today), I miss them. I think that's a good sign so far!

So.... Yeah sorry this was boring and terribly written. I was trying to be fast. Once again I was too lazy to write anything ahead of time. I'll try and write something more exciting soon, maybe in a week or two once school starts. I probably won't be getting to town quite as much once I'm in school, though, just a heads up. Don't be alarmed.

Love and miss you all!