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!