Friday, December 3, 2010

Fehoko Art Studio

PHOTO: Fehoko Art Studio

Here comes another official “thumbs up” or endorsement from me to promote local groups and businesses throughout the Kingdom of Tonga that demonstrate good business practice or support traditional Tongan art/culture. Check it out:

Located in Popua, just a short drive or bike ride East of Nuku’alofa is the vibrant Fehoko Art Studio. This oasis of local Tongan art is situated in the historic Old Tonga district. Sitiveni and Valenasia Fehoko are the skilled artists that design the plethora of sculptures and crafts. They offer a wide array of art products such as: wood and bone sculptures, replicas of all Tongan artifacts, necklaces, soaps, and more.

PHOTOS: Arts and Crafts of Fehoko.

All their products are made with the utmost care to detail and are in my opinion exemplifies some of the best selections of handicrafts to promote art from heart of the South Pacific. Items are reasonably price with an emphasis on fair trade for the local artisans. Fehoko Art Studio is open throughout the year and may be able to complete orders for export. Their official website is www.fehokoarts.com for more information.

PHOTO: The art studio.


Contact Information:

Fehoko Art Studio

Sitiveni Fehoko

Artist/Master Canoe Builder

Ph: (676) 27-667

A/V: (676) 27-370

Mob: (676)771-6375

www.fehokoarts.com

Email: artoftonga@yahoo.com


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RESULTS of Democracy Movement in Tonga.

PHOTOS: People voting in Pangai, Ha'apai.

Tonga recently held groundbreaking elections towards a more democratic government as the last reining monarchy government in the South Pacific surrenders most of his parliamentary power. King Tupou V opened up more seats in the Tongan parliament for commoners to elect representatives. This will enable a total of seventeen parliamentary seats voted by the people. The Tongan nobles will still retain there nine seats in parliament. Regardless, for the first time the people's representative will outnumber the nobles and former King's seats in parliament.

According to the Tonga Chronicle on December 1, 2010, the recent elections had a 90% turnout rate with registered Tongan voters. "Out of the 42,409 people who registered, 38,474 were able to cast their vote--a solid count of 90.7%. Only 61 votes were voided, due to blank ballots or multiples selection."--Tonga Chronicle.
PHOTO: Busy day at the polls.
Across Tonga, 145 polling stations were set up for the elections.

The Friendly Island Democratic Party led the election victory, winning 12 out of the 17 popularly elected parliamentary seats. The party is led by 'Akilisi Pohiva, who is also one of the candidates likely to claim the most important role in the new government--prime minister. Pohiva claims to do "a big clean up" of the Tongan government with "finding out where we are financially--all the money, property, assets before we move on."--Tonga Chronicle. In addition, he is cracking down on corruption and "leakage" within various Tongan Ministries and is pushing forward with the Anti Corruption Commission to ensure transparency in the new government.

None of the eleven women parliamentary candidates were voted into office. However, when the new prime minister is elected, the person may choose up to four cabinet members from the outside. Some of whom may be women. Regardless, the international observers present from Australia and New Zealand claimed the elections were fair. Currently, the transition for the new government is taking place and the nominations for prime minister is being decided. I believe they have two weeks after the general elections to decide who will become prime minister.

PHOTO: Who to vote for?

The country has been tackling to resolve numerous issues from government corruption to a stagnant economy, while struggling to find a balance between traditions and modernization. In the end, let us all hope the new government may bring about positive changes in the entire Kingdom of Tonga. This "new democracy" is still very fragile and could fall apart very easily if not properly administered (look at neighboring Fiji).

ELECTION RESULTS:

Tongatapu 1- Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva
Tongatapu 2- Semisi Kioa Lafu Sika
Tongatapu 3- William Clive Edwards
Tongatapu 4- Etika Koka
Tongatapu 5- Aisake Valu Eke
Tongatapu 6- Siosifa Tu'itupou Tu'utafaiva
Tongatapu 7- Sione Sangster Saulala
Tongatapu 8- P. Sione Havea Taione
Tongatapu 9- Kaveinga Fa'anunu
Tongatapu 10- Semisi Palu 'Ifoni Tapueluelu
'Eua 11- Sunia Manu Fili
Ha'apai 12- Mo'ale Finau
Ha'apai 13- Uliti Uata
Vava'u 14-Lisiate 'Aloveita 'Akolo
Vava'u 15- Samiu Kuita Vaipulu
Vava'u 16- Viliami Uasike Latu
Niua 17- Sosefo Fe'aomoeata Vakata

*Source Tonga Chronicle, December 1, 2010

HA'APAI THANKSGIVING....woot woot


PHOTO: Happy Thanksgiving from Ha'apai

I was honored to spend the Thanksgiving holiday this year in the beautiful island of Lifuka in Ha'apai with other PCVs. We had quite an eclectic bunch with representatives from the US, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, and Tonga. Sione, one of the PCV volunteers, had the privileged to explain what Thanksgiving is in the States to all of the guests.
PHOTO: All the food. YUM.

We literally spent all day preparing all the food and making a makeshift grill out of an old industrial drum. It all worked out okay thanks to all of the people who helped put it together. Turkey was not on the menu, but we had chicken instead (c'mon it's Ha'apai we are talking about here). Before we ate, we all went around the room and shared one thing we are thankful for. I had to think about it for little bit, but I am really thankful for the opportunity to be alive and well in Tonga with friends who have now become more of a family to me. It truly makes a difference working this far away from the world, to be with the people you have grown to love. Peace Corps is not an easy task, but I am thankful for all the relationships with other PCVs throughout our time here in Tonga. Anyway, our meal comprised of barbecue chicken, two cold pasta salads--pesto and italian dressing, deviled eggs, pumpkin pies, zebra cake, sauteed pumpkin with garlic, and Tongan root crops. 'Ifo 'aupito--Delicious. We also had a few drinks from Vava'u that I had brought.
PHOTO: The barbecue, TONGA STYLE

On the actual Thanksgiving day, all the current PCVs and I joined the trainees in Faleloa for Thanksgiving feast. I even changed my flight to Tongatapu, because they had turkey! I haven't had turkey forever and it's just nice to be with other people. They are all very excited to PST over with and get to their site. I am very excited for the new group bound to Vava'u. They all have a ton of potential and we are super ecstatic for new friends!

My stay in Ha'apai has been a ton of fun. I stayed for a little over the week, helping with training and doing some stuff at Ha'ano. I also got some time in to have some fun with some people like swimming in the wharf and spear fishing with a buddy. Actually he spear fished and I just snorkeled around. I have to say, the corals in Ha'apai are absolutely beautiful. It may even be better than in Vava'u. I am now in Tongatapu finishing up on some projects and medical stuff before I head back to the states. I AM SO EXCITED!

PHOTO: Jumping off at the Pangai wharf with PCV Suli and Pele.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Getting around via AIR in TONGA

PHOTO: Aerial Nuapapu Island in Vava'u. Matamaka is located
at the bottom end of the large island in the middle.

Chathams Pacific is the friendly island's official airlines. It is the only domestic air carrier for Tonga. Air travel is the fastest way to explore all of Tonga's island groups if you have a limited amount of time in the country. The airline began operating April of 2008 and had only one major mishap since I my PC service began in Tonga (one of their smaller plane's bound to Ha'apai couldn't get the landing gear down, so it went back to Tongatapu and had a crash landing--no one died). Regardless, their other planes are vintage and comfortable. I have flown on it numerous times, so no need to doubt the airline--YES, the planes really do fly and are safe.

PHOTOS: Inside the seven seater plane and one of the large planes of Chathams.

I was able to ride one of the seven seater plane from Vava'u to Ha'apai (I'm currently in Ha'apai at the time of writing). It was quite an experience. The aerial views were absolutely amazing when riding a smaller plane. One person may even be the lucky one to sit up next to the pilot up front. Flight time from Vava'u to Ha'apai is only 25 minutes and only about an hour from Tongatapu to Vava'u. Chathams Pacific also holds the record for the shortest commercial flight in the world. The flight from Tongatapu to 'Eua is only seven minutes! "Ladies and gentlemen please keep your seatbelt fastened for the duration of the flight...1...2...3...4...5...6...7, okay we're here."

For more information about Chathams Pacific, check out their website at www.chathamspacific.com. They have special "Kingdom Passes" for travel throughout Tonga that may be worth checking out. The other option to get around Tonga is via sea. The new boat has arrived in Nuku'alofa and will be operating very soon. It will commence as soon as all the wharf expansion are completed in all of the island groups.


PHOTOS: Aerial shots of the Port of Refuge and the village of Holonga in Vava'u.

My official visit to GPS HA'ANO in HA'APAI

PHOTO: Me and some students from GPS Ha'ano at sports day.

I finally had an opportunity to visit the only other current outer island volunteer in Peace Corps Tonga. Blaire and I go way back to training in the same village for PST. Her island is about an hour boat ride from the island of Foa in Ha'apai called Ha'ano island. I was lucky enough for the opportunity to help her out with some of her projects that she has going on before the school year ends next week.
PHOTO: PCV Blaire chowing down on some food during Sports Day.

Overall, our islands are far from the mainland and have the same sense of "isolation," BUT she gets electricity and running water. I was so shocked when I saw legit metal street lights next to a road. They also have a couple of vehicles in the entire island. AMAZING, eh? In addition, the view from her house is amazing. She gets to see a picture perfect sunset everyday and the ocean is just yards away. Matamaka and Ha'ano have about the same amount of people, but her island is just bigger. Regardless, they both have the strong traditional Tongan charm that makes both of our PC experience very unique.

Highlights from my Ha'ano visit:

- Caught up on reading some NEWSWEEK and other publications.

- Lots of nap (LOVE IT).

- Hiked the entire island and saw an amazing beach at the end of the island.

- Made and painted mask with the kids.

- Watched all the school kids with their sports day and ate delicious samosas made by a woman from Ha'ano named Lesieli (I seriously need to learn how to make them).
PHOTO: Free Church of Tonga in Ha'ano

- Attended church and ate delicious fish lu and raw fish with the village chief of Ha'ano.

- Swam at the wharf with a ton of people in the rain.

- The best part: hanging out with Blaire for five days and learning about life in Ha'ano!

PHOTOS: Randomness from my visit:





Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Piñata Matamaka Style




video

VIDEO: Nesi taking her swing with the Piñata.

For the first in Matamaka history, we had a piñata! We originally made them in July/August for arts and crafts week, but we finally filled them up with candy and had the students take a whack at it. I first had to explain to all of the students to how piñata works. They were excited for the fact that this round ball was filled with delicious chocolates and candies. In addition, they were enthralled about the idea that they could hit the piñata with a bat.

Everyone had at least one chance to hit the piñata. We started with the class one and worked our way to class six. The children all were blind folded and spun around ten times. It was a lot of fun watching the kids getting really into the event. I used my kafa (my "belt" for my ta'ovala) and an extension cord as a rope for the piñata. It took about a good forty minutes when we finally decided that the kids could try and hit it without the being blindfolded.

As soon as the first crack was made, the children ran everywhere to grab all the goodies. They didn't realize that they had to completely destroy the thing to get all the candy out. In the end, it was a ton of fun and everyone had a good time. There were still three other piñatas left, but it was too costly to fill each one. Maybe we will take a crack on the other when the school opens for the next academic year in January. Until then, 'osi faka-pinata!

PHOTO: Various shots of the event.

'Utukalongalu Market in Neiafu

PHOTO: The main market at Neiafu, Vava'u

Where to get delicious vegetables in Vava'u? The 'Utukalongalu Market is the place. It is located right next to the wharf by the Golden Dragon Falekoloa and the new Digicel office. Fresh vegetables are available Monday to Saturday. Like everywhere else in Tonga, Saturday is the main shopping day to prepare for the Sunday 'umu. I too for some reason wait until Saturday to get all my shopping done (when it is the busiest of course).

Vava'u is blessed with a full supply of vegetables for most time of the year(sorry Ha'apai PCVs). Green peppers, cabbage, mangoes, tomatoes, green beans, various root crops, watermelons, basil, egg plant, lettuce, and more are very common throughout various times of the year. Prices generally start at $3.00 TOP for a "stack" or "bundle" of vegetables. Not a bad deal honestly. Futhermore, you can buy eggs at the market all year round. Amazing! (I'm currently in Pangai, Ha'apai as I write this and food shopping/availability is so much different than Vava'u). The vendors try to offer a wide array of vegetables that caters to both Tongans and palangis (foreigners).

PHOTO: One of the vegetable vendors in the market selling fresh goods.

Lastly, the market has an arts and crafts sections. Tourists and locals can buy traditional Tongan handicrafts and souvenirs. Such items includes: baskets, tapas (special cloth made from wood), shells, wood carvings, bowls, necklaces, and more. Bartering isn't generally practiced in Tonga, but vendors are more than willing to "negotiate" for the best deal. You just have to walk around a bit and someone hopefully will offer an awesome deal. In addition, the Quarantine office is very close to the market for all those people taking their new souvenirs to New Zealand/Australia.

PHOTOS: Various shots of the market.



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lu Cook Off and HALLOWEEN!!!


PHOTO: Happy Halloween!

The fourth annual Vava'u LU-cook off happened on Halloween weekend. I am saddened that my "LU-dacious" did not win the judges hearts (Mike and Laurie from the Aquarium Cafe). In reality, my Lu dish was comprised of sweet and sour meatballs with fresh pineapple and peppers. As the only red meat dish, I thought it tasted pretty good. If you do not know what LU is, it is a very common Tongan dish which is comprised of tarot leaves, coconut milk, onions, and some sort of meat (normally mutton or corned beef). It is baked in an earth oven called 'umu and then eaten with various root crops. The Lu cook off challenges Vava'u PCVs to conjure up an alternative Lu dish that is worthy to called "LU dish of the year."


PHOTO: Preparing our different LU's and the judges.

Overall, the competition was very close. The other PCVs were very creative with their LU dishes. PCV Ashley Holmes took home the LU trophy with her broccoli and cheese with fresh fish Lu. It was delicious! I didn't even know where you can get broccoli around here. Other dishes in the competition included: Lu-crepes, Mexican bean Lu, Lu-dumplings, bachLUrette, and more. In the end, everyone was able to sample each Lu. Next year, I need to think of something exotic that is not available in Tonga. Lu pizza? Lu falafels? Regardless, the evening was a ton of fun. We dressed up in Halloween costumes and had a night out in the town.


THE GREAT HALLOWEEN RACE

PHOTO: Ashley, EAT FASTER!

The Aquarium Cafe hosted the first ever Halloween Race Competition to help raise money for a local kindergarten school in Neiafu. Team "Faka-'ilifia" was our Peace Corps group name. The competition consisted of five events for each of the five team members. I did the first leg of the race which consisted of swimming for about twenty minutes from the Aquarium dock to the Paradise Hotel dock and back. I ended up in last place for my leg of the race, after I swam the wrong direction! (fml). Jenny caught us up to second place which she had to run to the restaurant Ovava's and back. Carolyn was the next leg which was a canoe race to the Paradise Hotel dock and back to Aquarium. Robert secured second place for us with his amazing biking skills, passing the Tongan and French team. Lastly, Ashley finished up the relay with an eating competition of ten Tongan donuts. I got really nervous here, because the Tongan team almost caught up with Ashley! She then had to run to the Mango restaurant and back with swimming fins. Finally, the entire team had to chug one beverage of their choice and finish! SECOND PLACE! Not bad. First place received a free dinner at Aquarium, and t-shirts. It was a fun event. I can't wait for next year's race!

PHOTOS: Team Faka-'ilifia and some event pictures.

Mala Island Resort

Photo: Mala Island Resort.

What to do on a Sunday in Tonga that does not involve church? Go to MALA ISLAND RESORT. I don't know why I haven't gone there any sooner, but I finally made it there a few weeks ago with some other PCVs. The resort is magnificent! It is very easy to get to (taxi from Neiafu to the end of Pangaimotu Island and they have free boat pickup--$40 TOP taxi ride). They have a nice restaurant that can conjure up some delicious burgers and pretty much endless fries and it doesn't squeeze your PC budget.


Photo: Oops! I accidentaly tipped it over.

Mala Island Resort is a private island with 6-8 different private bungalows to rent, which are reasonably priced compared to the other beach resorts in Vava'u. It is a great place to explore on a Sunday, because it is away from everyone and you can be "palangi" and nobody cares. Furthermore, the resort has canoes that you can use for free. There are some beautiful corals around the beach just waiting for you to explore. In the end, check it out if you make it out to Vava'u. The resort has new management from Califonia. He is a great host!

Photo: Taking some time off at the beach.

Postcard Project Update


Photo: Ma'asi and I with some of our students and postcards.

Are we still collecting postcards? Yes. As a matter of fact, the project is going really well. We have received over 350+ postcards from almost every continent on Earth. Everyone in Matamaka GPS has been enjoying reading about various cultures from around the world. I am thankful for the number of PCVs and Postcrossing Members who have participated with our project. We have gotten cards as far away as Zambia to Jordan. I am pleased to announce that PEACE CORPS TIMES, a PC publication, will soon have a special entry in their next issue about the MATAMAKA POSTCARD PROJECT. I will put it up as soon as it becomes available. As for now, please keep spreading the word and keep in touch. Peace and love from Matamaka!

PHOTO: Places where the cards have come from.

VEPA Cleanup and GIO RECYCLING VAVA’U


Photo: One of the various cleanups in Neiafu. This is a photo of old machinery being taken away by Gio Recycling.
The VEPA cleanup was a huge succes! It happened on the 18th-23rd of October. The city of Neiafu was mobilized to help pick up rubbish throughout the city. Various high schools and primary schools participated throughout the week. These schools included: GPS Liviela, Tailulu College, Vava'u High School, and more. Each school was responsible for a section of Neiafu to cleanup. All the rubbish was collected by the city and GIO RECYCLING to be processed and shipped to New Zealand. FREE VEPA shirts were given to all those who participated with the cleanup. Compliments to QUICK SILVER of the USA for supplying the t-shirts.
PHOTO: ME at the GIO RECYCLING site in VAVA'U.

What is GIO RECYCLING?

It is one of the greatest things that ever came toTonga. Finally, recycling is possible in the island groups of Vava'u and Tongatapu. They can recycle items such as batteries, steel, aluminum, etc. No longer can people just place old car batteries in the bush to rot, they can now be properly disposed of. Gio Recycling even pays customers for certain recycled items. E-waste and other electronics can be disposed of properly instead of ending up in the dump. Seriously, it is the best idea ever! Waste management in Tonga now has a brighter and sustainable future. Gio Recycling is a family run business and will even come to your house to pick up large items with their crane. MALO!
PHOTS: Cleanup shot and GIO RECYCLING Vava'u.