The school year is just around the corner for all the primary and secondary students in Tonga. I have just spent the last week preparing with my principal and co-teacher in Vava’u High for uike plani or planning week. I have been really looking forward to this week, because I will soon finally have a “real” schedule. The last month has been pretty much dedicated to getting to know my community and familiarizing myself with Matamaka and Vava’u in general.
With all that said, planning week was not what I expected it to be. It was very counter-productive due to several reasons. First of all, the Ministry of Education of Tonga failed to deliver the educational materials for the primary schools prior to planning week. As of Wednesday this past week, I was told the books were still waiting to be shipped from Nuko’alofa. School only starts this upcoming Monday, so what is the rush Tonga? Next, teacher attendance for uike plani gradually became less and less as the week progressed. Furthermore, the meetings were scheduled to begin at 8:30, but in Tonga time this usually means 9:30. As a result, only a handful of individual were actually present when important announcements were being made in the beginning. Lastly (the one thing that absolutely drove me crazy), the breaks in between sessions throughout the week lasted from forty five minutes to an hour and a half. It literally was time being wasted. Teachers and staff just sat around and chatted. It was not until 2PM came around when someone finally came up to the closing prayer before everyone left. Correct me if I am wrong, but would it not be easier to just get everything done and over it so we could leave sooner rather than sitting around and prolonging a schedule as long as possible? In the end, uike plani is over! Going back to my island this weekend and getting ready for classes to begin at GPS Matamaka.
On a more positive note, I finally had the opportunity to hike Mount Talau with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer and my co-teacher (after my first real busy week in Tonga). It was a great hike and the view from the top was amazing. Mount Talau is the second highest point in all of Vava’u. From the top, you are able to see the Port of Refuge and the city of Neiafu looking beautiful like usual. In addition, you can actually see a small portion of my island of Nuapapu from the distant. The entire hike up from the “dirt road” to the top took about twenty to thirty minutes. It was not a bad hike, so I definitely recommend it if anyone is in the neighborhood to climb to the top. Check out some of my pictures of the view from the top.
Peace Corps Group 75 had an orientation workshop at the Vava’u Youth Congress this past Thursday and Friday. It was great to see some of the administrative staff from Tongatapu in Vava’u. I was a bit skeptical about the objectives of the workshop, but I was proven wrong! I felt that the entire event was very informative and helpful to both my Tongan counterpart and I. I guess I was just so traumatized from how the sessions were done at Pre-Service Training (PST) that I had assumed that this past workshop would be presented in a very similar fashion, but that did not happen. In addition, the meals and tea times for the entire event were quite scrumptious (thanks to the kind generosity and excellent food preparation of the Wesleyan school).
Lastly, we had an opportunity to do a meet and greet with the governor of Vava’u. I was particularly happy with this because he was my first Tongan noble that I had the chance to meet in person. I decided to wear a more traditional Tongan/tapa shirt for the occasion. After everyone went to introduce themselves and shared a little bit about their interests of developmental projects in Vava’u, it was finally my turn and of course I was last. I spoke in Tongan and shared a little information about me. Directly after that, the governor quickly said and I quote “Oh, I thought you were Tongan.” Ahh, life is too great. Whoever said a palangi can never be a real Tongan? I still have a long time here in Tonga, so who knows how I will turn out after the next 23 months. I will leave this blog with that. I am off to my motu. Please stay tune for my next update from down here in the Kingdom.