Friday, June 25, 2010

BEACH CLEAN UP Matamaka style…

PHOTO: Keep Matamaka Beautiful!

This year for environment week, Matamaka GPS did a huge beach cleanup. My kaumea from the states, Ashley, helped out to make the event a success. Fellow yachters who were in the area also assisted with the beach cleanup.

Before we began the cleanup, Ma’asi and Soane did an environmental lesson to all the children. They highlighted information on what is rubbish and items that are recyclable. I believe the kids got the basic concept of the lesson. Next Soane had split all the students into two groups. Each group was in charge of a beach in Matamaka. The goal was to collect as much rubbish as possible. In addition, we had a contest to see which team could collect as many batteries. My group collected a plastic bag full and we thought we won. When we met up with the other group, I was shocked to find out that they had collected a whole flour sack full of batteries!

PHOTO: Soane explaining the dangers of global warming (aka scaring the crap out of the kids) and the flour sack of batteries found on the beach.

Once all the rubbish was collected, we dug up a hole and buried it all. We did not burn all the rubbish like what all the other people in Tonga do. As for the batteries, I plan on recycling them all with Gio Recyling. They are supposedly building a Vava’u branch that can recycle batteries. As for now, the batteries sit at school. I have told the kids to continue collecting batteries if they see them around (especially on the beach). They have to understand the environmental impacts of corroded batteries. I am hoping to find a more sustainable solution of battery removal from the island before I leave. I just have to convince the people of Matamaka to why they should not dump them in the water.

PHOTO: Team Ma’asi/Ashley VS. Team Soane/Feleti

In the end, everyone had a blast with the beach cleanup. It was a great way for Ashley to meet most of the Matamaka residents and get to know all the children. The children hopefully will learn something from it and think twice before they throw rubbish on the beach. In total we collected over eight flour sacks of rubbish. We will do another beach cleanup in late September again and anyone is welcome to join us!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Radio Nuku’alofa and GPS Nuku’alofa

PHOTO: Radio interview at Radio Nuku'alofa 88.6 with Lala and a PCV from 'Eua.

The 50th anniversary of Peace Corps is fast approaching next March 2011. As a result, Peace Corps Tonga has been busy promoting Peace Corps throughout the entire Kingdom. I am involved with the planning committee and we have been busy organizing different events for following year. One of the ways we have been promoting Peace Corps Tonga has been through the radio. I was privileged enough to be a part of a radio interview on Radio Nuku’alofa 88.6! The famous morning radio DJ “Lala,” had done the interview. We talked about my site in Matamaka and all the things volunteers do in Vava’u. In addition, I had an opportunity to advertise our Postcard Project through the radio waves. The entire interview was a lot of fun and I even did some of it in faka-tonga. As the anniversary comes closer, more volunteers will also take part with other interviews and promotional events to help celebrate.

If anyone would like to get involved or have ideas to help with the upcoming 50th anniversary of Peace Corps, please do not hesitate on contacting me via email or message post. Any ideas would be much appreciated. MALO!

PHOTO: GPS Nuku'alofa library.

On another note, I had an opportunity to visit GPS Nuku’alofa and see all the great things PCV Kathy Beck has done to the school. She has done a superb job fixing up the library which was literally nonexistent before she arrived. The library was well-equipped with a computer and copy machines. Kathy created an effective teachers work room for all the staff to utilize. Overall, I was very impressed with all the work Kathy has done in such a short time. Keep up the good work Kathy. Malo ngaue!

I’m on a boat…what? what?

PHOTO: The interim ferry getting ready to leave for Tongatapu.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to experience the new interim ferry from Vava’u to Tongatapu. It was a sixteen hour journey, but the Malaysian boat Ajang Subuh did not disappoint one bit. Surprisingly, I was flabbergasted by the cleanliness and efficiency of the entire transit. It left Neiafu harbor at 4:00 PM Tuesday and arrived at Nuku’alofa at 8:30 AM Wednesday exactly.

Why did I take the boat? Well, living in Tonga you have to learn how to be flexible. Originally, I was scheduled to fly out of Vava’u Monday afternoon but that did not happen. Due to the plane crash incident of Chatham’s Pacific (no one died), the entire airline was grounded as their license was suspended by the Tongan government. As a result, this caused quite a ruckus with inter-island travel for tourists and locals. Many people missed their connecting international flights out of TBU. Luckily, the interim ferry was scheduled Tuesday and I was determined to get down to Nuku’alofa one way or another.

After receiving my refund from Chatham’s, I bought a ticket for the boat for $93 TOP. Travel on the boat was so much cheaper than a one way flight ($283 TOP). In addition, the new boat also offers eight beds for those who prefer to travel in style. Ironically, the planes resumed service that same evening. Oh, well.

PHOTO: The main cabin, the captain's deck, and people sleeping on the top deck.

The main cabin offers seating for about forty people. All the seats reclined, but are situated in awkward locations. There simply was not enough room to get in and out of your seat if you are not next to the isle. On the contrary, the main cabin was well ventilated with a plasma TV that showed different programs throughout the voyage. My only negative comment was the people were throwing up everywhere. Often times after passengers threw up; they placed their vomit infested plastic bags on the floor which ultimately overpowered the ventilation system. As a result, I slept on the top deck where it was much more comfortable. Furthermore, the toilet facilities were amazing. There was no shortage of toilet paper and it was very clean.

Throughout the entire journey I ran into a lot of friendly people and crew of the ship. It was quite an experience to travel via ferry boat from Vava’u. The waters between Vava’u and Ha’apai were pretty rough. I was feeling a bit sick, but watching the horizon and some Dramamine pills helped. In the end, I would rate the entire experience 8.5/10. I recommend it for budget travelers with strong stomachs. The waters from Ha’apai to Tongatapu were not bad. It was only between Vava’u and Ha’apai that made me question why I rode the boat. Bon voyage!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Children’s Fun Day at the Neiafu Public Library

PHOTO: The kids having a good time at the Fun day. The piñata just broke and everyone was rushing in for all the candies.

On May 29th, 2010, the Neiafu Public Library hosted its annual Children’s Fun Day. It is one of the fundraisers the library pursues to maintain its operation. Furthermore, it is an excellent opportunity for children and families from around Vava’u to come out and have a good time. This year was exceptionally successful due to all the volunteers and business sponsorships we had helped out for the event. The entire event raised $873.00 TOP!

A fellow Peace Corps volunteer and I are involved with the library committee. The group has been extraordinarily busy coordinating and planning all the logistics for the Fun day for weeks. We were grateful that most of the other Peace Corps and AYAD (Australian) volunteers in Vava’u were eager to help out at the event. Other Tongan volunteers and a bunch of local businesses also helped out or sponsored the event. Teamwork was really what made the event a huge success. We even had a DJ that attracted people’s attention towards the library Fun Day.

PHOTOS: Highlights from Fun Day.

The Fun day consisted of a flea market table, which consisted of random clothing and things all for sale. There was a food stand with cakes, cookies, and hotdogs for .50 cents! The staff of AQUARIUM CAFE did a superb job grilling and serving all the food. It was such a hit that all the hot dogs ran out almost instantly. VEPA, the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association, also had a booth that allowed children to color an advertisement for the TALANOA VEVE national competition of “keeping Tonga waste free.” Furthermore, we had various game booths. The games included: ring toss, clown bean bags, golf, fishing for fish, and a Spongebob Square Pants “throw off.” Basically, the last game was similar to a pie throwing contest, but we used wet sponges instead. Pies are hard to come by in Tonga and I would’ve probably eaten it instead of throwing it. Lastly, there was a face painting booth which was very popular. The children had pretty interesting works of art on their faces by the time the event was over.

There was also a pig piñata made by the folks over at CAFÉ TROPICANA. It was such a huge hit! The children all had three swings to try and hit the pig. Some of the children were a bit shy to take swing at it, but there were a handful that couldn’t get enough of it. By the time it finally broke, everyone just jumped in to grab as many candy and treats. The ladies running the event were almost swept down by the super excited children.

PHOTO: Children coloring at the VEPA table for the TALANOA VEVE competition.

In the end, the event was a tremendous success. I was exhausted from playing “golf” with the kids all morning. There will be another fundraiser hosted by the public library later this year. We hope it will have similar results. I look forward to Fun Day next year. I am positive Peace Corps volunteers, as well as other members of the Vava’u community, would be more than happy to help out again. It’s all for the kids and library!


  • Café Tropicana
  • Tropical Tease
  • IkaLahi Lodge
  • Wind Pony
  • Aquarium Café
  • Vavau Adventures
  • Megapode
  • Sunset Grill
  • Tonga Earth
  • VEPA
  • Adventure Backpackers
  • Hansen Family sound
LIBRARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS: Henk and Sandra Gros, Don Blanks, Carolyn, Saskia, Norie, Robert, Christy, Lisa, Likivai, Judy, Le'o, Kelly, Dominica, Miriam, Jason, and Jenny.

(I’m sorry if I missed anyone. Please let me know and I will make a correction).

These supporters gave cash contributions as well as their help on the day, and some fantastic PRIZES for the chikdren’s games. Parents brought cakes to sell, and items for the second hand table.

Swallow’s Cave

PHOTO: Swallow’s Cave from the outside.

What is it you may ask? Swallow’s cave is well a cave. There are two famous caves in Vava’u, Swallow’s and Mariner’s cave. Every time I take a boat to or from town, I pass Swallow’s cave. I finally had the opportunity to see what is inside a few weeks ago. I was on an eva-pe with the Pentecost boat when they asked me if I have ever been inside. “Nope.”

At high tide, smaller boats are able to go in and explore the ‘ana or cave. You can shout as loud as you can and hear the echoes bouncing around walls. Inside is very green and full of graffiti. Apparently, it is a cool thing to mark the wall with spray paint of your name. Way to kill the mystery and mood eh? Different types of birds and bats live inside. My school and I actually plan on retrieving some natural fertilizer from this place (aka bird poop) in the near future for our garden.

PHOTOS: Hitting the “church bell” with a piece of wood, some graffiti “art,” and my neighbor Louie standing on a little platform in the cave.

Near the center of the cave lies a rock that sticks out a bit. They told me it is known as the church bell, because when you hit it with something it sounds like bells. Well, we tried it and indeed it sounded like any Sunday morning in Tonga. We took some photos with everyone before heading out of cave. It wasn’t bad honestly. Inside felt like a canoe ride from Disneyland. I asked the Tongan if they swim inside the cave and they said mostly the palangi people do it. Apparently, they don’t find it to exciting to swim inside this cave.

I have yet to visit Mariner’s Cave. It is actually on my island of Nuapapu, but all the way on the other side. The locals have told me there is a bush route, but it has not been cleared for years. I bet it’s probably almost impossible to get to without a guide (just like the route to the “secret” beach). With this cave, you are supposed to dive underwater for a few meters to enter the cave. Inside, there is a phenomenal mist that is caused by the waves. I bet it is beautiful as they say. I hope to check it out in May when my family comes and visit. As for now, I can check off Swallow’s Cave off of my “things to do before I leave Tonga” list.

PHOTO: Swallow’s cave from the inside looking out. Cool eh?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Feleti’s Island Bungalow Weekend Retreat and CORAL PROJECT Take TWO

PHOTO: One of my guest with the children who were all so eager to swim with us.

A few weekends ago, some PCVs visited Matamaka for a little palangi weekend retreat at my island bungalow. Everyone has been a bit stressed out about work and Tongan culture for awhile now, so some relaxing time with friends has been long overdue. Feleti’s Island Bungalow Resort is open for anyone who wants some malolo time in Vava’u.

The entire weekend started when I went back into town Friday afternoon to meet all the volunteers. I picked up some food and essentials for the weekend. There are always boats that leave Neiafu late Friday afternoon to bring the high school students back to the island. Everyone enjoyed the boat ride over to Matamaka. We watched the beautiful sunset across the horizon. Dinner was vegetarian calzones which we had extra and had given to the men at kava. It turned out that they did not really like it and ate kumala instead. LOL. One of the PCVs served the kava too, which was a big hit with the men.

PHOTO: Feleti's "secret" beach.

Saturday was day full of adventures. We hiked to the neighboring village through the jungles of Nuapapu. Believe it or not, there are still some areas that have not been “touched” yet. It is pristine Tongan wilderness at its best. Afterwards, we made it to the “secret” beach. There is a name for the beach, but I can never remember the name. No one goes to this beach as the path has not been cleared for years. As a result, it was the ideal place for a little palangi time since we had it all to ourselves.

PHOTOS: Our coral gardens made out of giant clam shells and Ma'asi smiling for the camera underwater.

One of the PCVs also had an underwater camera, which we used to photograph our Matamaka GPS Coral Gardens. I had invited the students to go swimming around the gardens. We all had a good time taking our photo opportunities with the corals. Later that evening, we made pepperoni/pineapple pizza and vegetable pesto pizza with eggplants, peppers, onions and more. Let’s just say it was beyond delicious. Another volunteer also made seafood soup which was a huge hit; even the dogs wouldn’t eat it. LOL. We ended the evening with a bonfire by the beach and listened to songs with a guitar. One of the local boys played the ukulele and sang songs to the girls. They were very much flattered by this.

We ended the weekend with some people getting some work done at the school library while a fellow volunteer went to all of my Sunday church routine. All six hours of it to be exact. They all went with me to the Pentecost service and enjoyed a delicious ‘umu/picnic prepared by the church members. The food of course was amazing. The entire weekend ended shortly afterwards. I waited with all the peeps at the wharf where a boat awaited them heading back to town. We took one last group photo, before Feleti’s Island Bungalow weekend retreat was over. Until next time…

PHOTO: My first guests to my village. Good times good times.