Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tonga is not Hawaii

PHOTO: Welcome to Tonga!

My first visitors from Iowa came to Tonga for an eva (vacation/go around) and it was quite an eye opener for them. Let’s face it, I am the only one in my ENTIRE family who would ever do or even consider joining the Peace Corps. They are a very high maintenance crowd who prefer luxury and comfort vs. “roughing” it with a sense of adventure. I just had a kick when my sister and her friend finally made it to Matamaka and realized that life here is completely different after getting off the twelve-ish or so hour flight from LAX. Tonga is Tonga and definitely not Cancun.

They fully experienced life as an outer island Peace Corps volunteer here in the Kingdom. It took a few days for them to get accustomed to living without any running water or electricity. I believe they never used my pit toilet once the entire two weeks. They would hike every time to the school to use the toilet over there. My pit toilet isn’t too bad, I don’t think? LOL.

PHOTO: Sticking some pa’anga to a traditional Tongan dancer during the VHS Jubilee.

Between the conservative dress code and Sunday church service, they were immersed to “traditional” Tongan culture. They realized quickly how easy life was back in the States, especially with daily tasks such as: washing dishes, cooking food, showering, etc. We did laundry one day and it took us about six hours total with some tin cans and a pipe (used as a pump.) Yes, living here is a workout in itself.

I appreciate their visit even though I know they would’ve preferred to visit Fiji or Samoa. The tourist infrastructures in those countries are far better than Tonga. Furthermore, Tonga is way more conservative and more expensive. They would’ve preferred to lay out more in the sun, but it’s best to not wear a bikini unless you’re in a resort or deserted island.

PHOTO: Washing dishes with tins and preparing some delicious food with a head lamp.

In the end, it was good they came. They understand a little bit better how my life is so much different than in Iowa. Furthermore, I think they learned to appreciate all the things they have from back home. They really enjoyed interacting with the kids and teaching them sign language. On the contrary, I feel that my village was content with meeting some of my family from Iowa. The big question is, “will other members of my family come visit before I’m done in Tonga?” Hmmm…probably best to not get my hopes up. I just laughed when my sister told me, “I didn’t know I signed up for Survivor for my vacation.”

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