Thursday, February 24, 2011

Build me a bridge!

PHOTO: One of the bridges.

Your Tongan word of the day: hala fakakavakava or bridge in English. I just finished a lesson on bridges with the older kids and they had such a great time that is worthy to have its own blog entry. It all started out when the head teacher had to go to town and I had to fill in time with a random science lesson. What did I come up with? Bridges!

Before constructing bridges, I first had to explain what a bridge is since almost all of the kids have never seen one before. They were so confused when I asked, "how does one get from one island to another island with a car?" I got anwers like, "take a boat" or "swim." Their assignment: make a bridge that is atleast one foot long with scotch tape and popsicle sticks. In addition, an empty can must be able to successfully "cross" over the bridge. Furthermore, whoever can build the strongest bridge wins a prize.

PHOTO: Another bridge.

I had set them loose and their creativity started to work. It was quite hilarious watching them trying to figure out how to build something that would allow a can to roll over it. One of the group eventually used the tape as a base support and placed the sticks on top. With enough tape it did work. It wasn't exactly the type of bridge I wanted them to make, but heck it was still a bridge.

PHOTO: Randomness from the activity.

All their bridges passed the "can" test, where we pretended a car was driving on top. For the ultimate test, we put weight on top of the bridges to see whose bridge is the strongest. We started using glue bottles as the weights, but we did not have enough since the bridges were so strong! We then resorted to blocks and anything we could find like screw drivers, nails, shells, and they still did not fall! WOW! In the end, we were having so much fun trying out how to "destroy" the bridges with whatever we could find. It definetly was a day not to forget.

Rolling out the "Red" carpet, island style

PHOTO: Our guests enjoying their meal at Matamaka GPS.

Matamaka recently welcomed some guests from the Peace Corps Safety and Security staff in Fiji and Tonga. What can I say? The community was super excited over the news that palangis (foreigners) were going all the way out to Matamaka for a visit. As a result, an emergency PTA meeting was called and preparations were underway to roll out the"red" carpet, Matamaka style.

It all started with a massive clean up of the school grounds. I have been here for awhile now and I had never seen so many Matamaka people mobilized to clean up the school. It was awesome. I took the liberty in weeding the school garden, while others mowed the lawn, washed the windows or trimmed the many trees surrounding the property. The school was exceptionally clean afterwards.
PHOTO: Dave and Helen talking with village chiefof Matamaka.

Upon the arrival of Dave and Helen, the villagers were up and about preparing food very early in the morning. The men had spent the previous evening fishing and collecting fresh lobsters. The 'umu (earth oven) was already started by the time I went to school. Futhermore, all the grass and bushes in the village were trimmed to perfection. I even found flags hung all across my front yard. Wow, what can I say? Matamakans are very proud of their village and it truly showed that day.
PHOTO: The children getting ready for their performance.

I was pleased that Dave, Helen, and the other guests had an excellent time in Matamaka. After a traditional kava drinking ceremony, food was presented to our guests. During their meal, the children performed a traditional sitting dance. The kids were all dressed up in traditional Tongan wear. it was shortly followed by the presentation of gifts from the children to the guests. I believe, Dave and Helen were overwhelmed with the generosity and hospitality of the Matamaka people. I myself, couldn't believe all the work they did to prepare for this day. I can only imagine what they will do when I leave here in November.

PHOTOS: The dance and gift presentation.

In the end, I personally thanked all the members of the PTA for all their hard work and really emphasized it wasn't really all that necessary. In response, I was told it was the "Matamaka way" and they wouldn't have done it any other way. Man, Matamakans, they are going to make it very hard for me to leave this place in November!

Nuapapu and Matamaka Gift Shop and more...

PHOTO: The view of Matamaka GPS from Nuapapu village.

What is it? It's more like where is it? Nuapapu is actually the only other village on my island. It's about a thirty minute hike from Matamaka. The hike is absolutely wonderful! There are still some primitive jungle that hasn't been cleared for agriculture, so the vegetation is quite amazing. The only thing missing are monkeys jumping on the trees!

The village itself is a little bigger than Matamaka, but the lifestyle is pretty much the same (no running water, electricity etc.). Regardless, the village has a very nice charm to it. There is an excellent view of Matamaka GPS from Nuapapu GPS. Furthermore, the principal and his wife have started a small business selling Tongan arts and crafts from the school to the tourists/yachties who venture in the village. It is such a great idea that my school will start making souvenirs to sell also. We are still looking at various options for things to make before the tourist season starts in late April/early May. All the proceeds from the souvenirs will be used to help pay for school supplies and petr
ol for the school generator. What a great idea, eh? I will let you know as we work up a more solid business plans.
PHOTOS: The typical scenes of a hike to Nuapapu.

On a random side note, I will start helping out at Nuapapu GPS with the Class 6 Secondary Exam Entrance. I will first start on Saturdays and eventually go before school starting the second term. I was a bit hesistant at first, because I was told that I am the "Matamaka" Peace Corps and not the "Nuapapu" Peace Corps. "Your responsibility is Matamaka and why would you want to help the other village?"--someone from Matamaka told me. Why not? They are all children of Vava'u right? I am using my "free" time to help out the other kids, which does not altar or compromise my obligations at Matamaka. (Sigh). Let's hope it all goes smoothly and I don't terribly upset too many people with helping the "other" kids. Regardless, I get a good workout hiking to Nuapapu everytime I visit. Two birds with one stone (exercise and helping out more kids= AWESOME!)
PHOTOS: The Matamaka kids collecting shells to make gifts for sale in the future.

How to make a boat, literally

PHOTO: Tika 'atu vaka fo'ou. Cool, new boat.

The Wesleyan church members of Matamaka have been very busy constructing an official chruch boat for the past month. I am very impressed how quickly they have put the boat together. I literally saw a pile of wood turned into legit floating vessel. It is quite amazing how the local community got together to construct, what I would refer to as a piece of art. This is a great addition to Matamaka "naval" fleet, which is great for everyone because there are more options on which boat to take to town. It is not finish yet, but they almost done. Keep up the good work peeps!

PHOTOS: Workin' up a sweat building a boat.

First day of school 2011

PHOTO: Matamaka GPS students and staff 2011.

Wow, I couldn't believe it's that time of year again. Where did summer go? We officially opened for learning at Matamaka GPS on January 31. We have a ton of new faces this year, including a new principal! Her name is Pitisi and she joins our staff from Leimatu'a GPS. She is very excited to work in the outer-island for the first time. Ma'asi and I are very grateful to have her join our team.

Great news, Matamaka GPS was ranked in the TOP 3 Government Primary Schools in Vava'u in the 2010 academic year. We had a 100% passing rate with the Secondary Entry Exam last October. All my Class six students literally rocked their exams. A special shout-out to our former principal Soane for his hard work and dedication with the students. He has been transferred to the main land this year (He also added another beautiful baby girl during the holiday break--congrats!). We will miss him dearly, but we wish him best of luck at Pangaimotu GPS.

We have approximately twenty total students this year. We are still waiting on a couple students to return from Tongatapu. Regardless, I am super pumped for this year. There is a new syllabus and I definetly feel more comfortable with how things function at the school. Furthermore, the students all know me by now and are comfortble speaking some faka-palangi (English) with me.

PHOTOS: Lolo being launched at the Neiafu wharf.

Here are some photos of the official Ministry of Education boat getting ready to take my new principal and outer-island staff to our individual sites--thank you EU for the generous donation of the boat. Ma'asi will be teaching the Class 4-6 this year and he will do great. It is a big step from teaching Class 1-3 since it will be his responsibility to ensure each students do well with the exams in October. Lastly, I want to give a quick shout out to Kathy Beck, a RPCV, for her kind donations of school supplies from Tongatapu. The children love the new letter blocks and art supplies! Malo 'aupito!
PHOTO: The children trying to figure out the new letter blocks from Kathy.