Saturday, August 13, 2011

Close of Service Conference (YIPPEE!!!)

Photo: Group photo of the PC Tonga COS Conference Group Pic.

We made it! Group 75 just wrapped up our Close of Service (COS) conference in Tongatapu from August 9-11th. The event happened at the beautiful Liku'alofa Beach Resort on the Western Side of Tongatapu island. The entire conference will be the last time most of us volunteers will see each other before leaving Tonga. Our Programming Director also wrapped up her service in Tonga that same week. We have more than half of the original volunteers still here in Tonga (which is an amazing number for Tonga!).

Photo: One of the sessions during the COS conference and candle light ceremony.

The COS conference provided important information about being a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). Sessions were held concerning international job opportunities, reconnecting back to US culture, and other fairly important topics. We also received our estimated value of a return ticket to our home of record. I was amazed $100 TOP flight difference between Cedar Rapids, IA and people flying into LAX?!?! Regardless, it was time to reflect and celebrate our service here in Tonga as it draws to a close.

Photo: Team Fanga'e'olunga, the only village during PST that survived the entire two years.

During the week we enjoyed a delightful Tongan floor show and buffet. The food was absolutely delicious. The resort offered an assortment of authentic Tongan dishes from the roasted pig to 'ota ika or raw fish. YUM! Throughout the week, the kitchen staff conjured up other scrumptious dishes from chicken curry to beef and mushrooms. Furthermore, the tree top bar at the resort offered a spectacular view of the ocean and classic South Pacific sunsets. We were lucky enough to see a few humpback whales swimming over the horizon on one of the days.

Photo: Team Vava'u Volunteers. From the top left going clockwise: Ashley- Melifihi College; Carolyn- Tailulu College; Dominica- 'Utungake GPS; Kelly- Channel College; Robert- Vava'u High School; and me- Matamaka GPS.

Now that COS is over, reality is starting to sink in. Most of PCVs will be in the process of finishing up our primary and secondary projects, packing up our houses, and saying our goodbyes very soon. It is mind boggling how fast the two years have flown by. Yes, it seemed slow at many points, but I can't believe we've been here for so long. As for me, I have begun the process of job hunting. If anyone is interested in hiring a RPCV, particularly me, let me know :)

****Photo credits to PCV John O'Malley of Tailulu College Ha'apai. Google "John outside the lines" for his PC blog.****


Wanted: Calculators (anytype--new or used)

Where: Matamaka GPS, Kingdom of Tonga

When: At your convenience

How: Please send us any calculators to Matamaka GPS.
Addressed to:
Matamaka GPS
P.O. BOX 136
Neiafu, Vava'u
Kingdom of Tonga

Why: A special request from the head principal as we do not have a sufficient amount of calculators available to both staff and students. Any help would be much appreciated. Malo 'aupito. ***If mailing from the US, please use a standard flat rate box as it will be the cheapest option to mail stuff to Tonga. Malo 'aupito--'Ofa 'atu!

Back to Matamaka! 23 months and going...

Photo: My students preparing an awesome art project for the library.

I am finally back in Tonga! The last month has been a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs, but in the end I am happy to back. I was officially "medically cleared" from Peace Corps Office of Medical Services the 29th of July and flew back to Tonga that next Sunday. The flight back was a bit crazy, since I almost missed my flight connection to LAX from Dallas. I had two minutes to make it to the D terminal and arrived to my gate with the gate door already closed and "Washington Dulles" on the TV monitor. I was lucky enough they were still fueling the airplane and they let me in. I loved how everyone stared me down for causing the plane to be delayed as I walked down the aisle to the back of the plane. Woops.

Photo: Tina painting away.

The flight to Fiji and Tonga were more pleasant than going to America. My little TV screen actually worked and I wasn't sitting next to the toilets. A woman next to me named Sia was a Tongan and was very interested with the Peace Corps. She was nice enough to offer me a lift to the Peace Corps office in Nuku'alofa. I had a nice package from 'Eseta Schaaf a Tongan residing in Salt Lake City, Utah. She had sent numerous school supplies and goodies. THANK YOU!!!! In addition, she had informed me that she is doing fundraising project to help purchase recycling containers for VEPA--an environmental NGO in Vava'u. Good on her!

Photo: The new school supplies from Salt Lake City, UTAH

A couple of weeks ago, we also had some members of the Australian Police visit Matamaka GPS for motivational speech to the students to carry on with their studies in the future. One of the police officer was actually a Matamaka native who studied at Matamaka GPS a long time ago. During their visit they informed us that they are sponsoring five Class 6 students scholarships for their entire high school studies. We only have four students graduating this year, so another person will chosen within the community. This is GREAT NEWS!

Photo: The students with the Aussie Police Officer.

On another note, Ma'asi's older brothers Samiu and his two sons are visiting Vava'u. Samiu married a Japanese volunteer and they all currently reside in Japan. The two boys are so cute! They do not speak English and understand very little Tongan. It is amazing watching the Tongan kids interact with them. Sayonara!

Photos: The Japanese/Tongan boys and the students from Matamaka.