Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Visit to Neverland

I always knew that Iowa City was a sort of neverland for me. I finally made a trip out to Iowa City after having been back in Iowa for some time, I promised some friends but more promised myself to visit this little city, where I fell in and out of love and lust with the my ideas of the world as presented to me through my Iowa City encounters, primarilarly to gage who had changed more, the town or me. I knew the answer but my heart skipped anyway as I came back into the liberal town's heart that swept me off my feet with art and academics, enthralled me with its transient people and their tales and seduced me with music and whiskey. In this university town lost boys are found, people ink their heartaches and dreams on their skin for all the world to see and survive on a steady diet of drugs and literature. One could feel their soul fly during motorcycle rides on back country roads only to deny that soul again that same night drowining it in 2 dollar you call its. Your inspiration could be found deep in a book on a street corner only to be laughed at by a hairy man who has lived homeless in this town longer than you could ever call it home. I saw this man again yesterday. You might know him and have your own stories but for me... I settled down on a bench in the quaint pedestrian mall on my first day of classes in Iowa City to enjoy my fountain coke and read whatever book I had gotten myself wrapped into. I look across when the man hacks onto the ground to find him flossing between his toes with a grimy sock on the bench straight in front of me. Best welcome wagoon ever but I suppose it serves me right for reading in his living room. This visit to Iowa City was much like running into an old lover after some time has past. I recognized the traits that captivated me and blushed at the memories but it was obvious to me that I could never love you the way someone new could now. So Iowa City, captivate someone new and make them love you, teach them to see the irony of the world and inspire them to leave you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

As a pre-pubescent, I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I would choose to investigate the noise or wander into the maze of mirrors and flip with anticipation and confidence to the page destination I had chosen. If I found, however, that my path led me to death or the unexpected end of my story, I would cheat, going back to explore the other path. You know you did too. Presently, I feel much like I am living on of these stories with far less immediate danger and scary clowns. I have recently made the choice to resign from my service and return to the states. There are numerous reasons behind my choice. I could fill this page detailing all the factors playing into my decision but it simply comes down to my reevaluation of what I valued and I felt too inaccessible to my family. My grandpa's death allowed me to look at my commitment to service in a different light. Sharing in the joys and sorrows of the lives of those I love is far more valuable to me than the life I saw laid out for me in Tonga. I appreciate all of those who have been so supportive of my choices. I hope to account more of my experiences in Tonga in this blog and the way they affect my transition to life back in America. And unlike my Adventure Books, I cannot flip back and begin again but I do not believe that my path back to America has ended my story sooner than expected. My roamin' is far from finished.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

School Daze

I am having a wonderfully, frustrating, shocking, rewarding, all of the above experience in the classroom at the so-called Inclusive Education Pilot Classroom in 'NGele'ia. The school system is an entire upside down perspective of American school systems and I'm not sure I will ever really get it but I am playing along. The students are quickly crawling into my heart and, although, I speak very little Tongan and we communicate in a "Tonglish", hand-gestural, sign language mix I think we are starting to get each other. The classroom is musty, dirty and hot. It is entirely disorganized and brings out my own learning disabilities, such as my inability to function successfully in a cluttered evironment and my calves and ankles get knawed daily by the mosquitoes breeding in the storage cupboard. I am working to organize and make the resources able to be used by the class teachers to the point that I might pull out all of my hair but it is a few prize moments with the students that keep me above ground. Moments like these: Tu'ifua had to use the restroom one morning during morning tea, so we walked to the outhouse together. I stood outside waiting, and waiting, I finally asked a few boys to check on him. They laughed and said he was still "sai" and on the toilet. I called Tu'ifua's name and said,"vave" "hurry up" and he poked his little goofy head out grinning and went back in. A few moments later he came out to meet me in the school yard holding his pants and underwear in his hand. I gasped and laughed and instructed him to but them back on. Tu'ifua just shyly grinning trying to cover his face with his pants he was holding and said that they weren't clean. I didn't see anything wrong with them. The principal came over and began instructing him in English to do the same. We finally convinced him to put his pants back on. I held them while he stepped into them and pulled them up and then he just skipped back to the classroom without a care. Another day, I was attempting to scold a student who is deaf on being a bully in the bits of sign-language I know, sitting on the cement ledge outside of the classroom. The conversation consisted mostly of head shaking and I felt defeated by my attempt to model discipline without physical hitting by the time I sent Makisi back to go pray with the rest of the class at the end of the day. I sat on the step a moment longer, just breathing, when Mahina a student with behavioral issues, withdrawl, etc. let go of her grandmother's hand to walk up to me and give me a kiss on the forehead. That's okay, you can say it,"Awww."

Tonga's Best Dance Crew

Need I really say more? Yes, I suppose so. A few weeks ago, I witnessed the televised, on one of Tonga's three channels, Tonga's Best Dance Crew finals. I actually attended all of the episodes live in Queen Salote Hall. The hip-hop dance crew competition was based on the oh-so-popular America's Best Dance Crew but add a little crunk and some ta'ulunga flavor. It was obvious by most crews attire that they were attempted to emmulate the winners of America's Best Dance Crew, the Jabawokies (in case you were not a sesson follower) because they pretty consistantly wore white gloves and sometimes masks. The show was a riot, full of stage-hogging, show-stealing, chair- throwin' school rivalery fights and some rappers from New Zealand that kinda looked like Snoop Dogg and weren't very good. I was genuinely impressed by the dancing, God knows I can't crunk, ever, but I was severly disappointed by the pantomiming portions of the mixes. There were very few female dancers so I was thrilled when one group came out with three. The girls weren't all that skilled but up there doing something so I am all about the ladies but then their mix breaks off into this pieced together sound effects thing that seemed to be popular. There was the sound of a baby crying, so one of the female dancers pretended to be the baby, while another girl held her in her arms as her mother. A male dancer stood over them, center stage, with a bottle looking distressed to the sound of a shot gun cocking and then pantomimed shooting the baby and slapping the faux-mother. Then they started dancing again. Everyone just laughed and laughed. I sat with my jaw on the floor. Sigh to the lightening of domestic violence. Luckily that crew didn't receive enough votes to make it to the next level.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'd mentioned the dog, Suke, in a previous blog that belonged to my landlord's family. Suke has since disappeared and when the family returned from their holiday on Vava'u, the youngest boy wondered the neighborhood for a whole day calling the dog's name. It was so disheartening. I helped in the search and when Suke was no where to be found, we chalked up his loss as being picked up as the main course for a Uike Lotu feast. The boy's mother gave him money to buy a coke and a lolly from the falekaloa and he seems to be doing fine. Suke, you will be missed and in the end, I suppose you served a greater good.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

...turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese....

Ok I don't really think so but I do think that I am majorly impressed by the JICA, Japanese volunteer organization in the Pacific, that I have met. One of my co-workers has Japanese heritage, which is very rare for Tongans, and frequently hosts the Japanese volunteers. She was hosting a dinner this past weekend and thought to invite me. The Japanese volunteers cooked Japanese food (I helped, sort of "I carried a watermelon", or cut the fish into pieces, whatever) while they asked me about American t.v.(Everyone loves our tv, especially ANTM. Tyra has truly taken over the world) and bantered in Japanese, English and Tongan. Truly bilingual people blow me away. I would laugh awkwardly at the punch lines delivered in English until someone decided to translate for me. We sat down to a dinner of shashimi, misou soup, rice and vegetables and the Japanese couldn't help but seriously doubt my skills with chop sticks and handed me a fork. I set the fork asided and displayed my well-practiced sushi bar skills, most were impressed but then dropped cabbaged on my lap. Ah well, silly palangi. Before our night cap of green tea, my co-worker busted out her Casio electric keyboard to initiate some karoke. It worked and soon I was performing a duet of "A Whole New World" and learning Japanese pre-school songs.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Ah... Home, Sweet, ! Jesus, Mary and Joseph, What is that?!"

The Friday after swearing-in I was able to move all of my stuff into my house and finally begin life outside of a suitcase. I live in the village Longolongo, which is, essentially, a "suburb" of Nuku'alofa. There is a Weslayn Church across the drive from me where frequent services are held; particualarly now since Uike Lotu, Week of Prayer, is coming up, and the men drink kava and play ping pong nightly. The house I live in has a kitchen (yes I have a stove and a fridge. I am definitely a "city girl")/ main room, a bed room and a bathroom with running water. ( Once again, spoiled. Sometimes the water is even warm because the pipes get heated by the sun but that happens to be the time when you really don't want warm water.)The place is attached to the landlord's house. There is a thin door seperating the bedrooms but he and his family live at the Theological college campus so I have the property all to myself. Suke, the dog, came with the house. The land owner asked if I wouldn't mind taking care of him when he gave me the keys and I said,"sure." Of course, he kind of takes care of himself. It is definitely survival of the fittest for the dogs on these streets. Suke is, however, the sweetest dog I have encountered in Tonga. He isn't really use to humans speaking to him in the manner that I do, or petting him, so initially when I would get close to him and coo at him, he would get so excited that he would piddle on himself and being male, almost get me most of the time. I moved in to my home with the realization that this will be my first residence where I will be living alone, yet I have discovered a handful of various "flatmates" if you will, and I must say I've had better. I technically considered myself renting the place from the termites. They were here first and they have definitely settled themselves in. The ants are actually entertaining as they march various patterns on the walls and the least of my concerns, as Duane's baby powder trick really works. The millipedes like to die in the shower drain, I am not sure why and the mosquitoes are well, this is Tonga. The smoke from the mosquito coils actually make my place feel a bit mystical to me, like an odd smelling incense. The momocho or geckos also add to the mystic feel since they make noises like mini raptures and I can pretend that there are dinasours in the walls. The cat likes to mess with the coachroaches, which fly when it rains, and carry them around in her mouth. (They are too big to actually fit in her mouth) I am currently cat-sitting and taking care of a kitten whom I call "Cougar". She is wonderful but also a piddler. And then there is the maulikou, or Lucifer's centipedes. These bugs are straight out of hell and sting like hornets. Cougar tried to go after one that was on my curtains but it hissed at her and she ran away with her ears pulled back. Okay not really, but it did beat her in combat. So I came at it with a can of roach spray. The beast curled up, making me feel that I had delivered the "one-two punch", and then came at me, fast! I continued spraying and ran for a weapon. I began pounding at it with a hammer. The spray finally slowed its movements enough that I struck it, right in the middle. I then proceded to pummel it. Success. The hell creature was dead.