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.