FEBRUARY 2003, via letter:
Yesterday Corey and Jonathan (the couple who has
been serving here and who will return to America in March) came
back from the capital with our puppy! He is so cute. We named him
Finnerty after our favorite New York City hangout. He is a 7-week-old
all-black lab-looking dog. We love him to death although he is very
"fakahela" (commonly used Tongan word meaning nuisance).
We are trying very hard to train him but thus far we have just done
a lot of mopping of our house. We hope he soon catches on. We are
raising Finnerty as a bilingual dog.
On a sadder note, a young Nomukan, Davite, died
while diving for fish this week off the coast here. He was 24 and
in great shape so it is a mystery as to what caused his death. People
seem to think he got a stomach cramp and was pulled out by the riptide.
The ocean can get scary here due to very big waves and an extremely
Tongan funerals ("putu") start almost
immediately after a death and last up to 10 days. We were woken
up at 4:30 am by a neighbor and told to dress in all black and meet
over at the principal of Justin's school's house to go over the
putu. We were given the traditional putu tavala to wear (longer
than the everyday tavalalength corresponds with how closely
the attendant is related to the deceased). Our friends also gave
us a piece of fabric to bring to the mother of Davite.
We arrived at the house and outside of the door
a tarp was set up where at least 100 had gathered and had been there
all night singing and praying. When we entered the house we presented
the fabric to Davite's mother and took a seat next to her. Davite's
body was in the middle of the room, covered by only a blanket. As
people entered they kissed his cheek and sat next to him for as
long as they wished, then joined the crowd outside. The family for
the next 3 or 4 days was constantly frying up dough and serving
crackers and tea and people stayed theresleeping outside the
house at night and singing and praying all day. There was also a
team of men drinking kava and slaughtering pigs and cooking them
in the umu for a feast every day. It was a very sad few days here
in Nomuka because Davite was very loved. We have all been wearing
black for the week.
I began work this week also. It is teacher planning
week so I have been meeting with my principal and other staff members.
In the morning we listen to a 3 hour radio program in which different
government officials and teachers speak about the goals and strategies
for the upcoming year. The primary school system is very uniform
thus every student in classes throughout the kingdom is expected
to learn the same things.
I am going to be the school librarian, which I
am excited about. We're launching a "reading is fun" campaign.
My main goal is getting the students to also read in English and
enjoy it. At the end of the year the Grade 6 students are given
a national exam and if they don't pass the English portion they
are not allowed to enter secondary school. Also, how well they do
determines what school they enter.
We have a small school (approx. 50 students total)
and a great staff so I am really looking forward to working there.
Justin has also been preparing to teach at the secondary school
where he will be teaching general science and computers. We will
also do a lot of youth and community workour first project
being to get the movie theater started. I am going to write people
in LA and NYC to see if we can get a projector and some movie reels
We are going to start a video soona documentary
on Tevolo (devils). Apparently they are everywhere here and often
make young people "sick with the devil." Very bizarre
but very real to the Tongans. We use it to our advantagethere
are Tevolo beaches where they won't go, leaving us privacy.
We heard a radio story on Letio Tonga about the
Ministry of Tourism's new program to curb stray, vicious dogs. Besides
stating how "tourists often report and complain about being
bitten, even when on bicycle," the Ministry is concerned that
these people "will go home and tell their friends, who won't
want to come." They concluded with, "People in America
actually keep dogs as pets in their house and when they see the
dogs here left out to fend for themselves and be stoned by children
they will not think the friendly islands are so friendly."
APRIL 2003, via email
Justin and I are down in the capital for a week
leading a school field trip. It is really nice to be on the main
island. We have gone to our first restaurant, used our first flush
toilet and had our first REAL shower in over 3 months. It is a much-needed
break and now we both feel re-energized and ready to head back to
Nomuka next week. My job is going really well. The longer I teach,
the more comfortable I feel in front of the classroom. The children
I work with are so wide-eyed and beautiful and interested in learning,
it really makes my job here feel fulfilling and needed. I miss everyone
so much but Justin and I have been really great support for each
other. I think our marriage is going to be so strongif we
can live on a remote island with no luxuries at all for 2 years,
we can do anything!