Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy on Ha'apai?

Update,October 24
We did get our site assignments as expected, but there were some last minute changes to some of the other trainees' assignments. However everyone seems pleased, and quite a few of us are in Pangai today (Saturday)celebrating and catching up with internet business.

October 23, 2009
It’s about 6 p.m., the end of a long training day, and we have dance practice tonight to (finally) begin learning the ma’ulu’ulu for our culture day dance. So far today the location for the practice has changed twice, so we’ll see where (and if) the practice actually happens. Since this activity has been placed in the hands or our fa’e (host mothers) we have no control over how this will proceed.

We all had interviews this week with the placement staff and program managers to discuss our placement. While many of us have a fairly clear idea of what they will be doing, some do not, so the announcement tomorrow of our site assignments will be welcome by everyone. Kathy learned that her assignment will be different than what we first thought; she appears slated to be assigned to one of the larger primary schools in Nuku’alofa as a mentor teacher. My assignment as an Economics Instructor at the ‘Atenisi Institute still looks like a go. By the time I post this (hopefully tomorrow) we’ll have confirmation and I’ll post a link.

The really good news this week is that most everyone is basically healthy. My asthma has kicked up thanks to all the mold and smoke from cooking and rubbish fires, and I’m now using an inhaler to control the bronchial spasms that come with that. Other than that we’re doing fine.

We had a contest today—“Last Trainee Standing”-- to see which trainee had been the most successful at some of the activities and skills we are learning as part of our acculturation process. We all started standing up and as the activities were read we were required to sit down if we could not say we had done it. I had to sit when I could not say that I had not “flashed,” that no one had seen my shorts that I wear under my tupenu (mid-calf length skirt) when sitting on the floor. This a very difficult task for most of the guys to master. Other skills were consistently dressing in our Tongan garb (tupenu, ta’ovala, kiekie), helping a child in our home with their lessons, helping with household tasks, eating with the family (which is very difficult, as they want to make sure we are well fed before they have any food). Kathy ended up being the last woman standing, and her prize was a cell phone! (Now we just have to figure out how to use it!)

We also spent time learning various other things, like how to kill the molokau the dreaded stinging centipede we will sometimes encounter in our home, how to dress a coral wound, how to wash clothes by hand, and other useful tasks. We wished we had learned earlier that we should not give our underpants to our host fa’e when she asks for our laundry, that it is considered very bad form to have underpants hanging from the clothesline outdoors. Now we know why there are all those underpants hanging up in the bath!

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