October 20, 6:30 p.m.
Day 2 of Week 2 of our training in Faleloa. The weather is great, warm, mostly sunny, not too humid. Today in language training we started learning some basic grammar, so it doesn’t feel like we’re just memorizing words and phrases and starting to learn how to put our thoughts into sentences. Hard work, but with some organization the language is starting to make more sense.
Tomorrow begins our introduction to the schools, and I will be going to Ha’apai High School to observe some classes tomorrow morning. More on that in my next post.
Yesterday we took the afternoon for our “trainee directed activity” session and walked out to Sandy Beach, where I did a little snorkeling for the first time on the reef. Absolutely gorgeous, many typical reef fish, lots of coral. I’m definitely looking forward to doing more of this when we have free time. Mostly we sat in the shade and prepared for our cross cultural session today and started planning our activities for culture day. More on that, too, in a later post, although later this evening I’m told we have our first dance practice, led by the fa’e, our host mothers. It’s a sitting dance involving both men and women.
Various of us PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) have had bouts of sickness. Themost serious was one of our Faleloa women who apparently suffered a bout of heat exhaustion and had to go to the hospital early this morning to get some treatment including intravenous fluids. We are keeping our Peace Corps Medical Officer very busy, and she is not getting much sleep.
8:45 p.m. Another frustration related to Tongan planning. After discovering that our planned dance practice could not be held at the town hall due to a previously scheduled youth meeting, we heard several different ideas about where it would be held, and ended up being directed to go to the makelui’s house. We arrived and were greeted pleasantly by the makelui, his wife, and the fellow PCT residing there, all of whom knew nothing about a dance practice. So we headed back home; soon after we arrived a young boy arrived to tell us to go the makelui’s house for dance practice. I’ve retired to my room to regain some perspective and finish this entry.
Have I described Faleloa yet? This is the northernmost village on Foa, which is connected to the main Ha’apai island of Lifuki by a causeway. I would guess there are maybe 500 or 600 people here, three or four small stores operated basically out of homes, 5 churches (Wesleyan, 3 Churches of Tonga of various identities, and a big Mormon Church), a small wharf which supports the local fishing and a taxi service to the island of Ha’ano, and a primary school. About a mile north on the Northern end of Foa are two small resorts and the lovely beach I’ve described earlier. Aside from the Mormon Church grounds and maybe two or three fairly nice homes roughly comparable to ‘50s ranchers most homes appear to be quite rundown and poorly maintained. The lack of supplies, parts, and any kind of reliable outside support makes maintenance and upkeep difficult. For example, since the ferry Princess Ashika sank in August there has been no one willing to transport propane to the island, so any home (which is most of them) that relies on propane to power their stoves and ranges has not been able to use them. All the cooking in our house occurs on an open fire outside or in an electric skillet.