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11 ‘o Tisema:
It’s Friday evening and we are celebrating the end of training. 11 ‘o Tisema (December 11) is the date on all our calendars we’ve been anxious to get past, because it’s the day of the dreaded OPI: the Oral Proficiency Exam, the conclusion of our pre-service language training. The test involved an interview in Tongan with one of the language trainers. We were required to answer a variety of questions and to engage in a shopping dialogue; the interview took about 20 minutes and was tape recorded. It will be scored by a committee of language trainers. While we have all been assured that this is not a pass or fail test (nobody will be going home for performing poorly), how we perform will determine how much additional language tutoring we will be required to do over the next three months. But more importantly, while we do have more classes next week on Peace Corps policies, some medical training, and more on community integration strategies, pre-service training is OVER!
Our “swearing-in” ceremony is Wednesday mid-day, then we move into our house later that afternoon. We toured our house today and met our landlord; it’s small, has one bedroom, a big bath (with sink!), and a square living room/kitchen. The really good news is that it features ceramic tile floors throughout, a rarity in Tonga, and looks to be in good shape. We have a big covered front porch which will likely be a favorite hangout spot. And it comes with a few pieces of decent furniture. The bad news is it comes with no appliances (typical for Tonga).
So, of course, our next task was to start shopping. The first items were cleaning supplies (Kathy is determined to keep the cockroaches, rats, and other assorted pests at bay). The next items were appliances, including sitou (stove), ‘aisi (refrigerator), i (fan), tipoti (electric teapot for heating water for drinking), and a toaster oven. We also signed up for internet service, which is being offered now until December 15 with no hook-up charge, normally about $150. So we’ll be pretty much set with the necessary basics when we move in. We’ll hit the local Saturday flea markets tomorrow and see what we find for kitchenware, etc. Basically a good excuse to check out our bicycles (purchased from a couple who have finished their service) and start getting to know our new home town.
This evening we enjoyed a collaborative dinner with several of our Peace Corps colleagues. Using fresh ingredients from the local markets we created a variety of tasty dishes, including a Filipino dish called pinak-bet, sunomono ( a marinated cucumber salad), a Japanese appetizer made with spinach and sesame seeds, and a lovely fresh fruit salad made with the glorious Tongan faina (pineapple). By candlelight, we shared stories of our individual world travels—from Russia (with love?) to the Amazon to Africa to Cambodia to Japan to Greece to Jordan, we covered the world, well, except for Antarctica. No doubt, one of our number will trek to the frozen continent (koniteniti) before long.
Most of the young trainees are dressing up and heading out for a night at the “Billfish,” a local club. Me, I’m having a beer then heading to bed. I plan to sleep very well.