[Note: I wrote this over two months ago - it's as relevant now as it was then. I will get caught up eventually.]
If I could turn back time...I wouldn't change a thing.
Twenty six intrepid Peace Corps trainees arrived in Nuku’alofa just a little over two weeks ago and I think I can say for all that our lives were transformed.
We are living with families who have given up their daily routine to take care of us, feed us and teach us the Tongan way of living. The food we’ve had since then has been nothing short of startling at times, but I soon learned to say ifo ‘aupito because most of it is just that - (very delicious). Lots of chicken, some beef and, if we are really lucky, some spit roasted pig. I’m still not used to the boiled breadfruit, but the ota ika is nothing short of amazing and I was never one for a lot of raw fish. And, I introduced my home-stay Mom, Kailua, to the Knapp family favorite banana bread and, in spite of no measuring cups/spoons, it was a huge hit. We have standing orders for more from the family and Tongan Peace Corps staff.
It’s actually very difficult to focus on any one thing right now – my mind is full and everything is swirling. Throw in all the language, culture, medical and safety/security training we’ve been having, I’m not surprised it’s now 2:30 am and I can’t quiet my brain until I get some of this processed. We have one house in the village with Internet and I am going to attempt and post this in a few hours.
I do want to take a minute and tell you about Panise. This little powerhouse 5 year old has captured my heart and no matter where I go in the village, he and his bicycle seem to appear – “Tevita, Tevita…fefe hake?“
We speak most in sign language and mime motions right now, but my little friend has come to represent what I know so far of Tonga and it’s people – he’s self assured, confident, living life his way, in touch with certain parts of the ‘modern’ world but only using the parts that seem to make sense to him and he laughs with the biggest smile and brightest eyes you can never imagine.
In the end, isn’t that what life is all about?