28 March 2010

Back at Work for Two Weeks

We arrived back in 'Eua on Friday the 19th as planned, and boy is it good to be back. We are only back for two weeks though, because at the beginning of April, we have our "Inter-Service Training" or IST. During that training, there will be sessions on business, 4 hour intensive language classes, and a training on grant-writing. We're both looking forward to seeing everyone, but it's a shame to have to go back to Tongatapu again so soon after getting home. We enjoyed our mini-forced-vacation in town, but the novelty of Nuku'alofa is quickly exhausted. The best part of being in town was shopping for things we can't get in 'Eua, and seeing other volunteers, and we did both exhaustively. It was very good to see the other volunteers and to have supper with some of them. It was a good way to catch up and get new ideas for things that we are working on in 'Eua.

Coming back, we had to leave a couple bags in town for the office to ship over to us on the boat because we had stocked up on dry goods like beans and muesli. Elena was able to buy a new hand-crank sewing machine which she proudly carried with her on the flight. It has gotten quite a bit of use both in town before we left and as soon as we got back home. She has been able to make herself a few new clothes which she desperately needed for work. (When we were packing to come to Tonga, everything we saw said to just bring a couple sets of professional clothing, but because Elena works at Hango, she's in professional dress every day, and so was wearing sunday outfits, etc.)

Co-pilot Elena

Coming in for a landing over the Niuan villages

Flying over 'Eua

'Ohonua from afar

The beach of Tongatapu as we are leaving
On the flight back from Tonga to 'Eua, Elena got to sit in the co-pilot's seat on the shortest commercial flight in the world. She was able to get some fantastic pictures of the flight and of 'Eua as we were landing.

Back at Work

We've been back at school for a week now, and have been slowly getting back into the rhythm of life here. On Saturday, we were able to go to the first fruits 'Ufi (yam) harvest at Hango, which is an important event wherever you are in Tonga. Every time you harvest the 'ufi, there's a ceremony in which everyone involved in farming the plot of land and sometimes your neighbours, comes and digs up the biggest 'ufi from each row. They give this 'ufi to the school, or the landowner as a thank you for using the land. 'Ufi is the favourite root crop in Tonga, and takes 6 months to mature, so it's a delicacy. We went to the fields behind the school up the hill, and everyone was already there digging up yams. There was also an 'umu (underground oven) already made and smoking, getting food ready for the feast once they were done with the harvest. After a few hours, everyone came to sit down, and the pigs and yams that had been cooking in the 'umu were pulled out and cut up. The yams in Tonga are not dense at all, and taste delicious when cooked in the 'umu, and with a side of pig to go with it, it was just about as good as it gets for a picnic in the bush. I was then sent home with a whole 'ufi and another side of a piglet for myself even though we hadn't been part of the planting. We'll be enjoying 'ufi for a few days now.

And on that note, I'll tell you how we use 'ufi with other dishes besides picnics in the bush. I made up a curry with pele (A local green leafy vegetable) and hamhock (from town) and some of the delicious Capetown Masala mix I picked up in Seattle last time we were there. I then sliced up the yam into thin round slices and ate it with the curry. Delicious. You can also used the 'ufi like mashed potatoes with excellent results, or cube it and use it in stews, or as the starch side with your meal. The taste is great.

Peace Corps get-togethers

One of the weekly events that we have enjoyed has been the tea that we all get together for every week. One afternoon a week, all the volunteers gather at someone's house to have tea and treats and talk about our weeks or just catch up with eachother. There's a lot of good conversation to be had and it's pleasant as it draws us all together as a group so we can better support and work together.

We also have gotten together a couple of times at our house, which has been very fun. Most recently, everyone came over with pizza makings and we made a mexican pizza with black beans, an eggplant pizza with mozzarella, and an eggplant, ham, and bean pizza with mushrooms...eclectic but tasty. We all had a great time, took a bunch of pictures, met a visiting friend of one of the volunteers, and then had cake and ice cream.

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