28 September 2010

Bobbing in the Tongan ocean

Unedited colours of beach and water
After a year of living in the Pacific, we finally felt like we were on a Pacific island. You know, the kind drenched with hot colour, a palm tree lazily arching out over immaculate white sands, clear water like an aquarium flitting about with vibrant, multi-coloured fish.

We were in Vava'u, on the tiny island of 'Ofu. Tonga is composed of five main island groups:

13 September 2010

The Peace Corps Experience: The Next Generation

Yesterday, I filled in teaching for a volunteer friend and taught a session on an alternative economic model, coined "Buddhist Economics" by E.F. Shumacher. It has little to do with Siddharta or nirvana, and more with countries culturally influenced by Buddhism trying to find a culturally appropriate way to run economics. One of the main ideas is that work is not purely to produce things to make money, but to help the worker develop personally and learn how to work with and within a larger group.

To relate the concepts to life, at the end of the class, I gave a personal example of the crazy choice to join Peace Corps right after getting an MBA, and quite truthfully said "it is not at all a sacrifice for me to come work in Tonga." The students' eyes nearly popped out of their heads!

A lot of people assume that Peace Corps is a certain way: noble, self-sacrificing people leaving it all behind to live among throngs of starving children in the middle of nowhere -- or, The Peace Corps Experience.

(You may be able to substitute in governmental circles

09 September 2010

Wearing Sunday Best to work

My best outfit given me by
an 'Eua neighbor, which I found out
later in the day was a hand-me-down
formal uniform from Air Fiji. I love it!
Last week, I put on my best pule taha and kiekie, and left extra early to walk down the road to work; September 1st was the 33rd anniversary of Tonga Development Bank. The day before, everyone got emailed with special instructions: we were to wear our “Sunday best” that day, in the form of a tailored, matching pule taha, and a special kind of ta’ovala. The work day would go as normal, except for a special anniversary worship service held before work at 8:30.

The brass band
It takes around 10 minutes to walk from our house to downtown, so I left at what I thought was ridiculously early 8AM, thinking that I would be one of the first to arrive. To my surprise and initial horror, when I

03 September 2010

You're not in Bangladesh anymore

What do the bustling, crowded, aromatic streets of Bangladesh have in common with Tonga’s tiny tropical capital? Grameen microfinance, of course.

Throughout the past ten years, giving small loans to low-income individuals slowly became the new vogue in development, and even gained popularity in the global downturn in the US.

It's an intriguing development tool, because at its best, microfinance gives
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