22 February 2011

'Eua, 8 months later

Coming in on the flight to 'Eua
We just got back from a lightning work trip to 'Eua last week. A perk of both of our jobs is the occasional chance to travel to another island group to help a school better develop their computer lab, for Mark, or to help run village trainings and staff trainings, for me. We took the seven-minute flight on Tuesday through thunderclouds and turbulence, and arrived back to the island that still feels a little like home even after all these months.

Mark got to do way more visiting with people than I did, as my training schedule was relatively full, but it was fun to see people again and do a little catching up. Overall, 'Eua was almost exactly the same as when we left eight months ago. There are a few more churches, a few fewer Chinese groceries. Some kids were slightly bigger, some people slightly heavier, and the food tasted even better.

A TDB training in 'Eua
During the day, I helped run village trainings with my coworker, Folau, in which he ran a discussion and question time about the Bank's services, and then facilitated an exercise on good record keeping. A lot of people find these sessions hugely useful, because it is an easy way to get their questions answered, and helps people feel like they are working together with TDB- it being the only Tongan-owned and run bank here. We have a branch in 'Eua, but often people don't know they can go in and ask questions or receive help.

While I was helping with trainings, Mark was at our two former schools trying to get their computers into shape for this school-year. He's been helping schools get set up with the same thin client system that we started at Hango last year so that they have more work stations for the students to use. The system basically splits apart one hard drive so that 5 monitor/keyboard/mouse "stations" can run off of the same hard drive. This means huge savings in power and maintenance, aside from the savings in money when buying new computers. A school can pay for 10 computers and essentially get 50 computer workstations.

One thing that was not so fun was occasionally getting veiled guilt trips about leaving 'Eua from acquaintances. People who only heard that we were transferred tend to automatically assume that I decided to leave the school because I had decided I didn't like it (and somehow brought Mark with me... ? ... Doubly ironic because Peace Corps notoriously never switches someone's site because they just don't like it ... ) - rather than getting moved by Peace Corps administration because the job wasn't the same one they had agreed to when they first put me there. Although I had been getting very discouraged and frustrated before we left, we were always fully committed to serve the full two years at our jobs- and certainly had no intention of leaving because we weren't satisfied, and we told Peace Corps that. Even so, they thought it best to move us. So getting veiled lectures about the importance of "trying to work things out before you give up" added more pain to an already previously painful move.

We did have a lot of fun being back on the island, though. On the last night, we visited the new volunteer couple at Mark's old school. As we arrived, our friend Ki, Mark's old counterpart, drew me aside and said "I'm making an 'umu right now for you, and when it's finished, we'll bring you lu." This was at 6pm at night, and making an 'umu (an underground oven) is no easy task, usually reserved for early Sunday morning when energy is high. Sure enough, after about three hours of talking to volunteer couple, the 'umu was done, and Ki and his wife Tine brought the four of us a heaping plate of delicious lu (meat baked in taro leaves with coconut cream), with purple sweet potato and taro on the side. It was extra delicious, knowing that they went to the extra trouble, and even put carrots and tomatoes in it. We couldn't thank them enough.
An old picture of 'Oni but he still looks the same!

We also saw our old dog, 'Oni, who now lives under the house of a new volunteer couple at the high school, and who is just as stupid and friendly as ever. The guy of the couple, who's teaching math at the school, says that 'Oni loves to follow him on his bike through the other towns, but of course this leads to him getting a thorough thrashing as he passes through all the other dogs' territories. You'd think this would deter the dumb dog, but he just keeps following the bike, whimpering as he anticipates the beating that is surely coming. He's a scrappy dog and just keeps taking it and bouncing back, like a determined boxer in the ring.


  1. Oops, we've obviously been here too long! I just fixed it in the post, but 'umu is an underground oven, and lu is the meat in taro leaves and coconut milk that gets baked inside it... :)


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