21 June 2011

Come see Mele and I at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

At this time next week, Mele, a Tongan artisan, and I will be making our way through U.S. customs with four full suitcases of Tongan crafts, heading to Washington D.C. We are attending the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as presenters of Tongan handicrafts; Mele will spend the two week festival demonstrating and discussing weaving techniques using lou'akau, or pandanus leaves, while I do my best to answer questions about Tonga and some of the work that I have been doing with handicrafts through Peace Corps.

The festival will be held on the National Mall between the Smithsonian Museums every day from June 30-July 4 and July 7-July 11 and will have three main sections: Columbia, Rhythm and Blues, and Peace Corps. We'll be in our own booth in the Peace Corps section for anyone who wants to come by, watch Mele weaving, try on a traditional Tongan outfit, or just chat. To see articles about what we and other volunteers are doing at the festival, visit the Peace Corps site.

In addition, we'll teach four small cooking classes on several iconic Tongan dishes at different times during the two weeks. Check out a schedule at the festival, or on the website to find out when.

We'll also be giving a weaving demonstration and participate on a panel at the Textile Museum on July 6th with a group of Columbian weavers, and I'll be part of several different panels throughout the festival.

And when we're finally back in mid-July, after I sleep for about 5 days straight, I will write all about it on a blog post for everyone to read and see!

18 June 2011

Invading 'Eua

Our full 'Eua flight
Last Tuesday, I received an urgent phone call, "Mark, we need to get to the airport soon because it is very crowded, and if we miss our flight, we will miss our opportunity to go to `Eua!" We had to catch one of the five flights that day to a small island that normally only gets two flights at most. There were so many people on standby for other flights that the airline continued to schedule additional flights for the next few days and still could not keep up with the demand. The normal one ferry-a-day was bumped up to two standing room only trips with three times the number of passengers they normally carry. So what was suddenly drawing an additional thousand people to the tiny island of `Eua?


This year marks the 50th Anniversary Jubilee of Hofangahau College, the only Wesleyan secondary school on `Eua. For four days last week, former teachers, students, and anyone who had ever had anything to do with the school flooded back to `Eua for three days of feasting, ceremony, dancing, marching, donating money, and generally catching up. For that week, the tiny island of normally 4,000 inhabitants doubled in size.

05 June 2011

The bug that beats up all top 5 pests in Tonga

Gather around for a blood-chilling story, a tale to make your scalp crawl, a mental picture so terrifying it makes babies cry and young children gasp with fright. This is a tale of the without a doubt, number one top pest in Tonga, a pest that puts all other pests to shame. That number one top pest, ladies and gentlemen, is .... skin infection.

For some reason, skin infection in the Pacific is particularly, shall we say, virile.

Pacific staph encountering American staph is like the Rock towering next to a skinny, pimply 13-year-old and booming down to him "WE'RE RELATED," and then glaring out at you in no-necked scary-muscle intensity. "Ouch!" I said to the Rock. "Your bulging muscles scare me!" but he paid me no attention, and kept gnawing on my hand.

It started as a little bump on my forefinger, where a tiny paper cut had healed just days before. Three days later, it had swelled to twice its size and a rapidly expanding white area had appeared on its surface. I could almost watch it spread over the top of my forefinger's first knuckle. 

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