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What are the Palangi Files?
The blogs of a guy who quit his job, sold or gave away all of his possessions, joined the Peace Corps and moved to the tiny island Kingdom of Tonga. This is his (and only) his story.

The contents of this website are my own PERSONAL opinion. They do not reflect the opinions, policies, actions, feelings, emotions or sleep patterns of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, the Kingdom of Tonga or anyone else for that matter but me.

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Nuku'alofa chillin

Yeah, I think chilling would be the most appropriate way to begin this blog. Right now, I'm back in Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga until I ship out to 'Eua. Actually, here's an interesting aside. Nuku'alofa litteraly translate into "abode of love", which is sweet, yet mysteriously baffling. I just don't understand.

I'm just getting back from Attachment or, as I like to call it "mini-vacation". Not many of the volunteers had anything going on because school is out or just about finished here, so it wasn't too busy. I hung out with a couple of youth groups here and there and managed to spend some time working on some computers in the youth center in Vava'u. So I feel like I did get some stuff accomplished. The general consensus I got from the volunteers was sort of "take it easy" vibe. Apparently, I'm going to working for 2 years and taking a little time to relax and enjoy Vava'u wouldn't offend anyone. I took that advice to heart.

Together with a couple of other volunteers and Lonely Planet Tonga Guidebook, we set out to do the impossible: see and do everything you could do in Vava'u. We failed miserably, but we drank a lot of Ikale ("The First Beer in the World" everyday) and we did manage to see a lot of stuff. We went to swallow's cave, which was absolutely awesome.

Well back to 'Eua. It's supposed to be awesome there. The people there are a lot more traditional than the folks in the westernized "abode of love" and that's where were having homestay. Homestay, for you folks listening to this back home, is when I actually live with Tongans, learn the language from them, do culturally appropriate yet sensitive and safe things with them, eat lots of traditional tongan fares and learn kung fu lotus style. Well I made the kung fu part up, but the rest is true.
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And then there was 21...

Today, we lost our first trainee from group 66. He was a pretty cool guy, my roomie sort of, and sort of left out of the blue. Sort of shitty to lose someone so quickly, but everyone here understands. Its a lot harder than just about any of us anticipated. Ka, if you're reading this, I wish we could have gotten a chance to know each other better, but everyone in 66 understands. We wish you the best of luck and hope that you keep in touch. Oh yeah, and enjoy some real American Cuisine and remind us of how it tastes and eat a huge red steak with real A1. Ummm.... A1 steak sauce... I'm pretty sure Ti's eating lulu tonight...

In other news, with the exception of losing one of the team, today was absolutely awesome. 1 PCV, 2 trainees and myself, the queen hummingbird of the Fakapikupiku tribe, hiked up the only national park in Vava'u (so far as I know anyway). The views were absolutely breathtaking and I'm might be going out on a limb here, but it could have been the prettiest vista I've ever seen. You could see pretty much the entire island of Vava'u from the 4 different look out points there. It was incredible. There is just so much blue here. Between the ocean and the sky, its just overwhelming. I took a Getty Image Collection worth of snapshots and as soon as I can get my hands on connection faster than 33.6, I'll share them with the world.

Lets see, hmmm... well saturday was my first unofficial snorkeling trip. Me and a couple of other trainees hopped on down to the Tongan Beach Resort. I know the website is crap and does the resort no real justice, but I'm throwing out some capitalism props to my homeys. They had one large piece of coral growing out in front of the hotel and it had the coolest fish I've ever seen. It was so neat just hanging out there. It was sort of like floating in a huge, non-agressive fish tank. I spent an easy 2 and half hours in the water, plenty long enough to ensure that my back looked like chuckie's in child's play 2 where they melted him into a tiny red thing at the end. (You know what I'm talking about). Yeah, it sucked, but I do have that cocoa butter that Pete and Nate bought me as gag gifts. I feel so sexy when I put it on my body. :P

Yeah, well enough of that weird borderline fakaleiti humor. I hung out with a few of the guys in the village that I'm staying in and had a good time. The whole nation of Tonga's males are like super human rugby machines. These dudes are just diesel. I mean all of them. Its a bit difficult for a fat palangi like myself to not be intimidated when I meet them, but GD if they're not some of the nicest people! I'm really, really looking forward to helping with what I can. I was talking to one guy that was making like $2 pa'anga an hour (About a dollar) doing construction work. He works 9 hours a day and for 5 and half days. He said he was interested in learning how to use excel and word and some of the other tools of the evil empire (just kidding of course, I'm a Bill Gates groupie too!). But said its $25 pa'anga per class. Which is way more than he can afford. I would love to able to set up some sort of alternative training program that's cheaper and better supplied and help train guys like that (particuarly if they're motivated) to help them make a better life for themselves. Well if I've gained nothing else from my attachment, an opportunity to hang out with some Tongan 20-somethings definitely made the trip worthwhile.

I wish I could show you pictures of the place that I'm staying, you, oh monkey-riffic reader would enjoy them. Alas, yea of the clan Mc33.6K, your speed has left me bamboozled, Arghhh... Actually, I'm wondering how the other guys in our group are fairing in the different island groups. Today was the first day that the other people made it to the Niutoputapu group. I hope their faring well...

Actually, for those of you interested in Tonga, I'll give you the brief geography lesson.

Tonga is broken up into 5 main island groups: The niua's, the vava'u group, the hapai group, Tongatapu and 'Eua.

The Niua's are by far the most remote of all of the islands and the most north. I believe their located about 300 miles north of the Vava'u island group and perhaps the most traditional of the Tongan islands. Supplies arrive on a monthly Tongan time schedule, about 12 times a year. Its very remote and very cool there.

The Vava'u islands are sort of the touristy islands of Tonga. Here, "Yachty's" from New Zealand (Kiwi's) and Australia (Wallaby's) take their yachts up for a sail along the pacific. This is where I'm staying. Here you can swim with the whales or go snorkeling. Or, in my case, help build a computer lab while your here...

The Hapaii islands are about 100 miles south (That's a complete guess). There's a volcano down there, I think. That's all I really know right now.

The capital, Nuku'alofa, is located on the main island of Tongatapu. This is where the king, as well as about 60,000 inhabitants, or 2/3's of the countries poplulation lives. This is also where the main ofici Peace Corps is located. The influences of western culture are readily apparent in Nuku'alofa, but its still pretty cool. This is the main export/import facility for the entire nation.

Finally, there is the island of 'Eua and the place where I'll be having home stay. I haven't seen it or flown over it yet, but its supposed to be breathtaking. One of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean flows along the eastern side of the island. It has a volcano or is near one (i forget). Its also the only place in Tonga that has a rain forest. I've heard that the people that live there are the staunchest supporters of the traditional Tongan ways. Its also supposed to have great hiking and beautiful birds. I'm mad pumped to check it out.

Well I've been writing for at least an hour now, so I'll finish with this. I absolutely applaud the Tongan's for the way the continue to maintain their oh so unique and special culture in the face of so much development. For example in high schools, most students are forbidden from speaking any language other than English in the schools. But, when you hang out with kids, for the most part unless you try to speak even a little bit of Tongan, they won't drop more than a word or two or English. Its pretty cool to see that. Actually, I'll delve into this topic a little bit more because that's kind of a lame example, but 33.6K is calling and I love her.

Peace Izzity Izout...

Semisi Jawn
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Chilling in Vava'u

What up! I got a ton of email from all my friends (you guys) and because there are so many trainees/volunteers that want to use the computer, I figured I'd just update the blog.

I have a ton of great pictures and movies. I've been taking them off-and-on on a limited basis for the last couple of weeks, but the size of the photos are huge. Once I get down with a serious connection, will be bling-blinging. Anyways, here is the text update...

I spoke to the country director about posting a blog and so long as readers are aware that these are PERSONAL OPINIONS AND IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER REFLECT THE OPINIONS OR POLICIES OF TONGA THE PEACE CORPS OR ANYTHING EVEN SLIGHTLY RELATED TO ANYTHING BESIDES ME, I'm golden.

Now, that that's out of the way. I'm on the islands of Vava'u (pronounced VaVaaahhEww), which is the touristy section of Tonga. There are a lot of yachts and 'palangis' that come here to vacation and hang out. Particuarly now, before the weather gets rainy and crappy. The peace corps office is right on the harbor here in downtown (which is somewhat of an overstatement for you cracka's back in the states). Our group of 22 was split up into smaller groups and sent to different sections of the country. There are 7 of us, the largest group, in Vava'u now.

Right now we're doing something called attachment where we live with a volunteer and follow their normal day to get a feel for what the job is going to be like. Its pretty sweet. me and one of my group members are living with a pretty cool cat that's doing "youth program development". He's only been on the job for a couple of months now and really seems to dig it. He's definitely a cool guy. His house, however, is on the beat tip. Of course this is just my opinion and not meant to deface or vilify an otherwise all-around cool guy.

Actually, now that I think of it, the Peace Corps Tonga training program, particuarly the language training has been stellar. I can't believe how much of the language that I've learned in so short a time. My roomate and I and the volunteer we were shadowing went and hung out with this guy here for some food and talk about getting some t-shirts printed for a Tongan Net-Ball team. Net-ball for you palangi's not in the know is like ultimate frisbee meets basketball. Its usually played by females. Anyways, we're chilling at this guys house and talking about Bush and Iraq and listening to the radio and stuff, and I could really understand a lot of what was being said, even if I couldn't reply correctly. It was definitely pretty cool. I have to give mad props to the LCTF's (Language and Cultural Teaching Facilitators) Long acronyms seem to be the norm for everything. I have no idea why the government has such a hard on for em, but they do.

I'm hoping I get posted here in Vava'u, although any site would be cool, because it's such a chill place, the volunteers here rock and I think there's a lot of opporunity to facilitate change. They're trying to set up a computer lab in the Volunteer Youth Center and I'm going to try to spend some time on Sunday and Monday setting up the computers and combining pieces from different ones to get as many working as possible. I'm actually glad I brought the software that I did, it will definitely help.

Oh yeah, and packing? What a crap job I did there! Jeez. I promise that once I get all my stuff together, I'm going to put up the world's greatest Peace Corps Tonga packing list I promise.

Alright. I guess that's enough for now. I still haven't even turned on my own computer yet, but I will when I get the chance. Love Ya All, especially Oscar, much love esse! I need your home address to send you something thogh. Oh and Pete, you're richard for not writing me at all. Suck It!

Nofo'a. Semisi. Jimbo. Jimjawn.
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Tonga Sunday

Things here have been pretty chill thus far. This is a crazy place. I'm not even sure where to start. First off, the people that are in my group, there's 22 of us in total, ROCK! Just a really good group of very idealistic people.

First, I'll start of with the good things... The people here are some of the nicest people in the world. Life is slow, fun and easy. Not too many people are busting there asses chasing the almight dollar so the pace of life is easy. Each day we meet at the Peace Corps office around 8:30 a.m. or so and then have a couple of hours of classes. Then we break off, have tea for about 30 minutes. Class for another 2 hours. Lunch for an hour/hour and half or so. Class for two hours then a 30 minute tea in the afternoon. Then some more classes followed up by dinner. I have never seen people eat so much food in my life. The average Tongan caloric intake is like 4500 - 5500 a day. They are huge eaters! The food is kind of bland here in the capital of Nuku'alofa on the big island Tongatapu, but I think it'll be much different when I head over to the Vava'u.

This place is nothing like I'd imagined it would be. It sort of reminds me of like a trashy sort of cuba. There is trash everywhere! Litterally. Its sort of sad. I don't think environmentalism is a high priority for Tongan's so that's there bag. There are also a lot more cars here than I would have ever imagined. I mean for a place who's land total is so small, there are a huge number of SUV's. Its sort of appalling. To be fair though, I've only really seen the capital and not any of the little towns on the farther out islands. I'm anxious to get up to vava'u which is where I'm going to be training in something called "attachment" for the next couple of weeks. Basically, I'll just go up to Vava'u and see what the volunteer's typical day is like and sort of see what they've got going on. I guess its to sort of give me a feel of what its going to be like to serve.

After that, I'll get back around thanksgiving, spend a couple of days in Nuku'alofa, then I'll head out to this wild, tropical island called 'eau and spend my next 6 weeks or so with a host family. I'm sort of excited about that, it should be good time.

Gosh, I've got so much more to write... I'll be back. Apparently, you have all the time in the world to read and write. We'll have to see about that then.
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