Subsidize My Authority!
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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Cats in Tonga...

Are not like cats in the U.S. Real quick post here. Its like 6:00 in the morning and I got two hours of snooze behind me and another couple of hours of snooze ahead of me before class starts, when suddenly I hear some crazy banshee screaming or something. Normally, I sleep like the dead, hell I slept through Tonga's earthquake! (You don't know how much that sucked the next morning, I was the only person on the island that didn't feel it. Completely left out of all conversations.) Anyways, back to the point, so I hear this crazy something noise and I roll over, well lean would actually be a better word, my bed is itsy bitsy. So I lean over and notice the cat I'm watching, 'avoca, has a small crying monkey in her mouth. I'm like "Holy shit! A baby monkey! They don't even have ngeli's in Tonga!" My vision gets a little less blurry and then I'm like "Holy Shit! She killed another cat! You savage!" Double Take. Vision clears and the fog of little sleep begins to disapate... "That's not a cat that's a... Holy Shit! That's a rat!" The thing is screaming-squeaking-waking me up-and-dying at the same time. Its annoying.

"Alright 'avoca, just kill it and get it out of the house." I get out of bed open up the front door and they loop around the crime scene. Some ants are already on the scene, using their bodies to make chalk outlines. There's a detective present. I lay back in bed. Forget it, I'm tired, I'll get in the morning. Apparently 'avoca wasn't done yet. She played this cute little game of "Throw something half my size as far as I can with my mouth, then creep up on it, attack and do it again." Its a fun game, but I've no time. I roll over and go back to sleep. So my alarm goes off at 8:00 of the a.m. (I've got this crazy chinese alarm clock that is probably the most annoying sound in the world.) and I'm like, why on earth is my door open?

A flash of sleepy carnage bubbles from my primate brain. Ah yes! The feline gladiator toying with her spoil.. Damnit! Why didn't I get rid of that rat this morning? Hey where's the cat at? Operation "Missing Ant Chalk Outlines" begins. I begin tearing up the house looking for evidence of the buffet. Hala (nothing). So that's bugging the crap out of me. I can't find the rat. I've turned this place upside down and no luck. I know its dead, but that's not one of the mephitic odors I really want floating around my abode. I haven't seen 'avoca since the murder though. Maybe she's on the lam, or maybe she's on the lam with a rat that I'm sure is on the little boxes of rat milk.

Taimi Fiameakai,


P.S. - I've added two links today. Please check out Tonga Steve's Site. He's a buddy a mine/PCV here, but not quite as bombastic OR didactic. I'm going to help him fix his bloggin mess too. Also, for my Norwegian readers LadyTikk has a site. We're social butterflys that "Billfish it" fairly reguarly.
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Even the flies in Tonga...

Take sundays off. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this before, but Tonga is Uber religious in the most awe inspiring fashion. Sundays in Tonga sort of remind me of what paradise would be like for mormons. There's church at 5:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 4:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. If that's not enough bible thumping you can fill in those oh so boring hours between church with Sunday School, Choir Practice or Bible study. I know, I know how do you stop all that excitement? I'm being a bit sarcastic here, if I haven't been laying it on thick enough. Today, for the second week in a row, I skipped church and, on top of that, an even bigger fou pa [sp?] I went and DID LAUNDRY! Outrageous I know, but true. I honestly felt this weird feeling of being bad today. In the states, I'd grumble about going to church on Christmas Eve with my parents, but 52 weeks of this, Egads! I didn't make it to chuch and I didn't feel too bad about it, but later on today, I had a couple of students stop by and actually ask me if I went. I felt like a leper. "Hala Lotu? Melie Otua!" (No Chuch, Sweet God!) I used to think hanging out at chuch in the states was a bummer, but here, I can't even understand what the preacher is saying! Sure I play the guess that word with my limited Tongan, but they speak so quickly and so loudly that I just stare at my Tonga hymnal and pretend I'm reading that. Of course, my hymnal is in Tongan too, so its like the preacher only quieter and a book. I'm making the commitment now. Electronically so it can be spidered and indexed; I will be in church next Sunday. Hell or High Water.

Simi Beam and I were talking for a long time last evening. Simi was pretty adamant on making me sleep in. He insisted on it. His annoying buddy hangover stopped by this morning and pounded church bells about 100 yards from my house until I had no other option than to get out of bed and look for a sniper rifle to shoot and kill him. Fortunately, I'm not a gun owner so hangover lived another day. He stayed here all morning doing stuff like making me want to lay down and tapping on my head with pounding machine. He must have also put some magic dust in my eyes because they were all red too. Eventually he left though and that was a good thing. That's how this morning went anyways.

So now its 10 in the p.m. and I realized that I haven't had a proper update in almost 2 weeks. I owe it to my audience. So lets see... I'm the new VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council) president. Since I have oodles and oodles of PC Power, I'm going to have all the peon peace corps volunteers address me as "Master Voltron" My slogan is going to be "First Voltron in the world, every day." Catchy isn't it? I think I might have taken on too much work, but its cool I guess. My main duty is to complain so much to the Peace Corps staff that they have to put their "No, because I said so" into writing and pass that message on to the other volunteers. I'm looking forward to doing battle with the PC staff though. Actually, I really like our country director and I think she's going to be pretty adept in dealing with me and actually getting stuff done. I hope that's the case. This will probably be one of those goofy ass things that I'll throw on ye olde resume and talk about my "dynamic leadership qualities" when all I really did was blow some of my free time running meetings that moved in circles and stuff that never got done because I didn't feel like it. Or maybe not. Perhaps I can change the world and spin it backwards in time with my new Master Voltron adeptness much like Christopher Reeves in Superman 3. Who knows.

Oh yeah, I was duped by one of my diploma level 6 students. All day long this student was acting pissed off and angry and upset and just plain old angry. I'm like "Yo! WTF?" The students like "I'm overwhelmed". I went to my house, had my cup of coffee and thought, well hell, maybe I AM working these kids too hard. I guess I could let them extend the project to monday and give the kids more time to work and get everything done..." I came back into the last class on Thursday and gave my pep talk. I almost brought myself to tears. It was pretty inspiring, then I extended the time when the projects were due to Monday. Well normally, the labs are ablaze with activity on the weekends. I usually can't check my email until the night because all 64K of our phat internet pipe is slammed by 50 kids copying other websites and images. Well I thought that was a bit strange, it was super quiet. Well that afternoon a participating member of the coconut wire informed me that this particular student has a penchant for complaining when they're not done their work in order to get more time to do the project. Ah ha! I was duped I suddenly realize! The whole act on thursday was so this one student could have more time for the project! Son of a... Well, now I'm like the guy in no retreat, no surrender, my back is to the wall and I have to fight of 100's of dangerous thug ninja's that I call "students". While this student may have taken my bishop, I can still break the board in half. I have that much power.

Alright, I'm all writed out. I'm going to find out how to disable SMTP relaying on the mail server. I think all spammers should be gutted and hung from IT microwave dishes as a sign to all other spammers. Our 64K connection has been hijacked and reduced to almost nothing. I need to find out how to stop these evil sons a bitches.

So long galliant warriors, till our next african swallow.
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You know...

There used to be a time when I cared about insects on or in my food or in my drinks. This is no longer the case. I just poured a nice, ice cold cup of banana juice and wouldn't you know it? There was two ants inside of it. They were moving. I didn't care. The juice was soooo.... cold..... and.... delicious.... I actually spun the cup around to drink the ants first. Ah. Tonga time is funny like that.
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"So I'll close my eyes really, really tight...

And make you all go away" Actually that's a little Shannon Hoon in the background. I'm chilling with some Blind Melon. Kickin' it in the crib and flat out maxing and relaxing. So lets see, about 4 weeks ago, I was pumped to introduce "drafts" into the composition vocabulary of a number of young and successful Tongans. Well lordy Jebus! What a mistake that has been. Everytime I pick up the papers I feel like screaming "serenity now!" I don't know why I get pissed off, but I do. I don't know if its me or just the all pervasive laziness that stealthily encompasses even the youngest and brightest, but damnit! How many times to I have to spend an hour going over what a bibliography is? I've spent literally 5 hours of class time going over what a reference is and what "paraphrasing" is. Everytime, my explanations get slower, the head nods get deeper and more serious. Everytime I say "Please, if you don't understand ANY itsy, bitsy, teeny, tiny part of this at all, show me a sign, just like were at a horse auction." Of course they don't get the horse auction humor, but I make it readily apparent to my students that if they don't understand any of it at all, say or do something. *Chirp, Chirp, Chirp* mouse fart... Its about as serious as a heart attack in class by that point, everything is golden.

*Trumpets Blare (bump-d-d-bump)* Grading Day: "Well goodness me, its assignment time again! Outstanding! Lets review the second draft! I'm so excited!" Hopefully we have some good references, even if the whole papers are plagurized, just so long as those references are ok .." *Papers being shuffled followed by almost audible manly sniffle* "DAMNIT! Not ONE good reference in the whole lot of them! Sweet Allah! Why do you mock me? Save me Jebus!!!!" That's the skinny. I've had two drafts and the final paper, which was supposed to be due on Friday will be quietly moved to Monday tomorrow. I just do NOT have the will power or the positive attitude that I need to correctly mark these papers with the stoic jurisprudence they demand. In fact, I'm looking for things to keep me busy right now. I figured heck, I'll post to my blog, trim my toenails then I'll rearrange my books and socks in alphabetical order. I'll tell ya, I've got that "I've got so many things to do, that I won't do any of them" feeling going on. I hate that feeling, but its in me, doing nothing and enjoying it. So here I am.

So how am I feeling about work now? Well, I working way to GD much in the first place. The last couple of nights I've been up till crazy late hours grading papers, fixing squid, lesson planning, eating Raman and smoking my highknee off. Thus far, my peace corps experience has been as such: A promotion to a bigger network and a new job title and many larger, bigger responsibilities without any of the perks or benny's like "money" or "vacation time" that I used to enjoy. Yesterday morning, just before I was dozing off for a "nap" that would be ripped up like the Declaration of Indepedence by a Tongan King George with a weed-wacker, I thought, for just a brief moment, that I wanted to lose one of my classes and spend more time sleeping. Of course this desire was fleeting, I'm not gonna let some operating system that I don't know anything about or kids that don't know how to "reference" documents let alone "paraphrase" stop me from being my best. Its just that sometimes, I'd like to get so tired of reading that I want to spend the next hour and half just staring at my wall.

Aaaaahhhh.... Once my Dad said to me just completely out of the blue as we were driving somewhere, "Are you enjoying High School?" You know real philosophical like. "I said yeah, its been good I guess." His reply, "Good, enjoy it. The years just get harder from here on out." I remember thinking, man, he has NO idea how tough high school is. Jeez, I have all this homework that I don't do, I got suspended for smoking, I always go to the same parties with the same people..." One thing that I thought I would learn about myself here that I thought I already knew was this: "Its always your face, no matter where the mirror is." I'm finding that to be truer and truer with each day that I'm here. God I need sex. I'm pretty sure that would solve EVERYTHING.

Well, I'm off to clip my toenails and alphabetize my books and socks. And maybe, just maybe, I'll read so much that I'll want to stare at the walls for an hour and a half.

Semisi "Sasquatch" Smith
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Feeling it and Dealing it...

5 weeks of lifting MWF without a day off. Today I ran 2 miles and the pounds are "melting off" (A little Tongan humor hardy har, har!) Actually, I'm feeling good. I'm down to 193.6 pounds now (stupid 10 based kilos! Remeasure your kings feet and acknowledge the superiourity of the almighty "pound"!) So when I left the states I was 216 and now I'm 193.6 so that's like 22.4 lbs! Kick ass! That's the first time that I've done the math! Yeah! I haven't felt better physicially since like I used to like jello. That was a pretty long time ago.

Yeah, I'm starting to know my role now. Oh Yeah! Wait.

God I really love teaching. I'm so impressed at how hard some of my students work. Its pretty cool at the moment, I'm feeling my oats and enjoying my job. I guess I'll just soak that in at the moment.


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Everytime I eat a cough drop, I feel like yelling from the valleys of switzerland. So how I'm feeling right now? Much, much better. Pulu made some comments that got me thinking and the gossip train has made a stop over at the old fale a' Semisi so I figured I'd give an update. First, the guy who's house burnt down? Loaded to the gils with insurance. He is more than alright, despite the fact that he lost most of his stuff. A friend of a friend that knows a cousin from Manchuria who had dinner with their Grandmother assured this anonymous source that everything is sai pe.

The guy sort of new that the kids were stealing his stuff and he didn't really care too much because he was just going to add it to the list of shit that adjusters need to replace. I guess I was the only person that cared, (which of course makes me feel like a dumb ass...) Second, I jump to conclusions WAY too fast. I had a couple of drinks and my judgement was a bit off at the time, but I did see kids stealing parcels and bits here and there and that pissed me off and DEFINITELY HAPPENED. But, from what I gather, a number of the peope that were taking stuff, particuarly adults, were friends of the family and they were moving the stuff to their houses in there cars (yeah, that's right, i'm feeling like big dumbass). Thirdly, I bespoke mad ill on the nation of Tonga which wasn't cool.

My post should have said something like "Some Pretty Bad Things about People" or, better yet, "Some Pretty Bad Things about People that Come from Bad Homes and Whose Parents Never Showed Them Proper Love and Attention" or even"Social Ineptitude: An Analogy" That would have been more akin to the looting that happened. You know it was really that kid that looked right at me and smiled when I was talking to him. That's what really got me fired up.

Well I guess that's my apology/nonsensical update. I guess this is one of the problems of being from a different culture. You just don't see this stuff too often.

Oh yeah, on the positive tip, tonight I cooked the last can of Cambell's Cream of Mushroom Soup in the entire country in my bountiful feast this evening. I had a stringbean casserole, grilled tuna steaks [about $1 american per pound] and mashed garlic kumala. It was delicious and the company was fantastic!

Alright. I'm tired as hell. I've been writing sporadically at best when the moment hits me.

Keeping up with "Gos",

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Some Pretty Bad things about Tonga

Well last night was the first time I've really experienced the massive shittiness that Tonga can be. I'm coming back from the bar around 3:00 or so and as I'm walking up the street I see a house completely engulfed in flames. The house was next to one of the nicer bars here in Tonga called the "Waterfront" and was about 30 yards from the ocean. The house was pretty much done for before I had even gotten close enough to the fire. So I make it up to the house and there's already a group of people assembled watching the place go up. I walked around to the other side and see the Chinese family whose house was on fire. Thankfully, everyone in the house made it out alive, including the families infant and some other relatives.

In Tonga, its pretty common to run these corner stores called "falekoloa's". Basically, its like any corner deli in the city. You just go to them and buy your bread and milk and cigarettes and stuff at them. There all over the place here in Nuku'alofa. Well anyways, the Chinese family ran a falekoloa in their front yard. Well during the fire, who I can only assume was the father of the family opened up the falekoloa's doors so he could get into and out of his house as quickly as possible while he was trying to salvage what little he could from the raging inferno that, moments before, was his home. Assembled in his store was a small group of Tongan's, around 7 or 8 of them, that had made a disorganized chain for salvaging what little stuff they could from this families home and store. They were stacking up all that they could in a pile that was safely away from the destruction of the blaze. There were doing a pretty good job so I stayed back a bit because it looked like they already had enough volunteers saving what they could.

I moved to an outer circle of Tongan's assembled a bit further our from the blaze that were standing and watching. Well, as I stood there, I noticed that the son of bitches around me were stealthily walking up to the pile of salvaged stuff and, when the train was preoccupied, selecting the best and most expensive items from the pile and then quickly running away with whatever callous bounty they could manage to grab. I was furious. I started screaming.

"You! The mutha ****** in the yellow shirt. Yeah you. How the **** can you live with yourself? You animals! This whole families' house is burning to the ground and what little they've managed to save your ******** stealing it! Are you god damned kidding me? Get over here. What's your problem? You low-down, despicable dog." The kid turned his back on me and slunk away like weasel. I start yelling at the whole crowd in a torrent of obscenities and slanders. I stop for a minute and try to get my rage under control. Leaning against a van next to me is a kid with an armload of batteries. I see him in an aura of smugness. I start screaming again at this bastard. He looks up at me, lifts his eyebrows for "yes", grins, and starts laughing at me. I choked up on a bottle I was holding. I've probably never been so mad in my life. I'm just filled with rage. As I considering smacking him over the head, this big dude with a flashlight walks over and the kid takes off down the street as fast as he can. All I can hear is the wife of the house sobbing and moaning in a flurry of Chinese. I turn around and watch this bastard in "No Fear" vest run down the street like a dog with his boxes of batteries. I turn around again. This time a guy of about thirty is slinking away with a CD or DVD player stuffed under his shirt.

I scream. "Hey jerk-off! When you're done with that, I think there's a TV over there to. Its a set. They go together. You ******* animal!" He throws the CD player and any dignity as a human being he might have had into the window of his mini-van. I'm getting sick with anger. I turn back. Yellow shirts' at it again and "No Fear" has quietly slunk around my view and approached the ashes of what was once a families livelihood like a hyena nipping at a wounded antelope. I'm no longer yelling, I'm just dumbstruck. Just about everyone in the group is helping themselves. I see the Chinese woman's baby crying. Sadness replaces rage.

I turn back around and "CD guy" is slinking back to the pile with the CD player. I guess he realized that his dignity was worth more than $200 pa'anga. The firetrucks finally show up and start battling a fire that has firmly ensured that this family will have nothing left in an hour. I turn away in disgust. My friends and I are just a mixture of emotion. We talk. "While you were screaming at them, a guy walked up behind you with a tire iron." I must have struck a nerve. My buddy Steve says afterwards: "You know what the worse part of the whole thing is? Every friggin' one of them will be in church on Sunday." Yeah, going to church is the easy part, living like a Christian, now that's work.

Man, I was so angry. I planned on telling this little ditty last night, but I was just so inflamed, I wanted some time for reflection. In light of what I saw, I feel I've learned some things; It was 3:30 a.m. - most honest people were in bed getting ready for the next day, they wouldn't be out walking that time of the night. The 7 or 8 guys that were in the train were honest men, good men. They represent some of the best parts of Tonga, the community part, the part that I love most about Tonga. The bastards that were taking the stuff were mostly kids, punk thugs looking for whatever they could get there hands on. Also, my yelling did something. "CD Guy" knew I was right and put back his share of the spoils. I don't know if my yelling prompted him, but I'd like to think so. While losing your things can be incredibly painful and difficult, when it gets right down to it, no one was caught in that building. No one died. And finally, not a single one of my students were there in the circle.

Most were back at school watching the rugby game or sleeping on their books. These are the kids I can help sculpt. This is where I plant my seed, make change, try. I'm not wasting effort on thieves and thugs. I've got the leaders. People that need boxes of batteries so bad they had to steal them from the flotsam of a ruined dream will never understand my message. I've gotta keep my eye on the prize.

So I guess that's it. I haven't seen the house yet, but I've heard they lost everything. The place was level moments after the fire company showed up and managed to secure a perimeter, but it was too late. Looting had gotten most of their important things. I didn't think I'd be so negative, but that was the first house fire I've ever seen. Watching that scene unfold in front of me was hard enough. Watching those sons of bitches take what was left was even harder. I'm trying to put as much of a positive spin that I can on the whole situation, but this whole incident's going to take a while to forget. Alright, that's my story for tonight.

Well I got church in the morning. Gotta go accentuate the positive.

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A week of firsts...

So I'm hanging out in front of my shacklike home and marking student papers when I notice this little molokau comes crawling out from underneath my great stack of papers. No sweat right, give him the shoe smack down. So I'm chilling, got my class C cigarette dangling out of my mouth when I decide to stand up and scratch my ass. Lo and behold, the mother of all molokau's decides to make her final leap while the gettings good. She misses. Thank god. So my first experience was a close, but positive one. It just happened like a minute ago so I decided to write about it. My first molokau experience was wonderful!

Also, this week, my first "Oh Yeah Stupid! You live in Tonga moment." I get done from a relatively crappy day of teaching and I'm reading my email in my plastic picnic furniture chair when I lean back and think, in absolute honesty: "You know what, I'll give Nate, Pete, Rob and Don a call and see if they want to go hang out at happy hour." Yeah, that sounds like a plan. Maybe we can go to Oscar's or hell even Roo's and get some drink... Wait a minute stupid, they live on the other side of the world. You're mosquito bitten ass, however, lives in Tonga." Exactly like that. Its really the first time that's happened here to me, although, I must admit that most days that I wake up its something like "Holy shit where am I? Oh, yeah, that's right, I'm in the Peace Corps in Tonga." It never ceases to amaze me. You figure that after oh say almost 2 months of living on my own I'd get used to it, right? Nope.

Sweet. Styx's "Come Sail Away" just came on. First time I've heard it in Tonga. Afu.

So what else? Oh yeah my Pisi Koa sensei Sani San is leaving on saturday. Its sort of a bummer, now that he's leaving, my secret special less work cusion is vanishing! I'm going to have to be "the guy" for computers and I'm not too damn happy about it! Just kidding of course, but not really. Its been nice having Sani around because he just does so much work. I feel like I need to have a Tyler Durden that wakes up and starts cooking and learning how to properly configure squid files and do dishes and knows kung fu. Alas, where's my Tyler Durden? So I guess this isn't a first, but I'm getting a new second house! Well its not really new, but its in what we here at the peace corps and volunteers the world over know affectionately as "the palangi compound" or just "the compound". Nice new houses that were built to accomodate all the teachers we have here on campus. I'm pumped! I love moving stuff twice! Alright, wish me luck and call me the next time you're heading over to Oscar's.

Po'uli a, Semisi
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