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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Lole Heads! OR pictures of tongan students covered in candy

This is one of the COOLEST PICTURES EVER! I should have posted this a while ago. This is from the graduation for my Level 5 studnets. The weird colored things around the guy on the right's neck is 'money' if you could call the Tongan Pa'anga 'money'. All that other stuff around their necks? Anyone at home able to guess? If you guessed Loli or, as we palangi's call it, 'candy', you'd be correct! These are some of my favorite and best students. Man do I love this picture. Oh, as an aside, my old Peace Corps rockstar neighbors, Mark and Erin, yes, Canopy did graduate level 5. Apparently, "grades" and "passing" aren't that important for the students of TTI. In any event, Canopy (medium) felt Loli love and had a very nice day. So, Sugar D., there's your money shot. Posted by Picasa
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  • Holy cow, Simi, is that you? I don't know if you remember me but I was suppose to meet you when I came to Tonga last year in November. I came with your bags of candy that you asked for but unfortunately, POOF it disappeared before I got to where I was staying. Kids from nowhere came for treats!!! Sorry about that! SO you are almost going home, I bet you are just on pins and needles! Well, I'll be coming back to Tonga in Febuary. I've been gone since last Feburay so it's been a while since I seen my husband. I want to thank you for ALL the hard work and sacrifice you've put in to helping my people un Tonga. Being American by birth, I admire the love of service you ALL have done to make a brighter future for the Tongan kingdom! Lots of success for your future and God bless in all that you do!!

    'Ofa atu, Kali
    # posted by Anonymous Kali : 10/19/2005 7:40 AM
  • Quasi? QUASI? Yeah- i like the sailors... or army or whatever branch that has uniforms (perhaps the odd McDonalds drive-through window clerk thrown in there) But I can not stand by and accept Quasi. See a hump on my back, sucka? Yeah- I'll show you quasi...
    # posted by Blogger Jennifer : 11/02/2005 12:35 PM
  • I love the nose picking story... Different cultures, same great pastime! I too went to St. Barney's and had a great chuckle at the story because I could see it in my head so vividly. I don't remember Mrs. Reeney, but I did have Sister Gertrude (we used to call her Pop-Eye) and Mrs. Pacifico was Ms. (and I WILL spell this wrong) Diguiseppi when I went to school there. Sister Gertrude was the most feared of all the nuns, even more so than Sister Marita, the disciplinarian. Anyway, great story, really laughed, out loud too! Thanks and good luck!

    Todd Christensen
    # posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 1/24/2010 10:50 AM

Tonga shout out time! And some tongan pictures too!

So I've been remiss at giving the shoutouts!

First and foremost, made props to the Shaffers for buying their new home in the Illidelph. I'm hoping to pass out in their nice new hallway sometime! Should be the bomb! Natedizzle, thanks for the email. The picture above is for your sugar D.

Second, Nicole! Tahine! Hau ki Tonga mo sio ko au! I'd love to see you here in Tonga. Far and away, you've been my biggest supporter and my bestest new reader/friend. I'd like to shout you a round, scream questions at you at the Billfish and swap fun travel stories! Actually, just listen to yours. As I'm returning to the US on the 14th of December, you've got about two months to get here. Most definitely keep me posted. For those of you that aren't cool, you can check out Nicole's website. Dorks, click here.

Thirdidly, The Mark and Erin are Rockstars! Supersite has finally gone live. For people that are dumb, Mark and Erin lived next to me for a year. +People that are thinkinga about travelling around the world or an around the world ticket or around the world blog or blog around the world **sorry for the googlizing** there site kicks ass. M&E just got back home after travelling the world for almost an entire year. They had french wine and made me jealous.

Fourthedly, Where the Fdizzle are my Philly Peeps? Does anyone from Philly read this anymore? Billadelphia? Bobby? Matt? Any of the Phi Kap Guys? Just checking.

Fifthedly, here's the blog of another, quasi-cool old-head volunteer. She's a bit of a drunk and has been known to dance with a Sailor or two, but she's cool. Tis the Senifa! She's bligging it up in Engdizzle. Read her kind and beautiful words. She shines like a monkey. Her site is actually called Mascara while crying! That's great! I'm not the only one that's had this problem either!

Alright, I guess that's it for now. Much love everyone. You are missed by me.

Man there is a bunch of other stuff I wanted to talk about too..

Oh yeah! My most excellent joke on the people in my FFL league. Remember that blog about Philly being named the Next Best City in America? Well its true, you can read it there, or you can click on the CNN link I created here.

Well, I created a bit of a page myself to trick all my friends that the same day Pittsburgh was named the worst city in the world. It went over very well.

The joke was worth the couple of hours I spend meticulously recreating the CNN website locally. I was thinking about making this a database application so you could write your own text and add your own picture into it. Maybe someday. If you'd be intersted in something like that, let me know. I'm pretty sure it'd be easy to build. Oh yeah, the first link is correct and the second link is not. Warning: There's lots of inside jokes in there that may not be applicable.
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  • hey tamasi'i - cheers for the props :)
    # posted by Blogger nicole : 10/14/2005 3:35 AM
  • You know I still read this. I just don't leave a comment on these things for fear of sounding like an idiot. Then I remember I am an idiot so it all works out. I can't believe you're coming home soon. That's my boy right there.
    # posted by Anonymous Bill : 10/22/2005 4:09 AM
    # posted by Blogger ALOTTABURGH : 11/04/2005 5:00 AM

On picking my nose and other hot pepper tongan nose picking things...

So, I was feeling pretty comfortable at home. I'm listening to some music, getting some work done and just you know doing stuff when the urge to pick my nose arises. The booger was kind of hard and dry from jogging this morning and was kind of aching me. I'm at my desk, completely tissue-less and I figured: "Eh, what the hell." And I go for it.

Of course, I completely forgot about the HOT PEPPERS that I just cut about 10 minutes ago to put into my scrambled eggs. My hands are on fire, but that's not enough of a warning to my brain and my gold-diggin' desires, Must... Pick... The... Nose... So I do. Consequences: The inside of my nose has been on FIRE for about 2 hours now. I took a shower, splashed some water on it and even used a moist towellette to relieve the pain. All to no avail, sadly.

All of these home remedies repeatedly remind me of two things: 1.) Eating 50% habenero "attempted suicide" buffalo wings during my fraternities rush and then rubbing my eyes with my fingers and 2.) Ms. Reeney my fourth grade school teacher who, through methods of humiliation, public shame and an unabashed pet-peevishnes about nose picking, cured me of my tevolo.

Story one really needs no explanation. I went to a fraternity rush event with the old heads. In an effort to show off, I ate about 20 'attempted suicide' wings made from 50% habenero sauce. You could smell them from accross the room they were so friggin hot. Well I forgot what I was laughing about, but I started to tear up, decided to WIPE MY EYES with my fingers and, consequently, cry for about two hours as I splashed cold water from the men's bathroom spigot onto my face and eyes. Very lovely.

Story two needs a bit of ellaboration and, like most good humor, some embellishment. As a young, good looking boy with the world before my doe-eyed peepers, I attended the Saint Barnabas Elementary School at 64th and Buist in fabulous Southwest Philadelphia for the first 6 years of my primary school education.

So, now that I'm older, I'll admint it: I was a picker. Nothing delighted me more than the pure unadulterated enjoyment of getting deep into my nose and excavating like a raider in the tombs of King Tut. I prided myself on my stealth, skill and prowess when it came to evacuating my nostrils. It was a gift, a talent that I nursed in secret and delighted in. Of course this is an embelishment, but essential for progression of the story line. I picked my nose and, well, didn't feel bad about doing it, that is until I had Mrs. Reeney. During my fourth year, I had the fabulous opporunity to experience public ridicule and embarassment at the hands of one Mrs. Reeney.

Mrs. Reeney was my only teacher for the entire 4th grade, with the exception of a gym class or two. She was a little bit older and part giant. She wore glasses, may or may not have been married and while she wasn't a Mrs. Pacifico, famed throughout southwest for her smarts and beauty, she wasn't particuarly ugly, and unlike Sister Getrude (whom I still believe to this day had to join the convent because her parents couldn't love a woman so ugly). She was a good math teacher. I remember counting stuff and doing division. Don't remember anything beyond that though, like science or grammer but I'm sure she taught me some of that stuff too. That's not what I remember Mrs. Reeney for. Mrs. Reeney will be immortalized in my life for her hatred of my exotic nose-picking lifestyle.

The first time I got caught by Mrs. Reeney was a chilly day in the late fall of '87. I had been sly until then using my ninja powers for good or ill, it did not matter. I was going in for a robust dig, it was mid-morning, cold and I was bored. However, I jumped the gun, dove right in without assuming that everyone else was as bored as I was when the shot rang out."

"Mr. Smith, would you like a tissue?"

"What the heck!" I thought to myself. "Why would I need a tissue. I'm just going to pick my nose here and wipe it under the desk. No big deal. Hey, why is everyone looking at me? And why am I starting to get red? Is this normal? What is happening to me? Why am I feeling this way?"

"No thank you," is actually how that thought sort of came out.

"Mr. Smith, I'm not sure you understand me. I believe you need to come up here to the front of the room and take a tissue so that you may blow your nose." She calmly sneered, eating up the fact that I was starting to turn into a cartoonish Yosemtie Sam with his copyrighted getting-so-mad-that-his-head-was-boiling-like-a-tea-kettle gag.

"Blow my nose! Jeez! You're going to let EVERYONE in the clss (including Bridget Mcguire *insert lion purring noises here*) that I've been picking my nose! Son of Gun! You evil harlot! (Of course I didn't know what the word harlot meant at the time, but if I did I would have said it. As my vocabulary would have been that of a 9 year old, you can substitue harlot for "poophead" or "stupidface") How could you make me red and get embarrased and make me go UP TO THE FRONT of the room to acknowledge, publicly, in front of the rest of the class that I was picking my nose. " I screamed internally. "And picking it well, I might add," I interjected as an aside.

"O.K." is actually what everyone else besides me heard say.

I get out of my stupid desk, go up to the stupid front of the room, look up at stupid Mrs. Reeney and her stupid smirk, take a stupid tissue from stupid Mrs. Reeney's stupid desk, notice stupid Bridget McGuire and her stupid cute has-braces giggle and harumph back into my stupid forth grade desk. I figure, "Hell, now that I've got the attention of the WHOLE ROOM, I might as well make the act of blowing my nose a production. Something to rival Thundercats, when Mumra emerges from his tomb and turns evil because his goons can't do anything right."

"Yeah! Do It!" I mistakenly tell myself. Oh and do it I do. I HONK on my nose. Literally, like that muppet character whose name I forget. I start honking and whooting and whooping it up. 4th grade shakespeare if you ask me. I decide to add some acting, throwing in some scratches and some picks as loud and obnoxious as I can until I am so rudely interupted by, deh-deh-deh... Mrs. Reeney.

"Mr. Smith, it seems like your having trouble blowing your nose. You know, Mr. Smith, you don't need to blow your nose like its a car horn. Haven't your Parents taught you how to properly blow your nose? Your theatrics, Mr. Smith, are ruining are discussion of 4th grade quantum physics (A.K.A- long division). Would you like a tutorial?"

Boy if that didn't shut me up quick.

"No." I say, while thinking to myself that she's threating me with the use of the word PARENTS. "I must be cool," I tell myself, "and remember this lesson for later. Maybe if I'm a teacher someday"

And remember it I do. Just like I remember that I was the only person she had to tell all year. 4 times.

So that brings me to the present and my current Tongan conundrum: The rampant nose-picking that goes on in my classes and how to handle it. Now, as awful as Mrs. Reeney was in pointing out my secret love by the end of the year she did cure me of my nose-picking ills. Even now, some 17 years later, I still can't pick my nose privately without feeling like a dirty monkey. I have to look around and hate myself for about two seconds while I'm doing it. She successfully sapped my love of the sport completely In retrospect, though, I think this is necessarily a bad thing, I mean picking your nose is not something that you want to pride yourself on, no matter what I used to believe.

This is one of those cultural things that I might not be able to get my head around and for the last two years, I've been pretty cool about it, but lately, it seems like there are two or three students that are just nose-picking anarchists. They don't respect the rules of the game like I did, they aren't bashful about their habits and they sure as hell don't care about tissues. It drives me crazy. Now do I call them onto the carpet in front of the class and start the hard, difficult process of breaking the nose picking habits of my students, or do I look away, try not understand and just sort of continue on with my life?

I find this whole nose-picking diatribe to be an excellent metaphor about how my Peace Corps Tonga experience has evolved and what my role as a facilitator is in this evolution I look back and reflect on the embarassment that I felt in Mrs. Reeney's class and how it sort of changed me and made me aware that other people didn't do this stuff and that, maybe, I was the one that was different and had to change. Of course calling up to the front of the class may have not been the best way for me to go about teaching me not to pick my nose, but being a teacher myself now, I have to admit that it had a parcel of simplistic genius to it. Mrs. Reeney didn't have to raise her voice, didn't have to get upset, interupt the class for very long or even reallly stop with the lesson. She made her point and, in just a few moments, really made me change myself. She did this, I guess, as a favor, but I also think that nose-picking was one of her pet peeves and she wanted it to stop. Well, she succeeded.

I look at my role here in Tonga, honestly, as a facilitator of change. I think that's really the point of the Peace Corps in the first place. To change things. And change is friggin' hard. It takes a lot of energy to do and it most definitely causes discomfort and maybe even embarrasment to the people that its happening to, but, like with Mrs. Reeney, sometimes its a necessary evil. I think of Tonga as sort of like a 4th grade me and me as the Mrs. Reeney. I've got to make the decisions, do I embarrass the student and start teaching them that picking their nose is wrong or do I just ignore it and keep on going with what I'm doing?

Its thiis kind of a decision that have I make each and everyday in some small way that makes my Peace Corps experience what it is. I've been here almost two years now and the only thing that I know anymore is that I'm not sure what the right answer for this really is.

Alright. I feel better now. Sorry for the half-assed post earlier.

Misi E? Io!
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  • you crack me up..stupidface

    A. Nancy
    # posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 10/13/2005 2:26 AM


See Danger Nick Go! Go Danger Nick Go!

Watch the Danger Nick Go! Go Danger Nick! Go!
Click here for the exciting conclusion!

So here is a most excellent movie clip that I completely had forgotten about. The man in the red shirt is Aussie Volunteer "Danger" Nick. As you an see from his shenanigans, he likes to live life on the edge. This is sort of a test video clip to see if a.) I can actually blog a video clip and if so, how does it work and b.) to see if anyone actually checks these things out. ***For thos interested in the results, the anser is NO. You cannot upload .avi files with picassa or hello So this is actually from a hike a bunch of different volunteers took to Eua, my favorite island in Tonga. Danger Nick is about to smack his face into the waterfall in Eua. Its very, very hard not to laugh at adversity and thre struggle of other people. As is the case here. While this may not be the "Best 4 seconds of Film Ever" as I purport, its pretty damn funny and worh a watch or two. I now understand the catch of America's funniest home videos. And Danger Nick, your quite the sport!   Posted by Picasa
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Sent: 9-Oct-2005 21:14:05 - Jesus Frizeak

"Lord,i love u & i need u,come in2 my heart & bless me,my family,home, & friends,in Jesus name Amen.Pas to 8 people,xcpt me. Smthing gudwl cme 2mrw"

Options... Scroll Twice... DELETE!

Just 71 more days of this nonsense and I can return to the secular paradise known as red state-bluestateville. Yippee! So a real quick update. I have purchased my ticket. Right now, I'm trying to get back to philly by the 14th of December and, God Willing, I will. I'm mad pumped! Whoo!

Oh and nicole thanks for the props for the pictures. However, I didn't take that picture, JK did. Stupid JK and his stupid nice camera!
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  • heading straight back to the lions den eh? we hope you'll keep in touch when you're back - we are in seattle at least thru the long cold winter.
    # posted by Anonymous Mark &amp; Erin : 10/11/2005 11:09 AM


The People of Tonga

I was trying out my new hello program from Picassa because I've gotten a lot of requests for more pictures from Tonga. Well I think some of these might be old, but I figured, what the heck and posted them for posterities sake. Tomorrow, I'm going to head off with Caty and hang out in Eua. One of the things that I'm going to do is meeet up with my old homestay family and give them some of these pictures printed out as kind of a gift. I think I may give them a cd player and a couple of my old rap cd's too. The kids will love it. No Doubt.

So enjoy these pics and comment and stuff. If this works out okay, I'll post some more pictures.

Here's Colonge (the girl in the front) and their family friend Pila (Bill) digging an 'umu in the background. I didn't know what the hell was going on in this picture at the time, but they were preparing me a MASSIVE feast because I gave most of the family christmas presents. This was my family's way of thanking me for staying with them and stuff. It should have been me doing the thanking, in retrospect. They must have spent at least $1000 TOP and almost 2 days in preparation for the feast that they put together. This isn't a great picture, but I figured I could use it to explain stuff.
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  • great photos, Jim. Reminds me a lot of my friends and their families - especially the ones of your host mother & the twins!

    I might be getting back to Tonga for a visit sooner rather than later?! I'll keep you posted.
    # posted by Blogger nicole : 10/07/2005 3:31 PM

Damn. This picture isn't the best quality but it friggin rocks. It is so stereotypical of an older Tonga woman. This is my homestay mother 'Ofa with her homemade broom. Unlike every other Tongan that I would meet for the next two years, I had to pull her teeth to get her to take this picutre. Anyway, I got her while she was sweeping the front yard and chasing the kids into the house for dinner. I wish I would have had a better digital camera. I like this picture a lot.
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Sorry for the quality of the picture, but this is an otherwise good picture of my homestay father, Akimoni. As you can see, my homestay father was a minister/priest, or as they call them in Tonga, "faifekau". He was the second in command, I believe, of the local parish and could unleash fire and brimstone with the best of them. Don't let the cool 'stache fool you, Akimoni was bad ass. Actually, he was a good man. I have a story or two about him that you can read here.
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Here is a picture of the feast my family ended up putting together. I guess this was about 2 days after christmas or so. Its when I was really feeling homesick and I didn't appreciate what they were doing for me at the time. At the same token, it was sort of cool because I kind of felt like I was starting to be excpeted by my family too. The tow people in the back are my homestay mother and fater, sitting down and eating.
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This is one of my all-time favorite pictures. This is a great one of a bunch of the girls reciting their sunday school verses. They guy in the background is the girl in the pink's father. The beautiful little girl with the pink hair tie is Seini. She was the first grand-daughter of my homestay father and mother. She is actually the Aunt of Ofa, the girl to her left. Apparently, my homestay father's sexual apettite was second to none as he was oh so fruitful and muliplicitious.
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The man the myth the Legend. Sateki! Single Ladies in America! I'm talking to you! You looking for a good man, who will love you, go to church EVERY SUNDAY, feed you, rub your feet, farm for you or do pretty much whatever you need. If your looking for a GOOD looking single husband that you can keep around the house and will do as you bid with no questions asked. This is your guy. I may not be selling Sateki enough, but this guy ROCKS!

Man! I fogot just how much I love this picture. The Tonga Christmas Tree! My homestay brother Sateki sold a bunch of his kava over in Tongatapu to raise money for this and the goodies to put under and around it to make me feel less homesick while I was staying with his family. Its funny. Looking back on this picture it really makes me remember just how much my family gave to me while I was staying with them. Sateki most definitely rocked.

Girls, I'm serious.
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Here's a cute picture of the twins that I was living with during homestay. I'm going back to see them tomorrow after not seeing them for almost two years. I didn't take this picture, J.K. did.
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Next Great City: Philly, Really

This is Great News! Man. So I've got about 70 more days left in this christian-when-its-convenient heart throb of a nation and I just got this article on CNN

Philly named 'Next Great City'

emailed to me by Caty and it made me so damn homesick. Uggh... Sort of. I was actually looking through some of my photos tonight, as you can see below and started reminiscing about Tonga and my experiences so far. Looking back at what I was going through and what I was doing now as opposed to say, directly after training has given me a lot of new insight. Honestly, one of the biggest things that I've regretting now that I'm leaving is that I didn't get the experience that I had in 'Eua and could have been mine had the opportunity been mine.

I was actually slated to get the Eua job at Hango teaching math and computers classes to their students. Of course I switched with another volunteer who wanted more of the rural experience in exchange for the chance to be close to one of the tech centers where I could make a 'real impact'. Well here I am almost two years later and where am I now with that 'real impact'?

I'm frustrated with the Free Wesleyan Church. I'm also realizing now that I'm not special or unique or made of chocolate chip cookies and mashmallow fluff like I was led to believe at all. In fact, I'm often sour and bitter like a radish. I guess that when I look back on my accomplishments here in Tonga I'm going to think about the students that I taught, especially my first year students when I put so much energy and effort into their learning, and how my teaching may have had an impact on their education and their lives, ultimately. But I don't know, I could have gotten that in the U.S. you know? Well at least I think I know. I don't know.

I guess this post of my thoughtful reminiscing about my two years here in Tonga and my desire to pass on knowledge and love to other volunteers, future readers of this post. I think I could have handled the rural life and, now that I'm leaving, I kind of wish that I did. I think the point of the Peace Corps is to change the volunteer, not really the other way around. I fought hard and there is a LOT of shit I haven't talked about in this blog that has happened to me here in Tonga that have made me a little bit jaded, but I don't think its really goal one. My efforts will not be forgotten. Unlike a lot, if not the majority of volunteers in Tonga, my project is sustainable. My projects will continue on. I fought very, very hard for that and now that the fighting is over, I don't really care or rather, I'm learning that that's not important at all. Is that sad? I hope not.

Now that I'm winding down though, I've really, really learned a lot about the most important thing in the world: Me. I have learned so much about what I want, what I really care about, how much a fight is REALLY worth, what rewarded trust feels like, what broken trust feels like, sacrifice, stuff, ufi, what I need, just how important coffee is to me, just how unimportant politics is, things that I want to do in life, things I don't want to waste anymore effort on, peace, quiet, roosters and my right to have them killed, foot odor and its many manifestations, what is animal cruelty, did I look that doe-eyed when I got to Tonga, Caty and her problematic telephone, teaching, having all the answers, having none of the answers. Life is just like this I don't know what, but I feel like I've gotten closer to finishing that sentence and I guess that makes it pretty worth it in its regard.

I guess that's it tonight. I'm going to finish this post with a picture of Caty so that she can officially mark her territory. Anyway, in a nutshell, probably the best thing to happen to me here has been this girl. If she would answer her phone.

I'm heading out to Eua for a little family reunion for the next few days. I'm hopefully going to see the old homestay family and spin some yarns and work on my downward facing dog pose and eat elephant lips and watch the sunset and stuff.

Oh right! One more thing! Damn how could I forget this! I'm getting my ticket home to America and the City of Brotherly Love I will be leaving Tonga on my birthday December 13th, 2005 and probably getting there on the 14th of December at 2:30. I'm hoping that I can get a better time for this flight. Anyway, here's my itenerary. Its finally getting real.




Love you all and I'll see you before you know it!

Ofa Atu,

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