Lola & Toni in the Tonga

Group 74, Atata, and the big earthquake
October 19, 2008, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the last couple of weeks since our last post, some significant things have happened here in Tonga.  First of all, the arrival of the new training group, group 74 arrived.  This seems like a big milestone for our service here in Tonga, since it has been a little over a year since we arrived.  It also feels a little like we are passing the torch to the new trainees.  Just like we did, the new group has brought all sorts of energy as well as questions and concerns.  We have since settled into our sites and are living our everyday volunteers lives, and it is nice to see the energy they bring with them.  The arrival of the group was anticipated for many months, and communication between current volunteers and the new training group was fairly extensive.  Unlike Lara and I, many of the new trainees contacted current volunteers to ask questions about Tonga and what to prepare and pack.  A large group of current volunteers met the new group at the airport with signs and banners, and provided kahoas (Tongan leis) when they exited the terminal.  We remember the welcome we received at the airport as a great experience after such a long flight, and wanted to provide the same for them.   After a week in Nuku’alofa, the group headed up to Vava’u to continue their training while staying with their first homestay family.  Many of us will participate with training over the next ten weeks.

Group 74 arrival at the airport

Group 74 arrival at the airport

In other news, Lara and I with a group of friends recently went to a resort on one of the outer islands that we have not visited yet.  It is called the Royal Sunset Island Resort on the island of Atata.  It is about an hour boat ride from the wharf in Nuku’alofa.  It is also very expensive, and as a volunteer, we were only able to afford a day trip (including lunch) to the island.  It is a little different than the other islands that have resorts on them, as it actually contains a Tongan village rather than just the resort.  In fact, the Peace Corps has placed volunteers in the village on the island at different times.

Anyway, our good friends Scot and Karen, and Joe and Cory came to enjoy the day with us.  I should also note that this was kind of to celebrate my birthday, but I was more interested in spending a day with good friends checking out something new than I was in celebrating another birthday.  The island was incredibly beautiful as well as extremely quiet.  The service was very good at the bar/restaurant and the food was so-so.   It would be a wonderful way to spend a weekend if we could afford it, but maybe another time when we are rich and famous, and happen to be in Tonga.  We all got way too much sun and I am regretting my sunblock decisions or lack of now.  You would think after a year in the South Pacific we would all have a nice brown S. Pacific tan, but because the society is so conservative, it is tough to go out and enjoy the sun and water in typical American swimwear.

Royal Sunset Resort -Atata

Royal Sunset Resort -Atata

Last but not least on the memorable things that have happened to us in the last couple of weeks.  While enjoying our usual relaxing Sunday of eating, watching movies or videos, napping, all the good things you can do on Sunday here in Tonga, we were hit by an earthquake.  The earthquake registered about 7.0 on the richter scale, which is huge by most standards.  Fortunately, the quake was centered about 95 miles to the east of us, and quite a few miles below ground.   It gave us some pretty good rocking and rolling in our house though.   As soon as I felt the quake, I figured the best thing to do was go outside, especially since our house doesn’t live up to the standards of a typical American house, and was worried that if it got worse, it would collapse.   As a Peace Corps volunteer, you are supposed to keep an emergency bag packed in case of an emergency (like an earthquake) and  you have to leave your house immediately.  After going outside, I realized that we didn’t have a bag like that, and all we were wearing were t-shirts and lava-lavas (sarongs).  If this would have been a big disastrous earthquake, that would have destroyed our house, we would have been screwed.  So, after the quake stopped, we threw together a small emergency bag together just in case of any big aftershocks, or future earthquakes.  It is almost cyclone season here as well, so not a bad idea to keep one packed anyway.


2 Comments so far
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Alan and I just read your October blog – did you vote? – we are going back to NH tomorrow to, we hope, celebrate – your life sounds so interesting – we are glad you are enjoying it and doing good at the same time – much love, a & k

Comment by Kathleen Hunter

I’m heading to Tonga this weekend to do some documentary photography and would love to hook up with you and some of the other Peace Core volunteers. Drop me a line if you have time:)

Comment by Marcel

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