…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

Arriving In Tonga

Malo e Lelei! Welcome to Tonga: The little group of islands in the South Pacific that even I had to look up when I was invited to serve as a US Peace Corps Volunteer. I have now been in country for almost 3 months. Since internet was not reliable or available at times, I chose to begin my blog once I got to site.
The Peace Corps has not only a rigorous application process (mine took 11 months) but also an intense training program.

I arrived in Tonga on October 8th, 2009. I traveled here with 24 other eager trainees to begin what Peace Corps calls “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.” We first assembled in Los Angeles at the Radisson Hotel to have staging. This is where we all meet for the first time, finished paper work for visas, financial and medical needs while are away and got ready to board a plane. Emotions and expectations were high at this event. I met several of the other trainees and really got excited to begin training. We flew Air New Zealand from LAX to Samoa then onto Tonga. Once we arrived in Tonga (Nuku’alofa-the main island of Tonga), we were bused to the guest house where we would be staying. We knew we were in Tonga when not 2 hours after we had landed, there was a tsunami warning and we were asked to return to the guest house to consolidate in case the tsunami did hit the island. It didn’t, but surly left an impression on us.
From October 8th-12th, we had a basic orientation. The Peace Corps Tonga Office is within walking distance of the guest house, the office is where we had most of our sessions. We met the large PC staff, a mix of Tongans and Americans who live here in Tonga now. We had introductions to the language and participated in a traditional kava circle. Women are not permitted to drink kava in Tonga; however, Peace Corps allowed us all to participate this one time so we could see what it tasted like and experience a formal kava circle. We learned about our program, the Tonga Expanded Community Education Project (TECEP), went to church services, and repacked for our 2 month homestay during training. I found the repacking difficult. I had spent over a month packing to come to Tonga (just ask my Nana and Pop-pop, they allowed me to take over their living room!) and it was difficult to then wittle down what I brought into one suitcase. Peace Corps allows 80 lbs. of luggage from the US plus a carry-on. You should have seen my dad and I weighing, packing, unpacking and stuffing things into my suitcases the day I left! So, I repacked and we took a plane to the island of Ha’apai.

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