…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

Can I live without it?

A trip to Tongatapu from Ha’apai is more than just mochas and relaxation. The entire time a Ha’apai volunteer is in Tongatapu, we are thinking about the many things we should bring back to Ha’apai with us. It is a never ending struggle between “do I really need this? Can I live the next 3-5 months without it?” Not to mention the fact that we are only really allowed 20 kilos in luggage on the small plane that will take us back to Ha’apai. No, I did not get everything I wanted, but I came back with a smattering of things from my to-get list. Here are just a few:

Fan box containing 3 bags of raisin bran, cocoa puffs and corn flakes, wheat bread, ranch salad dressing hooks to stick to my concrete walls
1 block of Cheddar Cheese
1 white board with markers and eraser
Assorted veggies (carrots, tomatoes, egg plant, lettuce)
Assorted curriculum from various technical schools and volunteers
Lighters to light my mosquito coils
4 large glasses to share with the Sisters in our kitchen
New Veggie peeler
Kingdom of Tonga sweatshirt (because yes, it does get cold)
Various other food items
a cold diet coke

The funny thing about this picture is that it is taken in the middle of us trying to get home. I got to the airport early for my 7am flight. It was a very small plane, no problems. While in the air, I fell asleep (didn’t get much sleep in Tongatapu). At one point, the man in front of me woke me up to tell me that we were turning around because there was water seeping into the windshield of the plane. (Great, you know you’re in Tonga when…..) Once we landed, back in Tongatapu, it dawned on me that we were probably about 10 short minutes from my home when we had turned around, we had been airborne for an hour and a half and it only takes about 50 minutes to get from Tonga to Ha’apai. So be it. The pilot said he would try to repair the windshield and we should be on our way. 5 hours later, we still had not taken off and I was wondering if I’d be going home that day. Grant and Kouichi joined me at this point at the airport for their 3pm flight. I had been put on “stand by.” This is only funny because it’s usually such a small plane, I couldn’t really understand why they didn’t know if the 4 people on the flight were showing up, whatever.
Turns out, it was the big plane, seating 50 people. I had not been on this plane. I got on the flight after reasoning with the flight staff for sometime. No air conditioning on this flight, it was a little hot as we taxied to take off. I was just happy to be going home….nope. As the engines revved for take-off, all of a sudden, they just stopped. We waited for a few minutes and the flight staff came on the loudspeaker and asked us to deplane in the middle of the runway! We did and stood on the grass for about a half hour. (Remember, we all have veggies and cheese with us, sitting on a hot plane on a hot runway) We chat with the flight crew and eventually are bussed back to the domestic airport. Grant and I are not in the mood to go back to the PC office an hour away. We let the staff know that we don’t have a place to stay nearby and if there isn’t another flight, we need to be put up in a hotel. (Hey, it’s worth a try!) There was no way we were going home that night, it was starting to get dark and even if there was a plane (remember, 2 are now broken), Ha’apai doesn’t have lights on their runway! We can’t land in the dark!
We wait another hour and to our surprise the airline tells us we are being put up in a hotel nearby. Oh my, this is Tonga! I couldn’t believe it! Customer Service! So, we are taken to The Royal Tongan Hotel, built for the King. It was a lovely hotel, with a bath tub AND CNN! Guess what I did, drew a bath and put CNN on full blast. Oh the sweet sound of current news! Grant and I later met with a couple who was on our flight, enjoyed dinner and a few beers and I hit the sack. Our flight home to Ha’apai the next day was lovely. I got to sit in the front seat of the plane for the first time ever. It reminded me of all of the stories that my Pop-pop tells me about his days flying fighter jets in the Marines, he would have loved to have been sitting there with me.  It seemed like we were floating in the clouds and the world seemed just a little smaller. It was worth the wait. I got home to the sisters lovely welcome and taught my form 2 English class. Tongatapu was loads of fun, but I am happy to be home in sleepy Ha’apai.

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1 Comment»

  Gypsy wrote @

Another day, another adventure! I love it 🙂


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