…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

Project: Exit the Nunnary

Don’t get me wrong, having lived in a convent for over a year will be a great conversation starter. I imagine being at parties in a few years, talking about Peace Corps and dropping that I lived in a convent. I can see the shock and disbelief now.

As much as I want to have good cocktail party stories, living in the convent ran it’s course.

About a month ago, with the help of Peace Corps and some friends, I moved into my very own house. I had lived in the convent for over a year. While I truly enjoyed living with people, eating Tongan food and a hot shower, it was time for some freedom. Part of the Peace Corps goals is to share my American culture with my Tongan friends and co-workers. In America, I enjoyed having people over to my house. I was rarely alone, I love being with people. To respect the nuns wishes, I kept visitors to a minimum. Even when I did have visitors, they were uncomfortable becauase they see the convent as sort of a sacred place. It was difficult for them to relax. I was also never sure of my role in the convent. I asked to be a part of the cleaning rotation when I moved in. I was told that I didn’t have to. What I now know, 16 months later is that they would have never accepted my request to clean, I just had to do it. There is a huge difference between what is said and what is meant. As an outsider to a culture, this can be trying.

The nuns saw their home as a quiet refuge, I needed a place where my students, friends and fellow volunteers could hand out. I approached Peace Corps and they wholeheartedly agreed. (Thankfully)
I now live in a 2 bedroom home on the beach at the other side of Pangai. The house belongs to the government of Tonga. In exchange for living in the home, I work part time for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Food/Ministry of Fisheries. So far I have been assisting with editing and writing new project proposals for income generating agriculture projects. I love being in an office again and doing things I actually know how to do.
I still teach at St. Joseph’s in the mornings. I teach English Form 3 with my same students from last year, and English & Business for the vocational students. This year is much easier! I know how to discipline and plan my lessons well. I have more students than last year which is a challenge. But I understand how the school runs.
Having my own home is also a joy because of the neighbors. Side (13), Tevita (7), Paane (5) and Mele (1.5) are at my house when ever I am. We color, cook and play with frisbees and balls. This is an unexpected blessing! Last week we made my mom’s famous chocolate fudge with ingredients she sent. As you can see, they loved it! Here’s to the next 9 months!


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