Eating, Sleeping, Church and Bugs

What have I been doing? It’s a good question. For two weeks, it’s been very little really—going to the beach, watching movies, working out, sleeping, going to church, eating a lot whether at home or at feasts, and fighting bugs—although the dominance of church, eating and sleeping make it a very Tongan schedule.

The bugs thing has become way too much of a problem. I got rid of the table infested with termites, only to find that my couch and my ceiling still rain termites every evening as the sun goes down. I thought I was doing well with molekau—enormous centipedes anywhere between an inch and a foot whose sting causes excruciating pain—but then the night after spraying chemicals for the first time, I found three in a five- minute period! The first came out of my toilet, the second from the window behind my sink, and the third I barely noticed, being far too preoccupied with the first two! Killing a molekau is quite difficult because if you cut it in half, both sides keep running and can still sting you. You have to kill it as a whole, and they are amazingly quick! I killed two, but the third is still out there, somewhere, ready to strike. I know the bug problem is bad because I’ve started ignoring the constant influx of ants, as long as they stay away from what I eat. They are almost cleaners of run-away crumbs and deceased bugs, maybe even a friend! We’ll see how I feel when they invade my fridge or destroy my computer. I boil my water now, as my friend Sandy suggested, after finding numerous worms and mosquito larvae each time I fetch it from the tank outside. Cockroaches are now my favorite of my bug problems. At least they are not destructive like termites, ants and rats. They are kind of just fat and lazy, hanging out but doing nothing, although they are creepy when you find one unexpectedly on your forehead.

Uike Lotu, or the week of prayer, finished without too much fanfare. I did not go to the 6 am and 6 pm church service every day for the entire week, but I did go to a couple, and the culminating feast. Feasts are an interesting affair in Tonga, and by interesting I mean excruciatingly boring. The CIA might want to look into these events as a far more effective means of torture than water-boarding. People get up to say thank you speeches while you eat, speaking for sometimes twenty to thirty minutes about who knows what, (honestly, what could people have to say that takes thirty minutes?) but no one actually pays any attention, being too preoccupied with the over-abundance of food in front of them. The Uike Lotu feast was good, as it only lasted about an hour of thank you speeches after everyone was done eating. There was another feast a week later marking a day of education at church, and it was a complete nightmare. The church service lasted almost two hours, ending just before noon. We started eating at 12:30 and were done by 1, but the thank-you speeches continued until almost 4. Every speech during this feast was 30 minutes. I got up and said a speech, being obligated after having been put at the head table with all the faifekaus (ministers, but a lot like chiefs), the church steward and the village elders, pretty much all the important people in my village. I started my speech saying, “Oku ou vale lea fakaTonga ka oku ou fie ako lea,” or “I am not good at speaking Tongan, but I want to practice.” I then said a speech in Tongan, which was definitely appreciated, but then everyone made fun of me, a sign of acceptance in a Tongan community but still disconcerting as I only understood a few of the jokes. At least I could be a central punch-line to all the speeches, but that did not help sitting through six hours of church related activities on a rickety old bench. Praise Jesus!

My work is officially beginning now. This past week was Uike Palani or planning week at Tupou High School, which involved full days of not knowing anything that is going on as every session was conducted entirely in complicated Tongan. I almost fell asleep in many sessions and felt quite bad about my oscillating eyelids, but when I looked around, half the teachers were constantly asleep and did not seem abashed in the least. The only one they all stood awake for was the financial session that detailed their salaries. Visa, the head tutor and a faifekau, literally fell asleep in every session. His main job, as the supposed third most important figure in the school, seems to be to start the singing of prayers before and after every work day or church sermon, but even then he sometimes sleeps through his duty. At least I found out what I am doing: teaching form 5 and 6 English (the equivalent of 11th and 12th grade), and one form of computers. I will be rewriting the computer curriculum, and expanding a film program that started last year for which I will have to create a syllabus from scratch. I also have started coming up with a punishment system for missed homework and absences that actually makes students do their school work instead of manual labor, although it is tempting to have them clean my house as punishment as some teachers do. Life in general has been quite relaxing, but it is about to get quite busy.

A quick hodgepodge of other news: a gang of dogs attacked Uli a few nights ago, causing a day of bleeding and continuous nightmares! It’s very sad. Well not that sad. Better than being roasted in an umu and eaten, but still somewhat sad. The youth group I am a part of, On The Spot, had its annual feast, which was a barbeque by the beach, filled with relay races, sand sculptures, ultimate Frisbee, touch rugby, and a game of tackle keep away in the water that ended with coral rock scraping the left side of my back. And well, that’s it for now. Teaching starts this week, and I’m sure there will be a few stories from that…


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