Friday, April 10, 2009

Here I am, Rock you like a Hurricane.

Well, I have finished IST (in service training) which occurs at the 3month mark of being at site. It was great to see the others in group 74, and I especially enjoyed seeing the married couples in hapai from my group. IST was ok, but tended to stretch out and go forever. It was a week of good food (we got per diem, hence were able to eat out at nice restaurants all week), great company and fun times. However, there were 2 downers of the week. Andrew, a volunteer for group 73, went home early, and a hurricane ruined our chance to watch the final four. The night before Andrew left was by far a highlight. Plenty of dancing, a few brewskies, and the need to blow off some steam made it a night to remember.... I think. Just kidding, while it was bittersweet, there are plenty of pictures that dont even begin to show the total funness of the evening (yes, I know, funness is not a word). Unfortunately I did not take them, so I cannot post them on here. Moving on, On Satrday night, I recieved another call from the emergency coordinator stating that the cyclone that had been building was definately headed our way. I proceeded to spend the whole night listening to the radio and trying to get a hold of volunteers to warn them and tell them to stay put. No sleep was had, but everyone was safe, and although it was a hurricane, it was only a category one, so except for a few down power lines and fallen trees all was well and no one got hurt. Today is a national holiday, and I went to church, then watched a mock skit about the crucifixion put on by the prisoners. It was very well done (for tongan standards)and made me forget some of the hardhships and frustrations I have for awhile, and focus on the real meaning of Easter. Hope all is well, and remember: the lord has risen, he has risen indeed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shake, Rattle, and Roll with a dash of March Madness

Malo e lelei. I think that this week might be the most unusual week so far in Tonga for me. Apparently, on Monday, an underwater volcano erupted about 6 miles off the coast of Tonga. Nothing dramatic happened except for the the fact that a huge plume of steam and smoke rose out of the water and was visible almost everywhere in Tongatapu. That is if you were paying attention. I was not. So it was not until Thursday afternoon that I was aware of the geological event. Anywho, Friday morning began at its normal pace for me, and while getting ready an earthquake began to shake. No big deal, not uncommon for these parts, and they generally only last a few seconds. However, this particular earthquake was a bit stronger, and 15 seconds into the earthquake I began to wonder if I should proceed outside (in all honesty, if I was in bed I probably would have just rolled back over). Finally after about 35 seconds the quake ended, and the audible cheers and clapping of my Tongan neighbors that sang in chorus with the rumbling earth and creaking houses ceased and life went back to normal. Or so I thought. I proceeded into town where I recieved a call from the emergency coordinator telling to be prepared and call my contact group and let them know of a possible Tsunami. As with all communication in Tonga, by the timethe warning had reached all volunteers, the warning had been cancelled for probably over an hour. Needless to say there was no Tsunami, and nothing was damaged. I did find out the quake was 200 km south of Tonga, and was 7.9 on the rhicter scale. After all that excitement, I have just been organizing the March Madness pool among the volunteers, and updating people on the scores. GO ASU, way to beat Temple. All in all, a very interesting week.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Ok, so its been awhile since my last post. Don't ask me why but I have nothing to post most of the time. However I will tell a couple of stories that have happened to me in the last month that may get a few laughs. First of all, almost every morning I am awakened by a rooster who loves to crow at 5 o'clock in the morning. Not only does this rooster love to crow, but he loves to hang right outside my window and crow. Well, 2 weeks ago, I woke up to crowing right outside my window as usual. Now this window is on the Northern end of my house and looks directly across the fence to my neighbor which happens to be the women's prison (insert finding a Tongan wife joke here). Having one of those mornings where you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I lept to my feet, grabbed an empty coke bottle, ran out the front door, around the side of the house where I spied the little demon perched beneath the window sill (I have security screens which will answer why I had to run out of the house to find him). I immediately hurled the empty coke bottle at him and began yelling obscenities at the poor creature. The coke bottle met its target and the rooster fluttered off clucking all the while about his bruised ego. I immediately looked across the fence, where I noticed all three women prisoners, and the woman guard staring at me. I had apparently interrupted their morning breakfast. I gave a nervous wave and walked immediately back into the house, listening to the muffled laughter from across the fence. Luckily, there is a new Rooster in town and he has chased away the old one, and for some reason respects my need for a quiet morning. Since he is the apparently the Cock of the Walk I have decided to name this rooster King George, or maybe Foghorn Leghorn. I haven't decided which.
While many of the foods and comforts from home may not be found here, I have found a bakery that sells more of a variety of bread, than the standard normal, white. The first time I noticed the bread i asked what it was called. Thinking they would respond in Tongan, i was shocked when they simply called it Rye (actually its multi grain, but that's not the point). So the next time I went in I asked for a loaf of Rye. Here is the conversation that followed:
"We don't sell rye, only Brown and white."
"Ok, well then can I have a loaf of Brown."
"Ok" and the baker proceeded to hand me a loaf of wheat.
"I asked for Brown, you know Rye, whatever its called."
"Oh, you mean kibble rye?"
" I am sorry we just sold the last loaf to that lady."
"Ok, I'll take a loaf of Non-white bread."
If any one has ever watched the Seinfeld TV episode where Jerry steals a loaf of the Marble Rye from the nice elderly lady, you may understand what was going through my head at that moment. Needless to say, I thought better, and I sighed and walked out of the bakery and caught the bus home. After all that wouldn't you guess my luck. on the bus ride home I accidentally crushed the loaf of bread. Next time I think I'll stick with white.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kava, South Pacific Beer...or dirty dishwater?

Well, I have officially been here at the Prison for over a month. So far it doesn't seem to bad, although I don't expect to be doing to much agricultural work, which is a major bummer. I expect that I will most likely be teaching guards here at the prison how to use programs on the computer, and helping out with grants. I think. I have met some of the prisoners and most of the guards. They are all very nice people, but sometimes it is not hard to remind myself that I am on a prison. I usually drink kava with the guards and prisoners on Friday nights, btu because it tastes horrible and makes me extremely tired I usually only sit with them for about 2 hours and then I go home and go to sleep. Last Friday some of the other volunteers and I went to the Sundowner social that is held the first friday of every month for the volunteer community at the Australian High commisson. I was able to meet a few of teh AUstralian volunteers and it was a good chance to relax and unwind. It has been extremely hot these last several days, so I have been greatful that the Peace Corps office has Air conditioning and I can relax on the weekend. Hope all is going well with everyone back home.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Why am I a Conservative?

Ok, I know this post has nothing to do with Tonga, however, with all the news about Bush on his way out, and Obama on his way in, I figured I would explain to people who both know me and people who don't of what I believe and why. I have been asked several times whether I am happy about Obama winning, or if I voted for him, both among Tongans and PC volunteers alike. My common answer " No, but we live in a democracy and we can't always get what we want, we just vote for elected officials in hopes that they will represent our needs and desires." The next question I am asked commonly is "Why are you a Mcain or Republican Supporter." I would commonly reply, "because I am more conservative in character than liberal." While I tend to call myself a conservative, I do not really feel that the one word does justice to describe what many "conservatives" feel or believe. I do not claim that some liberals or democrats do not share my point of view, however, I have not met a democrat, liberal, or even moderate who has agreed with me in all areas. So what do I believe, and why do I consider my self a conservative? Here are some key things that I believe and what leads me to vote for conservative candidates and policies over democrats or liberals, bear in mind that these are my opinions, and while you may not agree with them, I respect your right to your own, even if they conflict with mine.

1.) I am a Christian. I believe in the freedom of religion, and the right to practice my religion freely without the fear of persecution or punishment. This does not mean however, that every religion has to be equally represented in a society and government whose history and structure was founded under Christian roots and values, and whose members contain a majority of Christians. It merely means I can be a Christian, or I can be a guy who worships a toilet brush, without the fear or persecution. I do not think that it is necessary to remove aspects of Christianity from our government in order to avoid offending people of different religious backgrounds(the pledge of allegiance, In God We Trust,ect.) However, I do not think that individuals of differing religious beliefs should be forced to take part or believe in those aspects either. Simply, if you don't want to say "One nation,under God" don't say it, you have the right.

2.) The original intention of the federal government is to ensure that trade is maintained between the states and foreign nations, to provide roads and post offices, to protect and print U.S. Currency, to provide patents for citizens, to borrow money on the credit of the U.S., to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, to govern the national capital,to provide and operate an army and navy to defend the States in the Union from enemies, and to levy uniform national taxes and create laws in order to execute these powers.

It was not designed to regulate how many gallons your toilet may flush, what kind of car you can drive, and what the legal definition of marriage is. These kinds of decisions were meant to be left up to the states themselves to decide. The system of checks and balances was suppose to allow for one branch of government(either the legislative, executive, or judicial)to keep tabs, and hold the other 2 accountable for its actions. The President can veto, the congress can over rule vetoes by 2/3s vote, and judicial can declare a law constitutional or unconstitutional. Supreme court judges are appointed by the president and the senate must consent to the appointment.

3.)My money is my money. While there is a need for basic taxes to pay for education, defense, and transportation, and the general welfare of the nation(see #2), my taxes should not be used to pay for private company bailouts, industry subsidies, or nationalized health care or retirement funds. I can make my own decisions as to what type of health care I want and where I want to invest my retirement.

Also,lower taxes means more growth, which increases money earned and jobs created, which means more taxable income. It's not that hard of a concept to grasp.

15%(when was the last time taxes were only 15%)of some one who earns at least $500,000 a year is at least $75,000. Someone who pays 15% on $25,000 only pays $3,750 . So tell me who pays the majority of taxes in the United States. The rich. Still don't get it? Take 10 people who make $25,000 a year. They,combined, still pay only a little more than half of what the 1 person making $500,000 has to pay. Does the rich person get better health care, safer roads, and a personal army? No, they receive the same services for their taxes dollars as we do. That is why they tend to get bigger tax breaks, BECAUSE THEY ARE PROVIDING THE MAJORITY OF THE TAX DOLLARS!!!! I think the rough statistic is something like the top 5% pay over 70% of the taxes in the nation. Before you lump me in as a rich person, remind yourself, I am a Peace Corps volunteer, and I make $350 a month. So unless you are another peace corp volunteer, remind yourself, I probably make less than you do.

4.) Social Security is not a retirement plan and was never meant to be one. I should have the right to use that money to invest in my own retirement, where I may actually see a payout when I reach retirement age. If a small percentage is needed (say 1-2%) to make sure that those who have already paid into it receive some amount back, so be it. I am willing to sacrifice a small amount of what should rightfully all be mine in order to currently fix a broken system, so that it can be done away with completely for future generations.

5.) The world is not fair, get use to it. Some people will get the short end of the stick no matter what. I am more willing to help out my fellow man when my money and freedoms are not restricted. Don't believe me, fine, just take a look at what percentage of this country gives out more money to charitable organizations (while paying the larger amount of taxes might I add). If you don't believe me read Who Really Cares? by Arthur C. Brooks.

6.)National Defense- I'm a Reagan Supporter. I think that says it all, but if that doesn't make sense, listen to the man himself. "Trust but Verify" and "Peace Through Strength". Peace is only enjoyable when you have freedom, and freedom has to be defended and supported.

Those are just six reasons I call myself a conservative. Also just to point out, while I have heard all the bad things that President Bush has done, I have not heard a single praise of what he has done thats good. That is until I found this.

Now that I have you either grinning or spitting, I think I will leave it at that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The best thing since sliced bread.

Ok, so I have begun work here at the prison, but am still trying to figure out what that work will actually be. While I am currently settling in, there are several things that I have noticed in the past few weeks that I took for granted back in the states. While some of these are available down here in Tonga, accessibility and price definitely play a factor. Chances are, you probably take them for granted as well and don't even know it. Some of them may be big, some may be extremely small things. Here is just a short list:

sliced bread
any kind of bread other than white
boneless chicken
Radio stations that play a variety of music (If I hear Akon one more time, I may go into convulsions)
Rock music
couchs, futons, hammocks, or even bean bag chairs
Ground beef or even chuck steaks
hot water

On the other hand there are several things that i have seen here that I cannot believe we do not have back in the states yet. This list is somewhat shorter however:
Solar charger for cell phone
9 Movies in 1 for $4 ( So far I have the Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson collections, gotta love countries where copy right laws don't apply.)

Hope all is well.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Curry

Well I hope everyone had a nice Christmas. Christmas here was ok, although it felt nothing like christmas back home. Several of the volunteers from group 74 and I here in Tongatapu went out on Christmas eve and had Indian Curry for dinner. Although it was not bad, I truly did keep thinking about Corn Chowder, Tamales, Cornflake Winks on Christmas eve, and Prime Rib on Christmas dinner, It was truly missed. Nothing has happened yet with the job, and nothing will happen until at least the Monday after New Years. Hopefully then I can figure out what I will be doing and get started. Tonight some of the fellow volunteers and I are going to go to BillFish Bar and grill and ring in the new years. With nothing to do I have been reading alot, and I sat down last night to count all the books I've read since I have been here, and I was extremely surprised. 10 1/2 was the number. That is alot considering my normal time dedicated to reading back in the states was about 30 minutes a day, and that was to check the Headline News (What lame line Obama was trying to feed us, which republican politician was being investigated for fraud or corruption this week) as well as the latest news on my most beloved sundevil football team. Here is a list of the books I have recently read:

A River Runs through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean


When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan

Sex Lives of Cannibals-Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J Maarten Troost

Getting Stoned with Savages-A Trip through the islands of Fiji and Vanauatu by J Maarten Troost

Marley and Me by Joe Grogan

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly hallows by JK Rowling

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

Frommers Guide to the South Pacific-11th Edition

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

I highly recommend all the books except Wicked, Marley and Me, and Into the Wild. I was not that interested in them, but like my father, sometimes I just have no taste. Well, I best be heading on. I am off to shop for a second set of sheets, pencils, and super glue, which will most likely lead me to about 10 different stores. Ah, Nuku'alofa. Gotta love it. However, the fellow volunteers and I have come up with our new slogan. TIT- This is Tonga. Whenever we have a question, concern, or meer puzzlement, we just remind each other "TIT", and we all have a laugh.