Friday, January 30, 2015

'Ofa atu Nuku'alofa

In somewhat sporadic blogging style - an update!

I'm in Tonga, I think that deserves a quick post. Its my last day and I'm sitting in a cafe drinking cold coconut while waiting for my ride to the airport this evening. I've bought 75 Mb of data - we'll see how far that gets me.

I'm here for work - basically a repeat of what I was in the Cook Islands for, but with a Tongan context. Helping the coordinator over here to set up her data collection protocols, meeting the teachers involved in the project again, meeting people in the Ministries for Education, Health and Finance, and today - a meeting with the Deputy High Commissioner. That meeting was really good - so fascinating to see the whole diplomatic side of government.

The Tongan teachers have been fantastic. I sat in on a meeting welcoming the new entrants to Tonga High School on Tuesday, the new Form 1s. This is their school hall - a open fale style building that was really pleasant to sit under in the heat.

You can see some of the kids in the front row of the picture above are holding brooms - this is part of their entrance fee to the school: a broom, and a pack of toilet paper. The brooms and bog roll are stacked up in a room and used to supply the school for the year. The brooms are made from strips of dried coconut leaf, bound onto a pole. When all the bits fall out - you just fill it up again. We've also been round to Tonga College and Tonga Side School, the other two schools involved in the project.

I stayed at the NOA Guesthouse and would definitely recommend it to people visiting Nuku'alofa. It was clean and tidy, safe and very friendly. They make you breakfast every morning if you stay in a en suite room, and while heavy on the white bread (my gluten and dairy-free guts are killing me, this latter end of the week) and egg it was completely lovely. The fridge was also always full of coconuts to drink whenever. Diana, the host, has her son jump up a palm to get more whenever needed.

Sunset from the porch of the main house. Tropical Islands do do sunsets remarkably well. I had an airconned room, and thank all of the many many gods that I did so. Last night I was convinced to try a Tongan drink of cold milk (from the Kings own royal cows) with coffee and sugar (I'm guessing the contents) which was lovely (you know, bar the whole dairy issue) but which kept me up past 2am this morning. 

Today the teachers were finishing off their planning week for the year (think; a week of teacher-only days) and celebrated the new year with lunch at Vakaloa, a resort out west on Tongatapu. This was the first beach I've seen all week - Nuku'alofa is very much a port - no beaches around the capital, though they have built a kind of sea-wall to make an area where kids can learn to swim.

 The water looked sublime and felt like a tepid bath. It was blistering hot and I could only stand to be on the beach for about 5 minutes to take photos before heading back inside to the shade and about a gallon of water.

Its Dealing with bureaucrats to make a project run is apparently always a nightmare but jeeeese - my skill-set has certainly taken a jump up this week. I'm quite ready to get back home to cooler nights, my own bed and non-developing-nation-comforts (the shame).

We'll be back in March for teacher prof dev workshops and to work on data with the Ministry of Health. I'm hoping it'll be much cooler! In the mean time the teachers at Tonga High School have decided they are going to find me a Tongan husband. Hah. Good luck.

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