I’m a Volunteer

It's official. I'm now a PCV or Peace Corps volunteer. My entire group of 33 trainees made it to the swearing in ceremony on Wednesday night. The highlight of the night for me was that my host family from Fu'amoto showed up for the ceremony and presented flower leis to both Justin, who I lived with, and myself. We also got to have dinner with them. It was great to see them again and they told us that we aren't going to get an invitation to come visit them, because their home is our home and you don't need an invitation to visit your own home. What a nice gesture and we will both be taking them up on it soon.

You might notice that Justin and I look a little different in this photo. While the swearing in ceremony is a pretty formal affair, some of my fellow trainees decided to have some fun. For the past several months, many of the male trainees have been growing facial hair. We saw a photo of a volunteer group from the late 1970's posted in the Peace Corps office. We decided we wanted to look just like them with their mustaches. We all wanted to show up for our official photograph looking like we walked out of the 1970's. A bunch of the guys really got into it and you can see some pretty hilarious photos in the online album. I started to participate and grew hair for about a week before I got tired of it and shaved it. (It was also pretty hot). Then this past weekend, I decided not to shave and with the help of a eyebrow pencil, showed up with a mustache. (It came off Thursday morning.)

The women also got into the act, feathering their hair and dressing like women did in the 70's. It was pretty funny for me because many of them were dressed like women from when I was in college.

After swearing in, we all went out for one last night together. We won't see each other again until April. Thursday we started saying good-bye as people started leaving for their house. It's pretty hard because we have all seen each other almost every day for the past 10 weeks and many friendships (and a few romances) have formed.

I'm staying here in Nuku'alofa for a few months and said good-bye to my fellow Vava'u volunteers. They flew to Vava'u Thursday morning and I moved into a house where I will be staying during my time here. I'm living in a small house on a college campus in the main city of Nuku'alofa. However it's a very small campus, about the size of a small elementary school in the U.S. and classes are out until mid-February. I have a small house with indoor plumbing and AMAZINGLY Internet access. I'm pretty happy with my situation. It is a short walk to the Tonga Development Bank where I will be working for the next two months and the bank provided me with both a refrigerator and a stove. I'm scheduled to move to Vava'u at the end of February, which is where I will live for 18 months.
I don't know if you can see the house on Google Earth, but if you want to check out the neighborhood the coordinates are:

W175 11.809 S21 08.244

I woke up in my own house Friday morning and had REAL Tongan coffee from my French Press which has been in storage and bananas from the tree in my yard. It was a great way to start the day.

***Other News***

I got a really great letter from Justin's father. He sent me a card thanking me for keeping my blog updated and letting me know how much he enjoys reading it. He mailed it on Thanksgiving. Thanks very much for your kind words and it was great to get some mail!

While I have Internet in my house, the connection is not great. I'm not complaining but the only thing that seems to work reliably is Google Talk. Getting web pages to load can be tedious but they eventually load. This means that even though I do have the Internet, you still might not get an immediate answer on an e-mail. Right now, I also can't download mail into Outlook, but am hoping the IT guy here at the school can help me with that. If not, I'm not far from an Internet cafe.

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