And then there were nine!

The number of Peace Corps volunteers assigned to Vava'u continues to drop as more and more of the members of Group 71 finish their service and head home. By this time next month, we will have just 9 volunteers working here compared to the 16 we had at the beginning of the year.We won't get any new volunteers until mid December when the members of group 74, who arrive in October are sworn in as volunteers.

This past week, we've been busy with good-bye parties, camping trips and the wrap up of the King's coronation.

A week ago, the choirs from each of the churches in Vava'u got together to sing for the King. The music was really spectacular and even when the power went out in the middle of the service, the Tongans kept singing their hearts out. Unfortunately, the King was a no show. The Queen and Princess were there but his throne at the front of the church remained empty the entire evening. I thought it was a shame that these choirs had been rehearsing for weeks and then didn't get to sing for the King.

But many had another chance before the week was out. My fellow volunteer, Sarah, and her village were invited to the Palace to perform for the Queen. I came along to watch as she and the people of Leamatu'a danced and sang. Sarah did a great job and except for the color of her skin, probably could have passed for a Tongan.

On Tuesday, there was a formal Kava Ceremony with the King and invited guests. Everyone had to wear white. I was invited to sit behind where they were making Kava and videotaped some of the ceremony. It's a long but very elaborate process to present the Kava to the King, then prepare it and then to serve it to each of the men sitting in the circle. (Only men can drink Kava in Tonga.) During the feast, several villages performed imcluding the village of Tefisi, who were dressed in traditional Tongan warrior costumes.

Not a lot of work got done last week in Vava'u until the King left on Thursday morning. Everyone it seems was busy catering to the King and Royal Family.

Thursday afternoon, the bank sent me to the island of Hunga to work with the owners of a fishing resort called "Ika Lahi", which means "Many Fish" in Tongan. It was a truly amazing place in a beautiful setting on the Hunga Lagoon. It's probably one of, if not the nicest resorts in all of Tonga. The owner Steve holds many records for big game fish and Caroline, the other owner, is a great cook. I dined on fresh Mahimahi and even had cheese cake for dinner. A real treat in Tonga.

I got back to the main island Saturday and within a few hours was back on another boat, this time, heading to Kenutu with seven fellow Americans. We made camp on top of the cliffs and it was very windy. Even though the water was hundreds of feet below, we could still feel the sea mist being blown up from the foot of the cliffs.
We stayed on Kenutu until late in the afternoon on Sunday before a boat picked us up and took us back to the main island.

But that wasn't the end of the weekend. A couple of hours later, we all went to Jason's house for sushi and to say good-bye to Amanda and Alex who are leaving Tuesday. One of the Japanese volunteers brought some sashimi she had made with onions. It was delicious. Jason, a fellow American who lives here, made traditional sushi rolls from fresh tuna along with Miso soup.

Finally, I got home and slept in my own bed for the first time in four days.

News Stories worth Reading

The Peace Corps is cutting the number of Volunteers worldwide including here in Tonga. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that we were orginally expecting 35 volunteers in the next group, but that number has been trimmed to 24.

I previously mentioned that a ballet from New York City was scheduled to perform at the coronation of the King. It didn't happen.

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