A Scary Welcome to Tonga

The future Peace Corps volunteers who will replace the members of my group in Tonga are now here.   Tonga Group 75 arrived Thursday morning on the main island of Tongatapu to begin three months of training.

Within hours of landing at the airport, a tsunami warning was issued and all volunteers and the trainees were told by Peace Corps to stay away from coastal areas and to remain at their sites.   In the case of the trainees, they were all secured in a guest house until the warning passed.  What a welcome to Tonga.

As you might imagine, the warning on Thursday was taken a lot more seriously after a tsunami devastated Niuatoputapu 10 days ago.

In Vava’u, the schools immediately closed, most businesses closed and the streets were eerily empty.  The response from Peace Corps was also much swifter this time.  When the tsunami warning was issued 10 days ago, I never received a phone call from anyone at Peace Corps.  This time, I had multiple phone calls from both Peace Corps staff and fellow volunteers.

Of course, last time, I also felt the earthquake, something we didn’t feel in Vava’u this time.

Job Training

My friend Emily, who is a volunteer in Tongatapu has been visiting us here in Vava’u this week.  Emily works for the Ministry of Training, Employment, Youth and Sports.  (Yes, one ministry does all of those four things.)  Emily is here to teach Tongan youth how to apply for jobs and how to interview.    On Wednesday, she conducted a workshop for those interested in getting a job.

Emily teaching a workshop

Emily also went around to many of the businesses here interviewing them to find out what opportunities they have for Tongan Youth.

Fun Friday in Vava’u

Friday, my friend Scott and I went diving around a small island called Lotuma, which is located near the entrance to the main harbor in Vava’u.  Lotuma is the same island where we had a very fun July 4th celebration two years ago.


This dive, while not spectacular, was still pretty interesting because there are many giant clams along the reef.   I started playing a game to see how close I could get to the clams before they would close.  I was never able to get close enough to touch one before it closed.

After the dive, I joined my fellow volunteers for our monthly meeting and then we went out to a new restaurant that just opened here.  This place, called Laredo's, had just started advertising an “all you can eat ribs” dinner for TOP$30.00.  That’s more than we get in an entire day for food but is only about US$15.00.  However, we couldn’t pass up the chance to splurge.   When we got there, we found that after just two days of offering the special, they had increased the price to TOP$35.00.  We still decided to “pig out” and we did…joking that after the Peace Corps volunteers left, the restaurant would have to increase the price to TOP$40.00.   Three times the waitress came to take away my plate and each time I stopped her and told her I wanted more ribs.   They were really good and were grilled right in front of us on an open fire.

After that we headed out to a couple of nightspots before calling it a night.  

It was a fun Friday and a nice break to have some time with my fellow Americans here in Vava’u.  I have just 40 days left here.

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