Tonga - When You Teach a Man to Fish

I lived in the Kingdom of Tonga as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2007 to 2009.  I've really struggled to find just one photo that sums up my more than two years there.   It's not that I don't have any photos, the problem is:  I have too many.   

As a volunteer, you become part of the community.   You go to weddings and funerals and you celebrate the births of babies.   You hang out with your fellow volunteers and with the people in Tonga.  And of course, you go to work.

I have photos of all of those.   I finally picked one.  

The photo that I have selected may seem like a strange choice, but it is what it means that made me decide to feature it.

One Saturday, in October, 2008, I went fishing with two friends.   It was a beautiful spring day in a small boat in the South Pacific Ocean just off the shores of Vava'u, Tonga.  

On that day, I wasn't a Volunteer and my fishing buddies weren't "Host Country Nationals" as Peace Corps likes to call them.   We weren't Tongan or American. We were just three friends who went out to have a good time.  

I haven't done a lot of fishing in my life and my two Tonga friends promised to show me the ropes, or in this case, a piece of rebar tied to a string with a hook attached.   No fancy rods and reels and just some smaller fish to use as bait.

And while we were "fishing" we ate.   There were probably 20 sandwiches for the three of us, a huge can of fatty meat and enough root crops to last for days.

As we ate, we fished.  We told stories, we joked and made fun of each other.  We caught a fish.  Actually, I caught a fish and my friend Fuka Kupu took this photo of me.

Steve Hunsicker with his fish in the waters off Vava'u, Tonga

It ended up being the only fish we caught during our six hours on the water.   My two friends, who have been fishing their whole lives went home empty handed, but it made for a great fishing tale, which Fuka remembered during my last week in Tonga.

I used to go out fishing together with Steve. I think I am more experienced in fishing than Steve, but one time, I didn’t get a fish. Steve got one.

I wrote about this experience at the time that it happened, but now when I think back to that day, I believe that moment captures exactly what Peace Corps is all about.  Building friendships with people all over the world.

On that day, I didn't feel like a volunteer or a co-worker, I felt like a friend.   That's why a photo of me with a fish ended up as my "One Photo" from Tonga.  


This website originally started in 2006 as "Steve's Adventure with the Peace Corps."   I wrote at least one post every week during my service and those stories are still here in the Peace Corps section.

There are many videos linked below.  The first is a video I produced with my friend Scot Fitzgerald about the work we did in Tonga.  The second is the video I made at the very end of my service as I was leaving the country for the final time.  The next one was the day I went swimming with humpback whales followed by a video saying good-bye to all of my co-workers at the Tonga Development Bank. (Fuka mentions the fish story again in that video.)    The last video aired on NewsChannel 9 in Chattanooga where I used to work.  They interviewed me about my experience after I returned home.   

The headline from this post is based on the ancient proverb:     
"Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime."
You hear that phrase a lot in Peace Corps.

This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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