Friday, July 31, 2015

And now

I don't know why I get so pensive when I am sick or in pain, but it's an unfortunate thing. I don't always want to be hurt to be expressive. I guess it's the only time I am really forced to slow down and given the opportunity to think and write. It makes sense why so many artists and poets write and create when they are feeling emotional because of pain or sadness...I always wondered why and now I suppose I know.

My mother told me quite a while ago that I should start blogging...more frequently than I do...because "I can put words together well and express myself through writing". My mother, like all mothers, have such great influence on their children and what a blessing it is that my mom encourages me to create and express my thoughts and opinions. Although I don't think what I have to say is all that important to everyone, I think I'll take my mother's suggestion and try it. Writing sure helps sort out my thoughts and feelings, and I hope there is some good to someone among the babbling. :)

It is 1:03 in the morning of Wednesday the 29th of July of 2015, and what a year of life changing events it has been since this time last year. Right now I am battling the exhaustion my eyes and body feel with the ache and throbbing pain my foot and toe feel. The two don't mix very well and the toe is winning to say the least. This is why I am currently writing and in a deep, pensive state...pain. This day last year I was flying out to the beautiful Kingdom of Tonga to begin my student teaching as a secondary art teacher. This was a moment I had been waiting for since I was eight years old and "playing" school in the basement with my awesome little sisters, Hillary and Rachel. I attended university for seven years to get to this point, and what do you know....I was going to be starting my adventure as a student teacher in a land I came to love: Tonga. Tonga; I used to look at that word and wonder what it was like there. I knew people from Tonga and Tongan families here in Utah and South Jordan, but what was this island that everyone talked about really like? Was it anything near what you see in the only movie (that I know of) about Tonga, The Other Side of Heaven? What was going to happen while we were there? I had imagined falling in love with the people, my students, the school, and had actually told my dad one day last summer while we were driving between jobs for his lawn care business, that I would actually move there, and live and teach there. I asked him what he thought about it. He laughed, smiled and asked if I was serious, which I answered yes to, and then he said, "Well, sure Jess. That sounds like something you would do." I remember jokingly saying with my friends, "All I need to do is get someone to marry me who will go there and live with me while I teach!" Little did I know what the Lord had coming in just a few short weeks.

I look at the word Tonga now and my heart warms up; my eyes fill with tears, and I feel so much love, and happiness, and also a longing to be there. I see my students, the thick, choppy grass under my choco sandals as I walked back and forth from my classroom to the apartment; I see geckos, I see Pingi and yellow bags of dried peas, I see so many smiling faces and sandy shores, with rocky cliffs, and ocean everywhere. I see a boy that stole my heart on a rugby field while the tongan cows mooed in the background to a chorus of beautiful christians singing hymns in the magical way the tongans\ people can sing. I can see this boy's smile and still smell his "perfume" that he wore that would always make Tammy say, "There's a yummy man in the house!", to which Maka would turn his face to and go shy. I can feel the wind on my face and the bumps from the gravel roads as we drove to town to get sugar covered donuts or passionfruit ice cream from Hi-5 burgers. I can still feel that sweet sensation from Maka's hand grabbing mine as we walked through the market next to the wharf and bought shirts and souvenirs for family back home. I can see the sun setting and remember the cool breeze going through my soaked shirt and skirt the first time I swam fully clothed in the blow holes. I remember taking a blanket out to the "wi-fi" spot and hoping someone from my family was online so I could see their faces and hear their voices as they talked about home and what was going on, but to also tell them all I was seeing and experiencing. I can see the braided hair girls and waxed hair boys in green and white walking all over the campus and sitting in their desks waiting to see what the palangi teacher was going to do today. I can still feel the ache in my heart as I sat in the conference room the last week of our student teaching as I watched the mentor teachers stand and talk about each one of my dear sisters...who had joined me on the trip to Tonga just a few weeks prior but felt like a life time we had spent there. I remember the overwhelming love and humility I felt as I stood next to my own mentor teacher and watched as this big tongan man crumbled with emotion and cried about our time together ending. Tonga is not just a place anymore that has beautiful beaches and a culture that engulfs your heart; Tonga is my home and it's my family.

Now on the 29th of July 2015, I am that Tongan boy that so perfectly walked into my life right when I needed him...right when we needed each other. And as our dear Papa Patch put it at our wedding reception a few weeks ago, we didn't just meet for the first time in Tonga but we seemed to be reacquainted that fortunate night that seems like so long ago. I feel like Makafana has always been in my life.
Today I am a UVU graduate with a bachelors degree in art education, and currently with a contract to teach at Oren Junior High School for the school year 2015-2016. I am also an assistant basketball coach for the ninth grade girl's team at Orem Junior, and recently a girl without a bunion or a car.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

happy new year

I don't know exactly when it started, but my birthday has turned in to more of a "new year" for me. I get all excited the week before my birthday comes and very "pondering" as my Francisita, Hermana Gonzales would say... (; But I do become very thoughtful. I start to reflect over the past year and what has taken place since my last birthday. I think about what I was doing in family life, in school, in work, in relationships around this time last year, and then I think about this coming year and what it has to offer and even more exciting and nerve wracking all at once, all the unknown adventures and challenges that lie ahead as well.

I have loved being 25. I think I can say it was one of my favorite years alive so far. Haha And as humorous as that sounds, it is the truth. (: I remember when my birthday was rolling around last year I was very aware of how close the end of my schooling was and that my days as a college student were coming to an end. I remember feeling like something big was coming that year but I didn't know exactly what it was.....(; I just knew I better have my feet planted and my faith anchored for whenever it came. I remember trying to make the decision to leave to Tonga for my student teaching around this time last year as well. It was a tough decision. As I reflect on that memory and time period I get blown away by thinking of what my life would be like now had I not gone.
I look back over the year and feel humbled by all the miracles and tender mercies the Lord provided. I have been reading the Book of Mormon again and today I found myself reading the fourth chapter of 2 Nephi. The entire chapter touched my heart, but these verses particularly: "v20. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. v.21. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh".
I instantly related to these beautiful words by Nephi. My Heavenly Father never left my side as very large doors were shut in my life which took me to my "wilderness", and then he continued to lead me along through everything until new, even bigger doors opened and I was literally "upon the waters of the great deep" where I was preserved to carry out the plans He had for me all along.

The wilderness is a rough place to be sometimes, and in our own metaphorically small tattered boats on the waters of the great deep where we find ourselves some times, it can be extremely difficult and lonely. I have become to be grateful for these times, however, as during these times I tend to look to my Heavenly Father the most and allow myself to become so open and vulnerable to His will and direction, I always find myself in the most unique, amazing situations. And whenever I feel like the unique situation is not all that amazing and I'm wondering what I am to learn from it, I reflect back on the verses in Doctrine and Covenants 6:14, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time." Boom. That part inspires me and keeps me going when I feel confused or my patience runs out. As we keep the Lord in-tuned with our plans, He will keep us in-tune with His.

Well, it is midnight and I am now entering my 27th year of being on this beautiful planet and will officially turn 26 in 8 hours. (: I want to say thank you to all of those that have helped me get to this place where I am now. I wouldn't be here without my parents, my sisters, my family, my friends, my professors, my coworkers, my neighbors, and new acquaintances....each of you has had an influence on me of who I am and who I am becoming. Year 2-6 holds a lot of dreams for me. I'm graduating from University (officially with cap and gown) this Friday morning. I could possibly be teaching in my own classroom and with my own students as an art teacher this fall. And the greatest, most humbling, most exciting dream to come to pass........ I will be getting married this summer.
The details of emotions and thoughts that go along with each of these will have to wait for another post, but for now, on my New Year, as I begin life at 26, I want to commit myself to a few goals I gained from Nephi as I continued reading his words. I will gain a few more hats to wear this year as I become a wife, a daughter and sister-in law, a teacher, a staff member, a friend, a mentor, and the possibility of becoming a new mommy.......I want to dedicate my New Year to these bold, loving, and true words from Nephi: "v.28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul. v29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions. v30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation."

I love the opportunity to learn and grow as we are stretched from year to year; day to day. The Lord has yet again heard my prayers and answered them perfectly. There are new challenges and adventures that are yet to be had, and I hope to meet them with a grateful, happy heart; a kind, and helpful demeanor, and forever and always, with my Savior as my constant guide and rock. I can't wait to move forward into my new life as a college graduate and a new wife. I know there is yet heaps of new stretching to be done, and as I prepare myself for these new changes, I feel the excitement begin to rise because I know there are good things coming! The flesh is weak, but the spirit is strong, and I will end this post and begin my New Year with the words of Nephi: "Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted".

BRING IT ON 26! I'm ready (:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Long time no see?? Fakamolimoli

DAY 23 (i think) Tuesday 

School from sketchbook. 
I haven’t written in a week now which seems kinda crazy that it has already been a week, but I got pretty sick this last week and was out from teaching or being in school half of Thursday and almost all of Friday with a trip to the hospital or clinic. It was a humbling experience and I was grateful for the help. I had a really bad chest cold or something, but I am basically all back together now and so glad to be feeling better.:) But because of the sicky sickness I was basically just coming home from school and sleeping until my usual midnight or 1:00 wake up when I would get my stuff done. Haha I haven’t changed even on a 19 hour time difference! But last week was a really good experience for me. I came to school Tuesday morning and found out that my teacher’s wife needed to go to the hospital because she’s anemic and needed blood so he was taking her to the hospital. I felt bad that she wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t know what kind of things had to be done for someone with her condition, but I was going to help by at least getting everything done that he needed me to with the classes. The principal, Fehi, let me know that a sub would be coming to class to help me before I walked out and then that was it. It would just be me and my students doing book work. Haha It was really good to see what the procedure was with a substitute and then of course it was good to be put in that situation. I really liked being with all my students and this is actually when I started to do the pencil drill with them turning in their backpack or sandals. Fita, the sub, who actually served her mission in Chile too!!:) was awesome. I was grateful to have her with me so we could run the system right from the start with the pencils and make sure I got them all back. She was also really great at getting the role read...haha Sounds like an easy task but I’ve done it once before and said a lot of names wrong and got a lot of laughing.:) Fita gave me the challenge to read the role by myself before I go home. haha During the second period I had visits from the principal and vice principal. It was a little nerve wracking having them come by and walk around and check the students. My students were all working and had something to work on so I was grateful for that. The day went really well, though, and me and Fita took care of the class well together. haha She worked the door while I worked the front of the room to get all the materials back and the students out to their next class in time. 

Tuesday, 9.9.14

Started term 4 today since we had our delays in Ha’apai! Class went REALLY good for the first term 4. Timing for each thing went really smoothly and I didn’t feel rushed getting the information out. We started with test corrections and only my student, Maikolo, said anything about his test score which was actually 2 under what it should have been....7 instead of 9...haha Grading late at night has it’s cons. Haha He thought it should have been minus five so when I said it was actually supposed to be nine and if he would like me to change it he quickly said no. haha After test corrections I passed out the sign writing packets and paper, and then we ran through our pencil drill. 19 kids, almost all of my students, came up for a pencil. I don’t know how they do their work in their other classes without pencils or if they all just borrow from that one kid that actually brings a pencil. I wouldn’t be surprised though since they do share everything. :) haha 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Today was an A day and I started my art history week with my form 6 classes! I was really impressed with my students and the results that I got. I taught a lesson on the Renaissance by using the lists of vocab from the handout they were given last week. I passed out 2-3 pieces of paper to each group of 4 students that I had made with the class. On each piece of paper was a letter of the alphabet that the students had to write a word from the handout matching the letter on the paper. After all the students were done writing, they came up to the front of the class one at a time and shared the word they picked and why they picked it. We put all the words on the board and then as a class categorized the words into different groups. After we moved some words around and went over a few definitions of the words chosen, the students worked in their groups to make a statement summarizing what we had discussed on the Renaissance. The sentences were a great assessment of the student’s understanding on the lesson. My first class seemed to have better concluding sentences as well as vocabulary words, and I feel like I taught the lesson the same and gave the same instructions. I guess that just comes from difference in students and maybe the groups that the students were in. I still was really impressed with their work ethic and the attention that was given during the lesson. I think they liked searching for the words and then they really enjoyed moving the words into groups which I found interesting how much both my classes liked doing that. They were assigned to write a 200 word essay due by the next class period to help them prepare for their final exams. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Update for my famili in Utah :)

Day 10: Saturday 

Morning run and facetime attempt? Got ready for shopping in town around 9:30. We left, bought my ukelele! Donuts:) It rained. Came home dropped groceries and then went to the caves. Wes’ family came with us. The couple, their three kids, and their two cousins.  We had a tour guide walk us to the cave and through to the back where there is a sanote or a pool of fresh water. (Hey friends! Remember these from Mexico!? haha And our tour guide Steve??) This one is about 9 feet deep so you can swim in it and jump in from the rocks and cliffs in the cave. We all jumped in the first time which is about 8 feet up, maybe, and then Dr. Patch has been here before so all of the sudden he climbs up to another height of probably 20 feet or so and after we double check that its deep enough and then use the flashlights, the only source of light in the cave that we have, him and Alexa jumped. One by one people started climbing and trying it until eventually almost everyone jumped off this rocky edge; most conquering fears of heights, myself included. haha We keep using the phrase, When in Tonga... or Yolo to get us to do and try stuff. haha It just reminded me when I went cliff jumping in Lake Powell for my first time. That was like 50 feet though and I landed in a chair position and about broke my legs. haha I just scratched up my foot on the jump so it wasn’t too bad. One time is pretty good for me though. ;) haha After we all jumped and swam around a little bit and took some pictures, we got out and ate dinner up on a grassy area away from the beach and cave. Wes’ family, I wish I knew their last name, but I guess it works because they are his family, prepared a pig and taro which is basically potatoes. There are lots of things that taste like potato. haha I love the purple potatoes here the best. They’re way sweet and just delicious. :) Well, less people ate the pig this time. Haha I still pulled out a big chunk and pulled through my piece for some meat and ate potatoes while one of the cousins, Kenny, climbed a few cocoanut trees for us. haha It was amazing watching him do it and even more amazing after several girls in the group tried to just get on the tree to start to climb and couldn't do it. Wes’ family was laughing pretty hard at the whole thing and some of the girls were way nervous when he climbed the second tree because he started out by climbing a small mango tree and then basically jumping from that one to the palm tree and then up to the top where he just held on to the giant leaves and used his feet to kick down about 20 cocoanuts which had to have weighed around 10 pounds each. After he kicked them all down he came down the two trees, all bare foot and way fast, and then the other cousin, Mek, used a machete to cut open about 5 or 6 for us to drink. The cocoanut milk is really fresh and tastes like watered down sweet, milk. It’s really good and really refreshing. Bethany loves it. hahaha I think she almost downed a whole cocoanut to herself. And those things are full! After laughing pretty hard about everyone’s reactions to the tree climbing, and enjoying the refreshing tropical drinks, we climbed back in the truck and followed the family out. We drove into town to eat another dinner at a really delicious restaurant called Cafe Escape that the vice principal took us to lunch. We wanted to go for Dr Santos’ birthday and eat there before she leaves Tuesday, but when we pulled up it was closed. There were a lot of funerals going on all over today so we were thinking they must have had something to be at since it was only 6:00 when we got to the restaurant. We ended up driving around for almost an hour looking for a pizza restaurant until we finally settled on one in town that we had passed several times. haha Remember everyone in the back was still wet from the cave so it was an especially long hour for them. When we finally got to Sam’s Pizza, as it is called, everyone was so happy to finally arrive and get out of the truck and know we were going to be eating somewhere. We stopped by a place called Little Italy which makes really good pizza and is a pretty ritzy restaurant, but when we walked in they all the tables reserved and said there wasn’t any availability for a group our size. We ordered five large pizzas, all of them delicious and $30 each.... in pa’angas. haha So they were about $13 in American money. And really...we didn’t care. We just wanted to eat. It kept raining off and on all day and night, so we sat under the little roof covering that came out from the restaurants and stores and waited for our pizzas to be cooked. After about a half hour we had our first one, cheese, fresh pineapple, and ham. It was delicious. And then we got a cheese one as well. Then about every ten minutes after that we got another one until we consumed four full pizzas in about 30 minutes and then put all the left over pieces together in one box and took them home. I was exhausted by the time we got home and just changed into dry clothes and got ready for bed. Dr. Santos came out and gave me this cute, wonderful little packet of art supplies and a cool sketchbook that she brought for each of us art teachers to keep and fill out while we are here in Tonga. There were some really neat mediums so of course I had to stay up and play with them! haha I stayed for about an hour trying out all of the new fun art supplies while listening to John Bytheway, The Five Scriptures That Will Get You Through Just About Anything. haha And yes that’s the real title. I have it on my phone from when I took an ipod on my mission. I listened to this talk one Pday and just loved it. I have listened to it several times since then and really appreciate his perspective and humor on life. The scriptures are wonderful that he gives and really brought a lot of peace and comfort to me when I was out in Chile and still do every time I listen to it. I thought doodling and listening to that would get me prepared for Sunday. By the time I finally went back to my room, everyone was asleep. I slept really good and then woke up to a rainy Sabbath. :)

Day 11: Sunday

Lua was right about the choirs. Janell and I went to the Tongan ward across the street just for sacrament meeting and even though it was really neat to listen to the hymns in Tongan, we couldn’t figure out which one they were singing nor was it as booming and powerful as the first ward we went to last Sunday. I’m glad that everyone got to experience that for our first Sunday. Mr Musicman Lua is incredible. :) After sacrament I went back to the Liahona 1st ward for the rest of church and afterwards met with the mission president’s wife, Sister Tupou, and met her two kids, Jesse and Thomas. They are originally from Alaska and are “adjusting” to Tonga. haha They are really awesome. 
After church I walked over to the edge of campus and read for awhile by the temple, and then went and skyped with my sisters for a little bit. The connection was really good and clear and probably only cut out like five times.....;) haha But really, that’s good for the wifi here and I was grateful. Well, we just had a nice long relaxing Sunday and all were asleep by 10:00. 

Day 12: Monday

I didn’t have my phone since it was charging out in the living room. None of the outlets work in the bathrooms or bedrooms so we get ready in the living room or kitchen and plug everything into the outlets out there. Not having my cell phone means that I didn’t have an alarm so I just relied on hearing either the really awesome roosters who we love so much......... not. haha They are beautiful and are everywhere and I’m grateful for chicken and eggs, but these little birds start crowing at 5 or 5:30 and the sound that comes out of them is not a normal cock-a-doodle-doo. hahaha I thought an animal was dying somewhere in the fields the first time I heard it. Just kidding, it’s not that bad. We’re used to it now. haha Well, I got up and got ready. Some of the girls made cinnamon toast for breakfast for all of us. It was really nice and tasted really good. I taught today with Dr Santos observing me for the first time. We were on assembly schedule because a speaker, a tongan woman that had interned in the white house from January to July of this year, came to speak to the students. I really enjoyed her talk and hearing her story. I ended up using it in class to segue into my lesson. Her first name is MIkita Tonga but all throughout her internship and being in college she went by Tonga so everyone knew where she was originally from although she was born and raised in Oregon. She has accomplished some really great things and since we are learning about sign writing and self identity, we are making name posters using the skills we have been working on the past week. I told them to think about their names and what they mean. I wrote my whole name on the board, which I loved hearing them read, especially my last name.:) I talked about my middle name and how May is a common middle name in the States but I got the different spelling of Mae from my grandma and great grandma. I have always been kind of proud of sharing my middle name with them and having a piece of them to live up to as they were both incredible women and great examples to me. Well, I think they got excited about the assignment and got to working after that. I have to mention that I have adjusted to some aspects of teaching pretty quickly. I can’t believe it’s only been a week because I feel like I have been here much longer than that and I feel like I already know these students pretty well. I love them all, first of all. haha They are all so funny in their own way and have such great personalities and talents. I do get after them already though, and I think they’re starting to get a feel for me. I use a little of the “Tonga way” and mainly my coaching skills from Bingham to express myself when they aren’t following directions or they try to leave class before the bell rings. haha  I really connected with one of my form 4 classes today, though. I really loved that. I think I will always have a soft spot for kids 14-16 years old. It started with that first year of coaching sophomore basketball!;) haha I really do love them all though and I love teaching. I still have lots to work on and it was good talking to Dr Santos afterwards to get some good feedback for next time. She’s actually leaving tomorrow night already. We went out for her departure and to celebrate Luciba’s birthday, one of the other teachers here. We finally made it to Cafe Escape! I love that restaurant. haha And afterwards I got introduced to some amazing ice cream from a Burger place in town that I will most definitely be visiting again. :) 
Well, having one week down is pretty crazy. It has already been quite the adventure and there are still six weeks of teaching left and another three weeks of traveling on top of that. Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my week of student teaching and being here in Tonga: 1. I love watching the sunrise on a horizon of palm trees. 2. I love the smell of salt and ocean all the time. 3. I love being a teacher. I couldn’t stop smiling the first day we were walking through the “halls” or sidewalks under a small roof since the whole school is outside. I was so happy to have my little bag and heading off to the art room and walking by all of the students and saying hello and good morning. 4. I love reading good books. 5. All high school aged students act the same no matter where they are in the world. haha I have my good students, my bad students, my punk students, my hard working students, my quiet and shy students, and my students that talk and joke and of course every class has the class clown. 6. I love Tongan art and I love my Tongan students. Their art skills blow me away every time I watch them work. I’m impressed every day and they seem to do it effortlessly. 

I’m so grateful to be here and I’m so grateful to be in this phase of my education. Every day I get reassured I am in the right profession. I love that. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

FiE KAiA...FiEFiA.

DAY 6: Tues  (Yesterday..late post. Sorry)
Today was the first day we were in the classroom and I loved it! I was pretty anxious last night and really just excited to get started and meet my students and teacher, so I didn’t sleep much but that’s ok. I did something to my foot too so I wasn’t able to go running but hopefully tomorrow I will be back out to watch the sunrise. Dr. Santos came in last night and it was so good to see her and talk with her before my first day. She was actually in class with me most of the time today which was really helpful as well. I met up with my teacher at 8:00 in the in the home economics room where our department devotional is held. Monday they have the devotional in the auditorium with the whole school and then Tuesday through Thursday we get together as teachers and have devotionals in our departments and then Friday we have a teacher devotional with all the teachers in the teacher lounge. We start everything, meetings and class with a song, a prayer, and a spiritual thought. I love it. These kids are amazing at conducting, I love hearing them sing at the top of their lungs and they have all the songs memorized, and really good, humble testimonies to share. Our head of department, or HOD as they all refer to these teachers as, was not here this morning so we met as a department for song, prayer, and a short introduction as to who I was and then I went with my teacher, Moeaki but I call him Moe and he’s really nice. I learned a lot from him today and the greatest part for me was allowing him to talk to Dr. Santos about art education. He thought it was really interesting that I will be getting my degree in art education and not just the fine arts or a specific medium like ceramics or painting. He was really curious about curriculum and how things are taught in the states. He asked us if we had any text books or resources for him as a teacher to learn more about art education and being a better teacher. I really admired his desire to continue learning and better his profession. I randomly brought my text book from my art education methods class so I told him I would bring it to class tomorrow for him. I’m really grateful that wasn’t one of the things I dumped out of my suitcase at the airport. 
So the vice principal told the teachers that we would observe for two weeks and then we could transition to teaching more. Moe asked me about that right at the beginning today and I told him I could actually start teaching much sooner but I would like to observe this week and get a feel for the students and his teaching style. We walked a little bit more and then he said, “ Okay, so could you teach today then?” :) haha I told him I could if he would like me to. I ended up teaching all three classes:) (His first period on B days is a prep period which was really nice so we could talk about the projects the students are working on right now and about the schedule and the partial curriculum they have). 
They run school in forms here: form 4-7. We are still trying to figure out how they divide the students into these forms because they don’t seem to be in age like we were originally thinking. We also found out that some students are here until they are 19 or 20 to finish up and graduate so the forms are most likely done by skill level, not age. 
I’m also learning a lot of Tongan already, and one cultural gesture we have picked up on and actually have started using is the eye brow raise. It means “yes” in Tongan or that you are agreeing with someone. I have seen it before but today in the classroom the students were raising a lot of eye brows when I was trying to learn their names and repeating back what I said to them. haha I think it’ll take me a few days to remember that they are saying yes and not just looking at me or widening their eyes. haha I actually caught myself doing it in conversations tonight. It’s really awesome. 
Well, teaching was a really good experience. I did some demonstrations on lino cutting, a type of printmaking, which just added to this dream-like experience as teaching printmaking is what I would love to do. I was amazed and so impressed when Moe told me they did not have actual lino but he has been giving the students old carpet to cut out of it. It’s amazing and works just like lino!! Maybe even better because the under side is the carpet and grips better to the table. I love the use of resources. They also don’t have cutting tools here so I was wondering how the students cut the carpet and quickly found out how to use a normal Xacto blade to do it all. I asked if I could practice before I taught his two form 4 classes how to do it and decided to use the Liahona symbol with kapesi or tribal designs I had done before I came to Tonga. It was awesome sketching it out and carving and cutting with the blade. He pulled out some student work that he had. It was beautiful and again I was amazed and impressed at the student work. I knew I was going to come to be mainly learning from them.
They are set up in a block schedule with A and B days so today I had a form 5 and then two form 4 classes. All of my classes are mainly male students with seven female students in my form 5 and four female students in each of my form 4 classes. I have close to thirty students in each class so it’s heavily over weighed with boys. I don’t know why yet, or if there even is a specific reason but it was interesting to see that today.  
After school I sat with Moe and Dr Santos and planned out the next eight weeks and when I will start teaching on my own and which classes I will be teaching. Requirements are that I teach at least four classes by myself. As of right now, Moe would like me to take the form 4’s and form 7 classes because they don’t have curriculum. I can continue teaching the printmaking with them and then maybe later on pick up a few more classes. It would be great to actually take on all 7 classes just to see if I could even do it. haha I’m excited to meet the rest of the students tomorrow and see what more I can learn! The form 6 classes are doing 3D sculpture so that will be fun and really good to see. As for me, I am looking up printmaking lesson plans, useful vocabulary, and websites on how to speak Tongan! I’m going to focus on learning the language and teaching art. :) I don’t know when I will get Sunday or Monday’s post finished or not so I will just add here that I did find a home stay! My HOD asked if I would mind if there were cats and dogs at the meeting after the vice principal announced that I would like to be placed in home stay. I told her I had animals, but when she told me had 5 dogs, 2 cats, and newborn puppies now my thoughts went rushing back to the dogs and cats in Chile and the homes we visited that had pets and it was a little rough we’ll say and definitely not the favorite of one of my companions, Hermana Alonso..;) haha But really, I’m grateful she volunteered and is willing to have me. We talked some more after the meeting and she said her son just got back from his mission last week from Africa and is moving back to California to go to school next week so when he moves out I will move in. I’m excited for the home stay and happy that I found out about that. 

Well, that about wraps up the day! Lovin’ it here in Tonga. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

We arrived... Malo e Lelei!:)

Day 1: We finally got to Tonga!! 
After the fun adventures in the airport ( best thing was definitely the pizza we ate in the Tom Bradley International Airport in LAX. 800 degrees. Margherita pizza with mushrooms, ham, and roasted garlic. Just for a FYI when and if you’r ever there). As we  got closer to Tonga and when we landed in Fiji, the reality of the trip started to settle in. Bethany and I kept turning to each other and asking if we were ready for this. There’s no preparation for what we found when we got here. 

It has been amazing. It’s winter here so when we landed it was raining outside and as you walk out of the Tongan airport there are benches outside where people are waiting for the arrival of family and friends. Luckily we had one girl who had landed here two days earlier so she was there to greet us. We had some luggage problems with our entire plan so four people in our group don’t have their luggage as well as some other passengers on the plane. The airport workers were really nice and gave my classmates $100 to use for buying clothes here to cover them until their bags get here (which could be Saturday..?). Everyone has been really helpful and nice. We had a driver come to get us and then because the luggage stuff took awhile we actually happened to be there for when Alexa arrived, the other art student, and then we were also there for when Dr Patch arrived which was really nice too. He tried to come earlier this week so he could have things a little more set up and ready for us when we got here, but he got laid up in Hawaii for five days due to mechanical problems with his aircraft. It was great being all together finally in the country. It still seems crazy this all worked and that we made it. haha We got all of our luggage packed up and a few of us were trying to get our phones to work on the Tongan phone services and buy some data packages that didn’t work at the airport so they told us to go into town and talk to them. We drove there first and an hour later only two people had internet service on their phones. They call it TOP UP when they had money to your account. The internet works to pay for, but the data didn’t work for us. It all worked out though, because while we were in the airport getting the phones stuff at first we met Sela, a lady that Patch had actually taught with when he was Liahona. She is really nice and after talking to her and introducing ourselves, she invited me to stay with her and her family in New Zealand when I come. They live a few minutes from the airport so she said she will come get me and I can stay with them. Patch talked to her for a little bit more and then we left to town where we stopped at the phone place and got that sort of figured out. While the three of us were in the phone store, we met some members of the LDS Church who asked us right away if we were from Utah and if we were members. haha I wonder where they got that idea from...?;) The other students went exploring for a little while we were doing that and found some food stands where they bought samosa, which is a little empanada full of a type of potato and curry. It’s really good. I love it here so much because there are so many things that remind me of Chile. I feel like I’m at home. They even have little stores every where which are called Falekaloa I think, which are just like all the little almacens in Chile. They are basically all these little shops on the streets ran by families. They are full of the best part of a gas station. Best way I can describe it. I’ll take pictures, but I love them. I guess they have these little stores in a lot of countries. We stopped by one of these after dinner and got a few things for dinner and breakfast for the next day. They have delicious bread here and its CHEAP. Again, just like Chile. I’m calling it cotton candy bread. It comes in a huge loaf and in a little, light plastic bag. The inside is as soft and fresh as cotton candy...It’s awesome. And a whole loaf is 75 cents or 1.50 pa'anga. Their money is about .44cents to our dollar. So everything is about double than what it would be here. 

Well, we ate at a cafe/restaurant called Friends for dinner after the airport. Quite a few of us were pretty hungry. We had been recommended the cafe from a guy we me at the airport. He has lived here for about thirty years he said and was doing work with getting helicopters to be here in Tonga. It was a good recommendation. We tried coconut, fresh raw fish which Patch ordered and I found out I really like. I’m excited to try the sea food here and try more of that. The rice is amazing and so are all of the vegetables and fruit. I was happy after dinner. haha We finally got to Liahona and our apartment. The campus is huge. Our apartments are wayy nice and a lot better than most things I had as a missionary in Chile. haha I only mention that because I guess I was thinking it would be different since they told us it would be lesser living conditions, but it’s seriously really nice. We have hot water, and they left us towels which was really nice since I had to dump a lot of my luggage at the airport before I left. Well, we unloaded our stuff and then Patch took us to a place called Blowholes. It’s a beach where the shore and rocks have formed to make small pockets and tunnels for the water to come in and when there is a big wave or strong tide it goes inside the crevices and bursts up through these naturally made “blowholes”. It’s beautiful. We get around in a four cab truck and here there aren’t much traffic or road rules and everyone drives around with at least two or three people in the bed of the truck. We drive around with five palangis hanging out the back. haha It’s like an awkward parade wherever we go. They also drive on the left side of the road. I'm still trying to get to used to making left turns and staying on the left side of the road and the main thing they have are round-abouts which are awkward to drive around on the left side. haha 
Well, the next place we went to was even more beautiful. Each place is. It was only 7:00pm but pitch black with the moon and stars out already. It felt like we were at the beach at midnight. We drove by some cemeteries to get to this specific beach. Their cemeteries are amazing. They decorate the graves by piling a mound of sand or dirt on top and then placing all of these flowers, signs, posters, rocks, shells, and anything else all over it. It truly is a monument dedicated to the deceased. It’s so colorful and a true testament to who that person was while they were alive. It’s pretty neat to see. At the beach Alexa, Dr Patch, and I ended up going swimming. The water was clear and calm, and even though it was dark and we couldn’t see much, after our eyes adjusted and when the sliver of moon shined through the clouds we could see some reflection and get to the edge of the reef where we were standing and swimming. It was kind of cold but felt really good and just floating as the current came in and out was really fun. It didn’t seem real. The waves were crashing about 100 yards from us and we just floated, in our clothes by the way, in the four or five feet deep pools we were wading in. The sand is so fine and white, and walking on all the reef and coral rock is definitely a different feeling. I really like it, though. Well, we got back to Liahona, showered and then most of the students went to bed. Alexa and I went and played cards with Dr Patch and Wes, the only guy on the trip. haha He’s awesome and actually came out with his wife and kids at home supporting him in this amazing opportunity we are all taking. We stayed up til about 10:00 which doesn’t sound late, but with the time change that’s about 3:00 in the morning and we hadn’t slept yet. I sleep on a mattress on the floor, home sweet home:) , and I have a queen size here so I upgraded. haha It felt good to sleep. I brought the same sheets I used in the mission, just for memory’s sake;) , and they are actually Rach’s spiderman sheets so thanks sis. I’ve got you here with me!;) Well, the start to this journey has been amazing and nothing short of a dream. It’s crazy it’s only been a day.