Monday, September 29, 2008

Certain Disaster...

Its gonna happen.
It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow, or even this month. But before the end of 2008 these stairs at my work are going to do me in. This is only one of three flights that could kill me sometime soon. Sure they are beautiful and shiny in their quasi spiral form. But beauty is dangerous and once you take a tumble it is going to be hard to stop yourself. I try to avoid them at all cost by using the back stairs, but every once in a while it they are simply inevitable. A number of times when I have been on them I have had some close calls - a waver or a tremor, if you will, and once even a micro stumble. It's as if they are saying "I will get you yet, but just not today." I can only ask that no one is around for the humilaition. I also ask that I don't break my coccyx. I would rather have a toe cut off than have to sit on a donut for 6 months. Either way I suppose my certain fall will be a justified pay back from this..

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance!!!! WOOOOOOH

I never got into the boy-band-crush thing that generally greets the dawn of puberty in most preteen girls. I never had the giant poster Donny, Jordan or Justin on my wall that I kissed each night, nor did I doodle my first name with said boy's last name. I was in the pre-boy crazy stage when New Kids on the Block were all the rage and after that there was kind of a vacant spot until Backstreet Boys hit the scene. By then I was in high school and too cool to be a screaming swooning girl. But last night I felt it in its full glory at the So You Think You Can Dance concert. Despite the fact that Amelia (who was a contraction away from giving birth - don't worry folks, she brought a towel with her in case her water broke) and I were sandwiched between an elderly couple and a pair of middle aged moms, I felt like I was 12 years old. Of course all the performances were great but when Josh came on stage I screamed like a school girl. Even so, it didn't even rival the middle-aged moms next to us. Every look, wink, smile or laugh he made just made me swoon more and I was bugged that I didn't get to meet him. Here's the thing. From his very first audition he was my fave and to watch him go through all the tears, the victories, getting his braces off, etc, just made me love him all the more. I wanted to hug him, shake his hand and then never wash my own, and tell him how I adored him. I even cursed myself for not bringing a sign that spelled out my admiration. So now I get it. I get why when I was 9 years-old my 12-year old neighbor would walk around with a pillow in her shirt, call herself "Angela Knight" and said she planned on naming the baby "Jordan Jr." And for all you haters out there, just look at my obsession as finally reclaiming something that I was deprived in childhood. Joshua Allen, I LOVE YOU! WOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008


Read it. Hated it. So maybe you wonder why I was reading science fiction. Well I don't do it often, but back in college I was told that it was an "amazing" must read. Since then it has always been a back burner book and I decided to start it on the plane back from Tonga. Really dumb. I only kept reading because I wanted to make sure there wasn't a point in the book where it got good. It was totally bland all the way through and when I was finished I was pissed because I should have dug into a Twilight book - if anything I could have at least learned what caused all the hype. Then, after thinking about it, I remembered who it was that recommended Ender's Game to me in the first place. It was my ahem..unique and socially awkward neighbor who was also a fan of swords, fantasy video games and awkward hugs.
I would get into why it was so dumb, but that would mean I would have to reference parts of the book. And prepubescent children fighting giant, faceless alien ants, called buggers, in galactic warfare is something I feel silly devoting time too. Moreover why "bugger" was the name of choice, when it means something entirely different and rather explicit to those across the pond, is beyond me.
Similarly, on the way out to Tonga I read Angels and Demons. I, like the rest of western civilization, was a fan of the Da Vinci Code. But Angels and Demons? Not so much. It was pretty much a lazy form of Da Vinci Code. It started off well enough and pretty intense. But in the end, Dan just asked too much from me, expecting me to buy into characters jumping out of a helicopter flying at over a thousand feet, without a chute, and living to tell about it. Errr, not only living to tell about it, but getting up and running back in for more cardinal/Pope action with, yes, another dead man's daughter that just happens to be hot and a scientific/historical genius. It was like a poor man's Da Vinic Code that took a tour to Indiana Jones Land without a passport. Nonetheless I think I am sufficiently set up to read the Twilight book, even if it ends up sucking, because when you are coming from bad you can't be too disappointed.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tonga Encore

A little more on Tonga and some answers to questions that people have been asking...

Living Conditions
Yes people live in shacks but there are some who also live in nice houses.
I have heard stories about monster rats and spiders out there, but I never saw them. Only a cockroach on our patio once. The house we stayed in in town was just a normal little house with running water, two bedrooms, living room and kitchen. It was all linoleum and was furnished primarily with patio furniture but we could hardly complain. Unlike many other homes it had a bathroom inside, screens, built in power outlets sliding windows and mosquitoes were never and issue inside.

I didn't know Loa could do that either...

He's never been one to brag or flaunt his skills but yes, he can scale a coconut tree and is as flexible as a gymnast, yes he can sail a boat if the occasion calls for it. He can work a machete like nobody's business, surf and kill a pig in cold blood, skin it and gut it without batting an eye. Same when it comes to fish.

Though I did have a drivers license I never drove because I just don't get it. Driving on the opposite side of the road to me is just off. Plus there are barefoot village pedestrians everywhere that feel jay-walking when you are 12 feet away from them is their god-given right. But Loa did almost kill us a few time in the round-abouts.

No, I did not eat horse. Here's the thing. They don't de-bone or de-fat their meat so a pile of bones are generally found at the end of a meal, even in restaurants. Not to say that the food is bad but I limited my intake to Lupulu, Taro, coconut water, granola bars, lemon tea (Loa made it from water, condensed milk and lemon leaves from the yard) and Fanta (yes Fanta). I was nervous that I would get the liquid poo (as Amelia likes to call it) so I drank and brushed my teeth with bottled water, kept my mouth closed in the shower and avoided uncooked foods. I was fine the whole time. Only once did I have to will myself not to gag when I was forced to try papaya that was cooked like squash. The family that raised Loa for a few years held a luau for me the day I got off the plane. They were very gracious and didn't want me to feel like I had to eat anything I didn't want to. Plus Loa ran interference for me a lot.

Everything is pretty expensive out there. Gas is like nearly 4 pa'anga a liter. One U.S. dollar is equal to 1.8 pa'angas. Lavalavas were around $45. A snickers bar is $3 each. We bought a fish at the market for $26. And the resort luau we went to was $80. I guess it is no surprise that people are always coming up and asking for money from you. Loa got it everywhere we went. But most people have their own gardens/fields where they can grow their own food, chickens and pigs as well as catch their own fish.

There are none. Instead there are mobs. We went to the bakery right before it closed one night and there was a TON of people there. We waited for our turn until we realized that if we didn't get combative that turn would never come.
They literally crowd a counter until they make it to the front. It's not like it was a cramped place. There was plenty enough room for a line and for all to keep their personal bubble in tact, but no. No joke. When we were finally up to the counter the lady behind was not only pressed up against my back but was resting her forearms on my shoulder blades. I couldn't even react. I mean seriously!

At some houses they have family burial plots in their front yard. They look like big piles of white sand decorated with fake flowers and blankets. But even more odd is this is where a lot of people hang out. Driving by you see groups of people, families, kids, young men, just hanging out on grandpa's grave, drinking, talking and just chillin. That brings me to the hanging out. It drove me mad. Scores of people, mainly men would just be standing and hanging out everywhere. We would see people stay in the same place for hours. WHY??!!
I drove Loa crazy trying to get answers from him. But when it is early afternoon on a Tuesday why do you have nine men standing around outside a cafe, a road-side stand, the market or an ice cream shop for hours on end. There would be times that I would get pissed about it because I couldn't wrap my head around it. That would be around the time Loa would slam on the brakes and say "Do you want me to stop and ask them??!"
Also I saw 9 year old kids running around naked at the beaches, yet among Tongans it is considered inappropriate for a woman to wear a swimming suit, rather shorts and a t-shirt. But at the resorts it was fine. We were the only ones there at most of the beaches we went to on the main island, so I only had to rock the shirt and shorts a few times.

We were in Fiji the last two days. Fijians are the kindest people I have ever met. We decided to go there with no plans or reservations anywhere. We literally just got off the plane, hopped on a bus that I am pretty sure was 46 years old, got off at the bus station and started walking. But within an hour Fijians from three different shops that we went into had arranged a killer deal for us at this brand new bed and breakfast as well as transportation. It was gorgeous and charming and the lady who owned it made us promise to spread the word. Fijians do love their kava though and made us drink some with them on a mat spread out right there in the shop before we left. We saw people drinking Kava everywhere, even at the airport.

What I miss...
The beaches, the amazing views, the sound of geckos, the ocean and Loa..

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bula & Malo e lelei

It wasn't until I was in Fiji, 15 hours into my trip and staring blankly at the two mysterious buttons at the back of a Fijian toilet that I realized I was really on the other side of the world. Toilets are tricky and one doesn't want to make a move that would result in adverse consequences, especially when there is a line of a couple dozen 747 passengers that, like me, opted to hold it for 10 hours and 30 minutes. Big button or small button. BIG or SMALL!!? I hit both. It worked. That was when I knew it was going to be a good trip.

When I landed in Tonga another 10 hours later I was euphoric. And when I saw him waiting outside of customs I finally took that long awaited proverbial breath. My whole vacation was like a dream and so many times I had to ask I really here?
We went to two beautiful private islands for a few days Fafa Island and Pangaimotu where we saw some crazy looking fish, explored a sunken ship, napped on the beach, snorkeled, and hiked around. On the days we weren't at the little islands we stayed in a house in town right near the water, went to markets and mingled with the locals. One night we went to a luau at a resort and had a dance dedicated to us. (This was the same band who claimed they were playing an American love song and it ended up being Kenny Roger's "Coward of the County") Other nights we spent in the villages. We also did some snorkeling off the main island, sailing and discovered breathtaking secluded beaches that were hidden by massive rock cliffs, along with open caves and coves carved out by incessant crashing of behemoth waves. Ya, I get it. I realize I am about to break out in song but there were some un-perfect moments as well.
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. for three days in a row. Even if it wasn't for the fact that I was now on a different time schedule I probably would not have been able to sleep those first few mornings anyway.
Pigs, dogs and chickens run amuck there. We were in a gated house so never had any close encounters but before it was all said and done I wanted to kill every rooster I saw. I had it in my head that in a pastoral setting there was really only one rooster, in at least a mile radius, and he crows only once a day to greet the dawn - only after he is picturesquely positioned on the top of a barn of some sort. Well not true. I swear there was 20 of them right outside my window and they were shrieking every 7.6 seconds all day long. Moreover our house in town was right next to a church that met at 5 a.m. Sun-Wed. To signal that church is about to begin someone goes on the church steps and beats two cast-iron pans together for about two minutes straight. (At least it sounded like two cast-iron pans but I can't verify that for sure.) I was told they were on the church steps but again, I am pretty sure they were outside the bedroom window connected to surround sound.) The clanging stops just long enough for you to drift off ...and then the yelling commences. Now make no mistake about it. I am not dissing on the musical talent of islanders - many are extraordinarily gifted. But if you have ever been to any church where there are the older folks you will see that collectively they don't sing, they yell. The fact that the yelling is indeed in perfect harmony is only a small consolation at 5 a.m. But most of the time we just laughed at the situation. And caught up on our sleep at the beach to the sound of waves.
I also brushed up on my Spanish. English is taught in schools there. Some schools are just better than others at teaching it. So some people you run into speak perfect English, some can understand you but can't speak it and some don't understand a lick. You can't tell these people apart so the safest assumption is that they understand what you are saying. So we used Spanish (Loa's Spanish is much better than mine) to say things like "please eat this for me I don't like it," "lets go, I am getting sick" "when are they leaving?" "is that a girl or boy?" etc. Many of them spoke multiple languages but they don't hear a lot of Spanish. It worked like a charm.

I also had a number of firsts. I drank out-dated soda. We carried around coconuts and drank them like Gatorade, I sat at a table with a cooked pig in its whole form, I touched an octopus, I washed my hair in rain water, I boxed people out in a bakery line, I saw a cockroach the size of my phone, I gave candy to small children as if I was Willy Wonka and I was issued a Tongan drivers license. It was the best of times.