Friday, December 26, 2008

Home in time for Christmas

I am home for Christmas. It's awesome!

At first it was really very surreal - seeing my little house, after 169 days of absence and so much water passing under the metaphorical bridge, was BIZARRE. But it very quickly became divine to be home. The dog, the chickens, the rabbit. The young natives that have all grown a few centimetres since I've been away, and my rose bushes and fruit trees which I'm sure have all doubled in size!

Most tremendous of all is being in this space with Clinton, who I am going to marry in a few months and who has been the most faithful of caretakers since I've been gone. I feel so soothed at the thought of starting our life together in the Ainslie house. Everything else may be up in the air (work, life after Tonga), but the old cliche of home is where the heart is feels very true to me. It is simply wonderful to be with him again, and to share the space we created together, though it's only for a few days.

Other things I'm loving are HOT showers, clean toilets, my Mum's cooking, the sounds of birds always in the background (not roosters!), and snuggling under a doona at night.

But being here also throws into sharp relief the many wonderful things about Tonga. First and foremost is the laid back lifestyle. People don't yell at you because they hate their jobs and they want to exercise the tiny modicum of power that they hold; no-one beeps at you if you're at a traffic light for.3 of a second after it turns green (though that's just speculation, because there are no traffic lights in Tonga!).

If the saying that Time is Money is true, then it follows that a culture that does not emphasize money as much as we do is also a bit more relaxed about time. Seriously, if you miss this traffic light, is sitting there for another 90 seconds really going to kill you?

Being in Australia I am reminded of how seriously people take themselves. Achievement of the individual is emphasised to the dertiment of the community. But in Tonga, no-one goes hungry at Christmas. This might sound like I'm romanticising this South Pacific island culture, but as far as I can see it's really the truth.

Anyway, I hope everyone out there is having a Merry Xmas. I know I certainly am, even if part of it has been realising exactly how much bullshit we (supposedly chilled-out and laid back Aussies) carry around as part of our everyday lives!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tonga the Trusting

Yesterday I went to one of the good shops (ie it occasionally sells soy milk, and if you're lucky brown rice), which is near my new house, thinking I'd quickly grab a few things before they closed for the day.

I only had fifty pa'anga on me, but I got so excited by the brown rice and Vita Weats that my groceries ended up costing more. Instead of telling me to buy only what I could afford or piss off, the very relaxed check-out girl told me that it was fine for me to take the stuff home and come back tomorrow to pay the remainder.

How awesome is that!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some more stuff I like about Tonga:Going off The Wall

I do need to occasionally remind myself about the things I enjoy about being in Tonga. One of the biggies is snorkelling. And the fact that you don't have to travel far to get good snorkelling. In all honesty, though I've seen an excellent assortment of fish in Vava'u and even on Fafa Island resort, the best coral variety has definitely been right here in Nuku'alofa, off The Wall in Sopu.

The pics above and below were taken last Saturday, when a group of 6 of us went off The Wall - this involves walking for about 500m to the reef's edge through waist-deep water, and then timing your entry and exits off the reef with the waves so as not to get smashed up on coral - best done an hour or two after high tide!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Soy-Milk Epiphany

Last night I had a most vivid dream.

In the dream, Clinton (my partner) asked me to come home, and on a whim I said “sure!”. But as soon as I arrived back in Sydney, I realised how badly I wanted to go back to Tonga. It felt like I’d lost something irretrievable.

I spent the rest of the dream in tears, alternately explaining to Clinton how much I just wanted to get back, and trying to contact my ICM to convince him to let me return.

This dream is a nice realisation for me. Something began on Monday morning, when I came across a previously undiscovered supply of soy-milk, and it has culminated in that dream. I know now for sure that I really don’t want to go home. I also feel like I have begun to emerge from my rough patch.

It’s funny, but when I was standing in front of those 8 UHT cartons of soymilk I really had the sense that perhaps I had reached a turning point! Amusing as a Soymilk Epiphany might seem, it’s been borne out over the last few days, with some new connections with other AYADs being made, my latest skin infection clearing up, and my flatmate and I signing a lease on a new place this morning.

It feels good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Great "First Three Months" Lie

You know how they told us the first three months would be the hardest? Well, I beg to differ [utters hollow laugh].

First, I spend two awesome weeks in Tonga with Clinton, then leave behind my family, friends, and fiancee after a whirlwind 4 days in Australia (who's dumb-arse idea was it to go home for just 4 days??). I returned to Tonga feeling slightly sad, and seeing Clinton's imprint on everything. Even opening a packet of biscuits reminds me of him!

But I guess that wasn't enough, coz barely 2 days after I got back we got kicked out of our "home", and now I'm living alone and half-unpacked in temporary accommodation, while I think my "flatmate" is giving me the silent treatment, but I'm not sure because I haven't really seen her since we moved out because she and her Tongan boyfriend (who is not permitted in our house!) are staying elsewhere.

Oh yeah, and I found out today that my father, who had prostrate cancer last year, now has a few extra tumours on his organs and they're running more tests. Fucking AWESOME!

So this is the fifth month, right? Isn't everything supposed to be peachy-fantastic by now? Aren't we supposed to be settled into our accommodation and our new lives, happily changing the world through our capacity-building roles?


At this rate, I'll be homeless and hating everyone by Christmas! Let's hope things pick up, people, because I am in a pretty bad mood, and feeling a whole shitload of Sadness, wondering what I'm doing here and why I bother fronting up to work every day. Oh yes, that's right, it's so I can access the internet.

Right now, I wish I was less stubborn so I could just go home. But that's not me. Besides, logic, reason and past experience dictate that things are bound to get better - right???

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Bump on the AYAD Road

Well, so much for the “home sweet home” of prior posts – yesterday we got kicked out of our place in Longolongo, and by the end of the day we were in temporary accommodation in a whole new house.

Dramas? You bet! It’s kind of a long story, suffice to say that our landlord has a chip on his shoulder about the fact that my flatmate is dating Tongan guy. They are now officially engaged, so it’s all above-board and legitimate, but he had a real problem with locals (ie Tongans) coming onto our property.

We thought this would all disappear as he left the country for three months to work overseas, but unfortunately our peace lasted all of 4 days (for only 2 of which I was actually in the bloody country!), and yesterday morning at 8:45 he rang to tell us that we were being kicked out, and should be off the property by the end of the day – otherwise, we were to watch out!

We called our In-Country Manager (who’d been informed of pervious hiccups, and who’s sensible advice for a more harmonious relationship with him we followed), who tried to soothe things over, but to no avail. The only way the landlord would consider letting us stay on until 1 December (which, incidentally, is when we are paid up until!) was if our In-Country Manager personally signed a declaration guaranteeing the property against damage or theft. Well, this was from a man who had refused to give us a Rental Agreement, so his word is obviously worth nothing – as if we would trust him! Or put our ICM on the line! Oh yeah, and his other condition was that there were to be ABSOLUTELY NO TONGANS on the premises until we left.

I’m sorry, but doesn’t paying rent entitle me to have anyone I like on my property, as long as I maintain everything in the condition that it was given to me?? There are not enough expletives in my vocab to tell you what an asshole this guy is – and racist to boot! I mean, as if we’d come to Tonga as volunteers and then shun Tongan people – get real!

So we were all packed up, A-Lee heading to another volunteer’s house and me contemplating living in a tent for a few weeks (actually I was quite excited about the prospect of the tent!), when a neighbour, who was aware of the situation and who’d spoken to the landlord advising him NOT to kick us out (he’s also the landlord’s uncle!) showed up to express his regret at the situation. When he heard that we actually didn’t have anywhere else to go he immediately offered us a vacant house that he owned, just up the road, as a temporary solution while we look for somewhere else.

This was just so fortuitous! The place is secure, has running water and electricity, and is more than adequate while we look for something longer term. We are so grateful to whatever angels were looking out for us at that point!

This also means that I will have moved house at least 5 times before I leave Tonga – will I set some kind of new AYAD record I wonder?? Stay tuned to hear the latest on our domestic situation – and please keep your fingers crossed that we find somewhere awesome to live before Xmas, as Viliami needs his house back by then!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Love as an AYAD

So the day finally arrived – the day my partner Clinton flew in to Tonga to visit me for two blissful weeks. After 109 days apart (which is a really long time!) we finally got to see each other for real and not just on Skype. Tonga is a very Christian country, and public displays of affection between couples is considered inappropriate. Before going out to the airport I spent some time musing upon whether or not I was game to hug Clinton, but as soon as he walked out the doors after clearing Customs all caution went out the window and I threw myself upon him – literally. I think I nearly knocked the poor boy over!

Arriving at the airport - he was the first one out through Customs, and I didn't hold back!

It was really great rediscovering how much we enjoy each other’s company. It’s alright talking on the phone, even daily, but it’s not the person’s actual COMPANY that you’re getting. It’s not sitting on the porch talking and eating biscuits while he fixes your bike, or giving all the local roosters characters based on their crowing, or having someone by your side as you fall asleep. To put it bluntly, talking on the phone and seeing each other on Skype is a pale imitation of a relationship.
Relaxing in the garden at Taina's on 'Eua
Not that I think it’s been detrimental to us as a couple at all, but it’s HARD – now that I’ve remembered how great life together is I feel sad contemplating another 8 months of this shadow-love. But I – we – will get through it.

At the Rock Garden at the southern tip of 'Eua
In our 2 weeks here we saw and did a lot. As well as exploring the mainland a little and showing Clinton all the usual AYAD hang-outs, we also spent 5 days in ‘Eua (an island to the south-east of Tongatapu), hiking and talking and eating, which was magnificent. We capped this off with 2 nights at the deluxe Fafa Island Resort, which was perfect and luxurious (and let’s face it, so not Tonga!)
Relaxing on a double hammock on Fafa Island
I really love sharing things with Clinton. It’s like whenever we’re together life is a holiday, regardless of where we happen to be – “lost” on a muddy dirt track or watching the sunset from a 5-star resort in tropical paradise. It’s the man, not the moment. Thinking about sharing our everyday lives together “back home” seems almost too good to have been true. And now that our time together is over, I am faced with Skype and phone calls once again.

Oh well, only 6 weeks until Christmas!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Tonga Top 10

As we have passed the milestones of both the 3 month mark and the 100-days mark, I thought I’d do a bit of a compilation of my ten favourite experiences in Tonga thus far. I don’t know about having them in an exact order, let’s just say that it’s my Top 10 and leave it at that!

10. Swimming off the Wall in Nuku’alofa
This was my first swim in Tongan waters, and involved walking about 800m across a reef populated by squishy sea-cucumbers in knee-deep water, then floating precariously off the edge of the reef with the waves. The reward is enjoying the amazing array of fish and some colourful coral that exists so close to Tonga’s capital city.

9. My first exchange with a shopkeeper completely in Tongan
Yeah, this probably makes me sound better than I really am, but I was able to ask for 2 large bottles of water, and tell her that I came from Australia and had been here for 2 months. It’s pretty easy to get away with speaking English for the most part, so I like it when locals humour my attempts at giving the language a go!

8. The Tongan National Centre

Tu'i Malila, the tortoise Captain Cook gave to the Tongan people, who lived as part of the Royal Family until 1966

Nessie demonstrating how to make Tapa for the hideous cruise ship tourists

This place makes the list for a number of reasons, not least of which is the great collection of material that is on display there, including the stuffed and preserved Tu’i Malila, the tortoise gifted to Tongans by Capt Cook in the 1770’s. It’s also a special place to me because the staff know me, and I can put my halting Tongan to the test telling the dancers that they look beautiful and the tourists are hideous, right in front of the tourists!

7. Soy Coffee at Tropicana cafe

OMG I still remember the utter satisfaction of that first coffee!

I am going to give Vava’u it’s own entry, otherwise the Top 10 would pretty much mostly be experiences I had there, but I figure that that first soy coffee, after 3 months of total abstinence, deserves its own place on the list!

6.Blue Starfish

I just love them! There’s something about the blue starfish that just makes my heart sing!

5. Feasts
This encompasses the various farewell feasts I have enjoyed since working at the Tonga Visitor’s Bureau, from the numerous varieties of faikakai (a desert featuring coconut milk) to the delights of ota ika (raw fish salad). I really do love a lot of the Tongan cuisine, and my colleagues are always keen to encourage my enjoyment of this part of their culture - despite my weird food allergies and the fact that I’m a vegequarian!

4. Humpback whale and calf off Tongatapu

This occasion will stick in my memory for a long time – it was about 3 weeks into the whole Tonga thing, and I was having the first bout of really missing Clinton and feeling sorry for myself, when my boss called me and told me to bring my camera and go with him. When I asked where, he replied: “On a boat. To see a whale.” It was simply incredible, this whale calf breaching and diving and playing around, and we watched it for almost an hour. This was followed by my first trip to Pangaimotu Island and lunch on the Boss – cheered me right up, I can tell you!

3.Moving into the house at Longolongo

This makes the list because it was the first time I had that sense of feeling At Home since I’d arrived. The awesome kitchen has also been the site of some truly inspired cooking, I might add!

2. Vava’u

Outside the TVB Office in Vava'u

The incredible blue waters of Swallows Cave

Nuku Beach from the water

So this is an entire two weeks (well 12 days!) of bliss, incorporating the traditional stories of the island, the amazing Bruno (who runs the TVB office in Vava’u), the views from Mt Talau, days spent sailing, snorkelling and kayaking, and the beautiful Nuku Beach and Swallows Cave. It also includes having food I could eat at the Tropicana Cafe, walking, hills (and even walking UP hills!), the view from the Twin View Motel where we stayed, and the owner of the Twin View, who looked like the BFG. This time and place was truly extraordinary, and I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it.

1. Swimming with singing Humpback whales

Even though this is technically part of the total Vava’u experience, like the soy coffee it deserves its own entry for sheer mind-blowingness. I will surely remember this occasion for the rest of my life – watching a singing whale rising up from the deep below me was something so magical that words cannot even begin to describe it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Health - a Post-Script

Well, it turns out that the abomination on my fingertip was not merely eczema, it was INFECTED eczema. This is actually good news, because it means that with anti-biotics it will get better.

This inspires me to give you a run-down of all the health issues I have enjoyed since arriving here fourteen and a half weeks ago!

1. Bronchial chest infection
2. Urinary Tract Infection
3. Eye infection
4. Chronic allergic reactions - hayfever and eczema
5. Secondary skin infection.

But my story has another happy result - I actually returned to the good old Village Mission Pharmacy and Clinic, as I heard they had a replacement doctor. The new bloke has been in Tonga for a good while now, so I doubt much will phase him. This is good, because he seems sensible, and like he's in it for the long haul. Having a decent doctor is half the battle here!

So three cheers for the health issues looking a bit more promising now!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Health (or the lack thereof)

WARNING: The following post contains gross images of actual physical maladies! Do not read if you are sickened by the sight of pulpy eczema fingers!

One thing about living in a developing country is the issue of health. And I’m not talking about the exotic diseases you might catch, or the traveller’s diarrhoea, which let’s face it, is just a matter of time. No, I’m talking about the regular little things that if you were back home would be easy to manage, however in the tropical paradise that is Tonga become overblown and have AHI recommending your return to Australia.

I’m talking here about allergies. The smoke and pollution of Nuku’alofa have wreaked havoc with my eyes, hayfever and eczema. Over the past 2 months I have experienced waking up EVERY day with red gross eyes, the worst hayfever ever, and the grossest case of eczema I’ve yet to live through.

Most Tongans don’t get the concept of allergies. There’s certainly no Tongan word for it, and explaining the concept (especially when they’ve just grasped the food allergy idea only to have me come in with irritated eyes from the smoke in the air) has been...challenging. To the people in my office who bear bemused witness to my many ailments and absences I am just a sickly Palangi, whose maladies are probably exacerbated by my strange insistence on vegetarianism.

As my allergies have gone from the irritating to the incapacitating, I have contacted the designated health insurance medical advisors of the AYAD program to see if there was anything further I could do. Sadly, all they could suggest was going home. This is not something I’m prepared to consider – yet.

Oh yeah, and this is completely besides the other viruses I’ve enjoyed since being here, that is a tasty bronchial infection in my first few weeks, and recently some kind of glandular extravaganza. My flatmate, the intrepid A-Lee, has been laid up for the past week with some kind of flu from hell. Seriously, the tropical diseases are the least of our problems, it’s the everyday stuff that’s the killer!

Getting suitable medical treatment is also somewhat challenging. The last time I went to the Villiage Mission Pharmacy I had the doctor take my temperature and look in my ears, only to later see the little ‘disposable’ covers for the ear-gadgets being washed for re-use. Now, something that gets stuck in my ears, fine, whatever, reuse and recycle, no problem. However, I am not keen to get any kind of blood test here, in case the same principle applies to syringes and needles. And with what we were told in PDT, that is quite likely...

When I next rang the Village Mission Pharmacy to make an appointment, I found out that the Palangi doctor who I’d seen only the week before had fled the country after just 2 weeks in the job! Perhaps it was because she couldn’t handle the washing and reusing of supposedly sterile earpieces...?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Whale Swim

On the first day of October I had the privilege to swim with Humpback whales, in their natural habitat. It was AMAZING, truly one of the most memorable occasions of my life, and I hope that it will stay with me forever.

Very soon after we left Neiafu and reached the open water we came across an adolescent male, who was singing. I was fortunate enough to get into the water, and hear his song from above - the sounds vibrated through my whole body, it was truly incredible. Then he rose up from the depths, slowly, only metres away from us - breathtaking! He checked us out, and then surfaced. Seeing that - a whale surfacing only metres away from you, from the water - was simply fantastic!

The rest of the day was spent searching out other whales, and we saw over 10 in total, most of them single adults. We came across 5 "singers", individual males who were singing, either to attract a female or to mark their territory. Their sounds are just... I cannot describe it, except to say that it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

The final swim was with a whale which I spotted from the boat. He was sleeping, but singing at the same time - they do this because only half their brain sleeps at a time, to regulate their breathing. He was huge - about 15 metres long! After coming up for breath he went back down, and we lay flat on the surface of the water, watching him from above. After about 10 minutes he rose up, straight past us, and surfaced. The people in the boat got a tremendous view of his tail as he dived below again.

I initially had my doubts about the whole whale swim thing, not sure if the whales appreciate these intrusions into their space. But after seeing the way Dive Vava’u ran the trip it became apparent that the whales were in control of the experience. The guide has years of experience with whale behaviours, and can monitor signs of discomfort from the whale. If a whale moved away from us she could tell if it was travelling, if it was sleeping, or if it just didn’t want a bar of us. This left me feeling satisfied that we were in the hands of ethical operators, who had the best interest of the animals at heart.

Sadly, not all operators are as scrupulous. There are not as yet any laws regulating the industry, only Guidelines, which are not legally binding and therefore not adhered to by everyone. It is hoped by all those who do have the best interest of the whales at heart that a law will be in place by the end of the year, to ensure hefty fines for all those who intrude on the whales, and jeopardise this unique experience for everyone.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In Praise of Vava'u

So here I am in a true tropical island paradise – the island of Vava’u, capital of the Vava’u group of islands, about 300km north of Tongatapu.

So far I am hard pressed to think of ANY way in which Tongatapu is better than Vava’u. I have half a mind to ask to be transferred here, for at least 3 months of my get a better idea of the heritage and culture of Vava’u...or something!

Here, the breezes blow gently (and sometimes not so gently) over the hills, the heroes of legend are brought to life through the place names, and the history lives strongly in the minds of local village Chiefs and Town Officers, guardians or local heritage. Also, there is soy coffee at the Tropicana cafe. It might be a backpacker establishment which I would ordinarily shun, but seriously, for a soy coffee and a dairy-free Muesli slice I’m anyone’s!

So far our adventures (I am here with the intrepid A-Lee, fellow AYAD and flatmate extraordinaire) have been confined to land, however this has been no second-rate experience, as Bruno, my host at the Vava’u branch of the TVB, has been a font of knowledge and assistance. He has arranged encounters with important community leaders, who retain the myths and knowledge of the past associated with heritage sites many palangi don’t bother with, their interest being confined to the sea. This is a shame, as Vava’u has a lot to offer in land-based tourism for those willing to spend a little time exploring.

For example – the Kilikilitefua Wall. The name comes from kilikili – the smooth black pebbles used on graves – and tefua, meaning a cluster, in particular reference to people. So it’s a cluster of stones, but also referring to people. This is because, in an ancient from of census, every time a baby was born a stone was added to the pile. The pile has diminished somewhat, as the coral rock was put to more practical purposes by generations who had more modern methods of recording births – things like computers and birth certificates. But for around 300 years, the births on all of Vava’u (and it is speculated that possibly all of Tonga) were recorded here, in a site which is unique in the South Pacific.

I have also been privileged to hear many traditional myths and legends. It is wonderful to be doing things the traditional Tongan way, hearing stories directly from their custodians (and translated by Bruno), rather than reading them in books as I’ve been doing in Nuku’alofa. This feels like the real Tonga, despite the prevalence of tourists who swarm the main streets of Neiafu, the capital. Once you get away from the waterfront though the tourists vanish, and the palm trees and fields of kava again assert their presence.

I feel a tremendous love for this place and its people, who are so willing to share their history and their traditions with me. I am so glad to have spent this past week soaking up the culture rather than the sun, though of course I also look forward to getting out onto the water and experiencing the other side of Vava’u!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Saturday I moved house for the third time since arriving in Tonga two months ago. This time, I think it truly is a case of 'third time lucky', and possibly a bit of 'good things come to those who wait', along with any other cliches which ultimately mean - I think my domestic troubles are OVER!

It hasn't been easy. We were expected by our In-Country Manager to have formed into ‘house groups’ the day after we arrived here. By the day after that, we'd all pretty much signed up for particular houses. So, having known each other for 3 days (I'm discounting PDT of course!), we were now committed to living together for the next 12 months.

Luckily Tongan leases are easier to squeeze out of than your average pair of tight jeans, because three days after moving into the first house, one of my flatmates told me flatly that she no longer wanted to live with me. Now, I've been through a fair few sharehouses in my time, and I have to say, that was a first for me! Mind you, the flatmate in question was a lot younger, and didn't have a lot of experience in sharehousing, so I just chalked it up to a personality difference and moved on.

Two weeks later I was in my second house, with a girl I got along with quite well, but in a house I couldn't stand! The place itself has seen a fair few AYADs, having been a faithful volunteer house for quite some time now, but it just didn't feel right for me. I'm a big believer in 'vibes', and this place just felt unwelcoming. Not to mention the fact that my room got no natural light and the neighbours were noisy (yes I know this is Tonga, but I'd take the dogs, pigs and roosters over a neighbour vomiting outside my bedroom window at 2am anytime!). Add to that the stories I heard about unquiet spirits appearing at séances held in the house, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there!

So it has come to pass that my former flatmate from the first house (obviously not the one who didn’t want to live with me!) and I have moved into a sweet little place recently vacated by a couple of VIDAs. The place even has a spare room, so we are able to accommodate guests without having to resort to bed-sharing. It is light and airy, my room has TWO windows, and the kitchen is just the sort of place that inspires me to cook up a storm. In short, I love it!

Having reached the two-month mark of my time as an AYAD I am bearing in mind what we were told at PDT – that is, the first 3 months are the hardest, and there’ll be an inevitable slump in our spirits as we get adjusted. By and large, I think I’m doing alright. Week 6 and 7 were slightly more unsettled, and I took a couple of Mental Health Days off work for some time out. I told myself that moving to the new place wasn’t going to solve all my problems, and it wasn’t a cure-all for missing Clinton or feeling frustrated at work.

But sitting in my new kitchen on Saturday afternoon, having a cup of tea before unpacking the rest of my gear, I suddenly realised that I felt AT HOME. For the first time since coming to Tonga, I felt at home. I didn’t even realise I’d lost that feeling – or perhaps I just didn’t expect to find it here. But there it is, and for the first time in two months I have that feeling of comfort that you get when it all fits right. And for that I am glad!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Tongan Spider Incident

The spider known as "Bruce", first seen on my front verandah a fortnight ago

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about spiders. It's no secret - they make me shudder. Not so much the ones that hang in their webs, or even poisonous spiders. Redbacks don't phase me, and neither do the large, spindly Golden Orb Weavers. No, my pet arachnid hate is HUNTSMANS. Not only are they large, but they roam around freely, ready to shock me at any second by emerging from behind a picture hanging on the wall, or sitting placidly on my towel - ergh!

So the irony of having come to Tonga, land of Large Free-Ranging Spiders (I tried to google Spiders of Tonga to get a name, but no joy), has not been lost on me. You know, the spiders here are so big, they make a noise as they walk across walls?

I discovered this on Friday night at about 2am, as I lay in bed reading. I could hear a sort of scrabbling sound that I thought may have been a mouse, however when I sat up to look I saw a Rather Large Spider walking across the back of my door, going 'clickclickclick' every time it's Rather Large and pointy feet landed on the surface of my door!
So now I started to panic. It's 2am, I'm arachnophobic, and there's a ginormous spider on the back of my only means of escape. Oh yes, and for some reason I'd decided to lock my door that night, so there was no hope of rescue from without. Oh WONDERFUL!
I phoned my partner in Australia, whose suggestions were not very helpful - that is, he suggested I might approach and try to effect a capture of sorts - as if! I watched (and listened to)it as it wondered around the doorway of my room, and then headed to my cupboard, where it spread itself out and seemed to settle down.
I'm sure this was Bruce - note the missing eighth leg!
This was good - it meant I could make a dash for the door, which I did, unlocking and flinging it open. However, it didn't solve the issue of the spider. I do not believe 'out of sight, out of mind' for a second when it comes to spiders. It would only be a matter of time until it snuck into my musli bar box, or wandered into my wardbrobe and retired onto an item of clothing.
Which brought me to the next problem. The spider was now safely ensconced in a cupboard, making it a) impossible to shoo away with a broom, and b) impractical to spray without contaminating the food on the top shelf (there's no room in my kitchen cupboard, ok?!)
I realised that I was going to need assistance. So I went and woke up Sophie, who, to her eternal credit, didn't order me out of her room immediately and slam the door in my face, but humoured me by getting up to see what my problem was. Though it turns out Soph wasn't prepared to effect a capture either, so we sat on my bed and watched the spider together.
It was at this moment that my txt msg about this noisy spider reached A-Lee, and she offered to come and rescue me. Believe it or not, she was still up and about at 2:30am, and was happy to leave The Billfish nightclub where she'd been happily dancing away, in order to come and save me, her rather pathetic arachnophobic friend. This Night of Terror was fast becoming more a Comedy of Errors!
So A-Lee and a young Englishman named Barney came around, and the Rather Large Spider led A-Lee on rather a merry chase around my cupboard, through the wardrobe, and then across the wall...

where it was finally captured, much to my relief! It was then released across the road into the cemetary. Hopefully it's not a homing spider, as I do not know how much more of this my heart can take. It has been suggested that I call this the Tongan Spider Crisis, however I prefer the more sedate Tongan Spider INCIDENT. A Crisis would surely involve more than ONE spider...

Luckily I'll be moving in with A-Lee, my Hero and Saviour, next weekend, so I'll have a Live-In Spider Catcher should anything untoward like this occur in the future!