Friday, August 29, 2008


Hard at work at the Tonga Visitors Bureau

(With apologies to anyone who may have already read a version of this post on the AYAD Intake 22 Facebook Group!)

My work situation seems to be pretty good - our office even has Air Conditioning, which gets turned on in the Very Hot Days (yes I know it' still only August, which is technically still winter in Tonga!).
My posse, the girls at the TVB - L to R: Gean, Mele, me, Leine

My colleagues have all welcomed me warmly, which has been very rewarding. They are also tolerating my attempts to learn the language with generous good humour. I have extended myself as far as being able to tell them that I rode my bike to work today, which, if it wasn't for my red sweaty countenance and the fact that I was clutching my helmet in my hand, I'm sure they never would have guessed! To this handy phrase I have also added "Today is Friday", and "I slept in". Rivetting stuff!

Workwise, there has been quite a bit, which for me personally was a relief. I think if I'd been left sitting at a desk twiddling my thumbs and surfing the net every day I may have been left wondering what on EARTH I'd done in coming here!

So far I have written an article about a whale, which I was bundled aboard a boat in record time in order to photograph, I have met Tessi, the current Miss South Pacific and the Face That Launched a Thousand Postcards, and I have managed to dodge all the stripey, dengue-carrying mosquitoes which loiter around my desk.

More in tune with my assignment, I have written two panels of interpretive text - researched and composed in record time - for 1), an ancient archeological site, and 2), the Abel Tasman landing site.

The Tongan alphabet is a pared-back version of the Anglo one, perhaps we could say that they have discarded the unecessary letters. Letters like "R" or "B", which frankly have always struck me non-essential to any language. The unfamiliarity of the Anglo alphabet has led to some unfortunate mis-spellings on my interpretive text panels. I would call them typos, except that they have not been typed, but written by a man with a tin of black paint, a fine paint brush, and a large wooden board. Words like "EQUINOX" become "EGUINOX", "FLESH" becomes "FRESH". It makes the art of interpretation just that little bit more exciting, I suppose.

For my next project, I will be writing tour content for all the island groups of Tonga (to which I am yet to travel!), which the tour guides will then have to memorise and deliver to tourists. This is what I can term a near-impossible task. It's like being asked to save the national economy (when you know nothing about the economy), or perhaps solve the environmental crisis in a 4-week period. I am currently struggling with the sheer impossibility of it all! However, as it will hopefully entail a few return tickets to the sweetest spots in Tonga, you won't hear me complaining TOO loudly...

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