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!