Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wine o'clock

So, here I am, back home in Oz. It's 5:30pm on a Saturday evening, and rather cold outside. I have zero plans for the night, except maybe watching a DVD with my husband. He's currently visiting his mother and sister, so I've settled down with a lovely local sauvignon blanc and a spot of goat's cheese: some goat's camembert, and some chevre.

OH MY FREAKIN' GOD, could this scene BE any different to my past life in Tonga??? Nice wine? Cheese - GOAT'S cheese, nonetheless! Cold weather! A Husband!

I have been back for a grand total of 3 weeks and 2 days now, and it really does feel like the whole Tonga thing was in the distant past! But because I have nothing really to focus on here, it's sort of like part of me is dissipating, and I'm watching it go, turn to smokey wisps and vanish. It's perhaps not as maudlin as that made it sound, either. I don't feel melancholy, nor do I bitterly miss Tonga.

I'm really enjoying not working, though the money is starting to run out. Clinton and I took a mini-road trip to Echuca, to see a small exhibition I curated before I left but never got a chance to see. It was great to explore another little bit of Oz, but perhaps I don't have the bank funds to be enjoying $100 dinners at top quality restuarants!

While I want to get a job to give me something to focus on (and a much-needed income!), I'm also really enjoying not working. And when I look at all the things I'd like to do in the future (preferably in the before-kids future, and yes that's what happens when you get married, people, you start looking at life in terms of what you can factor in before you have to squeeze out a few young 'uns!) I cannot aee that there's any time for focusing on a career - like, how will I take a road trip for a year or so with Big C if I have to work, or spend a winter in the Yukon watching the Aurora Borealis over the sky every night?

Working's for chumps it seems to me, however I'm also afflicted by a desire to achieve somthing in my work life, and to be satisfied by what I do. I simply can't do a shit-kicking job in between advetures, sadly, as job satisfaction is also important to me. Dammit, how can we squeeze all the living that needs to be fone out of life, and while we're still young enough to enjoy it??

Anyway, I'm more than halfway through my bottle of wine, and C will be home soon, so I think I'll go take a look at what's for dinner. We went to the Farmer's Market today, and are fully stocked up on every organic winter veggie you could imagine! Mind you, if I was in Tonga right now it may have been something from the freezer for dinner...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Home again, home again...

Being back in Oz for good feels strange by it's very normalcy. It feels like things should be different, but they are so much the same that it's easy to believe that none of the last 10 months even happened.

I am finding it a bit difficult to talk to people about my experience - when they ask "How was Tonga?" I feel obliged to just say "Yeah, good..." and then let them talk about their own stuff. Luckily most people (myself usually included!) are more than happy to talk about what's going on with them, so I haven't been probed too deeply!

Guess I'll just process it in my own time.

There's lots of great aspects to being back. I'm enjoying being back in my home, with my husband and our menagerie. It's been great getting stuck into the veggie patch, and seeing how all the plants have grown. Not working is also really nice - I could totally get used to that! I'm loving cooking in my own kitchen, loving having access to awesome ingredients like goat's cheese and sheep's milk yogurt, and grabbing a soy flat white from the local cafe every morning!

But I do feel like this is a sort of limbo period. Or maybe transitional is a better term to describe it. And there's not many times in life when you're consciously in transition - most times it's something you look back on and recognize in retrospect, rather than as it's occuring around and within you.

I'm really interested to see how this is going to play out, actually!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Last post from Tonga...

To conclude my blogging in Tonga, I'd like to leave you with my list of all the things I'll miss about this place. I daresay a few more will crop up once I get home.

Things I will Miss about Tonga:

* Riding everywhere on my bike (yes, I know I will have the best intentions of doing this once I get home, but give me an early start on a mid-winter morning in Canberra, and I doubt it very much!)

* The great connections and friendships I have made here, with both my workmates and other volunteers, many of whom I may never see again

* The staff of the Friends cafe all knowing my name, and their beautiful beaming smiles when they greet me

* Tonga Time

* Wearing thongs to work...also not having to worry too much about how I look (as long as shoulders and knees are covered, of course!). Not spending 20 mins standing in front of my wardrobe moaning that I “Have Nothing to Wear” – which is ironic, because I have 4 or 5 times as many clothes back home as I do here!

* The amazing snorkelling – and doing laps of the harbour to keep fit!

* Proximity to the beach; a half hour bike or boat ride is way better than a 2-hour car trip from Canberra!

* The warm weather

* The humidity making my hair and skin (aside from eczema, of course!) look fabulous!

* The sense of warmth and community that envelops so much of what Tonga is all about. This includes the fact that there is very little homelessness, or institutionalisation.

* Blogging – let’s face it, life back home ain’t THAT interesting!

* The view from work...when I go across the road to the waterfront to eat my lunch, and gaze out at the epitome of a tropical paradise – clear blue water, islands and palm trees. So, so beautiful!

*The cute little jumping spiders and geckos (not to be mistaken with the giant huntsman-type spiders or Giant Geckos of Fafa island!)

* Having as much water as you could possibly use, and more! No water restrictions here, where rain is measured in inches rather than mls

* Fish and chips – especially from Cottage Breeze, picnic-style on the waterfront!

* Faikakai – a delicious desert made from manioke flour in a sweet coconut milk sauce – mmmmm...

* Fresh young coconuts to eat and drink, freely available from any tree handy

* Being warm

*The amazing and random things that you just don’t get in Oz – like volcanoes and earthquakes!

* and finally, one of the surprise perks of living in Tonga was people not batting an eyelid at my name (Isa being a common shortening of the name Luisa), a first ever experience for me!

It has been a dynamite 10 months, that's for sure! Thanks for reading - 'ofa atu!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

My Big Fat Tongan Wedding!

Last night was my official farewell from work, and though they'd told me they were planning "something special", I had NO IDEA it was going to be a Tongan wedding ceremony for me and Clinton!

The effort the staff went to was tremendous - we had a beautifully decorated arch under a tree, and all the chairs were decorated with greenery and ribbons. Clinton and I were dressed in traditional ta'ovala (woven waist mats) for the ceremony - the one I was wearing was so fine it was like cloth, though it was a family heirloom, and apparently worth between 5-6,000 pa'anga!

Though it wasn't a full wedding ceremony (more like a renewal of vows...a mere 3 weeks after we uttered the first ones!), we had the "do you Clinton, take Isa, to love and to cherish..." bit in Tongan, and we said our "I do's" in Tongan as well. This was followed by a short traditional marriage kava ceremony, which now means we are legitimately married in Tonga! Apparently the moment when you drink the kava is when you seal the marriage covenant. So there you go! We are now legally married in Australia AND Tonga!

It was such a cool and awesome thing to do, and I am so touched that my colleagues went to all that effort just for us! I remember when I started at the TVB, and the previous volunteer had left, and all my colleagues talked about was her, and how great she was - I was convinced they'd never take me to their bosom the way they'd embraced her - but now look at me! Married in the Church of the Tonga Visitors Bureau, presided over by Pastor Willy, the Minister of Tourism's driver!

Yesterday was a big day for more reasons than just my second wedding, though - I completed and handed in my AYAD primary assignment, a document outlining some interpretive guidelines to get Tonga on the path to a more consistent, visitor-friendly approach to heritage interpretation. Realistically, this document could be put in a drawer and never looked at again. But I think that unlike the consultants who come here for a few weeks, write up their reports and then leave, I have spent a good deal of time getting aquainted with how they do things here. That report may have taken only a fortnight or so to write back home, but over here, it's taken me the whole duration of my assignment to finally comprehend HOW I can best be of assistance, and to understand the reasons behind why things are as they are - and not to try and change it, but to work with it.

I can't deny I am proud of the outcome of my project. And even if it never gets used, I'm proud of my achievement in having completed it. It's a great experience.

Yep, these last days in Tonga find me feeling very positive about my time here, and also positive about going home. It's a great place to be!