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Rebecca & Justin's Journal — March 2004
Justin and Siti
Justin plays mandolin as Siti watches.

FROM JUSTIN, via e-mail

March 1, 2004

It is raining! Showering actually. It isn’t very convincing, as I see blue sky fringing the edges of the less-than-intimidating stratus clouds. But it is rain, and for the first time in four weeks I feel a slight cool breeze through the window. Alas, as I write, it is over, and sweat continues to form layer after salty layer on my recently burnt and persistently scraped skin.

It is Monday morning, and I have yet to go to school. I don’t have class until much later in the day…so I have taken to staying home, avoiding morning prayer and countless bored hours under the mango tree at the school, waiting for my daily work to begin. School hasn’t even seemed much like work this year. Just living here is the hard work sometimes. I say that only because we had three visitors this morning before 7am, thwarting all plans of a late sleep, yoga, or peaceful morning coffee. And yesterday was a test of patience, with guest after guest requesting the baking of cakes or the making of some sort of food, each resulting in a mess to be cleaned before the next round. At least yesterday morning was nice. We joined some friends who live in a peaceful corner of Rebek’s schoolyard for some ‘umu and church-skipping. We had fish and sheep, each wrapped in taro leaves, and breadfruit and raw fish.

Saturday was a milestone for us. We rowed to Mango, a small island seven miles away. It was challenging, as it is across open ocean and it was a very choppy day. I also took the dog and one of our sit-on-top kayaks, not really meant for long trips and not very hydrodynamic. But we made it, first to Mango iki, a little uninhabited island a mile shy of Mango, and then on to Mango. On Mango, we were greeted by really friendly people who gave us some fried dough and papaya. We saw our friend Kolove, who was transferred from Rebek’s school this year to be the principal there. On Mango, each house has a solar panel and battery. This was also an AusAID gift, and in my eyes more practical than our diesel generator, one of which is now broken and the other running on diminished hours due to a gaffe in the oil ordering process. Mango has no cars and therefor only footpaths. There are only about 13 families there. To Mango, we are the big island. To catch a boat to Tonga or Pangai, they have to come to Nomuka. Or even to do some shopping.

It actually rained a lot today after all.

March 4, 2004

It is Thursday and I am just finishing up a week of tests at the school. I like test week because I don’t have to teach very much. My kids have been good except for the students in Form 3, who are so bad I have started to hit them with a stick. Yes, it has come to that. There is no other way to discipline them.

It is almost my birthday. It is also our friend Benson’s birthday, so we are having a party tomorrow…a party with all the boys from school. I think there is some controversy about the invitation list, but I am staying out of it. All I know is that we will be making a lot of pizza and breadfruit chips. Saturday will be a fun day. We are going on a tour of the small islands with a guy from Mango. We are really excited about that.

It rained a bunch this week. It is good because if it didn’t, we would have suffered by not sleeping. For some reason, the oil didn’t come on the boat, so we are on short time with the generator: three hours a night and no time in the morning. Before, we were only sleeping until 1am and then at 5 when the generator came back on.

We had a great dinner tonight…homemade bread with babaganoush and guacamole. There are avocados now. The Tongans don’t like them, just like they don’t like eggplant.

We don’t have a lot of music to listen to now, so I have taken up learning the melodies to the 70’s AM soft rock that plays on Radio Tonga on my mandolin. I have also learned some Jewish folk melodies and the theme to Coast to Coast with Dave Arlington.

March 5, 2004

When we lived in Los Angeles, I always thought that between my 55-mile, 2-hour commute to work and our sleep-deprived, party-fueled lifestyle, I took years off my life. Here it is the opposite. No commute, no stress, no bills, and I get 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night. I think I have made up those years and then some. If we were to stay here forever, I’d live to be 120.

I have very vivid dreams here, almost like movies. They all have complex plot lines too, and I always wish I could remember them. Last night’s was great, and while the basic theme is still in my mind I want to jot it down. The basic story was that someone (Ethan Hawke? Movie stars seem to be popping into my dreams lately) and myself found, to our horror, 2 young children dead in the refrigerator where we were staying. It also seemed very obvious that either we had killed them...or, if not, we would certainly be blamed. (I think this is about me starting to hit the kids at school, but overall unrelated to my analysis of the dream).

There was an initial feeling of dread, which was justified. Right away, things started off badly. People were investigating the children’s disappearance and every interview we had went poorly. We were obviously suspected, and had possibly done the ghastly crime in the first place. We were eventually taken into custody. There are a lot of interesting details that are just passing flashes now, and I can’t get them out unfortunately. But as it turns out, a golden opportunity to escape pops up, and this involves some sort of crashing through the wooden gate of a parking garage into sunny, glorious freedom. From there, there is no going back into captivity, and a feeling of triumph stayed with me as I awoke.

What does this mean? Will I kill someone, be put in jail and then escape? I hope not. A lot of the vivid action stuff, which is better than the movies we have no access to, comes from the many books I read (like Papillon and Burr most recently, each involving a murder or an escape). But what occurred to me as my Form 3 did their in-class assignment this morning was the true meaning of the dream, which I believe is always the array of feelings as opposed to the specific actions in the dream. What I take from this dream is that our future plans, which are formulating at the moment, might take the same trajectory, and I should be prepared for immediate initial difficulties, followed by success.

It’s the last day of my 29th year. That is a scary thought, but I suppose it is less scary here in Nomuka than it would be amongst the numerous rich and famous 22-year-olds who swarm the streets of New York or LA (me being neither rich nor famous.) Overall I feel great, though. I don’t think I have ever looked or felt better physically. I am married, blissfully, to the woman I love, with whom I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I am still grateful for the overwhelming love and support from my parents – who, if I were a street bum, would still tell me I am the best, brightest and most handsome little boy in the world. They gave me the sense of confidence that amazes me to this day, whether warranted or not. I look back at various choices I have made, and while I know I have made some immature, selfish, and even flat out wrong decisions, I can’t really regret any of them…as, today, I am as happy as I could imagine being. And frankly, that is all I have ever tried to be.

March 8, 2004

It’s Monday. This weekend it rained a lot. The streets became rivers, our yard a lake. It seems that every time we plant vegetables, our garden floods. Also when it rains, pigs find their way into our yard and dig up holes everywhere, specially in our little haphazard garden that has appeared next to our steps (where we throw tomato, pepper and melon seeds out the window). It’s too bad, because we are really low on food right now.

March 14, 2004
After school this past Friday we waited for Koli, our friend from Mango, who was supposed to come pick us up for our tour of the other islands in our group. By 5:30 we were starting to wonder if he would show at all…but he did, around 6:00, and we bought some benzene ($80 worth) and we were off. Also in the small, open, fishing boat were Pulotu, Koli’s friend and sidekick…Kiwi, a little boy whose mother was transferred from Nomuka to Mango to teach…Finnerty…and a couple from Tonga, who were in Nomuka for the funeral of the girl’s brother. He had died a week ago while paying rugby. He was only 25 and has a palangi wife in Denmark with two kids. Apparently the doctors were careless when he was taken to the hospital, but there is nothing anyone can do about it.

We left as it was getting dark. It is a seven-mile trip, and in a kayak it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours. In a fishing boat, it took only one.

It was a beautiful night and the Magellanic clouds lit up above us. Occasionally satellites would zoom by overhead, in perfectly straight lines, seemingly at the same height as the stars. In the water, phosphorescence shone in our wake like hundreds of cigarette butts churning along the side of the boat. We arrived around 8:00 and most houses were dark, the people asleep. Mango uses solar electricity. We walked in the dark to Kiwi’s house at the primary school where we were to stay. After talking a bit with Koli and Pulotu, we set up our sleeping bags slept, us and Kiwi, on the floor while listening to New Zealand rugby in Tongan.

On Saturday, as planned, Koli came at 5:00am to get us. We were still sleeping, but got ready quickly, and we were off for Fonoi at 5:12. We started the trip in the dark, and after a brief shower, the eastern sky started to glow beneath the hazy cumulous clouds. As it rose, the sun seemed to burn off this layer, leaving only towering nimbostratus hovering over the sea. As we approached Fonoi, Tanoa loomed to the right, an impressively rounded jutting island much smaller than Fonoi, but higher than any point on the larger island.

Fonoi sunrise
Fonoi sunrise (top). Fonoi (above) and Tanoa (below).

When we arrived on Fonoi, the sun was fully visible over the eastern ledge of the island. We all disembarked and took a tour of the island’s little village. Fonoi, like Mango, has inhabitants (those two and Nomuka are the only inhabited islands in the group). Both are small, with no vehicles, and have lean little dirt paths lined with papaya and breadfruit. As we walked down the little path we saw quaint little houses, not completely un-modern. The people, if they had been sleeping, doors open to the cool night air, were awakened by the local dogs’ reaction to Finnerty, which was less than friendly, or by Koli’s vocal greetings. The path ends at the west side of the island with breathtaking views of Nomuka and some smaller islands in between. We headed back, picking fruit for later in the day. Already, people who had been awakened by our greetings were up and about, sweeping their immaculate yards to rid them of the five or six leaves that had fallen in the night. Old men were outside smoking, bare-chested, contemplating the day’s work ahead.

After the tour, we boarded and left for ‘otu tolu, “the row of three.” These are four islands actually: Telekitonga, Lolona, Telekivava’u and one more. They are not visible from Nomuka, and comprise the eastern edge of the Ha’apai group (and therefor Tonga). If you go further east it will be some time before you come to another country, Niue, which is actually further north as well. If you were to drift east, you would really only hit land at Rorotonga, hundreds of miles away.

Along the trip to Telekitonga we caught a beautiful tuna. We saw flocks of birds circling over schools of fish as we moved slowly southeast. When we reached the island, which is actually pretty large for an uninhabited island, Fonoi and Mango appeared very far away, further than they seem from Nomuka in the other direction. From our view, the other three islands of this group seemed to form an archipelago with Telekitonga.

on Telekitonga
Rebecca tending the fire on Telekitonga.

On Telekitonga we caught and ate some hermit crabs and circled the island along its perfect, white beach. It took about two hours total, and along the way Koli and Pulotu collected a bounty of washed up lumber, possibly from Niue’s recent hurricane. We saw a lot of sharks along the eastern side, one of which Pulotu was able to catch. Finnerty and Kiwi chased it toward land and Pulotu, waiting along the shore, sliced its tail off with a bush knife as it swam by. Most of the sharks were the small ones we are used to catching, but we did see one large one, about six feet long, very close to the shore. Finnerty was ready to chase it, but we called him out of the water. We saw the little camp where Koli and his father had come a year ago to gather the wild pigs that live on the island. They stayed for a week, eating sharks and crabs, and caught 65 pigs. We also saw a lot of random debris, like three condoms in a silver wrapper on one end of the island and two more in other spots.

After completing the island perimeter, having a swim and drinking some coconuts, we headed off for Lolona, the next island in the group. Along the way, a school of dolphins swam with us for a stretch, and Koli showed off his boat engine fixing skills when the motor died. When Jonathan was the Peace Corps here on Nomuka, he offered an opportunity to go to an engine repair course in Ha’afeva to the youth of Nomuka and Mango. While a lot of people signed up, on the day to go only Koli went. Good thing too, or we would still be drifting. He also uses his skills to fix the engines of the people of Fonoi and Mango (go Peace Corps!)

At first Lolona seemed as beautiful as Telekitonga, but it ended up being a bit rougher. Right away, when we tried to come ashore, waves pushed the boat around like it was a toy in a bathtub. Koli decided to find a better spot while the rest of us started to circle the island. All in all, it was a miserable two hours of intense sun, a sharp and wobbly rocky shore (none of us wore shoes), and bee stings (I got three. As I type, my hand looks like a really fat man’s hand.) Koli was trying to find us the whole time and when we all eventually met up, we were ready to get off of Lolona. We did see a little camp there as well (and some more silver condoms). It seems like a fairly common thing to do: set up a little camp and live on an island for a while to catch and dry fish and octopus or something like that.

Kiwi with lafu
Kiwi holds a lafu, a rare flightless bird that he plans to eat.

Along the trip from island to island, we could see for miles in every direction. There was no large landmass to block the view. We could see cloud patterns moving across the sky and we could even see dark clouds dumping rain into the ocean ten miles away. It looked like a dark column extending from cloud to sea, and on the fringes you could almost see the water returning, as vapor, to the sky to be recycled again.

We were very excited to see Telekivava’u, as we had heard a lot about the resort there. It is supposedly the most exclusive in Tonga (“one for celebrities” says the Lonely Planet). We speculated as to who we might find there (P. Diddy? Paris Hilton?) But, alas, Villa Mamana is not quite open for business. We couldn’t even buy a cold beer as we had hoped. There is no bar. We did have a look around and met the current caretaker, a palangi who is a friend of the owner. He had sailed in from Hawaii to help out while the owner is away. The resort is very nice, but transportation seems to be a big issue, as it very far from both Tonga and Pangai. It only accommodates one group of four or so. The guesthouse is impressive, with a beautiful verandah and two large master bedrooms. There is a separate kitchen house for the cook, and there are a few Tongans who live in some Tongan houses down the beach and catch fish and lobster for the guests. There is a generator, water tanks, desalination machines, pumps and a whole lot of other equipment that need constant maintenance. All in all, running a resort seems like a hard life.

By the time we left the resort, we were getting a little tired. We had been going for about seven hours already and Kiwi was asleep. We decided to head east, toward Nomuka, see two more islands along the way, and call it a day. We stopped at Tanoa next, which is close to Fonoi. It is very small, but tall, and we circled it before climbing to the top through thick brush. From the top, Kau and Tofua, the distant volcanoes were visible, as well as ‘Oua, far to the northwest and not observable from sea level, even from Nomuka. The island is covered with holes: the nests of a downy gray flightless bird called the lafu. I have never seen one before, and it is possible they only live on this one little island due to a lack of predators. Pulotu and Kiwi “collected” three of these rare avian specimens to eat.

We set off again, and circled Nukufaiau on our way home to Nomuka. Above us it was mostly clear, but around the perimeter of the vast sky were the towering nimbostratus clouds in the shape of giant stuffed animals or Great Britain. It was past 6:00 now, and the sun made its descent straight ahead of us. The tide was low again so we couldn’t get into the reef at Nukufaiau. We called it a day and headed for home.

March 15, 2004

Yesterday we nursed our wounds by staying inside all day, hiding from both children and the intense sun. Rebek was burnt throughout the face and suffering from a migraine. I was still afflicted with fat hand. March had started out nice and cool, but it has gotten unbearably hot again. Only occasional brief showers make it different from February and January.

We skipped church again too. Rebek hasn’t been this year, while I have only been once. It is hard to force ourselves to go, as we just don’t like it and it is a hassle trying to keep the dog from coming into the church. People seem to accept our heathen ways, so we don’t really bring it up. I wouldn’t mind church so much as a community activity, but I just don’t like the way it is done or taught. Maybe I don’t understand Christianity. Do Christians elsewhere think that Judaism is a form of Christianity? People here, who spend up to fifteen hours a week in church and pray before and after every meeting or activity, know very little about the history of the whole thing. I guess I can’t generalize, but all the Tongans I talk to about religion (which I try to avoid at all costs) surprise me with their overall ignorance about the matter. They can quote the bible, but they can’t place Jesus in any sort of time or place in the world. When discussing politics (a no-no in the Peace Corps) I often ask people why they think Bush went to war with Iraq. Most people say they don’t really know or care, but the reason that the Tongans support him in his holy effort (they were a member of the mighty Coalition of the Willing) is because Saddam and his henchmen are non-Christian.

Right now Tonga is trying to enter the WTO, but has come under criticism by the US about its human rights record, particularly about recent freedom of press issues and choice of government.

I only have two weeks left of school for the term. This year is really going fast. This Friday is School Day, where each form has to do an item and try to raise $200. I am the form teacher for Form 1 along with Lani, who is pregnant and looking after her three kids alone while her husband, the police officer, is in Pangai for a big trial. That means that I have been coaching them alone in their Fijian hula. I don’t have the choreographic spirit the Tongans do, and haven’t been much help. Luckily they take this stuff very seriously and can pretty much take charge on their own.

The trial, for a murder last year, has been a constant source of gossip here in Nomuka. The trial (which a lot of people find unnecessary, since the church has already forgiven the boys involved) was over after three painful days, only to be challenged due to a juror who turns out to be family with a defendant. Our friend ‘Ateliana complained, rightly so in my opinion, and a lot of people are upset about that. I have been told that the Tongan way is to do what is right regardless of family connections, but I find this hard to believe, as most people think what is right is to forget the whole thing. The man who was killed -- so I (and the jury) have been told -- was bad anyway, having made home brew for sale. Since he was breaking the law, his murder loses some of its criminality. It has been decided that it was not premeditated murder, even though there is a witness who claims she heard the boys say they will hit the man if he says no to their request for home brew. He also didn’t die right away…is it possible that he was not fatally wounded until he was moved to the hospital? The defense lawyer (if he is any good) certainly thinks so. The re-trial resulted in a conviction--the two boys who went inside got four years each and the other four got two years of "work."

The trial has been hard on a lot of people, including Lani, who has to look after her kids all alone while teaching and being pregnant. Rebek has to teach ‘Ateliana’s Class 1 and 2 – and the kids don’t understand a word she says in either language. She might as well teach in Spanish. They do a lot of hokey-pokey and alphabet song.

Speaking of Spanish, it is hard to imagine from here what the reaction is abroad to the Spain bombings. Is it like 9/11? It is certainly very sad and frightening. I remember riding that subway when I was 14 or 15, a freshman in high school, thinking I was pretty mature and worldly as I managed to not only get into bars in a big foreign city like Madrid, but also find my way home on the subway.

I love Monday mornings lately. I don’t have class until around 12:00 and I get great basketball coverage on Armed Forces Radio. I just heard Maryland beat Duke for the ACC title and now I am hearing the Spurs/ Kings game. Definitely a highlight of the week.

The building on the hill houses Nomuka's only telephone, which is solar powered.

March 24, 2004

It’s been quite a week here in Nomuka. Finnerty had been going crazy for a few weeks: barking, howling, and running off to the neighbors’ yards, compelled by the urges of masculine instinct. Many factors--including lack of sleep, and the feeling that as Peace Corps volunteers we should set an example--contributed to us deciding to take action and fix him. He is over a year old, but we figured it was the right thing to do. So we asked around, and received many names of those who are “smart” at fixing dogs. We settled on one, a teacher at the Wesleyan primary school, named Vaisiliva (translated: Silverwater). He had gone to agricultural tertiary school some time ago, and was highly recommended by some. Others had less than high praise for his work.

So on the big day, Monday, I and some boys put Finn’s head in a sack, held him down, and Vaisiliva cut into his scrotum sack, cut the fatty tissue connecting the testicles to the body, and finally tied off the veins with fishing line. The razor had supposedly been cleaned with alcohol. Finn didn’t know what hit him. We let go and backed off in a semi-circle. Finn jumped up, looked around, and finally ran off and looked to Rebek for consolation.

The next day, he looked a little swollen and the cuts were still quite open, so I washed the area with an antibacterial wash and put some gauze and tape over the area. The next day, he was even worse, and it continued to become worse until Sunday, when his testicles (or lack there of) and his penis looked like balloons about to pop. At this point I was expecting him to die, and was very sad about it. Rebek might have felt the same, but was more optimistic. We both felt terrible about having done it and wished with all of our hearts that we could take it back and live with his natural, yet obnoxious behavior. Life in Nomuka without Finn was a daunting idea. He understands us better than most people here. Of course by this time everyone knew what was going on and were very sympathetic (as much as they could be while still hoping that we would be eating the dog within a day or two).

I went to Vaisiliva, and he came over after church. He chastised me for covering the wounds (like it was MY fault), and we tried to give him a shot of penicillin. The needle was meant for humans and didn’t work, but I managed to get him to swallow some pills instead. On Monday, I called the vet in Tonga, and he told me to have Vaisiliva open the wound back up and keep up the penicillin. I decided to do it myself, and, after acquiring sterile supplies from the health center, I went to work. I laid the poor puppy on some newspapers in the living room (the obituaries sadly enough) and chose a boil-like area on the inside of his leg. I punctured it, releasing a vile smelling combination of pus, blood, dead bacteria, and who knows what else. It came in torrents of red, black and white. We smiled through the stench, knowing that this was only helping. Since then, the area has reduced in swelling and we are only hoping the new cut can heal, as it is in a bad place.

What sadness and anxiety we have felt this week! We have tried to keep him inside and clean, and spend a lot of time comforting him. If anything, this week has made us appreciate what it must be like to have a sick child: the waiting, the frantic calling of the doctor, the judgment decisions. We will certainly hire a professional to do any circumcisions required if and when we are blessed with a male child.

We are leaving for Tonga tomorrow. We might bring Finn to the vet if he doesn’t look substantially better, but it will be a real pain in the ass to get him on the boat, not to mention having him with us in Tonga. We are ready for a little break. This month has been long and hot, and we need a little palangi time. As if I haven’t stressed enough through my writing how different it is here, I will say it again. This place is strange. Every day, little things manage to either throw us off course or rethink our whole idea of what is going on here and our place in it. We both agree that our place is not what it could be. We would like to join in more (be joiners), but we can’t shake the Christianity thing. Every activity is church related. We went on a picnic last week with the Mormons and found ourselves being converted.

It isn’t Christianity itself we have a problem with. It is the way it is used here to squash individuality and maintain the old class system under a different name that bothers us. It is the lack of knowledge about the other belief systems there are out there. And there is an underlying anti-Semitism that is becoming more and more apparent. Someone told me today that the reason Hitler killed the Jews was because they didn’t re-circulate the money they made back into the economy and compared it to the Chinese in Tonga (who they all hate). And the other day one of our favorite kids told me that he heard Jews were selfish. This from a kid who has never seen a Jew before, and had only heard of Jews because people call his Aunt who lives in Tonga Jewish for not giving an exorbitant amount of money to the Church. She owns a store and has more to give. A long time ago, when we first told people we are Jewish, we had someone ask us if it is true that no Jews went to work in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

I have never faced anti-Semitism before. At least not since fifth grade, when we moved to Maine. I remember walking to school with my new friends Jeff and Jason and them telling Jewish jokes, not knowing I was one. I didn’t know what to say. I probably laughed. I was new to the school. But I have never really felt it like I do know, and I don’t like it.

There were not many Jews in Cape Elizabeth (maybe three), and I never really associated with them. I never really wanted to get to know the ones I knew from Hebrew school in Portland either, and after my Bar Mitzvah I never went back. And I never really noticed if the people around me were religious: whether they were regular churchgoers or not I have no idea. Tufts was almost a third Jewish, I think, and it was my first opportunity to meet any Jewish people I liked. I was shocked to learn which of my friends were Jewish, and that they had had other Jewish friends growing up. Rebecca was the first Jewish girl I ever dated. And I didn’t even know. Living in Los Angeles and New York I was surrounded, if not by Jews, at least by a secular, intellectual, open-minded society that I though existed everywhere. I can’t say I thought much about religion my whole life and I have tended to scoff at overly religious people of any denomination. And I imagined that anti-Semitism in this day and age was only to be found in the Middle East or the Muslim neighborhoods of Paris.

One night last year, I remember very clearly a conversation with a friend from Nebraska. He was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in his third year, and while in Tonga I liked to stop by his house for a few beers. He is the type of guy with whom you can start a conversation at 7:00 and before you know it it’s 3:00am. He's about as free and unprejudiced a person as you could find. Maybe serving three times in the Peace Corps will do that to a person. But he enlightened me to the sentiments that he knew growing up in the vast plains in the center of our country where I have only passed through. The people he knew there were very Christian. People’s activities and associations were all church-based. And there was a lot of anti-Semitic feeling there too. He explained to me what they felt and why they felt that way. To him growing up, Judaism was as foreign to him as anti-Semitism was to me. I left the house that night feeling somewhat saddened, but I couldn’t figure out why. I guess I always knew it was out there, but I had never heard even such a vivid account of it as I had heard from my friend.

Now I feel real anti-Semitism, and I guess, like all hatred, it is out of ignorance. Regardless, it hurts. Here, though, I find it is in another language and of such a simple nature I can’t really begin to talk to the people about it. People have told me they agree with Bush’s war against Iraq because Saddam is a non-Christian. How can you argue against something like that? These people would start new Crusades if they had the manpower.

People here love Bush. I ask why, and they say because he is brave. I think it is because they love war, especially the winners. I don’t even think they know how religious Bush’s messages are, and if they did they would love him even more. I had another conversation today with the principal of Rebek’s second school. He said it was good to overthrow Saddam because he was bad. I asked if it was all right for New Zealand to overthrow the king of Tonga if they disagree with his policies. He understood that one. But he still likes Bush because he is brave. I told him about Kerry and Bush’s Vietnam records. That might have had an effect.

So we’re going to Tongatapu. It is my first break. We’ll see some friends, have some palangi food and beers, and do some planning for our business. And we’ll return, and maybe this feeling I have now will have passed, and the air will be cooler, and all will be well as we finish out our year (seven to eight months really). It will be sad to me if people still have misconceptions about Jews after we leave…but there is very little we can do except be ourselves. I hope and doubt that will be enough to cancel out the words of their wise and all-powerful ministers.

March 26, 2004

I am sending these off to be put up on the website now. We are in Tongatapu, and apart from being sad at how isolated we feel at the moment (what happened to all the letters, guys? And packages?), we are feeling pretty good overall and I hope that my journal doesn’t seem too negative. Our last couple of days in Nomuka were really nice and we left comfortable in the fact Finn will probably live, and our being Jews isn’t the worst thing in the world. We ate our last chicken the other night with Mamana, Meki and Benson. It was great. The boat ride down sucked, as usual. When we arrived last night, we rented a couple of movies (someone finally fixed the office VCR!), ate Chinese food, and went to bed.