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Justin & Rebecca’s journal of life on Nomuka
SEPTEMBER 2003, via email

Rebecca and Justin travelled to several islands in September to make a video about Peace Corps service in Tonga. On their last day with Internet access, Rebecca sent this:

It is always a whirlwind of activity when we get down here to the capital and oftentimes it makes us forget the slow, peaceful life we lead on Nomuka. I will try to remember now some of the highlights of the last few months there…

Firstly, we had a wonderful Labor Day weekend! We are both still amazed it has been a year since the wedding. Our lives have changed so much in the past year so it is hard for us to determine whether our being married plays a major factor in that or perhaps it just feels different now that we own our own chickens and eat octopus and manioke for almost every meal. Anyway, we had been looking forward to our anniversary for quite some time (my school had been out on a short break so we were having ALL of the kids over ALL of the time) so a quiet weekend of the two of us seemed just what we needed. We woke up to a rainy Friday morning so determined to go that we packed up all of our stuff and started loading the kayaks. Luckily around noon the sun began to shine and a family that we are good friends with were heading over to the motu (Nomukaiki) to fish so we put our kayaks on the boat and all headed over together.

Justin and I set up camp and did some fangota (walking the reef for shellfish) with our friends for a while and then headed to the backside of the island to catch us some dinner. Within the hour Justin had caught a big fish and a reef shark, which we grilled over the fire for dinner. It was a wonderful feast and made me realize I definitely married the right man. The next day was sunny and beautiful and we hiked around the island, played with Finnerty, read books in the sun, listened to VOA on shortwave and caught some more fish to eat. Around mid-day our neighbors made a surprise visit (I think they were just checking up on us to make sure we had been able to catch food to eat and to see what the two of us could possibly be wanting to be doing there alone). Tongans love to be surrounded by people and they haven't quite grasped the fact that it is possible and dare I say quite nice to sometimes spend time toko ua pe (just the two of us).

Some friends had also mentioned in passing that they felt sorry for us because we don't have children and therefore in their minds we weren't able to participate in certain "married people's activities"…I didn't have the language or the heart to explain the wonders of birth control so we just left it at them feeling sorry for us and took the clams and other food they provided. We spent Saturday night on the island as well as sitting by our campfire listening to our I-pod and looking at Mars. We returned to Nomuka Sunday afternoon just in time to miss church. All in all I couldn't have asked for a better anniversary.


  Our normal day-to-day life is constantly feeling more comfortable. We have been spending a lot of time in the garden. We have eaten our first round of carrots and sugar snap peas and if the kids remembered to water the garden as they promised we will return to our 30 tomato plants which should be just about ready for the picking. We also spent some time filming our video, which is now complete. We are very excited about it. For having one camera and all of the footage done hand held, we are proud of it. It is the first of many B list productions to be made here.

Our trip to Niautoputapu was amazing. There are two volunteers up there who are very cool and great sports (we had the camera in their faces a lot of the time). Niau is in the northernmost island group and about a 2-hour plane ride from the capital. It is a volcanic island and off its northern shore is another volcanic island called Tafahi. Tafahi has about 150 steps leading up to the small village of about 100 people and then it is an all-day hike to the top of the volcano. The hike was amazing and we got some great footage, some of which is in our documentary. Niau also has a fresh water spring called the "vai" which is so beautiful and amazing to swim in especially because it is hot up there. The only downer in our travels was that on the second to last day in Niau someone shot and ate our friend's dog. Poor Z-Bone, he was a great dog.

We are hoping our Finnerty is still alive tomorrow when we return to Nomuka. When we were leaving the island this last time Finnerty kept swimming after the boat. One of the kids we are friends with finally had to take his little wooden canoe out in the sea and get him and bring him back to shore. I think Fin would rather drown swimming after us than face the reality of being on Nomuka without us. Tonga, needless to say, is not the best place to be a dog.

Speaking of dogs, I forgot to mention that in the past month vicious dogs attacked both Justin and me, on separate occasions, and now we have matching scars on our calves. It was really scary. The tooth of the dog that bit Justin remained in Justin's leg and one of my fellow teachers had to dig it out and put a weird green medicinal plant on his leg, which did help with the pain. The dog that attacked me was one of my principal's dogs and the day after it bit me it was gone. When I asked what happened to it he said that the dog was sent on the boat to another island. I decided not to bring up the fact that the boat had not been there in over a week and truthfully was just happy the dog was now MIA.