About Tonga

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Does Tonga have Fashion Police?

I've got to be upfront with you all. I like clothes. Well, it's more like love, or obsession. So? I like jewelry too, and scarves, and shoes..ohhhh shoes! SO WHAT- does that make me any less of a devoted Peace Corps Trainee? NO!

Here's my dilemma. I hate all my Tonga clothes, basically. I am anticipating one of my main challenges in Tonga to be not feeling awkward and gross in my outfits. Is that trivial? Maybe to you. But, self-esteem is a necessary part of life, and mine often comes from feeling good in my clothes. Do not interpret this post as a complaint, because it's only meant to be a comical reflection.

My friends always say they've never seen me in the same outfit twice. They go shopping in my closet-sometimes I never even know when things are gone! I'm not exactly proud of this over-indulgent compulsion toward clothes (it's not just clothes either..sadly). It's just a fact. When I have issues (and let's just admit it, I've got a lot of issues) I like to indulge in a little (or a lot of) retail therapy. One of the things that appealed to me about Peace Corps in the first place was the minimalistic lifestyle. I thought, "wouldn't it be cool to realize a world where things don't matter?" Then WHY Kristen do you want to bring 384938493 pieces of clothing (and shoes, and make-up, and and and..) with you?

When I first started telling people about my intention to join the Peace Corps I'm pretty sure there was a lot of doubt. Upon first glance I will admit that I probably look a tad high maintenance. Maybe I am, I'll own up to it. But, I never considered that a reason not to attempt this challenge. I stood in front of the mirror today trying on numerous skirts (rescued from various thrift stores around Virginia Beach I might add) and I pretty much wanted to barf. They are figureless and fashionless. I keep telling myself it doesn't matter. Tongans don't value clothes. But I'm not a Tongan, and I grew up with my nose in a Seventeen Magazine. I can't possibly imagine myself in a state of mind where clothing doesn't matter. I wonder if I will lose this self-consciousness in time?

I am probably going to have to vacuum pack my clothes for the trip to Tonga. I will try to downsize as much as humanly possible, but I have come to terms with my condition. I look forward to an eye opening experience that will help me put into perspective how important (or not important, rather) things such as clothes really are. But in the mean time, I will struggle with leaving behind my precious coach purse (it's fun really, a true self-growth exercise)! OH coach purssse :(

Anyways, the moral of this story, the point of this loooong drawn out discussion is just this: you don't have to be any certain body to want to help better the world. I'll still paint my fingernails, and wear stylish jewelry. That's just who I am. And, now that you all know what you're dealing with here, I'm sure you can't wait to hear just how well I'll fit in when I get to Tongaaaa, (note sarcasm) BAhahaaa.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Because..

....it's THAT good!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I don't know why but thinking of Tonga makes me think of Fruit Loops and Tucan Sam: "Follow your nose!"

As much as I would love to be silly and light hearted, there is just too much going on in my head right now. So if you'll allow one mellow post, I promise to be more fun the next round.

I have been having a hard time lately finding the good in people. A lot of people around me (it wouldn't be fair to say everyone) have shown themselves to be selfish, shallow people with little concern for others and it erks me to the core. It erks me because I try very hard to be a good person, to love people and do the right thing by them, but it always seems to backfire and I end up being punished for my good intentions. I guess that is why I am looking forward so much to leaving for the Peace Corps. I know (or at least I dearly hope) that I will be meeting people who have the desire to be useful, to be good and to care about other people before themselves. That's not to say there won't be hard times, or bumps in the jolly road, but at least I will have some restored faith in humanity (or, as I said, I dearly hope).

The past year has been one rough, hard time with trying to finish school, graduating and being discouraged by joblessness. Looking back I found that I was often waiting for something better to happen to me. The typical everyday mindset was something along the lines of "this sucks so much I would rather be doing anything else I cannot wait to get on to something better." And, eventually I was on to something better, but it didn't seem better at all. And now, face to face with the most exciting thing to ever happen in my life, (a state which doesn't exist without its own stresses and anxieties) has me thinking with the same old mindset. Some how though I came to a realization and that is: life doesn't just go away. Things come up, hard decisions must be made, people sometimes have to be let down, and that's just the way it is. It is not right to wish it away, and it is not effective. The only way to grow up is to learn how to cope with hardship and still find a way to be happy while doing so. So, my goal for the next two years and three months will be to take things for what they are, not what I want them to be. There is always room for improvement, but perfection doesn't exist, and remembering that will make me a more effective person and I think an overall more pleasant person to be around. The little things will not get me down anymore, mark my words!! (end annoying sermony-like self-improvement segment of this show)

With all that said, I feel sure I am ready to take on this challenge. I just read my "bridge to PST" paper and it has made me even more excited! There is so much still to do and I know I will forget at least one thing. When I first found out I was going to Tonga I was so careful to find out every little detail I could. I wanted to minimize as many issues as possible. But, that very quickly ended in me becoming way to crazy-obsessed and over anxious with wanting everything to go perfectly. What is the point in that? New outlook: go with the flow, don't ruin all the surprises and be excited about the unknown. I know this is the right way to do it, because if I knew exactly what to expect, then surely I would be thrown into a tizzy when something didn't go exactly as I had thought it would. (i sound like such a psycho ((and proud of it))!!)

A tad off topic but worth mentioning: My favorite book as of late has been Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" and in the book she ends a relationship with the man she loves. Well, afterword she decides she needs to change, stop seeing herself through other people's eyes and she writes "operation self-esteem: day fucking one." This is exactly how I feeeeeeel tonight, mind you it is 1:53 in the morning and I have been played for a fool. But, sometimes I think people don't get to hear enough about how great they are, how beautiful. This leaves us (or me at least) second guessing ourselves, misplacing our attention, and depending on others for happiness when it is really ourselves we need to make peace with. Well tonight I will take solace by declaring that I don't need any damn person's affection to know my worth. It doesn't depend on whether or not I am wanted, or loved. It depends on how much I can serve and be of use to others. So, off I go..to increase my worth!

T-minus two weeks whaaaaaaaat?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Christmas in September

Packing for Tonga is basically equivalent to Christmas morning. Except instead of getting expensive clothes and electronics, I get a tent, tools and duct tape! A tent that I don't how to pitch and tools that I don't know how to use, thanks Santa :). Maybe I should have tried harder at Girl Scouts when I was little?

Here's is what my packing corner looks like so far:  

I am still missing a few things, but for goodness sakes, what more can there be?????? Oh i know...some suitcases to put all of this crap in (wouldn't that be the first thing you'd buy...yeah, i'm not that smart)! There is less than three weeks left, and i'm starting to feel the pressure. On the other hand, I am ready to go...


Monday, August 30, 2010

To my fellow group 76rs

Hey all-

I created a discussion board for us on the "Future Peace Corps Volunteers" page on Facebook. I hope you all will join. We can talk Tongan to each other for practice =) or, at the very least talk about our preparations! Toki sio!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


After 8 looooooooong (did I mention long?) months of waiting, I finally received my invitation to become a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English in the Kingdom of Tonga (Pacific Islands)! This is what I find when I sign on to "MyToolkit" (an online thinggy to track PC application status):

Naturally, I had to give my blog a re-vamp, which I've been itching to do and now can because it's for REAL! This is what it looks like to get an invite to join the Peace Corps:

(Hint: I snagged this picture from the Internet, but if I were to lay out my invite it would look exactly the same, and time is precious, so...) A lot of paperwork, to say the least. But, that means a lot more updates to come, so stay tuned! =)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Peace Corps Application Timeline- no easy feat.

Are you sure you're ready for this?...

  • August 2009: Attend Peace Corps Informational Meeting at Central Library. Discover the requirements for the TEFL programs
  • September-December 2009: Volunteer to gain tutoring hours to meet TEFL program requirements. Gather Recommendations and write essays.
  • January 1, 2010: Submit completed application
  • January 11, 2010- "Greetings from Peace Corps!" e-mail from recruiter. The e-mail says the next step is the interview. I e-mail back to discuss the interview. My recruiter just so (luckily) happens to be coming to my campus for a recruiting session on January 26th. He offers to do the interview then so I don't have to travel to Rosslyn. Sweet! I e-mail back a big fat YES please :)
  • January 12, 2010- Receive a confirmation e-mail from my recruiter for my interview, which will be on January 26th at 4:00 pm
  • January 12-26, 2010: Get my fingerprints taken at the local police station and stress out about my upcoming interview!!!
  • January 26, 2010: Meet my fabulous recruiter, Mark. Interview lasts about an hour long, and was super successful! He says I'm a perfect candidate, but that I applied a little too late for a summer 2010 departure *sad face*. He says he will be in touch about possible programs I can get nominated for.
  • February 16, 2010: Mark found me a program! TEFL (teaching english as a foreign langauge) in Eastern Europe, departing late September 2010. GO Mark!!
  • February 24, 2010: I am nominated, mytoolkit is updated! But, with strings. I am told I must get more experience, and have to sign a paper promising I will do so. Assume that I am working toward this goal for now until forever!
  • March 1, 2010: I am mailed my medical kit. ohhhh the medical kit- I shrink in your presence.
  • April 23, 2010: First doctors appointment where I (foolishly, and naively) believe I will complete my medical kit. Instead discover that my insurance doesn't cover a physical that is not school/work related. My doctor suggests I get my shots taken at the on-base clinic, where it's free. Mind you, I still go to school away from home and making doctor appointments back home is not the easiest task. Shots will have to wait until after graduation. Oh, and urinalysis discovers blood and my doctor won't sign my papers without knowing why. So, she is says she is going to recommend a urologist for me to see. Joy.
    • Urologist fiasco of 2010: My doctor sends me a slip in the mail saying that she has made me an appointment with the urologist for June 2. But, I think that is too late because I want to get my medical papers in ASAP. So, I try calling the urologist to make a sooner appointment but none are available. I decide to wait. Then, about a week before the appointment I get a call from the office saying that the doctor won't be in on that day and they want to change the appointment to the next available day-which is June 25th! Oh no! I beg for a sooner date, and finally get seen on June 8th.
      • Urologist appointment 1: pee in a cup, and told I must have a cystoscopy and a CAT scan to find out what is in my body. I am told it could be cancer, could be kidney stones, could be....nothing. I am also told that I won't be able to have these tests done for another 6 weeks, so I get teary eyes and explain my situation. Luckily the nurse takes pity on me and fixes me up with a CAT scan for two days later, and a cystoscopy the following week.
      • Urologist appointment 2: Test results are back. They found a small 1mm kidney stone but say it will pass without notice and clear me for service! By the time this is all complete it is now about the middle of June..sigh!
  • April 30, 2010: Dentist Appointment. Paperwork is all filled out, except the dentist suggests I get my wisdom teeth taken out- so out they must come.
  • May 8, 2010: I GRADUATE COLLEGE! woot!
  • May 10, 2010: Go to the base to get my shots. All done- results will take 2 weeks. The clinic claims they will fax to results to my primary care physician when they return (lies all lies!!)
  • June, 3, 2010: Get wisdom teeth removed and ate nothing but onion soup, mashed potatoes and ICE CREAM for a week!
  • June 16, 2010: Finally finished all urology cr-ap. Now to get those papers signed..so I call my doctor and what else except she's on VACATION! doctors really shouldn't go on vacation. I learn from her nurse that..Oops, dumb navy clinic didn't even fax the shot records over. Call the navy clinic, talk to 2 incompetent people before finally getting a call from my doctor's office saying the records were received and as soon as the doctor gets back on Monday, she will fill out the papers.
  • June 21, 2010: I can go pick up my papers, they are all done! Get them into FedEx and ship them to PC Headquarters!
  • June 23, 2010: Mytoolkit update: results of my medical examination have been received!
  • June 28, 2010: Dental Clearance!
  • July 2, 2010: Received e-mail from Placement telling me that they heard from Medical that I was sent a letter asking me for more information on something regarding my medical review (news to me). I call my Medical Assistant to find out that my medical file hasn't even been assigned to a nurse yet and that the e-mail was a mistake. Phew!
  • July 26, 2010: Receive an e-mail asking me to fill out a skills addendum, which worries me because I was certain my recruiter knew of all my volunteer hours. I call my recruiter to chat-he freaks out and can't understand why I was sent the skills addendum. Apparently I was shifted from one program into something new that requires this new addendum, so he tells me to fill it out and send it to him and forward it to the education desk at placement. The education desk calls to say they received it, and to thank me for sending it, annnnd to clear up any previous misunderstandings. They assure me I am not lost in translation, but that they can't review my file until I am medically cleared.
  • August 7, 2010: Mytoolkit update e-mail! I sign on and see Complete. A decision has been reached regarding your medical review. Please look for a letter in the mail. WHAT does this mean? Am I deferred? Am I not suitable? WHAT? I google the phrase to find out it's the common update for people who are medically qualified- yippy!!
  • August 9th, 2010: E-mail from Assessment and Placement telling me I've been medically qualified and will be assessed in the next couple of weeks for placement! The e-mail requests an updated resume, experience and transcript. I send it all the very same day.
  • August 10, 2010: I can't stand the pressure. I call Placement to be nosy about my application. Go figure my PO (placement officer) is out of the office until next week. I asked the nice lady what the liklihood was of me still getting into the program I was nominated for even though my close of invitation date is a weekish away. That's when she drops the bombs. My program is full. But, there is still hope. Some Ocotober programs are still open, so she says she will talk to my PO about it. She says to call back late the next week. So, I shall.
  • August 24th, 2010: I get a call from my PO. She wants to ask me a few questions. I answer as best I can think how, having not been prepared :( She tells me I am now being considered for placement in the Pacific Islands departing in October!!!