Peace Corps Presentation Provides Knowledge to Students

Brenna McKinnon, Staff Writer

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On Friday, March 1, and Tuesday, March 5, several classes of Armijo students came to room E-3 to hear Ms. Vanessa Walling-Sisi share her experiences in the Peace Corps. She offered this presentation to celebrate Peace Corps Week, which ran from Sunday, January 24, to Friday, March 1. Students who attended the event learned a lot about the Peace Corps, but they learned even more about the small island country of Tonga, where Ms. Walling-Sisi spent her experience.

Nuku’alofa is the capital of Tonga, which is one of the oldest kingdoms in the Pacific. The capital city is a western town. All of the islands in Tonga are tiny, but they are not boring. There are a lot of extinct volcanoes, including one on Tofua. The reef protects the islands.

In Ms. Walling-Sisi’s first year in Tonga, she was assigned to a village where she was a teacher trainer, and she taught them how to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Vava’u is where she had her second five weeks of training. The people were motivated to learn so that they could leav

e their island to meet new people.

Later, Ms. Walling-Sisi went out to Niuatoputapu to teach. Niuatoputapu means the sacred land of coconut. Niuatoputapu had three villages and she was in Hihifo. That’s where she met her husband.

While she was on her adventure, it wasn’t unusual for Ms. Walling-Sisi to see kids climbing coconut trees with machetes in their mouths when she lived on the island. Tonga is also a place where swimming and snorkeling are both safe and popular. Tongans are really athletic and every singl

e village has a church.

In the Tongan alphabet there are only 17 letters. They shortened their alphabet because a lot of letters make the same sound, so it isn’t necessary to have all the 26 letters. The apostrophe is called a fakau’a, which sound a lot like a curse word in English.

Ms. Walling-Sisi had to learn the language of the Tongan people in order to teach English to them. She said the best part of that experience was learning well enough to crack jokes, but the most challenging thing was that she was so culturally isolated because she was the only foreigner.

In 2006, her husband and daughter went back to Tonga, and experienced a Christmas in hot weather, which is the usual condition for the holiday in that part of the world.

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