Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Learning Journal #32: Coming to an end

This semester is coming to a close, as tomorrow is the last day of class.  Wow.  I can't believe how fast that went.  I remember starting out in the semester and not knowing exactly what I wanted to study.  I had a broad topic and just knew I wanted to look at health education.  As I reflect back on the semester, I can see how much my project has developed since the beginning. 

I am going to Tonga to study health education at Liahona high school.  I will be going for three months.  I plan to observe health classes (both students and teachers) and soon help with the daily lesson plans.  I hope to interact with students and teachers after they have signed consent forms.  I will use a survey called, the Global health school-based survey which was developed by the World Health Organization, to assess the students and look at the health topics they learn about in class.  I will also ask a few students to be interviewed, because I want to learn more about what they think about health and health education.  I will record and transcribe these interviews for accuracy, and will keep it safely locked on a password protected laptop.  This is the condensed version, of what I will be doing in Tonga for the next three months.

It's beginning to hit me, that I will be going to Tonga.  It's not longer just an "idea."  I am going to Tonga, and there's no turning back.  As it is coming closer to the time I have to depart, I've found myself thinking a lot about this trip.  My financial plans haven't gone the way I had planned in the middle of the semester, which was one of the challenges I had to face in planning this field study.  I will be missing two of my cousin's (who I am really close to) high school graduation, as well as a really good friend's wedding.  Lately, I've wondered if this is really the right thing I should be at this time in my life.  I'm reminded of Elder Wirthlin's talk at general conference where he said, "Come what may, and love it."  This has made me step back and look at my attitude and hopes for my field study.  I am going to Tonga in a few weeks, and I am excited for the experience I will gain. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning Journal #31: fei'umu

This past Saturday, our Tongan class prepared a fei'umu.  Fei'umu is basically an underground oven and a way for cooking in Tonga.  What happens, is you wrap food such as 'ufi, manioke, talo, (yam and taro) and lu pulu, in tin foil and dig a big pit, and place the food there.  Then, you cover the food with wood, rocks, and tree branches.  So we met at the house at 8am to prepare the food.  By 12pm, we put the food into the underground oven and had to wait about four hours before it was cooked.  To pass the time, the class went and supported our BYU rugby team as they played Utah Utes for the wasatch cup.  Rugby is the most popular sport, especially in Tonga, among men.  Netball is popular among women and girls.  After the rugby game, we all went back to the house and uncovered the underground oven, and had a feast!

After everything was done and I was at home, I thought of how my time in Tonga will be spent.  I thought of how I will he helping my host family make the fei'umu for the family especially on Sunday mornings before church.  I thought of how most of the food I will be eating will be "fei'umu" food.  I also thought of how much Rugby games I will be attending.  It's interesting because what I was doing this past Saturday, will probably be some of the thing I will be doing in Tonga.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Learning Journal #29 Learning from experience

I've heard of a saying that It's good to learn from your mistakes, but it's better (and wiser) to learn from the mistakes of others.  So I met up with Annie last week to talk to her about her experience in Tonga.  Last summer, she was a part of the Tonga field studies group that went to Vava'u.  She is majoring in physical education and wanted to look at the types of physical activity people do there and their perception on physical activity.  She went there and had to change her project because of certain circumstances she was in, and ended up volunteering at Saineha high school, which is the Church high school in Vava'u.

She ended up teaching health classes there, which is very similar to what I hope to be doing in May.  In our meeting, I was able to get some tips and advice from her experience.  Something I realized while we talked was how she had to wear skirts every day to Saineha high school.  I totally forgot that I'll have to wear skirts or dresses to Liahona because it is part of their dress code standards.  She also mentioned possibilities of training sessions for teachers that may take place, and that I should attend them to observe and participate.  Something I was worried about while in the field was having to change my topic and research focus.  When I talked to Annie, she said not to worry too much about it here in Utah, because ideas could flow while I'm there.  She also stressed how much of a great experience it was for her.  She said if all didn't work out, or according to my plans, to not worry, and to focus on the experience while there in Tonga.  I think that's one of the greatest advice I could get, is to not worry too much if things don't go exactly the way I want it to go, and to focus on the bigger picture, which is the unforgettable experience!  I'm really excited and counting down the days in the last month before heading to Tonga!

Learning Journal #28

There has been news that the King Tupou VI has shortened the mourning period in Tonga from 90 days (3 months) to just a few days.  Some of the reasons I read online was because the new king did not want to continue to put a strain on the economy and add more debt.  I thought that was really neat that he did that because in the past, the royal mourning period has been known to last much longer than a few days.  

In an online opinion editorial, a reporter from New Zealand, who also attended the King's funeral in Tonga said this, "While no official reasons have been given, the word is the new King is deeply concerned about his Kingdom's dire economic situation and a full blown Tongan funeral with all the trimmings is something it just cannot afford."

Tonga's economy is heavily depended on remittances from people living overseas such as New Zealand, Australia and America.  Tourism also plays a big role in the economy.  During the lying in state, when the late King's body was brought into Tonga, many of the villagers donated thousands of portions of food, to show their respect and love to the king.  I thought that was so great, that the people of a country showed their support and pride for the King and being a Tongan.  I thought it was so interesting because I doubt this would ever happen here in America, if the President of America passed away.  Or at least people would show their respect in a different way.

This summer, there will be a lot of people who will be traveling to Tonga because of events that will taking place there.  A lot of people will be traveling to Tonga from America, New Zealand, and Australia to attend events such as high school alumni reunions and the Miss Heilala Pageant.  I think King Tupou VI looked ahead and saw the negative effects to the country and its economy if the mourning period had extended until the summer.  I'm really glad the King has shortened the mourning period for the country, and I think it shows his character, that he really does care for his people and the country's future!    

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

learning journal #27: Preparing for change

The month of March is nearly coming to a close, which makes it that much closer to my departure date, May 4th.  Time is going by so fast and before I know it, I'll be in Tonga.  I've been thinking about my research project a lot lately and about things to expect when I get there.  I am so fortunate to be able to stay with my first cousin on the main island, who is married and has four young children.  I'm really excited to meet up with them again.  Looking at what is expected out of my field study kind of feels overwhelming because I will be out there in Tonga by myself and the other two girls will be on another island.  To be honest, I'm really nervous that things won't go the way I planned and I won't be able to adapt to the changes.  I'm reminded of a quote once said that change will always happen and sometimes we may not have control over it, but we do have control on how we react to change. 

The King of Tonga's funeral services will be held today.  King Tupou VI (the new king) has stated that the country's mourning period will last three months, from March to June.  We will be arriving in Tonga in May which means we will be there for the last month of the country's mourning.  I wondered if the country's mourning would have any effect on my research project.  For example, no celebrations or events could be held during the mourning period, which I think includes dances and sport events.  If so, I would have to make a few changes in my field study to make use of all the time I have there as my time is limited.  I think the best way for me to prepare for change in Tonga, is to brainstorm other plans that relate to my research project, and explore those.  I can refer to my web of ideas that we did in class earlier in the semester to look at other things such as exploring the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Education, availability of health clinics or hospitals to the people and other things like that.  I think what plays a big part in adapting or dealing with change is attitude.  How we manage or deal with stress plays an important role in our attitude.  I think this is a great time to step back and evaluate how I'm doing, because in the next month or so, I will be alone in Tonga and may deal with stress there. 

I think for the most part I can prepare more for possible changes in the field by being prepared with back up research projects and preparing myself mentally for it now.  The semester is coming to an end and finals are coming up, which means a lot of stress.  I think by managing my stress and dealing with it could help me deal with any sudden changes in Tonga. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

learning Journal #26: IRB

Yesterday the IRB application was due.  I'm really glad that part of the process is done!  I took an english class last semester (Engl 216) in which we wrote proposals and at the end of the semester, filled out an IRB application.  I'm really glad I took that class because it helped so much especially in writing the background and significance section.  I know I would've had a harder time filling it out, if I hadn't taken that class.  I think the hard part of the IRB application, was filling out everything and making sure each part matches and was consistent throughout the application.  There are so many different parts to the application that it is easy to say one thing in one part, and forget to mention it in another.  Last Friday we had an IRB mock session, where I received great feedback from my group!  It's amazing how many different projects will be carried out this spring and summer by other field study students.  Well now the IRB part is done, we're moving on writing up our proposal for the Kennedy Center and also starting to nail things down for our projects.  I'm really excited to go to Tonga! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Learning Journal #25: Royal death

Yesterday, King George Tupou V passed away in a hospital in Hong Kong.  He was 63 years old.  According to newspaper articles I had read, the cause of death was not given, but the king did suffer other health problems and had a liver transplant last year.  He reigned in 2006 when his father, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV passed away.  Because of the riots in Nuku'alofa, the coronation wasn't until the summer of 2008.  He will be remembered as the King who pushed for democracy and political reforms.   


Funerals can be complicated to understand as people have specific roles and many people are involved.  All of my grandparents and close relatives are still alive, so I haven't had the whole "Tongan funeral" experience yet.  Sometimes funerals last a whole week, in which that village would have to close their stores and businesses until the funeral is done, to show respect.  There was a funeral in Fahefa last summer while I was in Tonga and the two stores in the village had closed down during that time.  If we needed to go to the store, we would have to go to the next village which wasn't too far.  If activities were scheduled during that time such as dances, they would be cancelled.  Other ways we would show our respect to the family and deceased person was by not making any noises (laughing too loud, talking too loud..etc.) especially at night and by presenting mats and "koloa."  Purple material was draped across the front of the deceased person's house.  I think that's one of the signs to recognize as there being a funeral.  In the Tongan culture, wearing all black and ta'ovalas is expected.  
"Tupou, who studied at King’s College in Auckland, New Zealand, and in Britain, is credited with championing a more open system of government, advocating technological improvements and introducing a more open economy in the kingdom.  He will be remembered by many for his throwback fashion choices — which included wearing, at times, a top hat and even a monocle."
                                                               (Wellington, New Zealand Newspaper source)
Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka, heir to the throne, was with the king just before he passed away.  In one of the newspaper articles, I had read that the King's last words was, "the sun has set."  The king brought in things like mobile phones and other advances that people wouldn't dream would come to Tonga, and pushed for democracy which made a big impact on the people there.     

Back in the days, the mourning period lasted a year.  Which meant all these things would last a whole year.  However, Queen Salote shortened the mourning period because it was too long.  She changed it from a year to a month.  The King of Tonga passed away, and I'm not sure how long the mourning period will be, because this is a royal funeral.  If the mourning period will last a whole year, then I would pack a lot of black clothes to show my respect to the King and to my culture.  I think funerals can be a great thing on the other hand because it brings people together.  I know the death of king will bring many Tongans across the world together in one way or another.  I'm still excited to go to Tonga and think it will be a great experience to see the after effects in Tonga, of a royal death.  People from all around the world has sent their condolences to the royal family.  Flags in London are at half mast due to the royal death.  I'm sure there are many who will continue to send their condolences and respect to the royal family, near and far.  "The sun has set" for King Tupou V.  
Rest in peace King Tupou V.