Under the Tongan Sun
Teaching SuggestionsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Language Arts & Literature
- Region / Country: Asia & Pacific Islands / Kingdom of Tonga
- Grade Level(s): 9–12
Enjoy a day in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Tonga.
- Under the Tongan Sun by Tina Martin
- Have the students read the story for homework, individually in class, or aloud in class.
- Ask students to re-read the first paragraph. What is the writer trying to do? [Create the setting for the story by highlighting the unique nature of her life in Tonga.] What does the writer choose to highlight about her life? [The size and building materials of her hut, her lack of electricity and running water, the availability of food, and the presence of other people.] Does the writer perceive these as problems? [No. The kerosene lamp and well water are alternatives to electricity and running water. The writer seems pleased by the availability of the food and the children who help get it for her.]
- In the first sentence of the second paragraph the author says, "The kids I taught were always with me, and I loved them even more than I once loved my privacy." How are the cultural values of the United States put in contrast with the cultural values of the Tongans? [The kids value community and proximity to others while Americans tend to value privacy.]
- Why is the author not upset when the kids help her eat the baked bread she purchases? [She understands that Tongans have cultural norms that prize community over individuality. She is expected to share and in turn people share with her.]
- In the penultimate paragraph the author writes, "Then I tried to help them prepare for the sixth-grade exam that would determine their scholastic future. And they helped me prepare whichever vegetable was to be my dinner." Why does the author put these two sentences together? [They are temporally linked. More important, the author draws a parallel between the children’s future and her dinner preparations. Both are important and difficult for the respective parties to perform without help.]
- The author ends the piece saying, "I fell asleep knowing I would always wake up under the Tongan sun." Why did she choose this sentence to close the story? [In a story that shows a day in the author’s life, the sentence gives a sense of both closure and everything coming full circle.]
- Looking at the essay as a whole, what values—American, Tongan, and both—are highlighted by the author? [Tongan—community above the individual, being good natured; American—individual above the community, materialism; Both—generosity, love for others, helping others.]
- Have the students write a short essay that describes a day in their lives from waking up to going to bed. Ask the students to get into groups of three or four and read each other’s essays. The group should then create a list of the similarities between the essays. Finally, the group should create a list of similarities between Tina Martin’s essay and their own essays.