Learning Journal Entries

Journal #1
My mind keeps running into a roadblock for this first journal entry because there are so many questions to answer and its difficult to focus on just one.  But even though my thoughts are scattered, they're related because they are attempting to answer the same topic: what direction to take my research and the project.  I realize landscape architecture is limited, and maybe nonexistent, in most developing countries.  That means there is likely little to go off of in Tonga, leaving a blank canvas my creative little mind can try to fill.  I know that I want to study plants (both ornamental and edible), design (likely based off traditional art), and Tongan culture (what is considered aesthetic and how do plants fit into that).  Somehow those three vague interests might make a viable project.
Here are a few brainstorming ideas.
  • How traditional artwork is reflected in landscape design
  • How plants are viewed in Tongan culture and to what extent are they appreciated
  • Use of public spaces and efforts to landscape
  • Develop of sense of what a Tongan garden would entail (like a Japanese, French, or English garden)
  • Gardening practices
  • Tongan relationship with plants
Journal #2
I've been thinking about the reading and what it means to be either an observer or participant in field research.  It is an interesting distinction because the effect you could have on your research may come, in large part, as a result of how you approach the information gathering stage.  Reflecting on which method is better, it seems a combination of the two would yield the greatest results in most situations.  Observation would allow me to view things as they appear with little to no interference on my part.  I could observe what landscapes do exist, what areas around a home are used for, and further develop a plan from that point. With direct participation, I think that would include interviews with those who have landscapes, those who don't, and how public areas might be maintained.  By participating it is strange to see, as the author pointed out, that some sense of objectivity should be maintained.  A field study means interacting with the people of a new culture, but developing the emic or etic perspective also has its benefits.  In terms of analyzing Tongan use of edible and ornamental plantings, there is little to deal with in terms of ethics.  But I can see that it is good to be aware of cultural understandings so as to enhance my own understanding.

Journal #3
In my research I've solidified the initial conclusion I made that little is done in the way of landscaping in Tonga.  Yet I vegetation is plentiful and in pictures, many Tongan homes maintain some amount of plant life whether it be for food, aesthetics or just because it was there.  I've been thinking that it would be interesting to explore what are the contributing factors that limit landscaping around homes, and even in more public places.  This kind of topic would explore more of an urban planning approach.  But I think that identifying obstacles a developing country faces in creating some type of infrastructure.  In terms of homes, it seems that most people are hindered in developing their own plots of land because 1) many people don't own they land 2) 24% of the people are below the poverty line and 3) people are closer to the natural landscape.  Also plants are used for a variety of reasons, but it seems that their potential as ornamentals is often overlooked.  These are just a few of the initial things I thought about and found online.
According to the CIA world factbook 25% of the population lives in an urban setting, with a 1.6% annual change.  With increased urbanization, there is often an increase in public areas used as parks and plazas.  This often comes as a result because a population becomes more removed from nature, and such areas attempt to fill in the gap.  In Vava'u I have found a few potential resources to better understand the landscape there.  The botanical gardens are owned by the minister of agriculture and food.  There is contact information for the gardens and I'll send an email to them pretty soon.

Journal #4
According to the 2006 Tongan census, 72% of the population owned their dwelling, 4% rented, and 23% resided in their dwelling rent free.  I'm not entirely sure how 23% don't pay rent for their dwelling or own it.  It might have something to do with the close knit familial relations that exist, where owners weren't charging rent to family.  I'll have to look further into that one because that could be an interesting hindrance to landscape development.  I was surprised to see that 72% owned their dwelling.  It came as a surprise mostly because I had heard that few people actually owned the land they lived on.  I don't know whether the fact that they own their dwelling implies they own the land as well, but it would make sense that they would.  I still need to dig further and see how land is distributed and who is in charge of its development.  I've heard different ideas about the nobles sectioning off the land for the people but I haven't found a concrete source about that yet.  It also could be different with a new government underway although it doesn't seem like change occurs quickly in Tonga.   
In Vava'u there is a total of 2,871 households, with a population density of 128/km2. Vava'u covers 121 km2.  The population of Vava'u is about 15,000.  An interesting fact on the census is that 2148 people work in agriculture or fisheries.  While they deal primarily with crops, that means there are people aware of plant care to some degree.
I spent a long time just trying to find any kind of document on Tonga and this is the one I found but haven't had a chance to read all of it yet.  The topic covered in the document is an urban development in Nuku'alofa.  One notable quote that gave me hope was: "The Government acknowledges that for sustained growth, health, education, water and sanitation, physical infrastructure, and the environment have to be improved."  Landscape development is an integral part of infrastructure and environment.  Especially in the capital city with the destructive riots a few years ago, several Tongans have told me there is quite a lot of development going on.  Also another line from this group's analysis was: "The settlements in low-lying locations unsuited for housing result from the urban drift from outer islands."  The urban drift referred to is the move many people are making to the city for better living and money.  An effort to improve settlements in outer islands could dramatically help, which is exciting because I finally feel like my potential project might be of use to more than just me.