(from the leather notebook… )
I wake up every morning to the sound of pigs squealing, roosters crowing, dogs barking, or some combination of all three. It’s still dark outside, with only the first traces of sunrise, but some of the women are already outside sweeping up the leaves fallen from the mango tree and some debris from last night’s rain. I know at this point it’s fruitless to try and get more sleep, but the windowless room is so dark it’s hard to try anything else.
As the sun begins to rise, I start to make out the intricately woven patterns of sago palm that form the walls around me. The entire house is built of nothing but wood (for the framing, mostly), sago (for the walls), and kunai grass (for the roof). It is one story and only a bit bigger than my last room in the States, but it’s built high off the ground so there’s plenty room for storage and a place to gather and tell stories underneath.
Ezikiel and Sindi, my hosts, share a room that wouldn’t hold a queen size mattress. Across the house and just next to me are Alex and Kaukisa, the brothers – and I (joined only by my clothes and mosquito net) occupy the final room on the left. There’s no question, though – the space I have here is more than enough.
The kunai grass hangs about two feet over the edge of the house, and a line for drying clothes during the wet season dangles underneath. I don’t actually use it too often because most people here wear the same clothes three or four days in a row, and I’ve happily followed suit.
By seven o’clock, everyone in the village is up and most are already outside. It’s far too bright to justify staying in bed any longer, so I climb out from my mosquito net and head outside. A fire – small and mostly smoke – boils my water for the day and warms the morning tea.
“Moning tru,” I say to Sindi, and head off to the liklik haus, which is nothing more than a dirt floor, five walls, and a square hole half a foot wide in the ground. This is the village restroom.
When I return, Kaukisa is already sitting on a small tarp practicing his card shuffling. I smile. “Nau mi bai skulim yu long nupela cas gaim,” I tell him – and Alex comes down the stairs to join the fun. After a long struggle to explain a simple card game (today it’s Memory, or in Tok Pisin – “Tingting”) in a language I’m just beginning to grasp, they start to play along. By the time the morning ends, Alex has won five times, Kaukisa four, and I – well let’s just say memorization has never been my strength.
About the time we’ve reached the tenth game, Ezikiel returns from gathering firewood and breakfast is served: boiled green bananas, rice, and a cup of tea with the sugar content of a Mountain Dew. And with that, the day has begun…