I am awake. Eyes not yet open. My body is aware of the need to rip myself out of bed, but my mind is arguing with me to fight the urge. Eyes open, its still pitch black out.
Have the roosters began their crowing?
I listen… Nothing but darkness.
I sigh and close my eyes, resisting the desire to make a trip to the smol haos. Thoughts of Makira begin to flood my mind and my bladder feels a moment of relief as my heart aches for the little island I should have been calling home for the next two years. How is my host family? How are the students I would have gotten to work with? How have their lives been affected by the terrible Cyclone Pam?
Minutes, hours? The time passes by until finally I know that if I don’t get up NOW, I won’t make it. I leave the comforts of my bed and walk out of the kastom house I currently share with my two host sisters Vonica and Vero. I duck my head under the natangura roof hanging down over the walkway and follow the claustrophobic footpath into the bush.
Outside, the night is alive. The wind blows, the critters buzz, and the pigs rustle quietly– their bodies hidden in the dark of the night, but their eyes glistening as they reflect the light of my solar. Slipping on the soft mud, I feel the oozing mush filling between my toes.
Great. Now i’m going to have to go to the water pipe as well. Finally, I arrive at the turning point right before reaching the outhouse. I take a deep breath and rush into the little structure, do my business, and run back out to the path. It isn’t until after a few steps do I dare to breath.
I’m not as calculating or careful about where to place my feet on the way back. More soft mud gushes throught my toes as I walk past my family’s house and go to the water pipe. Icy coldness rocks my body as the cool liquid hits my feet. Slowly, my feet begin to resemble their normal color. I return back to my house and to my bed.
*Sneeze 1, *sneeze 2, *sneeze 6– hopefully I don’t wake my sisters– *sneeze 9* sneeze 10– I hear a rustle. Oh crap, I I’ve woken them. Another stir. That doesn’t sound like my sisters…
I grab my solar and shine the light toward the natangura leaves covering our heads. Sure enough a fat mouse is scurrying about, running across the wooden beams supporting the roof. My thoughts wander back to Makira. I try to shake the thoughts away, but visions of Frank, Tommy, Le Samo, Ansel, Micheck, Paul and all the other children rush into my head.
What to do? I want to stop thinking about Makira. Maybe reading will help me. I grab my kindle and begin to read a text book on teaching as I have ran out of other books to read that may perhaps be more enjoyable. I read, ko ko, kasem taem ae blo mi harem hem i wantem slip. The sleep slowly crawls into my eyes, tugging and pulling at my eyelids.
A bark, a crow. Oh no. I look out the window- a soft glow– the slightest tint of morning is coming. Soon the roosters really begin to make their calls. The hen that sleeps behind my house coos loudly, sending a sharp twinge to my temple. Sigh. Antoher night of shitty sleep.
Mami, Dadi, and my brother Mandela talk in a hushed whisper using their native tongue. The three of them always wake up first. A call for Vero sounds from the kitchen. A hurried rustle and out she goes. Soon after the sound of coconuts being scratched fills my ears.
A deep yawn and a satisfied sigh. The sound of Vonica stretching through the thin bamboo wall that separates our bodies alerts me, okay, I should really get up now. Quickly, before I can change my mind, I hop out of bed and join the others in the kitchen which is a house made with natangura leaves and woven bamboo– just like the house I share with my sisters. However instead of having a cement floor, the kitchen has a dirt floor and half way up, a step of rocks gives the impression of the kitchen having two levels.
I sit quietly on an overturned pot as my family stories on in Sundwadia, their native tongue. I never really know what they’re saying but occasionally they look at me, laugh, and ask me a question in Bislama (a pidgin language). Normally, I have suspensions that they are talking about me, but now I’ve stopped caring to even wonder.