My morning routine has mild degrees of variation to it. Some aspects that influence these variations on a daily basis include questions I pose to myself such as: Do I wake up extra early to exercise or do I sleep in till 6:15 and rush to get ready? Do I take a warm bucket shower (which means taking an extra 15 minutes to get the water boiled) or do I settle for the startling yet rejuvenating cold shower (which is only truly satisfying after I have actually decided to exercise?) Hot cereal or cold? Coffee or tea? “The Definition of Chill” play-list to ease into the day or the “Dance too much booty in your pants” play-list to just jump right in? These decisions are made at random stages throughout the night and early morning hours, but the one aspect of my routine that is never debated is the half-mile walk to school.
This 10-minute walk is something special. In a way, it defines village life for me thus far. Sometimes the mindless questions and sheer repetitiveness of the whole walk bug me, but for the most part I find it comforting, uplifting, and a true sign of being embraced by the village. I know that to avoid scrutiny from the other teachers I must leave my house no later than 7:12 to arrive at school on time. Even when I leave “on-time” I still manage to be late because the teachers set their clocks ahead 10 minutes as to not fall behind. I refuse and so I stroll in according to international time 5 minutes early every morning and according to Samoan teacher time 5 minutes late. I am not hassled too much about it as 7:30-8am is “morning devotional” period and I am not expected to lead these services.
So I enjoy my brisk walk, savoring the short period of time when the air is still cool and the sun not high enough to cause any serious sunburn yet. My multi-colored huge umbrella comes with me rain or shine to guarantee shade on my walk home which is another story altogether!
I step out of my house and am greeted by the rancid, moldy smell of pig manure, which has been freshly laid by the pigs early morning patrol past my house. If it rains the mess will be washed away in minutes but in the case of a dry spell the piles linger on along with their displeasing odor. I hope for rain for this reason along as I walk to school. Turning right I begin my walk and am greeted by the friendly call “malo Lasela!” from the men and women waiting at the thatch roofed bus stop on the corner. I call back “malo lava, manuia le aso ma manuia le malaga,” meaning “hello, have a nice day and a nice trip!” or ask the popular question, “O fea e ke alu oe?” meaning, “Where are you going?” It’s a ridiculous question because I know they are all going to town, but it’s still asked. As I continue up the road the women walking back from dropping their children at school greet me. Like I said, I am late so everyone else is either at school or on their way back from dropping children off. Without fail, every woman will ask, “alu aoga?” meaning, are you going to school. I say “ioe” (yes) and continue on my way. They call to me, “manuia le aso uso,” meaning have a nice day, sister. I respond likewise. Some will comment on my pulatasi and make fun of me for being skinny. I tell them not to worry, as I will be fat soon from all the pig I have been eating. We all laugh and go our separate ways.
Coming up the hill I pass high school students waiting for the bus. Then the house on the right where a 3 year old calls out “bye bye” to me and then her mother rushes out to give me banana’s for my morning tea. They are always ripe and delicious and way more than I can possibly eat! I give them out to the other teachers once I arrive at school, saving one or two for myself.
About 5 minutes from the school the 7:20-7:30 buses pass in order. First come the two green buses, followed by the pink “Queen Maggie” and lastly the white “Janes Beach Fale” bus. They flash their lights at me as they go by and I wave to the drivers. I do not know all their names yet, but I do know the faces and they know mine. This has proven to be quite useful when an out of service bus passes with only a handful of regulars riding and I get to hop on because the drivers recognize me.
As I reach the gate to the school I wave to the woman who runs the store across the street and greet the customers who are “kafao,” or hanging out, on the stoop. They all ask if I am going to school. I respond yes and keep moving. I take a breath and enter the school grounds as the sounds of Morning Prayer ring out. I chart my course: do I go directly across the field to my room and skip prayer or cut right towards the hall and sneak in quietly to the back of the large room where prayer is going on? More often than not I slip into prayer and am greeted by warm smiles from the other teachers and students. I am never the last teacher in as the 8th grade teacher is always late and that is reassuring to my own tardiness. I smile back, take a seat, and breathe a sign of relief. I have made it so far already. Let the day begin!