It took nearly a full week to get used to all of the amenities in my new house. I had a water pump, two levels of living space, an attached roki, and a matted raised floor. But nothing could be better about my new home than the live, animated alarm clock that resided underneath my bedroom floor. Henry was one of our friendly compound roosters who greeted me each morning at 6:00 am.
Henry regularly took pleasure in waking up the entire village from their slumber when the first inkling of sunlight broke through the walls of my house. He led the symphonic blend of calls that came from other roosters, chickens, pigs, cats, and dogs. Soon after stirring the village to life, people began to rise. The men climbed up coconut trees with empty bottles in tow, to harvest the toddy that dripped from the palm branches overnight. As they climbed, their clanking bottles added to the symphony of animals below.
Below the men, mothers busily tended to their young children and lit morning cooking fires. Teenage girls fetched water from the wells to prepare the day’s rice and morning tea. Teenage boys mixed harvested coconuts, water and leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. When finished, they called out repeatedly, “Yah, yah, yah,” and almost instantly pigs came running to their feet as they poured the food mixture into old split tires. The younger children swept yards clean of fallen branches, fruits, and leaves. Such was the way in which village life began each morning.
Soon, Sunday dawned upon us, and the morning routine I had grown accustomed to ceased to exist. Henry crowed as he always did, and stirred others to their usual grunts and squeals. But the ensuing bottles didn’t clank, the fires didn’t light, and the children didn’t clean. The only sounds I heard were steady streams of snores reverberating across the compound. It seemed that everyone, except for Henry and friends, forgot that it was time to start the day.
Nevertheless, I began my morning by fetching water for a bath. Church bells began ringing while doing so, and within seconds the entire compound came to life. Babies awoke crying, children began rolling up their mosquito nets, and parents hastily ran from roki to house with empty buckets for water.
By 8:00 am, the road was filled with families dressed in their Sunday best, making their way to the church for the morning service. The service lasted for about one hour, and afterwards, different village groups hosted social gatherings. Of highest importance was making sure that Sunday was a day of rest. Some groups gathered to talk and play games, while others gathered to share food and watch movies.
My teachers and their families gathered in the school’s mwaneaba to watch movies. The mwaneaba was a great location as its constant cooling breeze and protective shade kept us cool in the 90°+ weather. Towards the end of the film, my eyes began exploring the compound, and spotted an old basketball court on the edge of the school’s property. I patiently waited for the movie to end before asking Meekei, my neighbor, if he would like to learn how to play a game called HORSE. He agreed to join me, and so after we cleaned up all of the mats and plates, we made our way to the court. We played several rounds before hearing the clanking sounds of bottles and hungry grunts of pigs.
“Mike, I think we should go and tend to the evening chores before it’s too late,” Meekei said. “and maybe you can stay for dinner after we are done.” Agreeing to help with the chores and go for dinner, I picked up the ball and headed back with him.
Not too long after dinner, the sun began to set, leaving kerosene lanterns as the only sources of light for the compound. Shadows of children could be seen making their way into mosquito nets in several of the houses that surrounded us. I too eventually made my way back to my net, and listened, as everyone, including Henry, shut their eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Mwaneaba- Village meeting house