Morning In Malesso

Originally written Sept. 24, 2008

In the early morning, I wake up to a new day.
It is the dawn of the start of a different life for me.
As I stir, the sun rises above the watchful mountains of Malesso.
They see my Auntie Chåro frying boñelos lemai (breadfruit donuts).
She yells for the kids in the house, “Kahulo!” (“Get up!”), she says.
My Uncle Andy sits on the chair at the end of the table.
He reads the newspaper and sips his cup of coffee.
Without averting his eyes from his paper Uncle Andy tells me to feed the pigs.
I respect and fear my Uncle Andy.
He doesn’t say much but when he does I am in awe.
I asked for money to buy a toy once and he asked,
“Why do you want all those unnecessary things?”
According to Uncle Andy we only needed three things,
“the clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and food on the table.”
I struggled to understand the question.
Is it because he spoke with a different “accent”?
I am a transplant just like the mendioka (tapioca) in the front yard.
I stayed here over the summer and became rooted.
My father and mother agreed to my decision.
I am still unsure about the whole move.
Inside, I am just a torrent of confusion.
My emotions are swishing around in my stomach,
churning like the waves near Bile Bay.
I still don’t know why I left my sanctuary – my parent’s house.
I am constantly reminded, by older cousins, I am a northern boy.
Truthfully, I am from Mangilao – a central village
but Malesso is the southernmost village so everything is north.
Things are different here.
I must feed the animals before my morning meal.
My hands reach up to grab a bucket hung from the rafters.
The same hands that reached for niyok (coconuts) the day before.
Niyok my ancestors reached for countless times before.
These small hands exist because of my ancestors.
I am here because of them and I am in Malesso because of me.
My mind swirls just like the clouds above the tångantångan trees.
Grunts and snorts break my gaze toward the sky.
Why must they eat before I, I will never know.
At home I could eat cereal all day … but not here.
Like an infant I experienced many firsts.
During the summer I caught pånglao (land crabs)
and nearly had my fingers lopped off.
I don’t think I will ever reach my toddler phase.
I am still crawling on my hands and knees.
I yearn for more new experiences and knowledge,
little wonders, like how the chickens come when I call.
You have to vibrate your tongue and make a whirring noise.
Uncle Andy showed me this call through demonstration.
It was just weeks before when I went fishing for the first time.
I stood on the end of the Malesso Pier fishing for i’e’ (juvenile skip jack fish)
It was four o’clock in the morning.
Through example I was taught to catch fish.
How much more will I learn this way –
learning in much the same way my ancestors did.
It is now daylight and Uncle Andy has left for work.
The sky is no longer multi-colored and luminescent.
I enter the house and the scent of breakfast wafts through the air.
Eggs, Spam, rice and the boñelos are laid on the table.
I am rushed to eat and to get ready for my first day of school.
This will be another new experience – public school.
The year before I wore uniforms and was taught by nuns.
I was indoctrinated into a culture just as my forefathers.
Catholic school was strict and formal.
I would come to understand public school was different.
My introduction came early as I rode the bus to school.
A young man accosted me, okay he teased me.
I am, after all, a northern boy new to Inarajan Middle School.
The day wore on in much the same way.
I am happy to return to familiar surroundings after another harrowing bus ride.
Auntie Chåro greets me with a proud smile and an errand.
She tells me I must get food at the store.
I walk to three stores in search of the items she wants.
Looking up at trees along the road I think to myself,
“How did people of the past travel without cars?”
I pass a vegetable stand run by a Japanese woman married to a Chamorro.
She is known only as the “Japanese lady”.
All these years later, I can’t recall her name.
Seeing mango trees I longed to eat pickled mango again during “mango season”.
The walk shortens in my mind as I regress to an earlier time.
I am walking through the jungles of Malesso in search of food.
I realize the ocean offers many choices.
A car honks and I am whisked back to modern day.
I am offered a ride back to Auntie Chåro’s house but I decline.
Despite heavy bags and scrawny arms I stay the course.
I did not know then that I would have many more solitary walks.
The times when I would just lose myself in thought while on my way somewhere.
I walked to Eskuelan Påle’ (CCD – Confraternity of Christian Doctrine/Sunday school on a Saturday).
I walked to Malesso Pier.
I walked to the basketball court.
I walked up Pigua Hill.
I walked towards my destiny.
As I remember my time in Malesso, I reflect on my journey.
I have taken many roads that have shaped who I am …
the road that led me back home to my parents ….
the road that led me to a career in journalism ….
the road that led me to relationships ….
and the road that led me to understand that heritage and culture is important.
I thank my ancestors, Auntie Chåro, Uncle Andy, and especially my parents Julian and Terri for shaping that boy into the man I am today. I am thankful for all those mornings in Malesso and the walks along the way.

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