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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

Tamana Mornings

The sun rose and set at 6 o'clock every day, and like clockwork, sounds of dawn begin before the village awakens. Chickens cluck, roosters crow, babies cry, and bottles clank as men climb to harvest toddy. The fresh liquid from spathes of the palm adds unique flavors to consumables. Left to ferment, toddy sours, te kaokioki, or palm wine is a favorite among some island residents. Unfermented, toddy can be boiled into a thick syrup and even sweet solids.

Biita climbed his trees with several glass bottles in one hand, and a small knife clenched between his teeth. Once at the top, he would dislodge the recycled soy sauce bottle - full of toddy and hang a new bottle. Shaving the frond with his knife, he released a fresh supply of toddy. Tapping the spliced end of a small palm leaf into the frond, the other was stuffed into the bottle.

Seeing me below, he laughed and yelled: "What are you doing down there?" I was writing what I was seeing so I could tell mom and dad back in Ohio.

"Nothing, good morning!"

I ran back home.

Inside, I heard other voices in song. The limited view from my porch made it seem like the trees were singing to each other, stirring the village to action below.

Crackling sounds of hot embers and the smoky smell of fire filled the air as families began morning preparations. Teenage boys filled buckets of water, and girls swept the land, and little ones followed the sweepers collecting the piles into old rice bags. Mixing harvested coconut meat, water, and leftovers from the previous day, other boys walked to the pig pens, feeding them their morning meals.

Little voices screaming, "I don't want to!" and, "I'm not going to!" adamantly protesting their morning bucket baths, reminded me of my own need for a morning bucket bath.

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