Vaiala Beach School
Each day I rise to the same voices, in the same room with the same lifestyle. My mother and father are in the fale at the front waiting for their mea’ai. My brother and sister are still in bed waiting for the time to go out. I am getting up and changing into my ragged clothes to begin another day on the streets.
As I shake my siblings they groan and say to me that it is still dark, true as it is our day begins as though it was a night. When we arrive at the fale with our parents food in ourhands they are sitting cross legged on the plastic covering on top of the cement floor. We place their mea’ai in front of them and bow, they soon return the gesture.
“Fa’aafetai lava,” they sayas we leave the fale onto the sharp rocks and back into our bedroom. Our bedroom, also being a fale we each change in the faleuila. Our faleuila is a small hut out on our lawn made of tin, wood and nails.
After a few minutes, my siblings and I walk back to the fale and clear the plates away and replace them with plastic decorated bowls full of water and rags to wash and dry their hands.
“Lima tala?“ I say as I raised the bags towards passing people. Most have shaken their heads but I still have lua sefulu tala in my pocket. The cars start taking up spaces at Farmer Joes and it is time I came to them. As people get in and out of their cars, I go up to them and repeat the same actions, “lima tala?” and raise the bags. A few of them just get into their cars with a snobby look on their face. When I sit down, a woman came up to me and looked at my bags asking, “E fia le tau?”
“Lima tala” I say quickly standing up. “E fia?”
“Lua fa’amolemole” she says as she pulls out her wallet and hands me a ten tala note.
“Fa’afetai lava, manuia le aso.” Leaving, she puts her wallet back in her woven bag.
“Manuia le aso” I replied. When I have finished my first bag, I walk down the street and go to Lucky Foodtown to sell the other bag. The sun is high in the sky now making the streets feel like solid fire, especially since I left my se’evae at home. Outside the shop, I hold up my bags saying “Lima tala mo le taro.”
I see a few more buyers who exchange the taro for money. As the sun sets, I realise my bags are empty and that I have to go home, most of the time I come back in the dark because we would get a beating if we came home when we had stuff other than tupe left in our bags. My tuafafine and I walk back home since all our produce was sold.
The streets were now splashed with streaks of darkness, camouflaging our world in a hundred shades of grey. When we walk we see the lights of different houses and businesses turn on, like small fireflies in the distance. The newly-mown grass sticks to our feet as we enter the property. My parents are waiting in the fale and as we stepped in we gave them the money they nodded in approval. They counted the money to make sure we didn’t throw the items away and came home. Dinner was the same as breakfast; we brought them the meals and then replaced them with water and flannels. After we cleared our parents’ plates, we went to the kitchen to clean up and have our food.
Our mea’ai was bananas and taro that was freshly picked from the plantation at the back of our house. They were soaked in coconut cream which my brothers and I had made the night before for the umu. We also had masimasi which my father and uncle had caught when they went out fishing today which was cooked over the open fire with rice and a bit of salt.
The next day we did the same thing and the next was repeated over and over again except for Sunday. We rose early, yes. But on this day we went to church and afterwards to the plantation and shops to buy whatever we needed for the following week to sell and to eat. This is my life, in my island inmy world. This is my routine every day, week and months to come. This is my uneducated, ill treated, survival life.