Monday, July 6, 2009

Pandanas Trees and Annoying Kids

On hot days, I would go down to the ikua (woman's beach), and lay underneath a specific pandanas tree that grew right on the edge of the beach. There, the sand was always cool and dry, its soft powdery remnants left by countless waves that pushed against the shore. I could always count on a steady breeze sweeping in from the ocean, carrying stories of breached whales, buoys lost and freely drifting, and further lands whose peoples lived their lives separate from mine, yet connected by the same wind.

I would lie back, mounding sand underneath my head, and stare up at the pandanas' prickly leaves. They were always in constant motion, ceaselessly slapping back and forth against each other and the tree limbs. Occasionally I could see the blue sky through a gap, then it would be veiled by repeating layers of leaves, and a sky patch would appear in another place. The constant shift of light and green shadow had a mesmerizing effect on me, weighing my eyelids down and soothing my mind.

Pandanas trees grow clusters of long leaves like fingers from the end of each branch. They are a deep green, and serrated on both sides with vicious spikes. The islanders harvest the leaves, and dry them until they become sandy brown. They can then be used as thatch for the huts' roofs, or torn into little strips and woven into sleeping mats. This I knew, but the leaves still held wonder and mystery when they were animated by the wind.

Sometimes as I lay there in my quiet place, village kids would come and squat a few feet from me, sitting back on their haunches and noisily sucking on sweet coconut husk. They were tireless in their observation of me, sitting there for thirty minutes at a time, just on the off chance that I would do or say something. The suck-suck-suck-stare routine became so old to me, that I would inevitably glower at them and say, "haele" in my fiercest voice. I had been told that this word meant, "go". Delighted, they would laugh and punch each other, jabbering away. This ridicule was too much for me to take, and I would end up driven back home to the heavy stillness of our hut in the middle of the village. This constant annoyance was a part of my life until I gained the social capital of friends, who would yell at the little kids and throw rocks after them as they scampered away.

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