At 5 am, the roosters begin to stir. I hear them call from as far away as the capital and in the next instant from below my window. The familiar doodle-doodling cuts through the morning mist, assuring everyone that a fresh day has begun. A cluster of fuzzy baby chicks cheep-cheeping outside forms a halo of padding between this wake-up call and my resting head. The mama hen rakes through the grass searching for insects, while the little ones scoot along nearby. Their presence softens the dawn and beckons me to awaken.
I float in and out of this morning melody until around 7 am when my tin roof starts to heart up. It creaks and pops as the temperature in my house continues to rise. Pinholes of light stream through punctures in the ceiling, scattering tiny pieces of sunlight onto my bedspread. One ray falls right into my eye! As traces of slumber melt away, I am humored by this wake-up strategy lovingly executed by the sun. The warm air from outside creeps in over the wooden shutters and my forehead begins to sweat. I take this mild discomfort as a subtle cue to get out of bed and brew up some coffee in my quirky Dominican coffee kettle.
As I walk to the kitchen, I do a quick visual sweep for cockroaches. I often find them loitering in my hallway after a wild night of scuffling and exploring. They are tough critters that fly, swim, and deceive me by playing dead. Spotting one on its back, I blink away the last remnants of sleep and prepare for a lively game of roach-hockey. I locate the broom and signal to the hen to play goalie at the back door.
As my coffee brews, the street traffic in my new neighborhood moves by slowly but intently. Men in tall rubber boots amble along the dirt road with long machetes strapped to their waists. Young boys follow on horseback, slouching in their straw saddles. One muchacho munches on breakfast while another tows a pig on a loose rope. They are heading to the fields to plant rice and harvest plantains, bananas, and cocoa. Another man passes on a motorcycle with a basket of mangoes for sale. I quickly search for a couple pesos and shuffle out to buy some.
Most of the women have been up for a couple hours already. If there is electricity, they begin the laundry using small portable washers. Planning and shopping for the noon meal is also a priority. Everyone will be returning home for lunch to escape the sweltering August heat and to eat the most important meal of the day. She never fails to have something on the table.
This is how the morning begins in my Dominican pueblo. With ease, I fall into the flow of life and look forward to the dawn of each new day. Here in the Caribbean, Nature uses roosters and sunlight to set the tone for a day well lived. For the next two years, I have willingly exchanged my alarm clock for pieces of the sun.