Day shift (6 am – 2 pm) has become my favorite, despite (or perhaps because) it requires rising at a ridiculously early hour. The water pressure in my shower, a disappointing trickle between 7 am and 10 pm, is fantastic at 4:30 am. Matt has purchased an on-demand water heater for the shower in response to the children’s shrieks but I disdain to use it, enjoying the cold blast which will ensure that I am wide awake.
By 5:15 I’m pulling the door closed behind on a houseful of sleepers and walking up the hill to our gate. The guard is fast asleep in a chair, wrapped in a jacket with his hat pulled down over his eyes. He starts awake as I approach and gets up to open the gate with a sleepy mumbled “good morning mam” in response to my cheerful “Maayong buntag!”
Out in the street, it is still dark except for streetlamps but there are signs that Davao is getting ready for the day. Behind the closed doors and screened windows of the little sari-sari stores along Bacaca Rd. there are slivers of electric light and the sounds of people preparing to open shop. A lonely tricey-cab putts its way up the hill. I inhale dust and the sour smell of the drainage ditch.
Down on the main road, there is more traffic, though it’s still fairly quiet compared to later in the day. People are standing on the side of the road waiting for jeepneys. A bakery is open on the corner offering breakfast to the crowds of people already standing in line waiting for the hall of justice to open at 8.
I cross the main road – one lane at a time, like a game of frogger. I’ve become a very accomplished jaywalker in the last six weeks! My route cuts through the parking lot of the shopping mall, which won’t open until 10. The parking lot is surprisingly busy with early morning walkers and joggers and even someone doing tai chi.
There are no cars or triceys yet on smaller street behind the shopping mall which leads to the clinic. The sky is getting lighter now. I pass high concrete fences with spikes or barbed wire on top and cheaper and less durable fences made of corrugated scrap metal or bamboo. I admire the people who have brightened the tiny concrete “yards” beside their one-room shacks with potted plants, a splash of bright tropical color in the squalor of urban poverty.
It’s quarter to six, and I’m almost at the clinic now. The morning stretches in front of me, full of possibilities. Babies are unpredictable! Will it be a quiet shift or a busy one full of women in labor, first cries of newborns, and complications that require a quick and decisive response to save a life? I’ve brought work to do just in case it’s quiet, but I’m ready for a birth – or a few – today! I walk up to the blue gate and step inside.