The Dream of Teaching in Bocas del Toro


Since gossip traveled faster in Bocas then than the internet news travels today, I was eager to know what my landlord had to say to me. When I got there the man met me on his balcony before I could open my mouth to plead my case. Even before I said anything, he said to me, “ Juni, I see you trying to make it here and I just wanted to tell you to have James to take you over next to his place to stake out a piece of land and you just mark out a piece for yourself. You plant something for yourself… work the land.” I was taken aback by this sympathetic reception but, I remained silent.

We then continued to converse about working the land, as he seemed to know how much I had been able to work as a real “Bush Man.” When I left him my spirits were flying high and I began thinking of my new possibilities now that owning a piece of land- the dream of any red blooded West Indian Panamanian man- was on my horizon. I began to plan to, of all things, go back to Baseline and work for a while and then come back to purchase a canoe or a Cayuco to be able to get around.

The thought of having Pug haunt me weekly for money up there made me cringe and dampen my hopes. So, I would awake to leave early every morning in my attempts at finding someone there in Bocas Town to hire me and pay me something. In the meantime, Pug and the baby remained on my mind, but I could not decide if I loved her or hated her, or continue to hope to make a home with her. I made up my mind, instead, to get out of that relationship. Somehow, I would try to stay there and look for any possible manner to get away, without it all landing me in jail.

I was filled with uncertainty about how things would turn out for me in that part of the world I knew as Bocas. Although we were both products of broken homes, it was something the Bocas community would accept; but her family had not accepted me so that pretty much circumscribed my plans. It would only be until years later in my life that I would learn how close to being right I had been by studying the historical background of our Westindian people. Although I had been schooled by some of the meanest and most racist of the Spanish speaking teachers, I would come to change my mind about teaching after meeting the teaches in Bocas del Toro Province.

One night I lay awake most of the night after getting my little nephew Carlos to fall asleep. My sister Aminta just happened to arrive with an escort downstairs when I caught snatches of their parting conversation which they spoke in hushed tone until they finally said good night to each other. She entered the apartment, exhausted from work, turned in and was soon quietly asleep herself. I heard no more about her new boyfriend until the next day.

The next morning I left the house early and walked through town hoping to talk to the Reverend that I’d heard about in town after leaving my milk selling job. Her church happened to be next door to our apartment building and I hoped to convince her to give me an opportunity to clean the church’s yard for a few dollars. Later that day I made my way over to the upstairs apartment of a dwelling in the next street which had been pointed out to me by neighbors who knew the lady Reverend. I went back home to find Aminta and Pug socializing with a neighbor, so I got the bright idea of questioning my sister about the boyfriend who had escorted her home the night before.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, ¨His mother is the governor of the Province of Bocas del Toro.“ This revelation would brighten my day. I could dream of perhaps getting a teaching job and owning a piece of land in Bocas. I started to nag my sister about speaking up for me. I said to her, “Sis, do you think that you could talk to him about getting his mother to put me on the list of new teachers in Bocas del Toro?” She answered, “ I don’t know about that Juni?” Annoyed, I said, “I know you don’t but Sis just ask him to do you that favor, you’ll see he knows about those things. Just ask him for Christ’s sake!“ She said nothing more about my request but I would have tried anything then to land a job teaching in Bocas del Toro, even emotional blackmail since Pug and I were taking care of her baby for her.

This story continues.

One response to “The Dream of Teaching in Bocas del Toro

  1. Hello,

    My name is Elizabeth, I am planning to go to Bocas at the beginning of next year January 2016.. I am American and I speak fluent English and Spanish.. I was hoping that I can get information or ideas about employment over in the Islands.. I would like to stay over there for some time, maybe even a years but I wanted to see if there is any employment over there and where can I get more information about them.. Please email me when possible.. Thank you for your time.. God bless!!