A Picnic With the Adventists of Bocas

gossipUpon reaching home that day after the interview with the Lady Governor I excitedly reported on the meeting to my sister Aminta and to Pug. It was in that moment that I started to really feel fierce hunger pangs as I hadn’t eaten all day. Since my sister was the cook in the house and Pug just couldn’t cut it as a cook, I battled hunger; counting on lunch and dinner had become a major problem, since I could not stand Chinese food as part of my daily diet. It seemed like Pug was getting her sustenance by visiting her mother in Almirante on almost a daily basis.

So I was pretty much the one who was on a starvation diet in the house and I doled out the precious $3.00 that I had earned to my young wife, hoping she would cook something for lunch to keep the gnawing feeling in my stomach at bay. The churchyard started looking tidy so, as I would walk the beach road to carry off the refuse,  I hoped to meet any living soul along that road, any homeowner, perhaps, who would give me a job cutting down the grass in their yard. That, in itself, would become another story of how I met up with the old and charming person of Miss Bea. You can follow that story here but, suffice it to say that doing yard cleaning for Bea and the Church would keep me quite busy.

After settling in that evening, I was informed that some people had been looking for me to talk to me. Later on, the people of the Seventh Day Adventist Church community approached us about spending a day with them at the beach on a picnic. I readily agreed and asked Pug  to accompany me with the baby to the event that coming Sunday. On the day of the picnic I found out, among other things, that some very interesting people had been observing me all along from the moment we landed in Bocas Town. It was one of the young brothers of the church. Upon approaching us he asked me a question that, quite frankly, I wanted to avoid dealing with because answering him would compromise me in gossip.

“Did Brother Peter ever pay you for the work you did for him?” he asked me and I perceived from his tone that my behavior, which had been under public scrutiny, had been considered commendable. Since I was happy to finally meet some “local folks,” I added this encounter to my recent run of blessings after my inclusion on the teaching list and figured that I finally had something to look forward to in order to better my life. Before answering him I reasoned that all I had to do was to wait and not become mixed up in local gossip. Just focus on “becoming a teacher,” I thought.

In fact, I had been diligent in staying away from all the island gossips as Bocas Town was always a-buzz with some kind of gossip about local people. I was determined not to even appear to entertain any chismosos as they always seemed to me to wind up destructive in nature. Somehow I evaded answering his charged questions completely, although I was tempted.  Instead, I stayed with my family most of the morning knowing that most of the people of Bocas Town and even Bocas Province already knew the answers to questions as charged as those. And so, I remained aloof from getting involved with those island people and the topic of that man whose miserly ways I had had dealings with, hoping it all would die down. Frankly, once I had figured “Brother Peter” out I had come to feel contempt for him. But, it came to that and no more and I didn’t want to mention his name or the issue anymore.

I found out, however, that “Brother Peter” had quite a reputation as a rake and a cheat around town and the islands in and around Bocas which were populated by families of the Seventh Day Adventist Community. He had been known to take advantage of the Native Indian people of the area who were often seen by unscrupulous individuals as easy prey for their nefarious schemes and wheeling and dealing. They would often work them and their children like slaves and then not pay them for their labor.

Upon hearing this young brother’s story about him I found out that he and his woman had been long time members of the Adventist congregation. They two, as a mixed race couple, seemed to be just as scrutinized as Pug and me, and I realized that we had also been a hot topic of gossip on the island city. Admittedly, though, the stories I heard were horrendously shameful to me, especially as one who had not been a member or follower of any church group. After being at the picnic for a while I was glad when Pug asked me to excuse us, as we were tired and wanted to go back home.

This story continues.

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