China’s mood didn’t change over the course of the next few days, however, and it was something I could not talk to her about- ever- during the course of our life together. Her sullenness would become an ordeal for me, to have this young girl around not wanting to talk to me about anything. Worse yet, I was taking the blame and responsibility for something she had never wanted to discuss with me, her pregnancy. I would be glad every morning just to leave her and her apparent ailment behind and keep my mind on my job. Continue reading
Image from m.inmagine.com
The day I arrived in Bocas Town to the place I couldn’t really call home, was to meet the only familiar faces I knew in all that vast territory known as the Province of Bocas del Toro. They were the only people who knew me and Pug was the only girl I’d known since leaving the home of my grandmother and aunts who had seen me grow up to become the man that I had become. This girl, who was Chinese in appearance, and with whom I now found myself involved, had turned out to be more Westindian than me. Continue reading
image thanks to http://www.secondshoutout.com
As I said in my previous post, my two Westindian compañeros ended up assuring me about how they would speak to one of the foremen in charge of housing. These were issues that I really knew nothing about and they quieted my fears with their reassurances. I did, however, explain carefully to them why I hadn’t brought China with me from the very first time I came to seek work, that it had been because she had family in Bocas Town and she was safer there with her people until I was ready to go get her. Continue reading
United Fruit Company (later it was called Chiriquí Land Company) poster depicting the Great White Fleet. Image thanks to timetableimages.com
I had traveled to Bocas as a real novice and it was the first and longest trip I had ever made in my young life. And now I was no longer a rookie plantation worker. I was working with gangs of men, oftentimes alone in the hot sun and on rainy days, digging and setting up the various sections of cable lines that would eventually tow out the pampered fruit and take out rows of heavy four to five foot long stems of banana fruit. Continue reading
The hulk of one of the Chiriqui Land Company railroad cars. Image thanks to our friends at ferrolatino
Although the rest of that first day was uneventful, the two of us, as partners, started enjoying working as a team all morning and during the afternoon. Once the concrete slabs were in place we had time to enjoy each other’s company. The foreman would briefly appear and then leave after he saw us shoveling and digging as expert workmen.
By then part of the evening was spent digging our first hole which was approximately six feet deep, six feet long and three feet across. As we dug, we wondered about what was to be buried in that hole. Soon, as the day reached its end, our friendly coworkers whom we hadn’t seen eye to eye yet suddenly shouted, “You two better get ready to get going because the truck will be here soon!” Continue reading
A vintage Quaker Oats can.
That first day on the job the foreman had tried to explain the job at hand to me and to the boy who would work with me knowing that we both were neophytes but, he decided to rush off leaving us to our own devices. I sensed that the foreman was a white Colombian man due to his way of pronouncing words in the Spanish language.
He left us abruptly to see if we could take orders and also stand the strain of a day’s labor. I detected on his part that he expected one or both of us to just walk off and quit as soon as we started the real work. I had to admit that, I in particular, did not know anything about working more than eight hours a day in the hot Panama sun. Continue reading