Poco Nada

Poco Nada09BONOct 85

Island Notes 43

There is a social concept on the island of Bonaire that deals with progress, accomplishment, closure.  It is called poco poco.  It has many variations of meaning. In essence, it deals with personal, but fuzzy, elements of time.

For instance, “How is your broken hand?”

“Oh, it’s going poco poco.”


“When will the construction be complete on this condo?”

“You know, it’s poco poco. Maybe next year”

I believe my friend Fernando Simal may have the record for poco poco on the island.  He moved to Bonaire in the 1990s and began work as a dive instructor.  But what Fernando really wanted to do was to score a job at the national park.  Park management and biology were his specialties.  The dive job was simply a way to pay the bills.  After two years of working for Captain Don’s Habitat, he was approached by park officials to apply for a newly created job–park manager.  What could be better?  The wait had paid off.  He spruced up his resume and submitted his application.  Then Fernando waited.  And waited and waited.  Now and then he would run into someone at the park and ask how the hiring process was going.  The response?  You guessed it, “ Poco poco.”  After nearly a year of this Fernando heard about a biology job opening in Venezuela and clinched that post.  He began a new career and forgot about life on Bonaire.  He had moved on.  Seven years later, Fernando gets a call.  The job search for park manager had re-opened.   He applied, was chosen and has been the manager of Washington-Slagbaai National Park since 2001.  Now that’s poco poco.09BONOct 91Poco poco is similar to the Mexican concept of mañana. Mañana doesn’t really mean tomorrow.  It means ‘whenever I get around to it’.  For smaller increments of time, the Mexicans use horita, which literally translate “little hour”, but actually means a hazy slice of time like ‘in a while’.  For the Bonairans, no linguistic complexity such as this exists. Poco poco is all we need to be vague about time.

Having lived in New Mexico for decades, I learned how to deal with mañana, and discovered that sometimes, it even has its advantages.  That made the transition of living on the island of poco poco quite easy.  I had seen it all, or so I thought.

Last May, I was assigned the task of getting an estimate for some roof repair at our apartment building. I was even told who to contact.  No problem.  I spoke with local contractor, Randy Piar.

“Randy, I was wondering if you could give me an estimate for some roof repair?”  I explained what needed to be done.

“To do that, I will need to call Puerto Rico for a price on roof sealer.  We don’t have any on island like we need.  Once I get that price, I will get you the estimate.”

Two weeks goes by with no word so I call Randy. “Hi, Randy.  Did you get a chance to write up an estimate for the roof?” Once again, I get the same story.

“To do that, I will need to call Puerto Rico for a price on roof sealer.  We don’t have any on island like we need.  Once I get that price, I will get you the estimate.”

This goes on through May and June.  The summer solstice passes.  The new moon appears.  I make it a point to contact Randy weekly only to get the same response.  “To do that, I will need to call Puerto Rico…”

I now make this my personal quest.  I am determined to get his damn estimate. Time marches on.  July brings the Taste of Bonaire, Día del Arte, and under-the-stars wine tasting at the Antillean Wine Company’s parking lot.  09BONOct 57Soon it is August.  The air thickens with summer heat as the trade winds lessen. There are fewer tourists on the island. People move slower.  I begin to loose the will to call again. I see Randy several times in August but never mention the estimate.  Neither does he.  It is like the request never existed. I have been defeated, but I also learned something.  This was not poco poco.  This was poco nada.  A little bit of nothing.

And the roof repair?  I phoned another contractor who got me an estimate within days.  There was no talk about getting a fancy roof sealer from Puerto Rico. His crew could start next week.  That was two months ago.  Now, as I lay awake at night, I think of my friend, Fernando Simal. Hopefully, this roof repair is just poco poco and not poco nada.09BONOct 90