Right next door to the Caribbean Genealogy Library is the Bethel Christian Fellowship Church, a small congregation in a storefront the size of the library.
Last Sunday the preacher was just getting wound up as the library opened, the front and back doors wide open to take advantage of the breeze. This Sunday there was loud music playing and as I walked past the preacher waved to me. Lani was opening the library and we had both just settled in to our own microfilms when the preacher ducked his head in and said, “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Both of us?” asked Lani.
I asked Lani what that was about and she said we were both invited to their buffet.
“It’s Mother’s Day.”
Inside I groaned. I have so few precious hours left to spend at the library and I don’t want to waste a second now that I’m making discoveries that are shaping the future direction of my research. Plus I’m shy. We talked for a few minutes about which records I might want to prioritize and then Lani said, “Come on. We’d better go eat their food.” We locked up and went next door.
Everyone looked up and smiled when we came in, shook our hands and wished us happy Mother’s Day. The music was so loud I could barely hear myself think, and yet people were having conversations. They are obviously better lip readers than I am. I just smiled dumbly as we were led to the buffet. Oh my!
So much food for only about 25 people! I took a quick look and saw fish and chicken and pork and who knows what. I was wary of hidden meat products and asked the lady who handed me a plate if she could point out which dishes were vegetarian. She didn’t bat an eye but walked me down the buffet pointing out each dish in turn. I took a polite serving of the first couple of items but quickly saw that my plate was starting to look like Jack’s first pass at Thanksgiving. By the time I got to the end of the table and the cucumber and tomato salad I was seriously questioning my ability to eat it all.
I found a chair next to a man who had greeted me warmly and Lani joined me.
I noticed she was a bit more prudent at the buffet. I started in on the zucchini fritters, corn pie, macaroni and cheese square and scalloped potatoes — surely a month’s ration of carbs — when a young man came by to ask if we’d like some maubi. Lani’s lips moved as she explained what it is but I couldn’t hear a word of it over the ear-splitting music so I just smiled and nodded to the offer. He came back with two cups of a pale fizzy liquid that had a refreshing herbal taste.
Maubi, it turns out, is a local beverage made from the bark of a tree and other spices. The version I was served was a soft drink and definitely not fermented and it was delicious.
After a while it became clear to me that I was not going to be able to consume everything but I didn’t want to be impolite. That’s when I noticed a lady dispensing sheets of foil wrap for take-home plates. I was handed a sheet with a smile and wrapped up the rest of my food. Lani did too and we said our good-byes and thank yous and wished everyone a happy Mother’s Day again and went back next door to work. The music continued to blast right through the walls, making it hard to concentrate.
A little while later the pastor came over again with two more foil-wrapped plates. Cake. By that time I had found some new deed records and asked him a few questions about where the buildings might be. He was sure the original house numbers hadn’t changed since the early 19th century and that I’d find the address easily.
The deed records turned out to be a treasure trove of new information and I watched the clock wishing I could slow down the minutes until I had to rewind the microfilm and take the safari taxi down the hill to the waterfront.
And yes, I ate the cake.