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PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:58 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 11:41 am
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We often think of Cunucu houses as structures that are specifically in the country sides of Aruba. Not always so. In fact the word “Cunucu” comes from the Yamimani tribe of the Northern Amazon and it literally means ‘clearing around the dwelling’. Taking that into consideration, the houses or homes that originally used the word “Cunucu” as a part of their description, were in the Amazon basin. The typical “Cunucu-house” design of Aruba were everywhere on the island. The design of these homes made sense in the way they interacted with the sun and wind and were therefore the norm everywhere and were almost all laid out in the same angles to the sun. That said, you can find Cunucu houses in the down town area where progress has spared a few of them because of the small plots of land these homes occupied. I came across one of these old homes in back of the structure that is currently the police station downtown. What made this small home noteworthy is that it had a tiny shed in the back (I feel certain it once served as an outhouse) as well as the wooden slat fence that zigzagged along the crooked boundaries of the property. This fence was neatly painted on the inside with an enamel white – all except one slat which was bare and a silvery-grey color due to sun, rain and all elements. As is the custom almost everywhere on the island, two elderly residents sat on the porch in their wooden chairs and looked at passer-byes and other traffic. But I also noted that just inside of the entrance door, sat a man in his +/-40’s.

So – in the middle of a daily errand while downtown I see a Cunucu house with an old outhouse in the back and a nicely painted fence – all except one slat - and there they were, three mysterious persons, two of which sat on the porch and the other just inside the door. Not being the kind of person to pass this up for anything, I changed my direction and walked to the fence gate and said “Kon ta bai?” “How are you?” to which they responded “Bon tardi Meneer – Nos ta bon danki” “Good afternoon Sir – We are very well thank you.”. That simple exchange served as the entrance to a lesson I will try so very hard to never forget.

The invited me to enter their space – I did.

We went through the normal hello and who are you routine that is a part of this kind of encounter. In all of that, They showed me their yard and the old Mercedes that was under a tarp and being worked on ever so slowly. My guess is that when they get one part fixed, the others will be rotten – yet who am I to jump in on their happiness? Then the lady of the house started to give me the family history. They had 3 children, two girls and their son who still lived at home (this explained the man in his 40’s). The girls live in Holland and are both happily married and with broods of their own. The instinctive ‘mother’ noted me looking at the unpainted plank of wood in the fence and she took a deep breath and told me about it.

When their first daughter was ready to leave home, the Father became heart sick and cried endlessly at the upcoming loss of his eldest child. He was sure that nothing but harm would come her way. After she had left, he went to the unpainted wooden plank at night and, for years, would cry for her and speak to her as if she were there. She told me that he would take his hands and wipe the tears from his face and then place his hand on the wooden plank. It was his way of handling a loss I suppose. When the second child had to leave, he repeated the same thing and went on like this (in total) for about 5 years. The luck is, that the girls (since it was his private mourning, were never told about it. The son (of course) got to see this at a young age and was very impacted. When the boy became 18, the father talked to him and told him that he would not mourn him as he did the girls since he would be a man and better equipped to handle the world. Obviously this did not erase the many years that that boy watched his father cry in front of a barren piece of wood so, he promised his father to never leave home. The result being that that boy is now a man and is without work or direction. The mother cries for that while the father thanks him for being considerate of his feelings, and once in a while, they work on the Mercedes in the back yard.

The resume is that in the middle of town, there is a small Cunucu home with a fence around it. There is a mother that grieves for the one that was good enough to stay home and the boy is listless as he sits dutifully never to abandon his dad. There is a Mercedes that is going to be repaired forever (father/son stuff) and there is a dry wooden plank.

I walked away that afternoon (less happy I might add) and wondered if wooden slats mourn.

be well

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 10:52 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 06, 2004 12:40 pm
Posts: 2779
Location: Burlington, Ont.
Thank you for another piece of Aruba life.

Eagle Beach Boy
Burlington, Ontario, Canada

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