It is a year since I have been away from Jamaica and oh, what a year it has been.
I’ve made new friendships, but still support those I created in Jamaica with phone calls, BBM, Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype. I have been assigned the role of ambassador in social settings when my accent reveals my nationality. This is a role I’ve been happy to fill, because I have been allowed to debunk some of the myths people have of Jamaicans. I have been asked questions ranging from my relationship with my family to how Bob Marley’s music affected my life. One particular question that floored me was if Jamaicans know about Canada. I simply smiled and said yes then walked away to prevent any further interaction. To my new friends I am the official litmus in determining if a smell, sound or taste labelled Jamaican is authentic.
My assimilation into the Canadian society required me to disrobe of some of the bigoted world views that I inherited from my fore-parents. I have been confronted with other lived truths and experiences that have forced me to re-evaluate things I have held as true. I started my journey on the 21st of December, 2011 at 5:10 p.m. from my parent’s house in Jamaica and I am still travelling.
Possibly the most frequent question I’ve been asked is if I miss Jamaica. I’ve often responded with a reflexive yes, but recently it hit me that I was lying.
I don’t miss Jamaica.
I miss the familiarity it affords me.
I miss my family, friends and the memories I created while growing up.
I do not miss Jamaica.
I don’t miss the need Jamaicans have to police your behaviour, dress-code and speech.
The suffocating value system that we cloak in black, green and gold and use it to suppress expression and individuality.
Since my journey began I have pierced my ears and I am contemplating a tattoo.
I have a fire-engine red pants in my closet and a jeans so tight it requires a special dance to get into them.
There are things I have done and expressed that I was afraid to consider in Jamaica.
I surprise myself at times, but it gives me a great feeling that makes my heart smile, a rush that makes me feel like I am alive and living. The thought of shelving these inhibitions I have developed over the past 365 days scares me.
I’ve said I love you more in the last 365 days than I have in my entire life. I have cried openly with members of my family and have fearlessly exposed my vulnerability in ways I dreaded. This journey I am on has taught me more about myself than I cared to know.
I have heightened my relationship with my sisters and made me realize how much I love them. My younger sister sent me a card on my birthday which made me cry. She has never expressed the words she wrote to me and just reading them forced me to realize how much I took for granted. I also realized that had I not been away from home, I may never have read those words.
My mother is my life. Yet, I would get annoyed when she told stories that I have heard a thousand times before. Now I long for them and laugh my ass off as if I am hearing them for the first time while listening to her on the phone thousands of miles away. I picture her warm eyes, the smell of vanilla that I attach to memories of my mother and the way she smiles while reliving these memories as only a mother can. My father and I are also different. He is no longer the man who I fought on a daily basis as a teenager, but instead has morphed into daddy. A man with his own insecurities who never grew up with a father but was required to play the role without a script. Our conversations has become meaningful since I have been in Canada. I recently saw a picture of my dad and it forced me to deal with his mortality. My father has aged so much within a year. The implications of this realization were not lost on me and all his vices seemed irrelevant in that moment. I have him now and I plan to make it count.
This journey has brought people of various faiths into my life, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jews and even Atheist. I have been able to sit and listen to world views and lived experiences that challenged many of the things I questioned, as well as things I held as true. I grew up in church. I taught Sunday school, worked at church camps and served two years as Youth Director, but I had major issues with the tenets of the faith I was socialized with. Surely this will cause many conflicts with family and friends, but I am ready to live with the consequences of my actions that are decided by my perception of the world.
Just a year and already I can document changes in my life. We often tell people, “don’t change, because I love you just the way you are”, yet change is inevitable, even the dead changes.
I am changing and this fact excites me. I look forward to where this journey takes me and how much growth I will experience…and it r the truth.
Recently I made a declaration on Facebook, that I do not believe people choose their sexual orientation. As is typical with my status comments, it elicited a range of responses, from support, to indifference and of course a few disagreeing with my position. However, one comment provoked me to examine my own thoughts on free-will; ‘God gives us choice in every aspect of our lives….” Simple reasoning would prove this statement invalid, as none of us choose our parents, our date of birth, or nationality, yet these seem diminutive when juxtaposed with other aspects of our lives where we have no choice.
I’ve always believed in Predetermination, the idea that every event is caused, not simply by the immediately prior events, but by a causal chain of occurrences that goes back well before recent events. For example, one’s personal characteristics are predetermined by socialization and heredity, by a chain of events going back before one’s birth. Children born in the ghetto to a poor dysfunctional family are predetermined to live a life of crime or debauchery. One could argue that some make it out of the ghetto and lead successful lives, but even this is predetermined by factors outside of that person, factors they make no decision on; opportunity, motivation, “the drive” to make things better for themselves. This does have seriously implications on our penal and reward system, as this reasoning suggest that criminals are not responsible for their deeds, and people are not responsible for their own successes. My personal belief is that society makes criminals then punishes them for being criminals, but that is for another blog spot.
I’ve pondered on the following disposition where I love honey roasted peanuts, they are delicious. I also love peanut cake and may say it is a confection that I was addicted to as a student at University, yet I cannot put peanut butter in my mouth, the very smell of it makes me nauseous…how come? I did not choose to dislike peanut butter, neither did I try not to like it, it was predetermined by something in my genetic coding.
With advancements in science, we are able to see that genuine dysfunctions exist that cause students to be slow at Math and other technical subjects. For years they have been labelled as slow, dunce, or just lazy, yet we realize this exist outside of their ability to control it. The spin-off due to this dysfunction that they had no control over has led many of them down unsavoury paths. So are they free, or predetermined?
I should hasten to say I think there are some points at which persons make decisions, but even the options are based on predetermined factors, so how free is there choice? There are studies to show that human behaviour is affected by so many external factors, that coupled with those based on genetics, it is ridiculous to say we have free-will.
The idea that people are free agents making decisions based on an unlimited course of action is flawed and should be examined honestly. As it relates to sexual orientation; homosexuality is as much a choice as heterosexuality and it r the truth.
I pledged never to write about the people around me in my blogs. This is if we become friends and they stumble upon it eventually, that would be awkward. However, I have to write about my experience last night which still has me pinching myself.
Last night I had an encounter with a random girl, she might as well have been a ghost because I don’t know where she came from, neither where she went after.
I live in a shared space with five men. We all have our own rooms, but we share bathrooms and kitchen area. Now this situation lends itself to so many stories, but we will have those on another day.
This particular Saturday I sat down to dinner of curried chicken and white rice. I heard a knock on my door and there was this red-head waving to me in the doorway. This is unusual, because I have never seen a woman in this house. She introduce herself and was kind enough to apologize for the alcoholic fumes leaving her body because it is her day off and she has been drinking, so she maybe drunk. Wait, it isn’t awkward yet.
She said she smelled my dinner and it smelled so good that she was wondering if I have any more so that she may have some. Please understand that this is a common joke among Jamaicans back home. We will ask to share in a stranger’s meal as a compliment to how good it looks or smell, but will definitely not accept after the polite consent from the cook. A Jamaican friend of mine shared how he was severely beaten by his mother because she caught him accepting food from the neighbours; What made it worse was that it was a dumpling… that warrants the death penalty in Jamaica. This tacit rule is rooted deep in our culture and we all blindly obey it without thought to question its origin. Anyway, back to Miss Thing….I nervously laughed at the request and she laughed too, but I became confused because she was looking with expectancy. I said to her that I don’t have any left as I only prepared for one . Now please understand my surprise when Miss Thing takes the plate from my hand and starts eating….as God is my witness it r the truth. She shovelled too clumps of chicken into her mouth before I even registered what was happening. She handed me back the plate while informing me she graduated from George Brown with a Food Management degree and my dinner is very tasty… as if I didn’t know; I told her thanks with a smile.
She goes further to take my cup and begin drinking. At this point I started looking around for a hidden camera because clearly this was a prank, it had to be. She then steps beyond me, sits on my bed and starts shooting questions at me about where I’m from and what I am doing in Canada …looking around the room as she speaks. Then Miss Thing removes her shoes, so I say, “This feels so surreal, like I am in an updated version of Goldy Locks and the three bears.” She responds, “…but there are only two bears,” and starts to cackle…0_O She eventually left, well not before taking some more of the rice and giving me a high-five.
Can somebody explain to me what happened? I’ve never had this experience in my life and I am too shock to be angry. Can anybody say if this has happened to them and if I should expect more encounters like this? Clearly I am not in Kansas any more Toto…and that r the truth.
Do you remember that story about country mouse and town mouse? Well, the story creates a scenario where two worlds meet, exposing how different they are and how difficult it is for inhabitants of either world to live within this new context… Let me tell you something, I am a legitimate 3rd world mouse mingling with 1st world mouse and to call it a culture shock would be an understatement.
Everyday is a new eye opener for me, yes, the same Albert who prides himself on being open minded and liberal. Canada has taught me so far that I have been so unexposed.
I never realized how polite I was until I got to Canada. Everybody I see on entering a building I tell good day, however it is rare when I get a response, even when they make eye contact. I may have to cut back on this because it may be a tell tale sign of a new immigrant. I was pulled aside and told that people in Toronto don’t wish to be spoken to, especially during winter, they just want to go on with their lives.
I met a Jamaican yesterday, I knew she was Jamaican before she spoke to me because she had a very Jamaican hairstyle; the Shabba Ranks “Trailer Load” video was missing a cast member because she was sitting in the mall wearing a security guard uniform. When I spoke to her she asked me where in Jamaica I’m from and right then and there I made a connection in a land I have no direct family members. So strange how these things work.
Have you ever seen a building 170 stories tall? Have you ever tried to see the top from the base of this building? Well my dear, picture this 3rd world mouse trying to do so and it was when I saw myself in my head that I realize how frightened I appear. I’ve always loved architecture, statues and monuments and Canada afford me the luxury of seeing them daily. The churches are all lovely, the statues are gorgeous, the parks are immaculate and the fake hair looks real, yes, it doesn’t just sit there on the head, it actually moves with the wind…except the Jamaican security guard. For the untrained eye you may think it is real, but thanx to Tyh and Caprece, I know how to spot a good Brazilian hair piece a mile away :D.
I love this next fact and it is exciting each and every time. You can check the bus schedule and actually work with it. The bus arrives at the specified time stated on the schedule. If you miss that bus another one will be there in less than 5 minutes. Now tell mi if that isn’t exciting? Taking the bus is not frowned upon either. “Ohh, me, I don’t take the bus,” is a common expression in Jamaica. Well my dear, everyone takes it here, whether you are heading to work in a suit and tie, or travelling home from the supermarket, or just came in with a suitcase from the airport. The public transport system has all types and it isn’t an issue; I love that. I have to give shout out to the “subway workers”. Now, this is what I call the folks who walk onto the subway and use it as their personal runway. Tyra would be proud and I am in LOVE with the front row seats I am given. Can you tell I am enjoying this?
Now another shocker just occured as I typed, LIGHT WENT, yes, I guess it isn’t only the JPS that these things happen with. Now I had to go check if someone was tampering with my electricity source, but it really did happen, light did go for real. JPS I apologize.
I will continue to write about my experiences and talk about the difference that exist between Jamaica and my new home, it is different and cold but I like it and it r the truth.