365 days later…

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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.

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….Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land I……

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Patriotism is defined as devoted love, support and defense of one’s country; national loyalty, but what is the basis for patriotism?

I was born in a particular country, therefore I am obligated to devote my love and support to her?

Jamaica is the land of my birth, I had absolutely no control over that. I grew up pledging my undying love and support for this isle of the indies, but became critical as an adult after realizing I was relegated to being a third-class world citizen because I am Jamaican.

I contrasted what Jamaica offered to me with what I was denied and this made it more difficult to accept the idea of patriotism.

I don’t believe in obligated love, it is like a duty and thus loses its true essence.

I do not love my mother because she gave birth to me, I love her because she is a great human being who gave of herself unselfishly to me and others. I don’t think I should love Jamaica, just because…, that is simply ridiculous. I must admit that Jamaica is possible one of the most beautiful place on earth, this beauty is used well in hiding the hideous underbelly of her culture…and it is this that makes it hard for me to be patriotic.

Jamaica is my home, my family is there, happy memories of my childhood is intrinsically linked to Jamaica. I miss her because she is familiar, not because she is different from any other country; Dubai buy sand and build beach, South America has majestic mountains that helps to keep the sky above us and reggae, which originated in Jamaica, has more significance in Europe than it does in the Caribbean isle.

Lately people who claim particular personality traits as indigenous to Jamaicans annoy me. When you are not exposed to other cultures it is easy to assume that Jamaicans r the only ones who say particular things, or do things in a  specific way, but then you meet others from various cultures and realize people are people, and these traits exist all over the world….what do you do then? I think nationalist should focus on celebrating humanism and then the world would be a better place.

Yet with all this, I find it easy to sell Jamaica as a great destination to visit and I will quickly defend her honour if people speak ill of her….but I am not blindly devoted in love and support. It may be possible that I am harping on semantics, I may need another word to explain how I truly feel, but as it is right now, patriotic is not the word and it r the truth.

We are not Free….

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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.

 


Stranger than fiction…o_0

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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.

Ode to the Small Staff room members…

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I’ve heard many stories pertaining to employee-employer relations. I’ve heard tales of supervisors being diabolic in their actions against subordinates. I’ve even listened to stories which ended with a desire for co-workers to die a slow and painful death, or be tormented forever in a dark hole….however, I can’t connect to these stories, I worked with a group of people who were like family.

Our home was the small staff room, perched on the fringes of the school compound and houses 10 teachers, we are the last to receive information and usually deprived of basic amenities like tissue, soap and hand towels . We have even been called “the teachers in the diaspora” to show how much we are separated from the main building. Yet, with all this, I would never exchange our positioning.  Within the small staffroom though, there was a core group which I considered my family. We had an enviable relationship that eclipses all the other ills I’ve listed above. They made work bearable, a major feat when u r working at a boys school. If there was ever a time I was low in my spirit, u can count on my family to lift me up. We all had unofficial assigned roles and we were true to them.

Boss Lady (Cross) was the Claire Huxtable of supervisors. We were allowed to have fun, but work must be done :D. She has high standards and great expectations of us and you feel the impulse to work hard because Boss Lady believes you can do it, so you will do it. Never had a better supervisor and God knows it will be hard to top her.

Super Chef, (Campbell-Jones) is the consummate cook and nice parent. You know the type of mother that helps you to hide the bad report card if you promised to make good on the next one? Yes, that’s here. Plus she can cook like no one can, her things not local either; blue berry pies, red velvet cakes, crepe a la peach, hello please! Super Chef have the thing locked! I would give anything now to have a slice of one of her pies…*sigh*

Hampster Queen (McCleary) is the pretty sister you have that is also down to earth. She is a fashionista who is able to make a potato sack look good. The poor boys at Wolmer’s found it difficult to deal with this beautiful teacher who is no nonsense; it intimidates them. She is bright like god but funny enough, she is so humble about it. The only draw back is that she supports the PNP, but I will forgive her for that, we are all allowed a vice *rolling eyes*.

Fair Knight ( Tyson) is the spoiled younger brother that you want to beat up when your parents are away. Yes, he gets away with things and you just want to punch him but U can’t, because he is endearing :D. The funny thing about Tyson is that his greatest vice is also his most endearing feature…You want to strangle him but end up hugging him…cho.

Distant Cousin (Atkins) She is a story all unto herself. Atkins and I are runaway slaves. We were trapped in Egypt and escaped to the promise land of Wolmer’s at the same time, so we have a shared history. However, this woman refuse to move over to the small staff room because she loves the energy of the main staff room, well that is the unofficial reason. Atkins though is the crazy sister, the one who you find always messing up and forgetting things, but you love her still though you laugh at her. She is an enabler, you can share your indiscretions with her and trust that she won’t be judgemental, I love her for this. She doesn’t sit in the small staff room, but she is there often enough for us to leave dinner for her, lol.

Power Puff (Scott-Banton) is a ball of energy. Have you ever witnessed someone walking into a room and their energy is able to make the space bright and sweet? Well if not, you have never met Scotty. She is one of the sweetest persons I know, and she is so genuine. This young lady has the heart of an angel with a little impish alter-ego which makes her perfect :D. If you’re planning something evil, don’t tell Scott, she is going to talk you out of it unless the person really deserves it. She is the younger sister, who is convinced she is the mother of the group, always trying to ensure that we were alright.

Kevin (mi cyaan member him nick name) He started as the neighbour who liked our older sister and wouldn’t leave our yard, but soon became an adopted brother into the family :D, you know like Steve Urkel? Kev became a brother though and I am happy our mommies adopted him, because he was a good bro. Granted I would constantly end up in arguments with him, it was coming from a good place.

Madam Pampadore (*******) hmmm, the crazy aunty locked-up in the attic. Not crazy hahaha, but crazy…0_O. This woman was able to take the most trivial issue and make it histrionic, OMG! However, I think she played a role in the rest of us bonding. We had cause to laugh and talk about her behaviour and that brought us closer together. SMH at mad Mavis.

I miss you guys so much and I look forward to a great reunion in the future. Signing out for now, Captain Mello and it r the truth.