Jamaica, we love you? Really?

Jamaicans tend to think people in Brazil love them. It may not be that strong, but let’s say the feeling is more positive than neutral than negative. With the Olympic Games coming in Rio in 2016, more Jamaicans may want to venture to Brazil and expect a warm embrace. We have a shared slave history with Brazil. We have a strong African heritage, which displays itself in music, religious expression (eg, through voodoo). We are also becoming revered for sporting prowess: Brazil are kings of world football; Jamaica is the new royalty of international sprinting. On another level, a Brazilian coach guided the island’s national team to its only World Cup finals appearance, in 1998.

One fellow blogger, Emma Lewis, commented: ‘When I was in Rio and told (young) people I lived in JA their faces lit up and they said “Bob Marley!” Apart from that…’ That is also my sense. One of Bob’s sons, Rohan, was engaged to a Brazilian ‘supermodel’ for about a year, but they split early last year.

My wife, our daughter, and I took a stroll to Copacabana beach this afternoon. All we got was smiles and warm greetings. Once we mentioned Jamaica, we noticed a little extra warmth.

She later went to the supermarket and met a lady who built affinity by mentioning that she knew a Jamaican librarian, and they got into a love-fest conversation. But, was the lady just being like many Jamaicans–ready to strike up a conversation? It turned out that the lady was Russian-Ukrainian…Maybe, if my wife had told her that her husband spoke Russian, the lady would be sharing our apartment already.

Travelers are often given a more welcoming reaction when visiting foreign places, for several reasons. Most people are just decent and treat strangers with politeness and tolerance. For example, in Rio today, my daughter asked a store assistant for coconut oil, in English. The assistant did not understand, but still tried to help the child. I intervened with a smile and pointed to a coconut. We all smiled and went our separate ways. Our impression? We did not meet hostility, so feel positive about our meeting. We might think back to treatment at home, which may be brusque, as can often be the case in a Jamaican store.

We met some American men in the foodstore, who told us how expensive were tickets to matches. One told us that he’d visited Jamaica eight times. One degree of separation?

Caribbean people are often outgoing, and may generate a positive reaction. When my daughter and I arrived in London a couple of weeks ago, our taxi driver latched onto our coming from Jamaica. “It’s dangerous, right?” I gave an overview of crime in the island. I know London well, so compared our situation to things he could visualize in the English setting. His feelings about us, if any, were likely to be positive. He may go on to tell his friends that he met some nice Jamaicans. Positive reinforcement.

So, do Brazilians have extra love for Yardies? I’m going to check over the next few days. I’ll wear my colours, sometimes, or not.

Watch this space.


Road to Rio: Tasting Brazil 2014 in person

Yesterday was a rest in the ongoing drama series that is the World Cup finals. Many needed that chance to breathe, or merely exhale, because matches have been really breathtaking. The USA team nearly gave their country something unexpected, by beating a promising Belgium team. But, in extra time, the fresh legs provided by Lukaku was their undoing, even though the USA mounted a charge in the last 10 minutes that was like anything Hollywood could have created. The final result, 2-1, will be an historical fact. However, the history writers will also record that the man of the match, American goalkeeper, Tim Howard, was heroic like few ever are. He made 16 saves–a record since such things were first noted in 1966. He became ‘Captain America’ in graphic representation, and almost any and every saviour. Some of the so-called memes were brilliant. Yes, the USA fell in love with soccer, but now had reasons to keep loving it.

Americans love to raise aloft the individual, rather than the team: it’s deep seated in their individualist culture. Now, they can do it and few would bridle at it. We have a lot of the back story on Howard, such as he’s a sufferer of Turrett syndrome. He sealed his legacy for the moment by getting a phone call from President Obama after the match. I suspect his homecoming will be special and I expect him to be the toast of late night shows for a while. He pushed other events off the front pages and out of the headlines.

Other stuff was reported. Liverpool and Barcelona are getting their teeth into talks about a transfer for Luis Suárez. Match fixing allegations against seven Cameroon players were made, then refuted by the alleged source, an admitted match fixer. The final eight teams are set for the quarter finals, due to begin on Friday. I am now in Rio, and will taste futbol every day.

Travel can be a real chore. We began our journey just as the first tropical storm of this hurricane season was unfolding. ‘Arthur’ is on his way north. My older daughter was bitten by its impact and had to curtail her travel as her original flight was delayed so much she would have left after her connecting flight to Miami was due to leave. Smartly, she rebooked to fly via New York JFK. Then, her flight to NYC went that far, only to be turned back. Her mother had to come to her rescue and take her for an overnight stay. We will see if and when she can travel. The storm is coiling to be bad today and Friday. How events can conspire.

But, the storm may be just what Jamaica needs, if it gets lashed by its rain. The island is in a water crisis, because the rainy season has not shown up for work. You could imagine the clouds all too busy watching World Cup football. So, additional water restrictions in Jamaica, again. We saw a sprinkling on Tuesday. I counted a few hundred drops of rain. All is getting brown. Whatever climate change will really mean, we are in a drought when we would normally be getting rain.

It was ironic to head to Miami and be delayed by rain showers and thunderstorms.

Rio is supposed to be Brazil’s party central. Maybe, that’s why the airport is GIG.

We are due to be here for 10 days and will lap that up. Copacabana Beach is a few blocks away. FIFA Fan Fest beckons on match day. Short and tee shirts and sandals.

It’s going to be an interesting adventure.