I was not of the diaspora. I joined the diaspora. I left them.
I just had a brief exchange with a Jamaican I know living in…Bulgaria. She’d just told me she had a Jamaican Christmas, as always. I asked her if she knew someone who’d write a post for me in being Jamaican in Bulgaria. I await her reply.
Over the past few days, in The Bahamas, I’ve had little hints of what it means to be Jamaican…abroad.
I’m not standard Jamaican, by a long shot. I speak with a flat British accent, honed over decades. I lapse into Patois, often, with a heavy faux Jamaican accent. I rarely sport national colors, but will if needed. I’m a bald head, not a Rasta. So, I can’t easily be mistaken for a Jamaican.
In Jamaica, people ask “Where in England are you from?” I reply, “Kingston…downtown.” We then have several moments of their trying yo tell me that nothing of the sort is true. I defend and parry. We get agreement, sometimes with a grudging “But, you sound English.” Sound, schmound.
The man who came to ferry me from the car park latched onto my Jamaican. From the time I exposed myself, geographically, he wanted to call me ‘Farrin’. It wasn’t bad, as a nickname. “How was di game, Farrin?”
Yesterday, talk with a relative, he referred to me as ‘Dread’. Well, we’d locked horns on a topic, earlier, but from where’d my locks come? I pondered the appellation. Like Chronixx, had I become terrible?
Jamaicans are not as easy to define and describe, as some would assume. Take a look at this video, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iwDgA9LUVMA.
It’s often what we do and eat and how we speak.
I love it that I’m staying in friends’ house and their Jamaican housekeeper is here. Ackee and salt fish, boiled banana and yam, for breakfast. Yeah, mon! Not the same everyday. One day, we had fried dumplings with the ackee. My in-laws like me to do a ‘Jamaican breakfast’ over the holidays. So, I rustle up my version of salt fish, with (h)onion and twomatoes.
I make Johnny cakes, to go with that. I did it two days ago. Last year, I caused a ruckus because I didn’t cook it.
Well, when you have to make it for about 20 people it’s a likkle hextra wuk.
My wife has a nephew, who’s a star swimmer. He put NINE fried dumplings on his plate to go with the heap of fish he’d piled on. I asked if he had a conscience. He looked at me blankly. He’d just come back from his morning training. The nine dumplings were toast, if I can mix my images. Gawn!
Ackee is an acquired taste, said one of my sisters-in-law. She has a Jamaican housekeeper. I guess we acquire it early. After years without eating them, I feel like I need to catch up.
I don’t do many defining things, as far as Jamaicanism goes. I don’t play dominoes. My little daughter does, though, and is a demon. “A go gi yu six luv!” sounds so threatening from a six year-old.
I drive fast, but that’s from growing up in London, not haring around Jamaican roads. But, like with my daughter and dominoes, it may be some inate thing. I believe that more when I think about my older daughter. She’s never laid eyes on a dead goat. She’s never laid eyes on goat milk. But, she had eyes staring at her from a pot of goat head soup, known as manish water. After the shock of being outstares by her meal. She tried a mouthful, gingerly. Then another, and another. “It’s really good!” she said, famously, but don’t remind her what’s in it.
Liking the ‘sexy’ Jamaican food, like jerk pork and Escoveitch fish is easy. But, loving the weird stuff must be what makes you Jamaican. Fried roast breadfruit is the key to my littlest one’s heart. Add a roast turkey neck and she’s your monkey talking jibberish.
So, will I have to accept that some aura surrounds me and other Jamaicans? Of course, I can’t see it, but it shrouds me like a cloak of black, green and gold.
I hope that my friend from near Sofia can help with this study.
I can visualize life for Jamaicans in London or the USA. It doesn’t have to be in neighbourhoods like Brixton. But, from our early migrant days, patterns were setting. We needed to find green bananas. We had places to buy white rum. Christmas had black cake. We dragged our traditional ways with us. I loved reading about Liverpool footballer, Daniel Sturridge. Born and raised in the English Midlands, he needs his Jamaican food.
I will check with my English cousins, too. They’re in that strange space, like Sturridge, of knowing their roots but having them planted in different soil.
Onward with the hunt.