Something New

This month you had my heart beating with no specific rhythm. In trying to be the perfect girl, I am not being true to myself. So, who do you say you love? It’s not the defensive, always-in-control, picky, freedom-lover chic you think you know. It’s the quiet, don’t question you, do-as-you say, pretty girl you enjoy being with. The honeymoon phase is no-doubt over, and I am done pretending.

Something NewI spent the better part of this month feeling guilty about my feelings. We seem so right for each other. Spending days and months looking out at your tantalizing view. I thought I would have wanted to spend my life here. I must have forgotten how fleeting feelings are. More and more, it no longer feels like I’m in Jamaica, that I could be anywhere in the world. I quickly remind myself that I am here, and the issues I am faced with some days probably only happens here.

Why are things so complex? The security officers guard the doors of knowledge, doing their best to not allow the “wrong” people in. First, I was told I needed a library card. Then I was informed of their process: Nothing is allowed in the library except your laptop in hand. No liquids. Nothing. It took me months to wrap my mind around that. But this month, I managed to enter, not once or twice but several times.

The longer I am here, the more I realize how complicated the small things can be.

It’s not like the attraction is wearing off, but I realize that there is more to know than what meets the eye. You are slow to reveal the intricate details of who you are, and I am making up my own assumptions about you. You are a challenge!

Something NewI’m looking up at the blue sky and enjoying the sun on my skin, and I am remembering what makes me happy. It’s the simpleness of life, having a peace of mind, nothing to think about, and just being free. Green is my new favorite colour and there’s much of it here. If all days could be like this. I’m ditching the headaches, heartaches, the uncertainties of love and I’m trading them in for something new.

No water, Jamaica?

I understand that all relationships pass through the honeymoon phase where things are almost perfect. And I may have overlooked some of your quirks. But now, I’m starting to get annoyed, because I’m being deprived of a basic necessity: water!

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No waterIt has been quite uncomfortable to go without water, having to use water in my kettle to bathe with for days, having to wake up at the break of dawn, when I am “scheduled” to use water for 30 minutes. This is the time I will have to prepare for my day. I am now force to treat water as a scarce resource and use as little of it as possible…when it is lacking. Or better yet, appreciate it when it flows in abundance. I have been checking the taps the moment I step into my apartment, or cautiously turning on the tap, for fear that this time, it may be empty. I am on a water schedule, and making the best use of water when it is available. Out of survival, I store water in containers for moments when it is scarce.

Jamaica I’ll admit it; you have taught me how to be resourceful with water. But still, you force me to be drinking brown water. Is it contaminated?  Fine. But I’m not pleased.

Still, those are the minor flaws I’ll have to accept. You are giving me a different reality of life, and I do appreciate that. In spite of the water problems, I have more to be thankful for. Like the times when you simply offer me gifts of fruits: bananas, mangoes, guineps, pineapples, plantains, breadfruit and sweet sop; or when you feed me with your sweet cuisines. This month, I celebrated your emanicipation and independence with you and enjoyed performances of your people. I learnt more about your history, my history. On a couple occasions, I sang your anthem loud and proud and felt a part of you.

Although I may have to endure the inconvenience of going without water some days, I will forever sing your praises Jamaica and accept you as you are. Flaws and all.

Jamaica, Can’t Stop Loving You

Anger, resentments, frustrations have been mixed with serenity, contentment and happiness. Some days, the mountains are my only solitary reminder that I am still in Jamaica. The heavy courseload, high-pressured environment, and overly competitive students are crowding my purpose for being on this island. Instead of laugh-lines on my face, the stress is producing acne. But, I am thankful that Jamaica has rolled out the red carpet for me this weekend.

Festivals, bammies, plantains, lobster, fried and steamed fish, coconut water, and fish soup; coupled with white sandy beach and aqua coloured water. This has always been my idea of island life, the kind I should have been living over the last three months. But, as they say, nothing before its time. Hellshire beach is the most popular location for Jamaican locals and sure enough it was crowded this weekend- with excitement and fun. I was in and out of the water like a happy dolphin and I had my little neice to share the excitement. We walked on sand, made sand castles, took a few gulps of salty water, watched the waves ebb and flow, observed the clouds float along in the blue sky, and watched the sun go down. It was a family trip, a long deserved one.

In a way, it was magical because my brother and I have not been on this island together for almost two decades; yet here we were, grown-ups, a bigger version of us strolling the beach of our birthplace. Life leaves me in awe everytime. But the moments are to be reminsced and treasured. Jamaica has given me many of those moments.

So I am angry, frustrated and somtimes I feel resentment because Jamaica is slow to roll back all the curtains and all the carpet at once. I am left to just take in one small moment at a time, and yes it leaves me deeply in love and in appreciation with this island. The heat feels like blood flowing in my veins. The heavy rainfall is like the first breath of air, and the mountains; that embrace me each day, are a reminder that this love, the one between Jamaica and me, is true.

The Sweater theory for life

Over the holidays, I went to visit my parents. Mother made a spur of the moment decision to get rid of some clothes she had hung up in the guess room, the room I have taken over as my own for the time being. I watch her pull down each piece of clothing from off their hanger, examined them, told a story about each and then place them in a bag for good-will. As she was throwing them down, I was picking them up and reexamining them. I was making my own pile. I thought of people who would like to wear them, and others I imagined occassions that I could wear myself. If the clothes didn’t fit in my categories, I returned them to my mother’s pile.

Suddenly I bumped into a very large quilted sweater; the one grandparents love to wear. I re-examined the sweater, tried it on, peruse in the mirror, and made a statement, “Mom, I really like this sweater.”

The following day I was wearing the sweater and it was the warmest, most comfortable clothing I had ever worn. When my family was going out that evening, I dressed the sweater with a scarf. Mother asked, “Aren’t you gonna change?”

It was hard to remove something that was so comforable. When it was time to return to my own home, I wore the sweater. A few days ago, I had on the same sweater while out to a friend’s birthday party, and I received compliments. “It suits you.” I have worn the sweater to classes and especially on days when I am lounging around in my apartment.

This sweater is receiving far more compliments that I had anticipated when stealing it out of the good-will pile. Is that how life is sometimes? The best things are free. The things we like most are invaluable.

My Jamaican Charm

A year ago, I was so eager to visit the famous Port Royal; only to be disappointed by the desolate city. There was no remnants of its former reputation as the wickedest and richest city. All that is visible is a small rundown community with a sinlge coastal police station near the sea. But, I guess that was because I did not discover Gloria’s. This weekend, I went back to the famous Port Royal and dined in a neat restaurant with an upper and a lower deck. Jamaican Charm On the upper deck, I had a lovely night view of the sea in the outskirts. There was no moon, so the only lights that glistened on the water were coming from far away communities, from the contours of the mountains. Though I could not see much, the feeling of euphoria gripped me and in my mind, Port Royal had transformed to my version of its early beginnings: with pirates, and parties and classical music playing in the background.

The server brought out fish soup for our appetizer, then the second course was a large brown stewed fish layed out on a platter with two slices of bammies on the side. Gazing on the horizon in between bites, and feeling the joys of living on an island; brought beauty to this desolate city. In my eyes, I really was in the “wickedest and richest city” in the world. By the end of that course, there was no space in my stomach left for anything. I settled in my chair and breathed in the Jamaican- Port Royal air, finding new appreciation for this quaint community. Jamaica has resurrected history on my behalf, charming me with its tales and cuisines, and leaving me mesmerized by its very presence.

Jamaican charm In the last few months, Jamaica and I have grown closer. Neither am I a stranger on these lands, nor a simple acquaintance; no, I am the girl in Jamaica’s life. Each day, I am offered gifts of sunshine and sweet kisses, charming compliments, stories that will last a lifetime and baskets of happiness. But, the best is when Jamaica feeds me with its sugary ice cream, sweet exotic fruits and its flavourful homemade cuisines.

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This tantalizing island, is a charmer like no one else. Like Charlotte, Jamaica is slowly weaving me in his web; by appeasing all of my desires. And I admit, I have been struck by cupid’s arrow. The more I get to know Jamaica, is the more I am tempted to make this island, my home for life. I wonder if all islands have the same potent magic? Living in Jamaica, is like living in a dream. And the truth is, I don’t want to wake up. I want to spend the rest of my life in this dream where my everyday oozes with happiness. For me, this is enough.

 

Jamaica Bitter and Sweet

Now that I’ve been here for close to two months, Jamaica is slowly revealing its flaws to me. It wasn’t long that I accepted that some days I’ll have to bathe with cold water; but I did not anticipate having to bathe from a basin. This was not in the travel books. I not only had to bathe from the container of water, I also cooked and washed dishes from the kettle. Who knew that one could use so little water to do so much?

Jamaica, I felt was a little insensitive to me this week. I had to accept the realization that Jamaica does things differently; not like what I was used to. I have been chasing the digicel representative (the phone company here) who is never at their workstation when I visit. It’s either close in the middle of the day or they are out to lunch. I walk away puffing everytime. Finally, early this week I caught them and for the most part received great customer service; they did not have sim cards in stock, but promised some would arrive by the end of the day. Since other pressing matters came up, I postponed my return until the following day; which left me playing cat and mouse again. The next day, I reiterated my concerns to a another rep. She can only do pay-as-you-go, and not a monthly plan at this location. I rested my elbows on the counter and rubbed my fingers on my forehead. I pulled out my new NCB debit card, deciding that I would take the pay-as-you-go plan.

“We don’t take cards” she said.

At that point, invisible steam was blowing out of my ears.

“I’m leaving now” I said. And I stormed out. I walked towards a bench overlooking green grass and open space underneath a tree; and sat down. It was a minor problem, but overwhelming because Jamaica could not grant me my very small request- usage of my own phone. The Jamaican sun dried up my tears and I accepted that not all my requests will be granted and although I had been patient for the past month, more of it is required.

In spite the minor unkindness I felt this week, Jamaica surprised me over the weekend. I had a chance to walk along the beach in moonlight; and sat at my favorite ice cream garden, Devon House. I was hoping for more of these romantic events, but I guess I can’t always get everything I want. Still, I love you Jamaica.

Finding Balance

Finding Balance For a second, I was loosing myself in all this studying. In the past three weeks I loss focus of what I’m here for, “to rekindle my relationship with Jamaica”. That was the slogan that pulled me here on this island in the first place; yet I go from classroom to apartment each day. At the end of last week, I had enough. I turned down my books, shut the laptop lid, and found ways to spend time with Jamaica.

Walking around in Halfway tree was a delight. I stepped into one of the most famous and long standing restaurants, Tastees. I remember it as a place that sells Jamaican Patties, but as I was observing the menu, I see they have varieties- from chicken and fries, to ackee and saltfish, to calalloo loaves. After ordering my chicken and fries combo, I walked towards the sitting area and scanned the room. There were not many choices of empty tables, so Andrea and I took the only dirty one available. A rasta man was sitting at the table close to us and with the limited space it was hard to make ourselves comfortable.

It was not the way I would like to eat lunch in the city, so I decided it would be best to head back to campus. The two of us, Northamerican girls made our way back by taxi. We had gotten directions earlier, but were still having difficulties finding the Halfway tree square. We asked the hilgars and bus drivers for more direction. Once we found it, we listened intently for our location to be called out by a taxi driver, “Papine, Mona campus”. We hurried inside the taxi and felt safe. The experience took my mind off math and instead, I was focussing on getting to know Jamaica.

The following day, I set my books aside again. This time I went grocery shopping and stopped at the mall to purchase festival and red peas soup. The combination may be odd, but those were just what I was craving. I sat quietly in the food court and a feeling of appreciation and contentment came over me. Jamaica, I see, is revealing itself slowly to me with no signs of wanting to hurry the process. I gazed up at the other levels and reminsced on my experience only a year ago when I was touring the mall for the first time. I no longer felt stressed.

On the third day, I decided I would wake up early to study the day away. But, again, Jamaica requested my company. Early saturday morning, I was drunk with sleep that I did not hear the knocking on the door til seconds later. I jumped out of sleep to open the window next to the door. The voice said, “Good morning” and I opened the door ajar, feeling inappropriately dressed for visitors. “Are you coming to the river with us?” It was David. He had given me a weeks notice and I had declined because I knew I would need the time to study for the math exam.

Still, I closed the door and debated in my tired mind what to do. Study or go swim in the river? I dragged myself around the room, complete my morning routines and hygiene. I saw myself reached for the razor and the shaving gel. Then I saw myself picking a bathing suit and then throwing a sundress on.

“Are you coming?” David called out from the opposite side of the door.

“Yea! Give me a second” I shouted.

I grabbed my purse, filled it with a bottle of water, sunblock lotion, and my math study notes. Yes, I decided I would do both- swim in the river and study while I’m there. The moment I arrived, I torn my dress off and proceeded to walk to the deeper part of the river while holding David’s hand for support. The water was frigid, but in no time I was used to the temperature. While the other girls were sitting on rocks enjoying their morning, I was swimming like a fish. Sometimes, I was floating on the water and observing the scenery, rich with green trees and blue skies. The stress and anxieties I was feeling, floated away. I had forgotten about Math and school and I was enjoying my company with Jamaica.

It’s such a gift to be on this island and I simply can’t get enough of it. Over the pass month, I’ve felt deprived of seeing Jamaica but this past weekend has changed that completely. It’s funny how the simple experiences can make life such a blessing. Jamaica gives me that each day, and I can’t help but fall head over heels for this island.

The Beach Or The Classroom

The Beach Or The ClassroomI woke up with the desire to immerse myself in the saline caribbean sea, which I had enjoyed a week ago. I soaked up all the salt in my skin; and now I can’t wait to go back for more. The sea is ubiquitous, yet, it seems so far from me. My days are consumed with school, leaving little time for personal relaxation and enjoyment of the island. I can be content by the fact that I am surrounded by mountains and I feel the omnipresent island breeze, which makes me appreciate the experience of life in Jamaica. There is a spirit of calmness on this campus, probably because it’s May and most students are either studying or perhaps on summer vacation. Regardless, the stillness makes me think I’m in paradise. A walk to any part of this large learning institution and my mind is transfixed, and sometimes in a daze, as it is somewhere between reality and imagination. I often have to blink a few times, just to be certain that I’m not hallucinating this whole thing. In truth, a few months ago, I was browsing all kinds of travel books about Jamaica, and all I could do was imagine this experience. So every now and again, I have to remind myself that this is the real thing.

The Beach or the classroom Today, I had to choose between going to the beach and spending time on my Math problems. Already, I foresaw myself sitting on a towel spread out on the beach, with my study notes held down by a rock. While I use my sunglasses to block the sun out of my eyes, my head is engrossed in my math problems, and looking up every so often at the beautiful waves that kiss the horizon. I cover my notes from the sand, and the sprinkle of water that the wind keeps carrying from the sea. I take in a breath ever so often, and even though it’s hard to concentrate, I try very hard to both study and enjoy the view. It’s why I came here to do an MBA after all. I feel the sun’s heat piercing my skin, and I let it. I don’t often get to feel such radiant and potent sun rays, and I want my skin to soak up every bit of it before it’s soon time to go. I am so engulfed in the experience that I loose track of time, and the rhythmic ebb and flow of the ocean, and the far away birds chirping, lulls me in a nap.

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I finally awoke to what appears to be my study group arguing about a math problem, all standing at the board, as if observing a piece of art at the museum. I realized, this was not going to be the weekend for a beach trip. Math was taking precedence this weekend. In fact, I needed more help than anticipated and my study group ran for hours. Seven hours locked away in an air conditioned room, was not the way I had intended to spend the lovely Saturday afternoon. All my plans of going to the beach had to be cancelled, and the only thing I did when I came out for air, approximately 10:30pm, was to go home and sleep. My hope of spending time at the beach was washed away, and I’m simply hoping this is not a foreshadow of things to come.

…..but I’m still loving Jamaica…

 

Weekend of Fun in the Sun…

The last few days have been nothing short of amazing. Jamaica is the only country I know that do community projects on labour day. And I certainly had my day jam packed with heavy labour.. I may have to take up painting as my trade with all the experience I have received. Labour day is a great way to connect with the community and essentially build stronger communities. But the fun didn’t stop there. I had a chance to visit a beach in Runaway Bay, St. Ann. The drive from Kingston to Port Antonio and then to St. Ann was nothing short of amazing. Talk about a country that takes your breath away! There is no doubt this country is beautiful. 

There were a few things that had me laughing:

1. “Excuse me, how far is Runaway Bay from here?”

“Far”

We stared at the couple waiting for more information.

“Far, far” the woman responded again with a piting look on her face.

“Far far” the man next to her reiterated.

“Oh, thanks”

I looked at my friend wondering how did that response answer our question. The stop light changed and we tried to calculate how far is considered “far far”. It turns out 30 mins drive is the appropriate amount of time that is referred to as “far, far”.

The second situation happened at the beach. I saw a woman walking along the beach wearing socks. I have no idea what the logic behind that one was… 

This blog is brief because I have my first math test to write and I need to get back to practising..

Shopping Downtown Kingston

Shopping downtown I was determined to get the best bang for my buck so I went shopping in the heart of Jamaica- in it’s most renowned city, Kingston. For an early Monday afternoon, the streets were clear, except for the vendors that lined the streets. People have come from near and far to sell their goods- from ground provisions to seafood, to pots and pillows. All of these things were on my to-buy-list for school. I needed pots to cook, fruits and vegetables, and everything to start my life on campus. I still needed more household products and items to dress up my bathroom. After putting my $225 into the Jamaican economy, I am satisfied with my purchases. I bargained two dutch pots for a price of $20, the original prices were $15 and $13. I have converted the amount into the Canadian dollar equivalent. I walked away feeling pleased about my negotiation skills, but saddened because this is the vendor’s livelihood. I know I would not get a pot like that in Canada for $10. The price would have been doubled. Am I contributing to stealing from the poor? When I was unpacking the same pots and preparing to cook, I thought about the man. I hoped he made many more profits after selling to me.

Shopping Downtown

Seeing a woman pushing her cart filled with okra and callaloo, in her unpushy voice, she looked at me as I stood by the fish stand and asked if I wanted okra. I thought about it and told Tallia’s friend (the one holding my money and actually doing the shopping for me), that she should buy the okra and the callaloo. The lady gave me my change and continued on. I am standing next to the fish lady, who is scaling my fish, and listening to her.

“How many years are you studying…three-four years?”

“Just one year”

“Come on, it hot” Patrice said in her Jamaican accent. The woman ignored her and continued her interrogation.

“So how many months you gone now?”

“I just started yesterday” I replied and then ask questions of my own.

“What time did you start to work today?”

“I started after 9am, I have to be with my family.” Upon further inquery she meant that she had to send the children off to school before she arrived at the market.

By the time she handed me the fish, Patrice packed it away in the black plastic bag and walked away. The woman was offering words of encouragement as I was walking away. I tried to listen, but Patrice was building an uncomfortable distance from me. I bid the woman farewell and went on my way.

Shopping downtown The day was hot and my feet started to hurt from all that walking. It was getting later in the evening and the crowd started to build. Maneuvering my way and keeping up with Patrice, was a bit hard. I saw the water melon cart and I had to stop to purchase some. Then a woman stood by me with her bags of lettuce. It wasn’t on my list, but I had to buy one from her. Patrice suggested I choose the one I wanted, then took it from me and added it to one of the black bags. Patrice held the bulk of the groceries and I had my hands filled with a crate of eggs in one and water melon in the other. We go back to the wholesale shop to retrive the rest of groceries I had bought and with no hands to carry them, Patrice asked Lisa, the woman working in the store, to carry the groceries back to the store Patrice works at- the one my cousin, Tallia owns.

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After Tallia drove me back to campus, I sat down on the sofa, removed the shoes from my burning feet and let the breeze from the fan blow on them. It was a long, hot day downtown, but the hustle and bustle wasn’t too terrible and it was worth the trip. It helped tremendously to have someone else do my shopping while I follow and make final decisions. The experience was a good one and now that I’m back in my apartment, I am thinking that it’s beginning to feel like home.