Jamaica Day 1

Yesterday was tough. I went to bed at 12:00 am and awoke at 4:00 am to leave my apartment for the final time. My bones wore weariness like an invisibility cloak, heavy despite its transparency. Around 4:45 am I left to walk to the airport. It was a nice walk, but I was nervous about catching my plane on time. I got to the long-term parking airport and was able to catch a shuttle. The trip to Atlanta was impressively uneventful. My trip to Mo-Bay was equally so.

When my uncle and I spoke on the phone last he asked me what I would be wearing since he hadn’t seen me in about 20 years. I told him I’d be carrying a pink bag and I look just like my father. I struggled to get through customs because I didn’t know the address. It turns out that the people behind the desk not only knew my uncle, my grandparents, and my aunts, but one of them lived down the street from our house.

Humid air similar to the suffocating thickness of Japan greeted me like an old friend. I drank in the condensation and felt at home. Nervously I looked around for the uncle that I’d practically never seen. A driver asked me if I was Nancy, I told him no and continued to browse the drivers. Finally, a man with eyes like my Uncle José walked up to me. Before I could speak he said, “Yayan?” (That’s how they pronounce my name… I smile every time I hear it). Then he grabbed my hand and pulled me close and said “You look just like ya fadda. “ To spite the heat our embrace was long. To spite us, that embrace left us drenched in sweat. He told me to stand at the corner and wait while he went to get the car. I watched my uncle walk away, and smiled because I knew this Jamaica. The one they were selling on the plane and in airports, the one that greeted the dozens of married or engaged couples as the worked their way through customs was built. This one, the one I remembered was grown. It grew out of the hearts of its people.

We drove, talked, laughed, and it was ordinary. He filled me in on the civil unrest and we talked politics. I found that I cared more about the politics here than in the states, perhaps because this was paralyzing dysfunction, whereas the governmental inadequacy in the States is slightly crippling for some and functional for others. At one point silence settled comfortably.

The closer we got to my parish the land became familiar. Not socially constructed familiar where you pretend you recognize things to be polite. Rather raw familiarity. I recognized a road where I walked barefoot as a toddler. My street brought back memories and I knew the house as we approached. My Uncle Jo sat on the porch and I jumped out to greet him. He’s always full of jokes and smiles. He’s no exception to the adage that the funniest people are often sad inside. The more I’m around him I see it in his actions. He’s an attractive man with a quick wit that got his doctorate in something having to do with Math and Science when he was 26. I grew up with him so he will always be familiar.

I don’t want to spend my whole trip living in words. It’s easiest for me, but I think what’d be best is if I just shut this puppy down, sit on the porch, drink hot tea, read a book, listen to the reggae blasting from someone’s house, and wait for my uncle to pick me up. At some point today, I’m going to plait my hair. It’s nice to look around and see women with their hair in plaits. In the states I always feel so strange doing it, but here? No problem, man!

Here is a picture of my cousin Danae (sp?) she’s in grade 1. I think I’m creating another Apple lover.:)