For the best part of my life I have called South-East London home and I love living there. But I always dreamt of moving abroad somewhere sunny when I grew up, but wasn’t sure where. Just the thought of working in London until retirement age depleted my energy levels, so I needed a plan.
In order for a move abroad to work, and have longevity I needed a ‘good fit’ and to feel a sense of belonging. I knew what was important to me and what I could ‘live’ with and realised the main things that came into my mind and that I wanted to have ‘in common’ with the country included: the people, language, culture and religion, food, music, lifestyle and of course, the weather. If I could find a country where the majority of these needs were met, I would consider it as a potential destination to move to in the future. All the other stuff could be compromised on, or I could work learn to work with it, but the fundamentals of life there had to make me happy.
And so the search began….
When I started telling my sisters and Mum of my plan to live overseas at 15 years old, Jamaica wasn’t really on my radar as a destination to move to, but the older I got the more I became aware of Jamaican culture and I realised how much it suited me. Eating patties at Notting Hill Carnival and getting taken to old skool London-based ‘blues parties’ by my older sisters where I got my skirt wined half way up my back to the thumping reggae, was only part of the introduction. South-East London celebrates the mixture of British and Caribbean culture like no other place in London and having Jamaican connections through my friends and family, I had an early introduction to all things Jamaican.
I LOVE this Tarrus Riley tune ‘We Run It’. Take a listen, it sums up what I am talking about!… wiiicked tune wiiicked video.
What about Jamaica?
When Jamaica was suggested as a potential destination to travel and eventually live, I thought about the country and started considering my checklist and how those factors equated with a potential move there….
- I loved the attitudes and qualities of Jamaicans, they were Godly and respectful and polite to their elders and proud and passionate about things they enjoyed or believed in. They were stylish in their clothes, hair and accessories, they took care of their belongings and were so house proud they were often quoted as being ‘clean ’till them fool’. The children were well-disciplined and were given chores to help their parents and to give them independence so they could learn to fend for themselves in adult life.
Strictly speaking the language was English, but it was different to how we spoke in London and the melodic mixture of words and phrases that made up patois (patwa) was sweeter sounding to me than any French or Italian accent. Old English words, such as ‘bicycle’ and ‘fret’ were used and interspersed with new words such as ‘pree’ and ‘ganzy’. They were sayings and proverbs with underlying meanings and learning to decipher it all was as good as learning a new language, but infinitely easier and more enjoyable.
Jamaican Food and Drinks
- Jamaican cuisine was already up there on my favourite food list. It is easy to mix and blend and source Jamaican products where I live with the famous Brixton Market (which is the largest Caribbean market in Europe) nearby, you are spoilt for choice and variety. I already bought, ate and cooked fresh new food-kinds on a weekly basis, such as, snapper, red bream, sprats, breadfruit, guineps, yam, plantain, okra and callaloo.
- Warm and busy Jamaican take-aways and restaurants served me hominy corn porridge, roast, steamed or fried fish with rice and peas or hard food, such as yam, dumplings and green banana, or spicy patties and tasty fried dumplings filled with ackee and salt fish or callaloo.
- The bakers had sweet and substantial hard dough bread, bun and cheese, bulla, gizzadas and coconut drops to tempt me in and keep me in the line for hours at Easter time. Fresh home-made juices and punches are also sold at take-aways and bakers and are delicious and nutritious, my favourites include Guinness, Carrot or Beetroot.
- As I do not eat any meat, I found there was almost limitless amounts of healthy and delicious Jamaican foods to eat that contained only fish or that were completely Vegetarian. I took time and learnt how to prepare traditional dishes myself and in the name of love I even mastered meat based dishes, as my partner wasn’t Vegetarian.
- Music is Life and I know that no matter how I feel a little music always makes things seem better. Reggae, Dancehall, Bashment and Culture are some forms of the home-grown music that Jamaica is famous for around the world. When travelling to Thailand I came across a Reggae Festival which had Thai nationals sporting dreadlocks and singing in an accent that was eerily like the legend that is Bob Marley, such is the pull of the music genre. Jamaican born music is my preference and I love to get dressed up and go to clubs, stage shows, house parties and carnival in London to get my fix and soak up the atmosphere.
- And finally, the weather. I hate the cold. I complain when it is even mildly chilly and draw for my hoodie and jeans. The affliction is so bad that even my Jamaican friends laugh after me when they are wearing shorts and a vest and I am pulling on another layer in the cool country evenings. I just like it when it’s hot. I love just wearing one layer of clothing (over my underwear obviously!). I love being able to make plans and the weather not ruining them. I love being outdoors in the evening looking at stars and not freezing my proverbial’s off watching rubbish on T.V. Noel Coward must have thought of me (except I am a woman!) and was right when he famously wrote the lyrics:
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun…
When I looked into it I realised that I loved so much that was great about Jamaica, without ever actually going there. All of these factors made me long for more, but for the real deal. London was definitely Jamaicanised, but it was a watered down version and I wanted to experience the real deal for myself. This made me think long and hard. Maybe Jamaica was a serious contender…. if I could manage it.
After travelling to Jamaica for the first time in 2006, I guess I finally grew up. Because instead of being a long-awaited dream to move abroad, I am slowly but surely making it a reality, before I get to retirement age, as the gem that is Jamaica draws me in closer. It will not happen overnight, but at least I have now made my decision and am working towards reaching it….. One extended visit after another!