Run

Regardless of where you were born…you will always have advantages and disadvantages based on being born and raised there. For example, some look and say you’re more disadvantaged if you’re born in a third world country over a first world one…but I don’t fully agree. That’s just where the material things are concerned, that people conclude first world countries are more advantaged. But like I said before, there are advantages and disadvantages, each merely highlighted and focused on when two countries are compared.
Where my life is concerned, I feel my head is filled with mostly book knowledge, but not enough about life’s general knowledge. Which is a disadvantage for me. I look at my mom, who stands opposite to me; she had more knowledge and skills pertaining to life than me at my present age. No doubt, because of where she was born and raised, and where I was born and raised. Moving along however, I wonder if she knew, that by the age of 22, she would be in Canada? I wonder if she was prepared to leave her whole family and life behind to follow my dad and start fresh? I wonder how she did it? I wonder if she wanted to move here? I wonder if she was prepared? I wonder if she knew she wouldn’t go back home for decades to come? If she knew, would she have left?
For me, as much as I want to leave Canada, I know I will eventually be drawn right back here. When the things I like get overbearing, I get sick of them. I put as much space as I can between myself and the thing, if only temporarily. I want to move to France, but I don’t see myself living there for more than 5 years. And besides. I don’t know if I could leave everything behind like my mom did. I guess the reason for my unwillingness to run, is because I’m not running from much. I don’t think France would necessarily offer me a better life. It would not offer me anything much, that Canada could not or can not offer me.
From my mom’s standpoint now, her running to Canada meant running from a little, to a lot. She grew up in the country side of Jamaica, near a fishing village. With so many siblings, I will not say how many, it was hard to make things stretch. She heard about “farin” (Jamaican Patois for “foreign,” foreign meaning of course any over developed English speaking country such as Canada, America, and England) as a girl but never once dreamed she would get the chance to live and have children there. Now in her early 40’s, my mom like other Jamaican born people, has established a comfortable life over here in an “overseas” (Jamaicans sometimes use that word interchangeably with “farin”) country. But I wonder if they are all happy. I know materially some may have more, but I wonder if it was worth losing who they really once were for it all. I wonder if it was worth shifting mentalities and changing their way of thinking for. I wonder if it was worth severing most ties with their island for. I wonder.
Below are some photos of what my mom’s community in Clarendon, Jamaica looks like today
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Being Otherwise

I looked at myself, a female Afro-Canadian, born to Jamaican parents. And looked at my friend, a male Indo-Canadian, born to Guyanese parents, and said:

Ever wonder where we would be without colonialism, what we would look like, and where we would be? Can you imagine how the world would be if Red Indians were left to themselves in North America, the Arawaks in Jamaica? Obviously we would not have certain inventions, or would we? And who would get the rightful credit for it? Now, in 2013, would we have as much cross crustal contact? Would some of us be so genetically…complex? Everything colonialism has given and taken, different. Everything we take for granted and love about ourselves, taken from us. Would you therefore say, that colonialism, has defined who and in some cases we are today? The discourses of colonialism, the mere thought of erasing them all, or some of them, would require much brain power and imagination.” I finally concluded, answering my own question.

But he then asked:
So if you could be born again, what would you keep the same about yourself, what would you change, would you want to be the exact same person?
I told him I would be the same, Black, Christian, a female and of Jamaican ancestry, but born in France. He said he’d be the same as well, except born in England, and of Guyanese ancestry. It was kind of interesting that both of us would remain pretty much the same, save one minor difference. Perhaps because in some ways thinking otherwise, it is hard for us to do so. We realize things could be otherwise, and it’s hard for us to accept the “otherwise.” Also, I guess we cannot know for sure how living otherwise would be, if it would be better or worse than our situations now. Perhaps it would be neither, because we would not know any better or worse…Or would we? Who can say?

Caribbean Restaurants vs Jamaican Restaurants

Please note, before reading this, that this post is based off the observations I’ve made in my region, which is the Greater Toronto Area, in Canada. It just may happen that some, all, or maybe none of what I am saying, may apply to where you are. I am not writing my observations as if they are set in stone rules that are supposed to apply to all Caribbean restaurants everywhere, I am not.

Im more likely to eat from a “West-Indian” restaurant than a “Caribbean” restaurant…

I buy my groceries from a “West-Indian” store, not a “Caribbean” store.

There is a Caribbean restaurant on the campus of my school. It is popular, as it is one of the few places on campus you can get a home cooked meal at a reasonable price that is also rammed with flavour. It is also one of the few places that is “ethnic” in origin. So last week when a friend of mine invited me to try some food from there, I of course said yes. She reassured that “Dude, if you’re Jamaican, you’ll love their food.” Glancing over the menu, I recognized a few familiar dishes…Jerk Chicken, Ackee and Saltfish, and Mannish Water. (Kidding, I didn’t see Mannish Water.)

That experience, (along with many others) has led to me conclude something about the title “Caribbean Restaurant, ” when used to classify, and businesses that use the term “Caribbean” in their restaurant names. “Caribbean,” is merely an umbrella term that seeks to categorize foods from some, but not all, islands. Islands, that have notable differences, that are not homogenous in language, race, religion, and especially not food…This is not to say that you don’t have some similarities between some islands, but it is the similarities between some islands, that these “Caribbean” restaurants focus on, or they focus on one particular country’s dishes more so than others, more so than their own…

Taking the restaurant at my school as an example, the people running and cooking the food are from Grenada. However, I found that there were many more traditional dishes specific to Jamaica than anything else on the menu. Jamaica is a part of the Caribbean. Jamaica is not the only island in the Caribbean. So to say you offer “Caribbean” food but a large percent of your menu only really consists of Jamaican dishes, that is odd. As a “Caribbean” restaurant, shouldn’t the focus be on dishes from a range of islands, not just one or two? Unless you’ve specified somewhere the style of cooking you will be doing, or where you and the chefs are from, so guests can know what to expect?

It is for this reason, that if you’re looking to enjoy authentic Jamaican food, you should stay clear of any that are named “Caribbean Queen” but don’t really say the kind of food they cook. Caribbean food technically can be Latin American style of cooking from the island of Cuba, or it can be West Indian from the island of Trinidad. “Caribbean,” as mentioned before, is an umbrella term that ignores difference. Restaurants owned and operated by Jamaican’s are more likely to have their country name incorporated into the restaurants name, have a flag in the window, or have some manifest way of letting you know it’s a Jamaican operation.

One obvious reason for incorporating “Jamaica” into the mix is no doubt because they want people to make a connection between the island, the people hailing from the island who have achieved global recognition, and their food operation. I really only need to mention one Jamaican here, which still influences people of all generations and has influenced a strong youth culture posthumously: Bob Marley. Perhaps if music isn’t your thing, surely you’ve heard of the “Fastest Man in the World” Usain Bolt, or have heard of Marcus Garvey, if you’re into black history. When people see the names of these people, one of the first few series of words that come to mind is “Jamaica” or “Jamaican,” which is why restaurants owned and operated want the word Jamaican, or Jamaican flag in plain view.

Interestingly enough, I’ve run across so many “Jamaican” restaurants, such as Albert’s Real Jamaican , but hardly any restaurants that cater to the dishes of specific countries, such as (and I’m making this up of course) Mama’s Grenadian Kitchen, Guadeloupe Flavour, Curacao Fusion. It seems like countries that are not as well known, rely on the term “Caribbean” to bring an image into the minds of people. Because let’s face it, unless you have a good sense of geography, how else would you know that the countries listed above, are in the Caribbean? And furthermore, are you familiar enough with the culture pertaining to those countries?

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