If you want to see me bristle, then start off by saying "Everybody knows...", or "It's common sense..." Clearly, the world we inhabit tends to take on much greater importance for us, but it is not so for everybody. I walked into a new place and the first person to whom I spoke turned out to be like me: she had left Jamaica as a 9 year old and now lived and worked abroad. Unlike me, however, she had never been back to her homeland and seemed to know it very little. "You eat boiled banana and mackerel? I like mango and orange? You drink mannish water?" I asked, amongst a few questions. All got a "No" or a "Eeeww!". I suggested to her that she needed to go and discover her roots. I then uttered a phrase well known to Jamaican, "We likkle, but we tallawah" (We're small but we are sturdy, strong, not to be underestimated; tough, stubborn, see http://decla.blogspot.com/2007/09/bit-of-ja.html) I then asked her what she thought about Usain Bolt. I warn you...She said "Who?" I nearly died. I looked at her co-worker, and asked "Did she say 'Who?'. Don't tell me she said 'Who?" The 'Jamaican' rolled her eyes. I told her friend to bring her up to speed and that I would come back to deal with this. I walked on.
I then found a perch next to two older but fine looking ladies. Joking, I said to the older one, "Don't worry if my leg brush you. We are a bit cunked up." She peered into my face and asked with a singy American voice "Where ya fram?" I said I was from Jamaica. "Oh, Lawd! Me too. And my friend." So, out of about 60,000 people that I could have bumped into, I manage to find 3 Jamaicans in my first 3 contacts.What does that tell you? We joked a bit about this incident and more, and I told the ladies about my first encounter. They did know about Usain. They bowed and shook their heads in disbelief. I thought about it a little more and sent a message to a friend whose young son had recently had to find and defend his Jamaican self when a cousin had told him he was not a Jumaykan. He got legal but won the argument.
An American couple had been overhearing our discussions and joined in. I asked the woman if she knew about Usain Bolt. Again, a "Who?" My last hope was the guy: sports are our thing, right. Yes. He knew about 'Lightning'. But, he had to go there... "What else can he do?" Wha wrong with this man? I asked myself. I said, "You mean breaking 5 world records in 12 months and taking all the top honours in major meets was not enough?" The guy acknowledged the feats, but said he wanted to see Usain catch a football and score a touch down. I looked around for a piece of log wood to maybe give the man a little medication. "Listen," I said "If you had a thoroughbred horse that had won every race that mattered and now was ready to sire colts, would you want to run and hitch the horse up to a dray just to show that it can pull weight?" He got my drift. I muttered something in French as I watched a Frenchman and heard him speak. The man's wife asked me how to day I love you in French. "Je t'aime," I whispered in here ear and told her that the pronunciation of each syllable was important: Juh...tay..aim..uh. I suggested that she use this on her husband: "Tell him you love him and maybe he will get focused."
I was blown away by all of this happening in the space of some 15 minutes. But, that's how life is. I wont go into how a couple later in the evening asked me what I was doing and where I was from. The woman--a clear métisse--told me she had Bajan, Jamaican, and Trini grandparents. In my little group of friends was a Bajan and a Trini. The woman's husband said he was from Sweden. I told him I had coached soccer there. He blinked. My Bajan friend told him that he had studied in Denmark and then went into a conversation with the couple in fluent Danish. They blinked. We got into our guacamole. But for good measure, I had to ask them if they knew about Usain Bolt. "Oh yes!" My heart was filled. I knew I had to find the first lady again and get her to check in with her culture.
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