Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Must We Chew The Fat?

One of my beefs with many Bajans is their inability to see that their national interests can be improved by those who are not nationals, leading them to treat foreigners at best with suspicion and worse as 'enemies'. The stance means that the national interest is more geared toward separateness than integration. But put on a different plane it begs the question of how nationals can engage non-nationals except on foreign soil, when Bajan patrimony is at stake?

Through a mutual contact, I got in touch this week with Walter Edey, a Bajan now living in Brooklyn, New York. I know little of his background. His book, Sweet Dumplings & Saltfish Stew, has been reviewed by Amazon (see link), and reads as follows:

Walter Edey was born in the Barbados. His literary work and style are mostly fuelled by inspiration and ignited by natural events. His crucible - a career path as an educator, trainer, service and for love people. His pen (pestle) - simply the experiences of travel. Edey,a published poet and short story winner, has contributed editorials to newspapers; wrote articles for magazines and newsletters; designed and produced journals. Edey is a UWI Natural Science Honors graduate who prior to relocating to the USA, was a secondary school and community college math teacher and chaired the Board of Management of an all girls school. Currently, Edey is a New York JHS teacher. He has received several awards viz: New York City Comptroller - Allan Hevesi for distinguished leadership as an educator,administrator and community activist; National Association of Barbadian Organizations Award for service among others. Edey loves cooking and enjoys writing.

Our immediate point of contact was over views on how to move from the current malaise with West Indies cricket. We agreed to meet in Manhattan and have a talk and share some hamburgers as the iconic Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Last year American Express had set up a large screen to show live coverage of tennis from the US Open and I had hoped for the same this year, but no such luck. Poor me, I did not see Roger Federer, who was playing at 11am, when we were due to meet and eat. We ate and did not mention cricket. I hope we will meet again.

The story of the meeting is as told by Walter.
By Walter Edey

“You’re British.” I said.

“Nope.” Dennis said.

“Get what I mean Eleanor?” Dennis continued.

Dennis and Eleanor (his daughter) were also caught in the prejudice web.

Separated by the filter of perspective but connected by blood.

I had no strong suit. Dennis and I were Internet bloggers, yet strangers.

Our birth certificates showed Dennis as Jamaican, Eleanor British, and me (Walter) as Bajan, I was tempted to ask: which is more important to a cup of tea? The tea, or the water? And add some more fuel to the fire. But we had gathered for a hamburger not a debate.

The location, Shake Shack Hamburger place – Madison Square Park at Madison/East 23rd – set in the heart of New York City, caged by high - rise apartments, cooled by aged trees and entrapped in history, was perfect for our meeting.

“But why would one shout in public?” Eleanor continued.

Thankfully, it was time to order our Hamburgers, Milk Shakes and share fries.

Freshly made hand-shaped beef patties, covered with melted cheese and served in a Bajan bread minus the stone oven crust.

Minutes later, we felt moreish. By then the line was thirty persons deep and our digestive juices were enjoying a morning’s work.

Two hours later, the Shake Shack line was as deep as our conversation. The blinds of division had quickly receded. Dennis the Griot – like father, like son – had invaded our minds and reflected upon his world.

We had visited Jamaica, Wales, Mexico, Guinea, spoken in several tongues, and honored family.

By the time we reached Barbados, I was now wishing for puddin’ and souse and pickled breadfruit. Indeed, I was in Britton’s Hill, part of Sir Lloyd’s former constituency, at Ms Grant’s Shop, waiting for fish to come off the grill.

In one fell swoop, at least in my mind, the Caribbean sea had receded enough to expose the land beneath that makes us one.

Without doubt, as our conversation flowered, the butterflies came and danced.
Walter and I found another one of those points of common interest in that we both enjoy the same eatery in Britton's Hill. Quite extraordinary.
Walter gave me a signed copy of his book, which I will read with joy in coming days.

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