Dear Jamaica: I Miss You More Than Ever
47. That’s how many times I bowed during the ceremony to mark the beginning of the school year in April. Each time I leaned forward and lowered my head, I counted silently for the 45 minutes that the ceremony lasted. In the back of my mind, I imagined stepping off the plane in Jamaica and, forgetting where I was, bowing automatically to everyone I met.
In true Jamaican style it wouldn’t be long before someone looked at me and loudly asked “weh yuh a bow bow you head so fa?” Or more directly “Yah eediat?”
I chuckled silently to myself. This imaginary scenario was proving quite entertaining to me, mainly because I’ve gotten used to tuning out the foreign language conversations all around me and having full Jamaican patois conversations in my head.
Japanese people like to ask what you find surprising about Japan. I usually smile and give some obscure answer but what I really want to say is “everything dear, everything”. In fact, I continue to be shocked on a daily basis and I often wish that there were cameras following me around, narrating my life in this foreign land because I know that none of my family and friends would believe me if I told them the things I’ve seen.
Japan is a great country to live in. I’m surrounded by magnificent natural beauty, and I am constantly in awe at the cultural displays, festivals and so much more. But I prefer to describe my experience here as somewhat of an acquired taste. At first, you’re like WTF?, then somewhere down the line you keep hearing about how great this ‘thing’ is so you give it another go. You really don’t like it any more than the first time you tried it, but now you’re curious to see if you too will experience the wonders that everyone else is raving about. You commit to trying this ‘thing’ for an extended period just out of sheer curiosity to see the outcome. As time goes by, one of two things will happen. Either you acquire the taste for it, or you decide that it’s just not worth it.
In 2016, nearly 21,900 people committed suicide in Japan. I did the math. That’s an average of 60 people every single day who decided on the latter.
It’s a tough country for foreigners, even worse if you’re black. But it’s not smooth sailing for the Japanese either. The title of being the world’s third largest economy masks a myriad of problems that I speculate may have something to do with the high suicide rate.
What I’ve learned from travelling to eight countries is that there’s no place like home. With all the social and economic problems plaguing Jamaica, we enjoy a level of freedom that is unprecedented even in countries that have loudly branded themselves as liberators. And I miss Jamaica now more than ever. I miss sucking on a mango seed until I can comb the hair. I miss ackee and saltfish. I miss exchanging sports commentary with my neighbour as we watch a race simultaneously from our living rooms. I miss having a belly busting laugh from a random person’s smart remark. I miss the beach. I miss fresh coconut water.
I miss home.