That’s right. It was recently brought home to me once again that although I’m far from home, Jamaica can be right here with me in my new location, China. It’s really just a matter of perspective. After all, being Jamaican isn’t just something that happens because it says so in your passport. Nope. Being Jamaican is in the way we move, walk, talk, dance, sing, hold conversations with one another, and in what we eat and how we prepare our foods. So what if all of this and more occurs outside of the physical geographical boundaries of Jamaica Land We Love?
Let me explain.
Tianjin for the Weekend
I spent Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, in Tianjin, a city just 30 minutes away from Beijing via the bullet train. This is where Dawn Davis lives, fellow Jamaican teaching oral English in Tianjin. She is the author of the blog, Black Mandarin – Jamaican in China, hosted on Jamaicans.com, in which she chronicles her experiences living in China for the next year. Dawn and I exchanged emails a couple of times prior to arriving in China, and we finally met each other a couple weeks after we both arrived here. We’ve been linking up ever since to experience some of what China has to offer together, starting with Beijing. After all, it’s best to enjoy these experiences with a kindred spirit!
And we were fortunate enough to find another Jamaican living in Beijing, Latoya McFarlane-Stephenson, who’s been here near one year, along with her husband and young son (and speaking more than beginner’s Mandarin to boot!). Latoya is also teaching English in Beijing.
So now the Jamaican posse has grown! (And if anyone knows of any Jamaicans living in Beijing we can connect with please let me know. Tanks!)
So on Saturday, May 4, Latoya and I met at the South Beijing Railway Station to catch the bullet train to Tianjin. Once there we linked up with Dawn to attend the Volvo China Open: the Open Golf Championship of China where, like celebrities amongst a sea of paparazzi, we were bombarded by stares from the Chinese attendees, and requests to take photos with overly-excited Chinese who were obviously seeing black people up-close-and-personal for the first time. The Chinese also have a sneaky habit of trying to, and sometimes succeeding, in taking photos of us with their handy smart phones without our consent. I could sue, right?
So between watching some golf and responding to photo requests from eager Chinese people, we eventually met up with the Darbys. Mr Percival Darby and Mrs Norma Darby, two of the most delightful people you would ever meet, have been living and working in Tianjin for the past two years at the Tianjin University of Commerce (TUC): Mr Darby is a lecturer at the Florida International University School of Hospitality and Tourism Management based at TUC, while Mrs Darby teaches oral English at TUC.
We spent the rest of the day at the golf course having a blast, not by watching golf, but by being entertained by Mr Darby, a born comedian. In fact he and Mrs Darby were once very active in Jamaica’s theatre scene back in the 1960s and 70s. In the evening we all had dinner together and then parted ways: the Darby’s went back to TUC and us girls hung out at the Tangla Jazz Bar in the late evening, drinking red wine, slippery nipple and cosmopolitan while listening to the soothing voice of a very talented Chinese jazz singer.
We left the jazz bar after 12 midnight, sated with the experiences of the day, and, after a bit of time getting a taxi, traveled to TUC where Dawn had already booked us a room in the campus hotel.
Breakfast with the Darbys…Jamaican-Style!
I woke up on the morning of May 5, and my belly was roaring with how hungry I was. Dawn left to go to her apartment, which was a little distance away on the campus, but to return in good enough time so we could get some breakfast and explore a bit of Tianjin. In the meantime, Latoya and I got ready to face the day. Just a little before Dawn returned to the hotel room, I said to Latoya: “I feel for pancakes.” Yep, food was uppermost on my mind.
About 10 minutes later Dawn arrived and informed us the Darbys had invited us to breakfast. Wow, that was nice of them, plus they were just across the hall from our room as well. Perfect!
As we entered the Darbys’ apartment we were greeted warmly by Mrs Darby who was busy in the kitchen frying dumplings. Huh? Mrs Darby invited us to make ourselves comfortable and went back to frying the dumplings, informing us while doing so that breakfast would be ready shortly. And what a breakfast it was!
Here was the menu:
- Main course: Ackee (minus saltfish but just as delicious) with fried dumplings
- Mint tea, orange juice and sorrel (yes sorrel!)
- Dessert: bun and cheese (Tastee cheese mi dears!), mango and grapes
And imagine I was thinking of getting pancakes for breakfast! I couldn’t have asked for more than this after being in China for the past four months.
Oh yes, I enjoyed my Jamaican breakfast in China, alright!
The rest of the morning was spent chatting about anything and everything Jamaican and our experiences in China so far. In those few hours in the Darbys’ apartment, all five of us eating familiar foods together and conversing in our familiar tongue, it felt as if I was back home. For those few hours we held a piece of Jamaica within those four walls of the Darbys’ apartment in Tianjin, China. Thank you so much Mr and Mrs Darby!
As I said, Jamaica is wherever Jamaicans are.
Until next time…