Thursday, 4 August 2016

legal alien (things i have learnt about holiday-me part3)

123rf Copyright : Randall Vermillion (Follow)

Identity, something we all seem to crave and understand throughout our lives. Some are clear about theirs and probably don't even consider it too much whilst others are on a perpetual quest for what theirs might be.

As a kid I just was who I was. When I started to venture into other lives and other families, only then did I discover what made me different from others.

Apparently not everyone listened to reggae with their Sunday lunch. Amongst my friends, I was clearly the only child having my washed hair pulled in every which way to create the perfect plaits that would last me until the next weekend.

Over time I grew to appreciate the journey my family had taken that resulted in my English birth. Heading out of my teens and into young adulthood I found camaraderie with other British born/Caribbean heritage about our hair issues, the way our parents would slip in and out of West Indian accents depending on who they were talking to, how we never left the house creaming our skin. We shared the sorrows of other people's negativity thrust into our life paths and the joys of coming together at family do's.

This my identity.

Yet this has been a strange summer. In a year where my Britishness has been called into question, I spent some time in the Caribbean island my father calls home and began to re-consider where did I really belong?

You see I grew up with kids and strangers on the street telling me to go home. Comedians of my ethnicity and generation will now joke about responding to 'home' as round the corner, just off the high street...but we all knew what they really meant. Back to where we 'should' have been from, to where our parents were born. But you know if your parents are born in two different Caribbean islands or your feet have only ever holidayed outside your birth place, the conundrum remains...where exactly do you go?

On the occasions I have visited I think I'll blend in. I am no longer a minority so until I speak how would you know I'm not a local, right? Wrong. Dad says it's easy to spot. I'm gutted; is there nowhere that I can just fit in, disappear, be inconspicuous?

What gives me away? Is it the sweat pool I've filled with my body weight whilst just strolling down the road - I say 'strolling'...

Is it the British walking pace I still subconsciously maintain in this heat?

Is it the way I've had to learn to smile with my teeth and offer a pleasant greeting at closed inquisitive faces which then break into a kind welcome? I'm a Londoner, I don't do smiling at strangers so this is a massive learning curve.

Is it the way I bathe myself in factor 50 sun cream as soon as the morning sun rises in the mountains then shower myself in insect repellent as it sets into the evening sea.

Is it the way I bounce from one hot foot to another tetchy one if the wait in the shop or restaurant is a little long whilst those around me wait patiently?

Is it in the way my 3G dare to answer me back in the local supermarket (summer hols seem to have vanquished the power of the mum stare at the moment)?

Is it the way in which I can't seem to let my tense London shoulders sink to bask in the warmth of my surroundings.

One half of my ancestors may have planted, nurtured and grown roots here but from my view on this branch of the family tree, this beautiful island is not my home. And whilst it welcomes me, I simply do not belong; in spite of my recently fruitful and exciting family research my feet have walked in similarly green yet contrasting colder pastures.

Which, methinks, is one darn shame.

I wish I was being welcomed home by immigration staff like my travelling aunt passing through before me. I'd love to feel the spirit of the strong women of my patriarchal line as I discover more about them. How marvellous it would be to walk up the road to my house to find it adorned with colourfully painted stones, walls and roofs.

And I'd relish the scene of my neighbours sitting on their walls to lime and jig a foot or jump up 'til the early weekends anyway, I still find it hard to jig my foot midweek.

So for now I will embrace my foreigness and go full tourist.