“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” – Desmond Tutu
What were your thoughts when you were standing at the airport with your parents or guardians? Were you sad to leave them behind? Were they sad to see you leave? Did you miss them even before you stepped on the plane? If you were like me, I wished that I could just pick my family up and put them in my suitcase. Why? Because they are everything to me and it scared me to leave them behind for the unknown. We were venturing to an unknown place, an unexplored culture, a foreign home, a bed which was not our own, but mostly we would be with strangers we did not know. I bet some of us were on edge, pondering with what to expect. Would we get along? Would we be friends? Or would we not like each other from beginning to end? I don’t think our minds pondered enough on what to expect, for what started out as being strangers turned to friends and friends to something that we will all cherish and never forget.
When we started some of us knew each other before, and it was easier to form a bond with those of your own culture. There was a divide I won’t lie, we stuck to our own groups whether we knew everyone in it or not. As time went by, event after event, party after party, mingle after mingle, even birthday after birthday, we got comfortable with each other. Conversations started to become natural, we laughed with each other, smiled and made silly faces, and we cooked up a storm and ate with each other. What looked like blurred lines started to come into focus! What was once divided started to become a unified.
Curiosity was one of the ways in which we bonded. Everyone wanted to know about each other and their culture. Slang, music, and cuisine were just some of the factors which drew us to each other. Slangs like “Cheese don bread”, “Muddasick” “Cawblen”, “Ya nah see it”, “My yute”, “Me linky”, “Me parie”, “Fah True” and “Ya fussy” were learnt from the various cultures that made up our unique group. We experience all kinds of cuisine from each culture such as jerk chicken, ackee and salt fish, rundown, conch salad, conch flitters, doubles, roti, pudding and souse, fishcakes, conkies, mauby, tamarind balls and guava cheese. Dancehall, dub and soca was the music we danced to, we enjoyed that every time music played we came together as one. Some people weren’t as receptive to soca music at first but their minds slowly changed, as they became more exposed to the genre. We showed off our dance moves to each other and learnt different dance styles from all the cultures. When someone was sick or hurt we cared for them, when school seemed challenging we kept each other afloat and when it was time to venture home for the end of the first year, we didn’t want to leave.
Strangers no more were we, as we couldn’t wait to see each other again. We returned from home with all our goodies to share with each other and gifts to give to one another. We were back together again, ready to make more memories, ready to share laughs, jokes, and smiles. Even though the houses had changed and some housemates weren’t the same, the bonds we created remained. Though the countries were still represented, it didn’t matter where anyone was from, all that mattered was that all the countries had become one. We came together like white on rice, we became a unit, a team, a strong force that would not be pushed aside. Like any team however, it wasn’t all glitz and glam, there were disagreements and arguments, but it never separated us. We made amends and we continued on.
Friends we were, yet we were not, we became something with more meaning, a family, yes a family, were we. Loving, caring and valuing one another for who we are. We weren’t just Jamaicans, Bajans, or Trinis, and we were far from just Bahamians, St. Lucians or Antiguans. We had formed something more, something that had developed from the stages of strangers to friendship to where we are now. We’re a family, we are sisters and brothers from different mothers. When far away from home, we are all we have, and that’s alright and it’s okay, because we are with family anyway. So what started as strangers, turned into friends, what developed from friends brought us together to become One Caribbean, One Family.
By Janine Garnett, BSc. Tourism Management, 2016
Photos by Janine Garnett © 2016