When ya gonna take off your colour?

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Most things seem to happen very slowly in the mountains of Jamaica. In my previous life things like washing the dishes or cooking a meal could have been completed as quickly and easily as pushing a button. But here they take time and effort. They require care, attention, and usually the help of others, as even the most mundane of tasks is complicated for a newcomer like me. Take washing your clothes. Carrying your clothes to the river, attempting to converse with friendly neighbours along the way, finding out the best place wash, learning how the local women get out stains through a combination of broken English and charades. Then washing each item by hand, loading up your bucket, walking back home up the hill, hanging out the clothes, bringing the clothes in when it rains, hanging them up again inside… It can take half a day to complete the whole process.

Other things happen ridiculously quickly. Like the speed at which you can be completely saturated by rain when just a few moments ago it was clear blue sky. Sometimes your only real warning is the sound of the rain pattering on trees further up the mountain, which gives you approximately two minutes to run to shelter. And the ridiculous speed at which word spreads on the local gossip grapevine. It seems that whatever you do, whoever you talk to, the entire village will know about it in an hour or two, even if no one seemed to be around at the time.

Another thing which has happened far more quickly than I imagined was members of the community taking me under their wing. I have been warmly invited to attend the church social night, the Sunday football, over to someone’s house to try ackee and salt fish, been given a cooking lesson on how to prepare traditional Jamaican food (see below), and challenged to a completely baffling game of cards. I have been escorted home in the dark, been given more bananas than I could possibly eat and offered umbrellas when caught in the rain. But my favourite welcome was after a crazy dancing game when one of the little girls rubbed my arm and said, “When ya gonna take off your colour?” She then pointed to her own arm, “Ya need to look like this cause ya Jamaican now!”

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4 thoughts on “When ya gonna take off your colour?

  1. So true! I find I’m beginning to appreciate tasks I once thought as menial… there’s something about washing your own clothes and ensuring you don’t produce too much garbage, that makes you feel more connected to a place!

    • You’re absolutely right, Nikki – you want to look after the place when you can see the direct links between your actions and the environment around you. And having to slow each task down also helps make them much more enjoyable.

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