*rolls out red carpet*
Ahem. Firstly, I’d like to apologise to my readers for the extended delay of a new blog post. In my defense thooough, university life is like a collective of energy-sucking leeches that demand your intellectual and emotional investment to the point where you question your very existence and the feasability of a new life as perhaps a drug lord, pimp or scammer.
Anyways! I survived. So yes – I have successfully completed my last semester in uni *throws confetti* Why thank you, thank you! Or well, at least I hope so, because exams were no joke and I don’t have the mental capacity nor financial standing to stretch this whole uni-curse-ity experience even one more semester.
I’ll point out that since the semester started, I haven’t been back to my lovely home in the country. Yeah, four months away from paradise. Life is rough. I’m pretty excited to go back, but even though I’m basically finished with school I still have matters to be settled in Kingston before returning, thus my grand homecoming has been put on hold. You may ask, “Friend, why does going back to country make you so happy?” I mean, isn’t town life “it”? Like, wah deh a country suh? Well FIRST of all, you underestimate the privileges of bush…
I kid, I kid, looool (but not really)
As a point of reference, I’d just like to explain what is meant by “country”. If you’re a reader who is not as versed in the Jamaican context you may think… Well, country just means… rural, like no city or large town. You may think along the lines of bush, dirt roads, goats and barefooted people bathing in rivers. Weeeell, as I have learnt, people who are from the Kingston area (town) have this grand delusion that Kingston is the only urban area that exists in Jamaica. Thus, it is referred to as “town” and despite any number of other towns in the island, Kingston will always be the only town in their eyes. Eeeeeeverywhere else is “country”. It’s kind of like how the U.S. sees itself as the grand first class haven of freedom which is the centre of the planet earth, possibly the whole solar system, whether or not there exists several other countries which have equal or even better socioeconomic conditions, because ‘Murica! *sound of eagle squawking pompously in the distance as the first bar of “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays*
Just as a side note, what’s funny also is that Kingston is referred to as “up” and anywhere else as “down”, so when you’re back home your church sister may ask, “So when are you going back up?” And if you’re in school and a holiday is approaching you may hear, “I can’t go down this weekend because I have coursework to turn in on monday.” It’s fascinating since in reality Kingston is predominantly a plain and many of the rest of us like myself live on rolling hills, but okay, let’s not get technical. Kingston is indeed the capital, but you do have several towns in Jamaica with similar amenities. At any rate, when studying in town you really just eventually adopt this way of speaking, and it’s all no big deal.
As it so happens, when I was going to start school, several persons commented that I’m going to be living in town now and how I’ll enjoy it. Someone even said I might not want to come back! Of course I couldn’t fathom why one would say such a thing. As I saw it, I’d be leaving the comfort of my home, and Mommy’s sunday dinner to go reside in searing heat while trying to learn something that qualifies me for a degree. But if Kingston was all that then I guess I was about to find out, I thought. Now that it’s been three years since essentially living on my own, I thought it a great opportunity to write a blog post about the principal differences between my life in Kingston versus my life in St. Ann, and why I personally prefer the latter.
There’s this joke about how the sun at UWI and town in general is a different sun than the rest of the world, because boy I’m telling you, the place hotttt. It’s also dry, and even though sometimes we get rain (and even then the place still manages to be warm), when it’s a sunny day, at midday you don’t want to be somewhere like, say, Half Way Tree that seems to lock in heat and grime and some questionable smells. And on UWI’s Mona campus, the dirt everywhere sometimes rises and flies up into your face like smoke. That does not help my acne-prone skin. I’m not about that scorching hot weather because, one – boob sweat, and two – dehydration does not make one’s educational experience comfortable. When I first started school, I would walk to campus and as soon as I got to my faculty in the morning I would have to buy something to drink and gulp it down in a minute. That being said, I don’t think it’s as hot as say, Clarendon. But let’s not get into that.
Or lack thereof. I mention this next because even if it gets hot on the North Coast, there’s always some beach not too far away. If you know me, you know the beach is one of my favourite places to be. The mere image of waves rolling and beating onto the sand and foaming at the shoreline makes me feel cooler already. Sea breeze and salt water is healing. And need I mention that sunset viewing at the beach can easily become a spiritual experience? This physical relief isn’t readily available in town. That’s a major downside for me. I’m a simple being, you know. If I overheat, just fling me in some water and I’ll be good. I’m basically a hard-boiled egg.
I don’t know if it’s just me or town people aren’t nearly as “mannersable” as country people. You tell someone good morning and they legit stare into your face wondering if they know you because surely you have to have met them before in order to be offering your strange greeting. This one time I greeted a lady and wasn’t given the time of day. All that was left was to hurl a disgusted look my way and cry, “Ew! Peasant!”. Of course, it’s not everyone, but the general atmosphere is more welcoming in country. Also, no one brings you random fruits and veggies or baked goods here. It’s preposterous and I demand justice!
Hands down, the country is just more beautiful than town is. One of the things I noticed was that here in Kingston it’s a little depressing for me to look up at the stars because they seem so scarce. The synthetic lights we create often draw attention away from the amazing natural grandeur of an environment where there is an abundance of lush vegetation, towering trees, animals, rolling hills, beaches and a sparkling night sky. Those who live on a hill will know; even though the climb up can be a real pain in the butt, and the legs, aaand pretty much everywhere, the view from on top is unparalleled. Depending on where you are in Kingston, you can enjoy a nice view, but in St. Ann, the garden parish, pretty much everywhere radiates natural splendour. It’s not just for you to go “ooh” and “aah”. A visually pleasing environment is indeed beneficial to your mental health. It can chase away sadness and soothe stress, and boy, is there a lot of that to go around when you’re studying in school.
This is normally the warning you receive about town if you’re new to the experience. It is a valid warning. If you didn’t want to get robbed back at home (because this happens everywhere) then the chances probably triple while in Kingston. Robberies are common. In fact, since Kingston is the hub of university life, you find that in areas known to have a lot of boarding students, these individuals may be targeted. Students have been relieved of phones, laptops, cash etc. And no, not even on campus is completely safe, There are even shootouts in some communities and when this happens it prevents community members and uni students from travelling safely to and fro.
The appeal of town life would be that there are various things to do here if you’re trying to have a fun time, and you know how young people are. *Creaking grandma voice* these young people these days, they’re all about the clubs, the dances, the gadgets and the watchyamacallits. Lol, but really, there are tons of parties and not just on campus. There are various restaurants and lounges, concerts, the cinemas, parks, spas, bowling alleys and the list goes on. This would be what captures the attention of most who spend time in Kingston and don’t want to go back home. That may be so, but even though I’m a social being and an extrovert, I barely leave my yaad and the various amenities available don’t enthrall me enough to lure me out of my cave. One thing I must say though is that if not anything else, what I love most about town is…
I don’t think that requires further explanation. What’s the only thing better than pizza? Pizza you don’t have to leave the house for. Bwahahahaa!
Home Is where the Heart Is
What it really comes down to is where you feel most at home. Even if you have all the tools available to assist you in enjoying yourself, nothing beats spending time with the people you adore. Some people really like being in town because there is a lot to see and do here and they have great friends with whom they can share great experiences. It may also be because of the job opportunities available in the urban job market. It’s up to the individual, since an urban space may be their place that fosters their growth into the person they’d like to become. I appreciate being back at home in my semirural haven because I feel I am most easily my best self there. Being there reminds me of what keeps me centred and it helps me rejuvenate and heal from all the mental and emotional exertion of facing the obstacles of life head on. I also get to enjoy the company of my family and close friends who have been there from the beginning. Moreover, there’s simply an emotional connection to the space where all your principal values, positive memories and life perspectives were generated. In any case, there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy the best of both worlds, is there?
It’s always cool to experience cultures within a culture. I recommend everyone to venture a little while into environments they might think they aren’t suited to. Who knows what you could learn about the people around you? You may even learn a lot about yourself. You could remove some inhibitions you might have had and surprise yourself. And with that being said, what about you? Where’s your home? And where do you prefer to be?
© 2018 Sihle Atkinson – All Rights Reserved