Originally, I had hopes and big plans of extending a work trip and spending my 36th birthday in Cartagena with friends. Since today is December 31, 2020 there is no point in explaining why none of that occurred. You were there, you know why those plans changed.
It was July when I bought the tickets. Stephan (aka Blade aka Mr. iLBC) was in week ___ of quarantine, we were isolating ourselves and I was stir crazy and scared. Outside of family and close friends I didn’t tell anyone about him being sick because I was scared. It was a scary time. I hope I didn’t show it to him at the time, but I was terrified that he would be on the wrong side of one of those disproportionate statistics related to the C-word. Did I say I was scared?
In order to motivate him to feel better (and myself too, if I’m being honest), I bought the tickets. I figured by November, the world would be free and clear of COVID and back to “normal” life and I wanted us to have something to look forward to. A month in a place that gives us both abundant joy. I’ve always joked about travel being my preferred form of therapy and it’s kinda true. As soon as I hit submit and saw that beautiful Southwest confirmation, I immediately felt a twinge of hope.
I’m pretty sure Stephan was asleep when I booked the flight (he slept a lot those weeks), but as soon as I could I told him about the plan. The plan was quite manic and comical looking back on it…”Let’s sell the house and move.” “No, I don’t know where or how we’ll work, live, eat, survive…but they do it on HGTV all the time. Let’s just do it.” I called my mom and sister and told them about this big idea and dream I had (I literally had a dream). To my surprise, they didn’t laugh or question my vision. They encouraged it. Well that immediately made me rethink the vision. As the youngest sister, I am always completely prepared with an argument and they gave none! I guess they knew this day was coming.
No Place Like Jamaica to me
As far as my memory will go, I’ve always had a love for Jamaica. The music, the food, the smells, the people, the pace, the rum - everything about “yard” makes my heart sing. I was fortunate to visit my parents’ birth country often as a child into adolescence and to spend as much time as my vacation days will allow me as an adult. I’ve fallen in love there, been heartbroken there and married my forever love in the Land I Love. I distinctly remember as a teenager and young adult, the role that spending significant time in Jamaica played on my self-identity, passions and principles. So with this history, it only makes sense that I would have a dream of one day residing there.
After a few Google searches and a self reality check, I quickly gave up the idea of selling everything we own and moving to Jamaica but I knew I wanted to do more than just spend another holiday there. Just as I had solidified my love and commitment to Stephan with marriage, I wanted to officially bask in the pride and love I have for Jamaica. I decided to apply for my Jamaican citizenship. Now you would think at 35, this is something I would’ve/could’ve/should’ve done years ago being that both of my parents are Jamaican…but no. Like my mother often says “nothing happens before its time” and it was clear that this was the time. Our hope for American democracy, social justice and overall rights/humanization as a Black family was at an all-time low and I just wasn’t sure how the next 4 years would pan out.
Fast forwarded to November, my 36th birthday month. We arrived in Jamaica right before the U.S. elections (again, no matter where you live in the world you can imagine why the timing of our arrival was strategic) and quarantined for 2 weeks while I worked from our temporary home. As soon as I was able, I gathered all of my documents and we made our way to the nearest Passport, Immigration & Citizenship Agency (PICA) in town. I took passport photos (way cheaper in Jamaica than in the states), ordered expedited official copies of my mother’s birth certificate (citizenship by descendent is much cheaper, easier and quicker than by marriage), completed all of the official forms and paid the application fees. There was no test (with the exception of patience - getting anything done business wise in Jamaica is a test of patience) and within weeks…ahem today, December 31 my citizenship was complete. Sound the alarms! I am officially a Jamaican citizen!
I’m back in Texas and there’s no ceremony, but I guess I’m writing this as my own personal ceremony. When I think back on 2020, yes I’ll think of the challenges and changes that a global pandemic brought to our lives - but I’ll also think of the opportunity it brought for me to remember who I am and who I belong to. I’m thankful and proud of my parents for being courageous and resilient enough to emigrate to the United States. I’m thankful for what their decision has afforded me. And I’m also thankful and proud of the culture, heritage and royally dope ancestry that I am a part of and have married into.
There’s so much more to this story of my love for Jamaica and my love for the Caribbean. I bet you have a beautiful story too. If you LOVE Being Caribbean (and you don' have to be a descendant to LOVE BEING Caribbean), let’s stay connected so that we can learn your story!