Don’t Run from the Rock

Though I have lived in the so-called “first world” on and off for too many years to talk about, in the end, I always find myself returning to my little island haven. The general response I get from people when they find out about me returning home always leaves me sitting on the fence, emotionally conflicted, located smack dab in the middle of Throat Punch Town and You Sad Little Person Land.

I find that many of our island folk seem to have an odd way of assuming that everything outside the islands is better. Maybe this is a deeply rooted belief, a carry-over from the colonial days when our ancestors were taught to believe that this was indeed the case… brainwashed.

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For example, I went to the community supermarket one morning and ran into a guy I used to know. He started off by asking me if I’d been away, as he hadn’t seen me in a while. I let him know that I had indeed been off-island, in America for a time. His reaction: “And you come back here??!”, paired with an appalled look on his face. Like, why would I dare leave America, where the roads are paved with gold, and milk and honey flow in the gutters, and manna from the clouds? **SIGH**

I calmly explained that I came back because I’m HAPPY here, that he could pick up and go there if he wishes, but I’m all good, thank you very much. And yet when he left, the cashier continued the conversation, sharing in his shocked perspective that I would dare leave the States for this rock. I asked her if she’d ever visited America herself. She had not, but cited that she has seen people come home for Carnival and at Christmastime, wearing enviable designer clothes. She also was a fan of American television shows. Who was I to talk? Clearly, she was the one in the know. Because ALL the people coming home are definitely in real designer clothing…. not say, knockoffs from Canal Street… And, of course, TV is the true depiction of life. All is wonderful, there is no crime, unemployment, and definitely no racism.

Look – I’m not here to make a case against the United States, but what I do want is for our people to realize that we’re not as badly off in this here “third world” as they might think.

The main thing I love about my island is that, while people might not have a lot, they will often just give you something, for no particular reason at all. It’s usually food related, so I’m always happy.

Continuing from that same example above, upon leaving the community shop that same day, an older gentleman called out to me (no stranger danger) and I went to say hello. All he wanted was to give me some fruit. Which is exactly what I mean – someone will always give you a little of what they have, just because.

I literally can’t pass by a neighbor without being given some sort of fruit, herb, or vegetable from their garden plot. Hell, I’m told to go pick whatever I want, whenever I want – even if they aren’t home.

When I go to the market and buy fresh produce from the local farmers (I’m all about buying everything locally when I can), I have a specific lady I get all of my fresh herbs from, and I can never leave without having her drop a little something extra in my bag. Sometimes the things I’m given aren’t things I even want, but how rude would it be to decline the offering, when it means so much to the person simply to give it. With something edible, I can always pass it on to someone else anyway to make sure it won’t go to waste.

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I bought some callaloo while walking through town recently, and when I as leaving, the lady stopped me and dropped some flavour peppers into my bag as well. I thanked her and wished her a nice day. She already had my money, there was no need, but it’s just the way. Not every vendor will do that, but a smile and hello never hurt a soul either, and if you get that instead, maybe you might even need that more.

There’s an organic farmer here who makes deliveries and he always puts a lot in his boxes – a lot, too much for me to use myself, really. Yes, I could freeze the extra and all of that new fangled stuff, but it’s also really easy to pack some things into a bag and take them over to a neighbor. It’s not even something you put thought into. That’s the island spirit.

Is it always like this 24/7? Of course not. But this idea that some of our people have that what we have is less than always infuriates me. In my experience, material possessions are really nice, but peace of mind is way more important. Some people realize this, some don’t, and to some, maybe it isn’t as important or important at all. To each his or her own, I simply suggest that people look at more of the facts before making such assumptions.

Anyone who’s lived in the “first world” has surely experienced the hustle. I don’t mean “hustle” like having to take on 3 jobs to pay $1500 in rent per month. I mean the actual fast, hustling pace in which that world moves. Like ants marching, from the nest to gather and back to the nest, NO stopping, no smelling the low hanging ripe mangos, no stopping to have a small chat with the lady selling roasted corn on the roadside. Roasted corn…mmm… that’s another example too…

I’ve never been a fan of American sweet corn on the cob; it’s well… too sweet and soft. I had been looking for local corn for a while since I’d been back and wasn’t seeing any. One day, I went to the local supermarket and on the way out, saw a roasted corn vendor. I happened to mention to said vendor that I really wanted some corn on the cob. On the spot, she offered to buy extra and bring it next time to resell it to me. Easy as that. No inflated price, just someone saying, Hey, I can help you out there, so let me. Now I go get my roast corn and we have a little chat while she sells. She is a really lovely lady too – regardless of whether or not she brings me corn. That is the island mentality and one of the things that makes these islands so special. It’s the sort of community spirit that is ingrained in us.

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I’ve lived in other countries and other continents, went to the “markets” there, walked around, seen familiar faces in the places I shopped, but the spirit of the Caribbean isn’t there – it’s here, on our little islands. I’m not saying you’re not going to encounter good people elsewhere, or that there are no bad people here… I’m just saying, don’t write us off.

In the words of Stephen Marley: “If you come from the rock, please don’t run from the rock.” (from his song, Keeper of the Flame)

Do you find this to be true on your rock? What else do you love that is special about your island home?

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Vanesta

About Vanesta

Vanesta is a typical beach loving, volcano climbing, hammock swaying, book reading, rum drinking, food cooking island girl. Rumor has it that she sometimes plants things in her backyard… legal things (not Colorado-legal, but everywhere else legal. She says she’s not against the Colorado legal though…). Rasta child, non-meat eater (she does like fish), lover of reggae, praise to the Most High.

She hails from the multi-island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She says you should look it up; it’s lovely, though she might be biased. She’s traveled, though not everywhere on her list, and she’s gone to school on two continents (not condiments, but she is partial to ketchup). She’s all Ashtanga with her chaturanga and sun salutations. She used to stress out, now she does her breathing exercises and tries not to throat punch anyone, because she is a delicate flower and not cut out to be someone’s jail wife. She’s an animal lover, but not fond of the two-legged strays that she seems to attract.

She’s a little island girl (ok, not little. She could drop 15lbs if she didn’t love cake and hate exercise. Plus, she has been around since the 80s began…) who loves her life in her little island world (though she does sometimes dislike the small island politics).

CURRENT ROCK OF RESIDENCE: St. Vincent and the Grenadines

ISLAND GIRL SINCE: Birth.

ORIGINALLY HAILS FROM: St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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7 thoughts on “Don’t Run from the Rock

  1. What a lovely story, a lovely start to my day, thank you!! I too am in the Caribbean, on a very tiny island (6 x 1 miles!) and I totally get what you mean re life. Sadly here no one gives anyone anything, not even a desperate plea for blood for a tiny baby (I was the only one to donate, and happily the right blood group), they were only willing to SELL their blood. I wish we had community shop, everything is shipped in once a week from the U.S. Have a blessed day.

    • what island are you on? That is really tiny.. I can just imagine it’s also like a fishbowl… everyone knows everyone..before you sneeze the other side of the island knows you have a cold… some drawbacks of a small island. but I wouldn’t give it up for anything 🙂

  2. So true, so true .. after being hit by Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in a 5 day period the true sense of community in Bermuda held us together and got us back on our feet so fast. You can imagine my disbelief when a couple of days after Gonzalo a cruise ship tourist expressed her disgust that the shops weren’t open late for them … never mind the fact that most of the island was without power and many had lost roofs and sustained other damage to property. Some roads were still blocked and public buses could not run .. but yet people showed up for work to make them feel welcome and to try to get “normal” back as soon as possible. I politely gave her a kind reminder that our tiny community had been a direct target of Gonzalo only 2 days prior…etc. I think she got the point. We are self sufficient people who make the most of our situation and get on with it .. with the help of each other but of course! 🙂

    • Bermuda is definitely on my list to visit… my mom has been and said it was beautiful. We had a horrible storm here last December, lives lost, property destroyed,.. It was so moving to see the way our people from near and all over the world came together to send aid and help out how they could.

    • I am so happy to hear the island spirit lives with the people of my birthplace, Bermuda. We are so far away in the Caribbean, yet so close in spirit. Keep he faith Ms. Faulkner.

  3. All so true, but maybe it is easier to know what you have when you have seen the other side, so to speak.
    But by the way, part of this is “small town” versus “city”. I grew up outside a small town in Canada, and it was far more similar to life on this rock than living in the big city is.

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