When I was 9, I adamantly told my mother that I hated traveling. My mother has a serious case of wanderlust and in retrospect I understand why she had looked so hurt after I said those words. How could her child not like traveling? It must have felt almost like a great betrayal of genetics to her. I have motion sickness, exacerbated by traveling in hot and humid conditions. When I was nine, we did all our traveling in our Toyota Carina E which did not have working air conditioning. It was hard to enjoy feeling clammy, sweaty, and nauseous for hours on end but after my first plane ride at 15, I told my mother I wanted to travel in a plane everyday if I could.
Ironically, my mother does not like planes. She hates the feeling of being upended that take off brings and the butterflies that begin to dance in your stomach as you wait for the plane’s tires to hit the ground. I love both of those feelings. Being suspended in the air for hours on end is both terrifying and awe-inspiring.
I think the ability to up and leave is generally a gift, whether it is away from an abusive relationship or work stress or just because your heart is a restless bird and your eyes are like an easily bored teenager seeking new, breathtaking sights. I have not traveled even a quarter as much I would like to, but nowhere else I’ve been has changed me as much as the Caribbean. I currently go to a medical university in St Vincent & the Grenadines. Yes, I had never known the country even existed until the school told me they had a campus here. I was excited. The Caribbean is where people, even Olivia Pope go to recharge, I had an inkling it would be amazing.
The Caribbean is ridiculously far from Africa. It took approximately three days to get here, but all the stress was forgotten the second I saw the house I would be living in and the next morning when my neighbors cheerily said hello and welcome, I did not remember how far I had traveled. Here, the skies are a perfect blue and on the days when the clouds grace us with their presence, they are white and fluffy and the sun’s light makes everything vibrant. After close to six months, I have only seen about 5 or less houses painted beige or a light brown or white. People choose loud, bright colors and houses dare you to not look at them. There aren’t many chrysanthemums or tulips but there are lavender flowers and red and yellow hibiscuses that dance in the sometimes cool island breeze. Beaches with flawless white or black sand and million dollar views of the Atlantic caught on your way to work.
Vincentians like to “lime”. On Friday evenings, town smells of grilled chicken and people dance, not sway, dance to Iyanya, Wizkid, SOCA music as others catch “vans” home after a day’s work. Island time is frustrating for people who like fast paced living, because here, people chat about family members in banks and forget the time. Life is LIVED here. No one worries about tomorrow and the men are notorious for chatting up and cat calling women. My taxi guy, says “it’s a Vincy thing” and when I ask him if he would like to be catcalled, he says “YESS, it shows you she feeling you” and he goes on to regale me with tales of the time women honked their horns at him in Trinidad. Vincy lingo is fast paced and hilarious. Children get “licks” for being naughty and you’re told not to “study” people when they’re joking. Vincy people like to eat macaroni pies, plantains, stewed turkey, pelau and jerk chicken.
They say Africa is the motherland and my heart feels squeezed tight. A number of them have said they want to see the motherland. They talk of the Lagos they know from Nollywood movies and how much they love Yemi Alade and they won’t stop asking for the translation of Flavour’s “ashawo” song in its entirety. They want to learn to etighi and azonto.
I’m home here and although I’m excited to see more places, St Vincent will be a tough experience to beat.
“Lime”- hang out, party.
“Licks”- getting flogged
“Study”- to pay heed/attention to a person.
Afoma is a medical student who enjoys weaving words in her ever diminishing spare time. She is a born and bred Port Harcourt girl who takes pleasure in swooning over excellent poetry and orange sunsets and blogging at ihundasmusings.com. She is conscientiously working on taking better selfies.