A Love Adventure Project: Jamaica, Jamaica

Just because you are in paradise, doesn’t mean it is all paradise-like…

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Zi in front of a mural at Norman Manley International Airport

Please keep in mind that this was written in July. Jamaica was our first destination on our four legged trip to find & connect with our family & this is what I learned:

In writing this portion of my journey, I am often confronted with the fear of releasing the private parts of what makes me, me.  And because I do not stand alone, the privacy of others. I am afraid of being misunderstood and of judgment. I am afraid of gossip on the things that I am still working through.

But, what was revealed to me recently is that love is the bravest choice. And today I choose love. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. So I present my journey thus far with the passion of love and bravery and with the intention of freedom and breaking the cycles that keep families in bondage . This journey hasn’t always been paradise-like, and yet, ironically, I am in paradise.

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Zi’s grandma’s house

It is the 19th day of our journey and I have smiled, laughed, and cried hard. Right now I am writing this from Panama—an unexpected destination. But, I’ll write more about that later.

We arrived in Jamaica in the early morning of July 3rd. We arrived hungry, tired, and excited. Jamaica greeted us with custom lines, our luggage standing in an open room, and porters ready to make some tips. Zi took her first plane ride like a BAWSE even though she was afraid—that is one of the things that I love and that I learn from her is that she may be fearful of taking risk, but she does it anyway.

Our stay in Kingston was a wave of emotions. I already knew that it would be, because going to visit Zi’s side of the family would meet my parenting insecurities for several reasons. Because of this, I rented out a space for me and Zi, so that if something went wrong, we wouldn’t be stuck with family who were strangers.

My insecurity as a parent is because I have no close bond with her father and I was in his country trying to forge a relationship between my daughter and his family.

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 Zi & Cousins eating ice cream

Today also marked the 2291th day that I have practiced parenthood; it also marks the day since Zi has been born. This trip has me reconsidering the ways in which I am raising Zi. It has me thinking about the decisions I have taken that led me to Jamaica. It has me understanding that the cycles of poverty and abuse are much deeper than my story and that Zi’s father and Zi share similar creation myths.

Zi’s grandmother sat me down one night when she saw I was tearful. I was upset because she made a comment that triggered me. This happened in a yard with three cement constructions. Each building was a room where her brothers lived. It is also the yard that she grew up in with her parents.

We were sitting over the poured concrete where strayed dogs scratched from fleas and mosquitos. Sitting on plastic white chairs and small elementary school chairs. We were on Skype with her daughter in California when Zi’s grandma said something about the clothes I  brought over for Zi.

When we walked back to Grandma’s yard, she laid on her bed on her left side and invited me to sit by her belly, facing her… The moment that I met her, there was an instant love that I felt through her gold-teeth smile. We met in Portmore by a bus stop heading back to Olympic Gardens. I remember thinking that her son, Zi’s dad, looks just like her. Zi and I were coming from Hellshire beach. Zion had never seen her grandmother, but it’s almost like she knew her from the moment she saw her. The embrace was wonderful.

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Grandma in her Eden

I don’t think that Zi understands the concept of how a nuclear family works. I don’t think that she gets that her grandmother is her father’s mom. But, love doesn’t need explanation. The impetus is usually just the desire.

While I sat on the bed in her one bedroom home, we sat in the lampshade dark, with the TV glowing, projecting its’ shadows around me.  Zi’s father is Grandma’s last child out of six and her only son. Her head is plopped up on a pillow. Behind her there are two small bedside dressers. On one of the dressers is her altar covered with white cloth, fresh water, rum, Florida water, and a picture of her son meticulously placed.

He was born on a leap year. He came into the world with the same name of his father, but, like Zi, was also rejected by his father. Grandma told me in her Kingston accent that she prays for her son every night and I wondered on and understood that the same behaviors that her son has imitated towards his daughter are the same patterns of the man he was named after.

“Yuh not know pain. Yuh ave one. I ave six,” she says holding up a hand of fingers and a thumb.  She takes one hand away and says, “Now, I ave five.” She tells me about the daughter that was killed at 15 by one bullet.. About how she was beat by her son’s father, and how she put money down to abort her son because she didn’t want another child with another abusive man.

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At Bob Marley’s museum 

That’s just a snippet of her story of growing up in and living in Olympic Gardens, a community lined with tin roofs and gates made of headboards and strayed doors. A community of feet in flip-flops. Splayed congregation of youth, smoking splits, with serious smiles.

I see my home aligned with theirs, but my poverty is more comfortable. Faster internet speeds and hot water and safer communities. Yet, I know about a broken family due to violence and  the silences we hold too close.

This trip is about breaking some of those silences. That is why I keep having one recurring question: how do I break this cycle of poverty and abuse in my future family? How do I break the generational curse that has not only plagued Zi’s grandma, but also my mother and her mother? How do I continue to find time with Zi, so that I can always have time to navigate these salty waters, so she doesn’t have to ever cross that bridge alone.

In leaving Kingston and riding to Panama, I learned that this journey is not all about fun. It’s really not a vacation in the traditional sense because I am traveling with my daughter, seeking to connect with family in an intimate way. A way where we seek to know what are the stories that mold us. The good, the bad, and the ugly-beauty.

This trip is allowing me the quiet space to think outside of parties and work. It is all necessary. Transformation is never easy, because for coal to become a diamond, it needs pressure.

So, I will cup these tears with my lips and say cheers to this kind of conflict diamonds.

As always, I am thankful for those who have supported me in this transformational opportunity, to those who continue to support me. For me, this trip was the first step of knowing the hands that may have never touched me, but still mold me and my daughter.

I am at awe by love.

To read more on how this journey began, click the letter I wrote to myself on Mother’s day 2o13