Double up… words only a Jamaican would understand

Rather than use the word “very” for emphasis Jamaican Patois simply doubles some words. So instead of saying, “Why is the food so oily?” we might say, “Wah kinda oily oily food dis?” I’m sure you can tell what I mean if I describe a person as being sicky sicky or a fruit as being seedy seedy, but while some of these double-worded expressions are easy to understand, others like picky picky are less straight forward.

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I am Jamaican, but I don’t…

1.     …smoke ganja. I often see most Jamaican characters in film erroneously depicted with a big spliff in hand or a cloud of smoke surrounding their heads. Admittedly, ganja is very important in the Rastafarian religion as well as in reggae-dancehall culture, and there is also a budding marijuana industry especially since its use in small quantities was decriminalized in 2015. But marijuana has not been legalized in Jamaica, and while the sight of smokers is fairly common, not all (not even most) Jamaicans smoke marijuana.

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2. …Say “mon” (ever!). Someone should call Hollywood ASAP and tell them

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Hot patty, hot patty: Things Jamaicans say and do during a fight

Hot patty, hot patty, who bounce it out?

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The first time I heard my students in the cafeteria order hot patty I was honestly taken aback. But after 12 years of living in the Bahamas, I’ve come to accept that everybody calls patties hot patty, and I have even started to call it that myself. The words flow from my mouth so easily here, but honestly, I could never imagine myself at the cashier’s window in Tastee’s asking for two hot patty and a coco bread, but, you know…when in Rome… 🙂

As to why the term hot patty sounds so strange in that context, that’s because it is a playful term that Jamaicans, most likely kids, use to trigger others who are on the verge of fighting. Confused? Let me explain. Let’s say you’re on the sidelines of the netball court and Tasha decides to bump your snowcone out of your hand, because you know, the two of you a carry feelings fi (dislike) each other. You two already don’t get along so she is definitely not going to apologise; as a matter of fact she snickers and saunters off. You shout, “Hey gyal!” She turns around and demands, “A who yuh a chat to?” As other kids start to gather around you face each other, baring teeth and hurling insults.

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Jamaica’s Election 2020: Serious Business or Party Time?

“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” Bob Marley

Jamaicans love music, which is obvious given the fact that Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae, dancehall, mento, rocksteady, ska, and several other musical genres. We use music to celebrate, highlight social injustices, numb our pain or to simply hold a vibes (relax and feel good). As a matter of fact, on any given day in Jamaica you will have to listen to good music whether you want to or not, as it can be heard blasting from outdoor sound systems, especially in Kingston.

It is no surprise then, that reggae and dancehall music are being featured prominently in Jamaica’s 2020 election race in the form of dubplates. There is Shenseea’s endorsement of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Jahvillani for Nigel Clarke, Dovey Magnum for Peter Phillips and my favorite, Spice for Lisa Hanna, among others.

But amid the controversy of elections being called during a pandemic and the back to school period, comes the cry by regular citizens as well as entertainers, for politicians to cease the use of Jamaican music during their election campaigns. This has been bolstered by the idea that the music is being utilized as a means to distract voters from important social and economic issues that should be the focus of the election.

One of the most outspoken opponents of the use, or perhaps misuse of Jamaica’s music on the campaign trail is Protoje, who makes his stance known in his anti-dub No Politician Can’t Beg No Dubplate From Me. In it he sings, “…dem mashing up di place dem nah provide for we, dats why dem caan use my voice none at all…how much time di music dem attack…a dem blame di music seh violence is routine in dancehall…” His song expresses what has long been our little secret- Jamaican music is not always celebrated in Jamaica.

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Jamaican Superstitions: The Baby Edition

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Years ago I told my grandmother that my baby seemed very restless and was spitting up milk quite often. I also explained that he was sleeping for the whole day but was very restless at nights. She asked me if I had him wearing red, if I had put an open Bible above his head while he was sleeping, and if I had started using olive oil on him. I answered no to all of these questions because one, I am not very superstitious by nature and two, I was no longer living in Jamaica and it had been years since I had seen anyone doing any of these things.

That day my grandmother spoke to me in the sternest voice I have heard her use since I became an adult. She admonished me for not taking precautions to protect my baby; she also told me that I had done too much work in bringing a baby into the world and should not be playing with his life. When I pressed her on why the baby seemed so restless she cut me off- “Do weh mi tell yuh fi do an’ yuh will see di difference!”

Apart from the three mentioned above, Jamaicans have a host of other beliefs that surround babies, especially those that have to do with keeping them safe. As I spoke to my family and friends about this topic in preparation for writing this particular post, I realized that more than anything else, Jamaicans’ superstitions centre around keeping babies safe from duppies (ghosts). Whether or not these beliefs have any merit, I must say that my son slept much easier that night after I left the Bible open to the 91st Psalm above his head. Below I explore other superstitions that relate to babies, along with Jamaicans’ reasons for believing them

  1. Babies should be dressed in something red at all times, such as a tiny red ribbon on the wrist or a red bow in their hair (for girls). Duppies/ spirits will play with a baby who is not wearing red.
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Short story

THE BROWN COW

By S.K. Montgomery

 

Marla walked slowly along the path to the St. Patrick’s All Age School, trepidation thick in the air around her. Not only did she have to walk to and from school all by herself today, she also had to worry about the cow that she and her cousin Tony had been avoiding for the past two weeks since Mr. Manny had taken to tying it closer to the track to feast on the lush grass. To make matters worse, she was already running late and was sure to feel the wrath of Mrs. Green’s belt for that unpardonable sin.

 

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Jus’ a likkle distraction: Jamaican Food!

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Jamaican gungo peas soup by jamaicanspanishgirl

So being on lockdown for a month does come with it’s good and bad days. I will not stress the bad, but on the good side it has prompted me to rekindle my on-again-off-again relationship with my blog. I honestly wonder when life got so busy to the point where I totally gave up on this good thing that my blog and I had going on, and I could cry at the guilt that I feel for abandoning my writing which I have always loved so much.

This time in isolation also had me trying a few of my mom’s favorite Jamaican dishes, especially some that I had watched her prepare but had never tried. The one that captured my heart last Sunday (no rice and peas that day) was the gungo peas soup, which for my first attempt turned out very well. I must admit it was lacking two star ingredients- pig tail, as well as some yellow yam- but there is no way I was going to face the anxiety of going back out to the supermarket to purchase those! I just decided to “tun mi han’ and mek fashion” (make-do with what I had at hand).

Along with a photo of my first rendezvous with this hearty, delicious soup, I  will also share some pictures of what I have been cooking up over the past few months. You will definitely notice some recurring dishes (rice and peas) or some recurring ingredients (butter beans), which are typical of Jamaican cuisine. I guess I could add some variety but what can I say? I like what I like. With that being said, I hope that you too will be inspired to try some Jamaican dishes as you wait for things to get back to normal.  Be sure to comment below and let me know which one of my dishes you would have loved to sample, which other Jamaican dish you would love to try, or which Jamaican dish you had in the past that made you fall in love! 

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Saltfish (codfish) and butter beans with dumplings, Irish potatoes and carrots.  I had already started eating and barely managed to snap a pic.


Saltfish and butter beans (again!) This time I added some spinach, and served it with quinoa.

Kwasie Thompson: The Jamaican Who is Taking A Fun Approach to Teaching Spanish

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Kwasie always stood out, not just because he was only one of three males in our Spanish program at the then Mico Teachers’ College, but because of the absolute passion with which he approached both learning and teaching the Spanish language.

I remember Kwasie’s accent being so authentic back then, even before most of us had even set foot in a Spanish country! With his lighthearted, creative approach to teaching the Spanish language and culture,  he seemed to always show the promise of doing something outstanding in this particular field.

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St. Bess, My Love by S.K. Montgomery

I wrote this poem about my days growing up in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. Footnotes explaining the cultural references follow at the end of the poem. Enjoy!

I long for the days

When my eyes gazed across the rolling hills of Stanmore,

To the distant plains of Black River.

When a trip to Malvern or Santa Cruz,

Was an easy hop-skip-trot for never weary feet,

And even the dreary trek from the Gleaner Tank with loads of water

Was a delight,

For the friends that crossed our paths along the way.

 

I long for the days

Of pounding fragrant coffee with a mortar stick,

Shelling gungo and red peas,

And breaking pimento branches to get to the rich dark fruits

As their sweet aroma caressed every sense,

Only to marvel at their transformation to tiny black pebbles, spread there on the barbecue

Under the sun’s watchful eye.

 

I long for the days

Spent sucking the juice Continue reading

Things Jamaicans are Afraid of

Jamaicans are known for being assertive, outspoken and fearless, qualities that can be traced back to our Ghanian ancestors in West Africa. But as much as we like to proclaim that “We run tings,” there are still certain objects that can cause even the “baddest” Jamaican to flatline.

With a little help from my family and friends I put together a list of our most common fears. Here goes:

Duppy: This is another word for a ghost. So many of the things that Jamaicans do
(or don’t do) are associated with duppies, and if you didnt take your Jamaican 101 class you are sure to have a few of them following you. Don’t sweep the house at night, be sure to wear red after someone in your house dies, don’t eat food without salt…

Black puss: As far as Jamaicans are concerned, a black cat is either bad luck of the worst kind, or just a duppy in disguise. Nobody wants to see them, especially first thing in the morning!

Visa denial: Somewhere between never seeing your $24,000 (ever again) and hearing the dreaded “Sorry Ma’am” lies US Visa Denial Street, a place where no Jamaican ever wants to be.

Roaches: Of any kind but more so the ones that fly. According to my friend Janelle, “Flying roach. Dat gi mi heart failure!”

Rat Bat/ Duppy Bat: All over the world people associate bats with vampires. Not in my country. Nope. Duppy alert!

Obeah: What voodoo is to Haiti, Obeah is to Jamaica. This type of sorcery, practiced by an Obeah Man or Obeah Woman, is purported to be the cause of much misfortune from illness, to job loss, losing a lover to someone else, mental illness or even death.

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We Run Tings, Tings Nuh Run We

Jamaicans like to say “We likkle but we talawah” which is basically a testament that although we are from a small country we make an unforgettable impact on the world. From our unique music, to our religion and our language…

We experienced another interesting flash in the spotlight recently when a commentator on MSNBC’s A.M. Joy used the Jamaican phrase “We run tings, tings nuh run we” in reference to the Obamacare/ Trumpcare debate. The phrase which means “We control situations, we don’t allow them to control us”,  was a refreshing interjection, used at the right moment to comment on an otherwise tense issue.

 

I’ve included a clip of A.M. Joy (recorded by phone) that a friend in the US made, as well as two versions of songs based on this Jamaican affirmation. I hope you enjoy, and the next time you come across a challenging situation just tell yourself “Me run tings, tings nuh run me!” PuraVida 🙂

My Favorite version, by Flourgon

 

Red Dragon’s version featured in the 1999 Jamaican made film Third World Cop.

I’m Back!

A few months ago, I completed my studies in translation & interpreting, and having emerged on the other side of one of the most challenging experiences of my life, I can finally give some TLC to this blog of mine. My final year was the most gruelling portion of the journey, which meant I had to divert attention from my beloved blog, to a gang of jealous, demanding assignments and exams which refused to be appeased no matter how much time I devoted to them.

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Now, I cannot help but feel tingly all over when I reflect on how  fortunate I am to have been able to pursue this love of mine, because the naked truth is, I was lovestruck from my very first Spanish lesson. Later on, when I encountered Translation in college, it became clear to me that we would be together “till death do us part”. With that said, my chosen path in life was not surprising.

Thankfully I came out of my relationship with UTRGV (muah!) with my sanity intact (I think!) Which means that I can now get back to my other love which is writing. What can I say? The love triangle is now complete. Here’s to bringing you some awesome posts in the near future!

 

 

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Pop Stop :)

I came across the most refreshing fruit treat while passing through Downtown Nassau today and I absolutely have to share it with you. D’Nard is the proud co-owner of Pop Stop, which features a line of unique gourmet popsicles. He, along with his cousin started the business two years ago. The cool, fruity creations are made from delicious tropical fruits which are grown on their farm, and of course they are freshly prepared on a daily basis.

While I was talking to D’Nard, there was a steady stream of tourists as well as regulars all looking for a cool way to beat the heat, so you know this is good stuff!  Check out the vid to find out more about Pop Stop, and be sure to drop by and visit them in the Pompey Square when you come to Nassau. Tell them Chicajamaicana sent you 🙂

Don’t let a Jamaican call you…

 

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Butu, gyal clown, mowly, pretty-dunce– these are just a few of the (sometimes hilarious) terms that Jamaicans use to describe people unfavourably, and if any of them is directed at you, it means you might have gotten on our wrong side. Don’t know where that is? Let’s just say it’s somewhere you don’t want to be 🙂

Jamaica’s official language is English; however if you touch down in Jamrock on any given day you will hear most people talking in Patois, our colourful dialect that has an English base but a strong African influence. It’s a mix that has produced a very unique language that people of other countries love to imitate; and you know what? We don’t mind at all; we actually love to hear someone with a different accent talking in Patois. Continue reading

Steel pan music is from Jamaica?

Mitch: You know I don’t think it would be such a bad idea if we went down to Jamaica. Did a little legwork.

Amanda: Nice try.

Mitch: But I do love steel drum music. Do you know why there are those little numbers on the inside of the drum?

Amanda: Will my life change if I do?

Mitch: Well each number corresponds to a note. Now it take years to master these notes. These guys are musical geniuses. Did you know that there are some notes that are only audible to them?

So I’m minding my own business, flicking through channels about two Saturdays ago when I spot a map and a flag of Jamaica on the screen. I check the name of the show and realize it’s called The Inspectors. Of course I’m instantly on alert as soon as I realize that Jamaica is being discussed. I see/ hear a couple of investigators talking about the lottery scam (whole other topic for a completely different post) and I already know this won’t be good, but I’m curious nevertheless. I grab my phone and start recording. Continue reading

Mi nuh deh a Jamaica now; mi deh a Ochi.

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So apparently Jamaicans the world over are feeling quite puzzled because of a WhatsApp voice note that’s been making the rounds in the past few days. In the message a female voice can be heard telling someone that she lives in Jamaica. No big deal, right? The cringe worthy moment comes, however, when she explains that she’s not in Jamaica, but is instead in Ochi. A weh di…Wha-???

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Now for anyone who is not really familiar with Jamaica, that means nothing. But for everyone who is from, or associated with yaad we know Ochi is the short for our beloved and beautiful Ocho Rios, a breath-taking town on Jamaica’s north coast. So if Ochi is located in Jamaica, what is this young lady talking about? Continue reading

Jamaican Sat’day Soup/ Rice n Peas, Anyone?

Pull up to a Jamaican’s house on a Saturday and the unmistakable smell of the traditional Sat’day soup will caress your senses and invite you in.

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Doesn’t that look good? My mom taught me well!

Last week Sunday (of all days), for whatever reason, I felt the urge to run a boat (cook a meal) consisting of something straight from yaad (Jamaica). Truth be told, most meals that I prepare are easy dishes with rice being the foundation, so I have no idea where this sudden burst of inspiration came from. Continue reading

Spanish curse words? ¡Ay Caramba!

My conversations with my non-Spanish- speaking amigos usually go like this:

Hola.

Hola.

¿Cómo estás?

Muy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?

Muy bien.

Streetwise Spanish

I do have a little gem that could get them beyond the ordinary basic Spanish though. I recently got to listening to a few tracks from the CD that accompanies this book called Streetwise Spanish and I love it! I actually listen to it all the time. Each track consists of a dialogue between two or more Spanish speakers, which seems simple enough. But the beauty of this listening experience is that the accent featured on each track is from a different Spanish speaking country/ region.

This package is ideal for people who want to go beyond the Spanish that is taught in the classrooms. Rather than the formal/ academic style Spanish that most of us learn when we do Spanish as a second language, it focuses on local slang straight off the streets of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia…

Now let’s get into why you actually came on here in the first place! Many people, including my students are interested in street Spanish and try to get me to teach them the colourful curse words- palabrotas– that are used by Spanish speakers! Continue reading

Reading? Who has time for that?

As a teenager, I lived for reading- Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Harlequin Romance, Mills & Boon, Sweet Valley High- I must have read thousands of titles! I actually spent hours in my high school library (back when kids knew what a library card was!) Saturday mornings were reserved for going to Tom Redcam Library in Cross Roads, and it was actually a cool thing to get dressed up and go to the library, choose a couple of books, meet up with friends (and crushes!), then hang out for the rest of the afternoon. Well enter adulthood, and the carefree days of just reading for leisure went right out the window! Continue reading

PURA VIDA- Enjoy Life

 

pura2.png Pura Vida (pure life)- the idea of being at peace with the universe and not taking life too seriously, is what inspired this blog initially. I mean the world is a tough place to survive in, and most of the time we take things way too seriously. We often get swept up in the storm of rushing around, trying to cram 1,000 things into 24 hours. And if you’re like me that comes with making endless to-do lists (I literally cannot survive a day out without my trusty lists). I just feel like I never get everything done! Which is exactly the point. If I can never get it all done, there will never be any time to take a break and focus on me. It’s simple, aside from the daily grind of work, running errands, managing a home, and planning for tomorrow, we must incorporate into our day, actions that also lead to our well- being.
Below is a list of practices that I have been trying to engage in, with varying degrees of success. Some days I’m really good with my list (another list?), other days I am way too busy (I’m not trying to be perfect here- just honest). But I’ve come to realize that it’s actually on those hectic days that I need to just step back for a minute, calm down and do something just for me.

 

1. MEDITATE/ PRAY- meditate
Mornings are often the most chaotic time for us. For me, first comes the sheer agony of dragging myself out of bed, then running around crazy trying to get through the door on time (did I mention hitting the snooze button one too many times?). Continue reading

Dream Destinations

I have been to a total of six countries so far: Jamaica (birthplace), The Bahamas, Cuba, Colombia, Guyana and the United States. I have had good times in all of them- from hiking to the top of the Kaieteur waterfalls and sleeping in the jungles of Guyana, to attempting the folk dances at a dance workshop and dancing the  night away at an all night Salsa Circuit in Colombia. Of course, each place holds a special place in my heart.

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GUYANA (Planting trees to reduce flooding)

KAIETEUR- world’s highest single drop waterfall)

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CUBA

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Random Phrases in 4 Languages

When I came to the Bahamas I was a bit intrigued the first time I heard the expression ey used at the end of a question. Here’s an example, You crazy ey? Now 6 years on and I find myself saying things like ey (eh/ huh), bey (boy)- sometimes just for fun, but more often than not, automatically. So I thought I would share some phrases/ words that are frequently used by Bahamians. I have also included the English version along with a Spanish translation of each.

Many people, too, seem to be fascinated by the Jamaican accent and slang. I sometimes break out into Patois to the delight of my students, who want me to repeat the word/ phrase. It’s also fun to see the confused faces when I say something completely incomprehensible to them! One of my personal favourites is chakka chakka (disorganized). So of course I had to give you the Patois/ Jamaican version of each phrase as well. Continue reading

Look-out spots in Eastern Nassau

I’ve always been fascinated by the beach. A cliché, maybe. But I cannot help getting lost in the different shades of blue, the warm sea- breeze on my face and the eternal nature of the waves that never cease their patrol of the shore. Going to the beach is one of my favourite pastimes, and even now, whenever I go back home to Jamaica two or three times for the year I try to fit it onto my list of to-do’s. Being converted into a resident of the Sunshine City (Portmore) means I have easy access to two or three beaches. And while those lucky enough to live in places like Negril and Montego Bay might scoff at the idea of Hellshire as a choice beach, I ignore and smile quietly to myself. I enjoy the simple pleasure of the salty breeze, warm water, the smell of fried fish, the pure vibes of the reggae beat in the background, intermingled with the laughter of splashing kids yet too young to realize how lucky they are to be enjoying this wonder… Who can dare tell me this isn’t heaven!

Hellshire 2 HELLSHIRE BEACH, JAMAICA

 

So how do I recreate this scene now that most of my days are spent in Nassau? Continue reading

Stadium on Fire

Do you have plans for May 24 and 25, 2014? If not, then I’m inviting you out. ¡Ven conmigo! Come with me to the IAAF World Relays 2014, in Nassau, Bahamas. The Thomas A. Robinson Stadium, located in Oakes Field, will be on fire, and all vibes a go tun up till it  buck. For all of my non- patois speaking amigos, that simply means, the level of excitement in the stadium will reach maximum heights, as more than 40 teams vie for athletic dominance on the relay stage.

At the risk of offending 99.9% of the non- Jamaican population that is reading this post, I have to say I hope Jamaica mash it up and make a clean sweep of every event. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but ambition has never killed anyone. My (very unnecessary) warning to the other teams however, is don’t be caught sleeping on the track. The Bahamian athletes make for formidable opponents, and I am sure they have no plans to simply hand victory to the other countries on a conch-shell-decorated platter. In fact, I have to be honest in saying that since I have been in the Bahamas, I have (grudgingly?) come to realize and accept that the athletes of the 242 don’t joke around!

Whichever team you choose to support, I’m sure you will be treated to a wonderful show in which athletic prowess will be the main course, while music, food and laughter will be served up as tasty side dishes, all under the open, sunny skies of the beautiful Bahamas. Continue reading