Thursday, April 29, 2010

Natalie on Loving Who We Are

"I was born in Saint Mary, Jamaica. I spent most of my life traveling between Jamaica and the U.S., as my Dad lives in New Jersey. Please, no Jersey jokes. My husband works for the United Nations and our first post was in New York, but we lived in New Jersey. In 2008, we were posted to Washington. 

"I do community relations at the embassy. I work with Jamaicans in the D.C. metro area on things like how to give back to Jamaica and I organize our social events. The Jamaican community in D.C. is different than the Jamaican communities in New York and New Jersey. New York and New Jersey Jamaicans acts as though they own the entire United States. In D.C., the Jamaicans are a little calmer and quieter. The environment has influenced them. Because D.C. is more of a policy oriented place, the Jamaicans have evolved with the culture. In D.C., you find that Jamaicans are very organized and want to give back, which is consistent with Jamaicans across the United States. 

"There is a strong relationship between our two countries, especially because of the significant Jamaican immigration to the United States, specifically in the late 70's. Every Jamaican that you meet has at least three or four relatives in the U.S. There are speculations that there are more Jamaicans living outside of Jamaica than in Jamaica. A large number of those are in the U.S. We think that New York alone has one million Jamaicans. As much as Jamaicans here are happy to be Americans, they don't want to let go of the fact that they are Jamaicans. 

"We have a saying that within three weeks of arriving in the U.S., every Jamaican can tell you where to find salt fish and all of the things that we love to cook. Even when you move to the U.S., you still want that part of home. Jamaicans want what they are used to. There is a comedian named Russell Peters who says that you never see a Jamaican wanting to be anyone else, but you see other nationalities trying to be Jamaicans in the way they dress and speak. We just love who we are. 

"For a number of years, all we were known for was reggae music, Bob Marley and our food, but now we have the fastest man, Usain Bolt, and woman, Shelly-Ann Fraser, on earth. At the Embassy, we are working to increase people's understanding of Jamaica. We are a small island of 2.7 million people, but have a large influence. Many people think that everyone in Jamaica lives in poverty. We are so much more. Look at academics. If there are Jamaicans at a school or university, you bet they are going to be on the honor roll. A lot of these students go on to be lawyers and doctors. 

"I have enjoyed my time in Washington, This is one of those cities where you need to live in life. It is a serious place, but there is lots of stuff to do and great night life. It is also a great place to raise their kids. Being in D.C. makes me appreciate Jamaica more. Here, you feel like you are consistently on a treadmill. In Jamaica, we use the term, 'You lyme,' which means to relax and hang out with your friends. Here, you need to make plans two weeks in advance. In Jamaica, people call and say, 'Nat, open the gate. I am five minutes from your house.' In the Jamaican community here, people still do that with each other, but realize they can't always do that with non-Jamaicans. Being a diplomat, we have to take on more of the formality in our work. 

"After this posting, we will likely be posted somewhere in Africa. One of the advantages of the foreign service is seeing the world. I would love to live on most of the continents, but I am an island girl at heart." 

Natalie Campbell-Rodriques is the Community Relations Attache at the Embassy of Jamaica.

1 comment:

XO said...

Check out the DC Caribbean Carnival from June 26-27