The long legged man with the blue eyes, blonde hair and thick Scandanavian accent bumped his shoulder against mine flashing me a co-conspiratorial smile despite the fact that we’d only just been introduced by a mutual friend.
When foreigners in China meet for the first time one of the initial questions asked in the getting to know you process is usually; ‘where are you from?’
As the conversation ensues, racial heritage and history also come into play. I’ve become used to hearing about the 1/3 Irish, 7/8 Polish and 2/5 Scottish parts of various American and Canadian friends, (why do they do that?), but one thing which I wasn’t expecting was to be told how cool I am when I mention that my family is Jamaican, as that’s where my parents and elder relatives were born.
It seems that hailing from the land of wood and water, sunshine and reggae gives you a certain status, an air of affability and congenialty. It also causes some to believe that I can satsify their need for a waccy baccy fix.
First comes the slap on the back, followed by a request or demand to ‘hook them up!’ Sometimes they’ll even sing a line from a Bob Marley song as if to highlight their desire.
Why are they asking me? Do they think I just walk around with the stuff in my handbag?
I’ve learned to deftly change the topic, not wishing to offend new aquaintances with a lecture on stereotypes.
As I’m suddenly hip enough to have their complete attention, I could tell them fascinating things about Jamaica.
For example James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, lived on the island’s north coast for years writing many Bond books from his home there. You can now even stay at the luxury Golden Eye boutique resort.
Marijuana is still actually illegal in Jamaica.
In addition, just to show off a little bit, I’ll state that Jamaica is famous for more than it’s sportsmen (Usain Bolt) and entertainers (Bob Marley).
It’s the home of noted and prized, also deliciously smooth Blue Mountain coffee.
Finally the capital city, Kingston, has an old and sizeable Jewish population stemming from Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition several hundred years ago.
See, there’s so much more to my homeland than its reputation for its relation to the five fingered plant.