Usain Bolt, wherever you are, I owe you. I also owe Bob Marley but what with him gone I think it’s fair to write that one off. Traveling through Asia has been that much more interesting because of you both.
It’s already an interesting experience being Black in Asia, but when I add to that the element of being Jamaican then things get epic. There is never a shortage of conversation as strangers are somehow emboldened by the announcement and always have a myriad of questions.
Thanks to you, the first thing I get asked half the time is “Can you run?” Thanks to you, the world thinks we are a nation of athletes. You are single-handedly responsible for every conversation with a taxi driver where I have to do the pose and explain that my Jamaican-ness doesn’t guarantee athletic prowess. In fact (and this part I always leave out, because duh, we have a reputation to uphold) the only race I ever ran was in grade 8 because red house was down one runner and we needed someone – anyone apparently – to fill the space. They may or may not have had to wait a while for me to finish before starting the next race.
The strangest conversation was definitely the one with a Grab taxi driver in Manila who was curious to know what you eat. It wasn’t easy explaining to him that being Jamaican didn’t give me an all-access pass to your diet and exercise regimen. I winged it though (yuh still eat yam, banana, potato and dem supm deh?) Doesn’t matter now anyway, because that’s what I told him.
As for you, dearly departed Bob, I should thank you for that epic night on the beach in Bali last year – 2 hours of uninhibited singing with strangers from all over the world (a French couple stopped by at one point, there were my new friends from Spain and London, the teenagers from Canada and our resident guitarist – an elderly local who knew the words to every single one of your songs including songs I’d never heard of despite him speaking only limited English). It was magical.
Earlier that night I took to the stage in the spirit of bravery (because when else do we take crazy chances like singing a duet with a reggae band on stage in a bar full of foreigners and locals?). Here’s hoping what happens in Bali stays in Bali. I’m mildly optimistic as I haven’t seen it on Youtube yet.
Between us both (and all my friends who’ve seen the clip from my phone), it wasn’t my best performance. I didn’t do Lauryn’s part justice, but in my defense, I was inebriated and the lead singer doing your part threw me off (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Still, it was crazy fun and I have you to thank.
There’s also the free drinks bartenders give me when they learn I’m Jamaica. The most recent case was a bartender on Jeju island in South Korea. It was an Irish pub (give me a break, options were limited and my friend and I needed a drink) and after hearing where I was from the song choices changed for the rest of the night. After the fifth track – No Woman No Cry I think it was – I felt mildly concerned for anyone not enjoying the music, but then, who would that be exactly?? You are Bob Marley, after all.
Seriously though Usain and Bob, between the two of you, I owe a debt of gratitude (because, really, that’s all I can afford. This travel life ain’t cheap). I’ve mentioned to friends before that being Jamaican seriously supersedes being Black when you travel in Asia and with every country I visit I find this to be even truer.
So consider this post me paying my debt publicly, for all the drinks I’m yet to drink and all the good times I’m yet to have.
Mannaz an’ respek!