…you are officially Bajan now.”
This is what one the men who drives for my father’s company said to us while taking us home from our first visit to the famous Oistins Bay Garden & Fish Fry. This spot is the place to be in Barbados on a Friday night. Everyone gathers at multiple restaurants that share space in the market. Everyone is seated at picnic tables, enabling visitors and locals alike to mingle and lime with one another.
We met people from all over the world! Northern Africa, England… South Carolina, Illinois. Okay, maybe we it wasn’t exactly a mock United Nations. But it was still really neat to chat with locals and foreigners alike. Which lead me to ask myself: am I a foreigner or a local?
While Barbados is my new “home” for the foreseeable future, I certainly cannot say I feel like a Bajan just yet. Undoubtedly, adopting a new country as your home takes time. A lot of time. But in the short amount I’ve time I’ve spent here, the socially anxious part of my brain cannot help but ask the typical “who, what, when, where, and why” of transition.
Who will be my friend?
What will they be like?
When will I meet them?
Where will I meet them?
Why would they want to be my friend?
It appears as though the people of Barbados, from a very preliminary perspective, seem to fall into one of the following categories:
- Native black Bajan
- Native white Bajan
- Native Indian Bajan
- Wealthy European expat
- Wealthy American expat
- Wealthy expat from another nation
Now, as an educated woman with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, I understand the danger of making sweeping generalizations. Surely Barbadians are a diverse people with a rich history and a deep well of subcultures representing vast peoples. That being said, as a formerly bullied kid coming from being a minority in a very racially homogeneous society, when I do not see a the proverbial Isle of Misfit Toys on which to plant my freak flag, I tend to panic.
I promised myself that Barbados would be a new start for me. Not just in terms of new experiences, but a new way of thinking. I want to open my mind to the idea that I do not need to conform to anyone else’s standards in order to be liked. I will not head for the bottom of the barrel, assuming the socially inept is my appointed lot in life.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2
Of course, I will always welcome the weirdos and the “least of these” – this is my tribe! But I refuse to pigeonhole myself into prescribed identities in an effort to steady the boat. I want to rock the boat, paintbrush full of red acrylic in hand!
So Barbados, I am trying out my new mindset on your beautiful people. I have great hopes that rise to the occasion and allow me to engage with your best and brightest, strangest and awkward-est… Allow me to learn you and celebrate you and become a part of you.
May your vibrant parrots tickle me and your little green monkey cause me to laugh. Allow your beaches to calm my harried soul, your forests to leave me in awe.
Allow me to make myself at home.