“Welcome to Your New Home…

…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.

Oistins, Hastings, Barbados
Oistins, Hastings, Barbados

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:

  1. Native black Bajan
  2. Native white Bajan
  3. Native Indian Bajan
  4. Wealthy European expat
  5. Wealthy American expat
  6. Wealthy expat from another nation
  7. Me.

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.


Form, Fill, and Function

Well, folks. After years of hoping and waiting, my family and I have finally relocated to Barbados in the Caribbean.

Our journey started off with a gentle bang as we rode along Georgia’s highways in a Lincoln SUV limousine. Our driver, Mr. Darden, is one of the most pleasant people with whom I have interacted at 5:30am. As he drove calmly about the interstates, gliding between cars on a sunny Saturday morning, my doting father and the humble driver discussed everything from United States history to sports. My dad told Mr. Darden about my parents’ love story, how they went from high school sweethearts to nearly 40 years of marriage; Mr. Darden described to my father how he taught himself to read and write when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 37.

Let that sink in a moment. For the first half of your life, you are unable to read a birthday card from your grandmother or write a note to pass to your crush in class. Not allowed to fall into the pages of your favorite fantasy novel. Incapable of signing your own name.

Larry Darden, 71, Atlanta, GA
Larry Darden, 71, Atlanta, GA

As my mother and I listened quietly from the backseat, I was in awe. Enamored, really. This man who went without so much for so long has managed to maintain a positive attitude and a successful life. He is an incredible orator (I almost felt like I was listening to the narration of Morgan Freeman) and a decent human being.

He gives credit to his father, whom he said raised him with the following principle:

“The way you were formed and the way you were filled is the way you will function.
– Mr. Darden

My family and I have truly been through the ringer over the last few years, and the challenges are not over.

But Mr. Darden’s story is profoundly humbling and encouraging. We are being blessed with a new start, an opportunity to dedicate time to the people and things that matter. Being able to do all of that on a beautiful, tropical island? Bonus!