Little Cayman, British
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
My fraternization with the workers has not gone unnoticed. It is interesting
to see who is uncomfortable. Yesterday at breakfast, a man asked me
if there had been a concert the night before in the dining room.
"Sort of," I said. "I taught Louie and Junior a song
and now they are teaching me one of theirs." He looked at me blankly
so I said, "Gospel. That’s what we are singing.
Do you like gospel?”
His face tightened and he said, "Sure."
(Kim: I think
you are like me in that you sometimes like to make people uncomfortable.
Especially people who should be thinking more about something.)
And I knew he didn’t
mean that he liked it so I wondered what was such a big trigger for
him. Like if he thought that gospel was a code word for something else—like
scary black people.
I told my sister about this and she sighed. Laurel has done a lot of
work in the African-American community and has many black friends and
colleagues. However, in this instance, she was more interested in lying
in the sun and reading chick lite literature like “You’ll
Never Nanny in This Town Again”
She is entitled, I reckon. After the year she has had, she entitled
to do whatever the heck she wants to do.
how I can't even accept that people should be entitled to do "whatever
they want. " I guess that's my problem having a Puritan work ethic.)
So she looked at me and said,
“Give it a rest, Joan, just for one day. I’m on vacation.”
getting a kick out of the contrast between you and your sister.)
But it is hard for me to
give it a rest when the lives of the people who are making our stay
possible seem invisible to so many people, including some of their white
One afternoon, I was chatting with one of the bartenders, Stephanie,
an amazingly self-possessed 22 year old white woman from Vancouver.
She has been traveling on her own since she was 17. She said, “It’s
so odd, the way these people are separated from their children. They
have children and then their mother or someone winds up raising them
in Jamaica while they come here.”
I said I thought they came
to Cayman because the economy was so bad in Jamaica. That this is a
way they can support themselves and their families.
She replied it was odd that they didn’t seem to mind. That they
seemed so happy.
So I said, “I think they do mind. Don’t you think you would
mind if you had children that you could not see?”I said it gently.
Gently, although I wanted to shake her.
The past few days, since our musical exchange, the sound of singing
has been louder coming from the kitchen.
As I was sitting outside at a table, I overheard the man I had met at
breakfast say to his wife, “I’m sure they don’t make
much here but it isn’t a stressful life.”
And I wondered what he really meant by that remark. Did he believe it?
Or was he trying to reassure himself that the status quo was okay.
I can’t even fathom the emotional stress for a man like Junior,
to be separated from his wife and seven month old daughter.
(Kim: On the
one hand we are giving people an opportunity to support their families...and
on the other hand we have quasi slavery.)