Dreadlocks for Sale?

As mentioned in my last post, I took a trip to Amsterdam where marijuana use has been decriminalized for a number of years. Since marijuana is still illegal in most countries, the Netherlands has become quite popular with tourists looking to use marijuana recreationally. While in Amsterdam, I went into a souvenir shop, and to my surprise, there was a small section of items covered in Jamaican flags, as well as the colors of the Rastafarian flag, and dreadlock wigs attached to knit hats. Rastafarianism is a religion founded and most commonly practiced in Jamaica. The group has become more popular for having dreadlocks and using marijuana both recreationally and in ceremonial traditions. This has meant that Jamaica itself has also become known for producing marijuana. Nevertheless, I was caught off guard seeing the aforementioned items in a store in the Netherlands.

I am currently taking a class on globalisation, and in defining globalisation we have discussed developed nations imposing their practices on those in undeveloped nations, but I’d like to discuss not just what developed nations leave behind, but what they take as well. Although at this point neither marijuana nor Rastafarianism are unique to Jamaica, they are a part of Jamaican culture and the island is known to the world because of them, amongst other things (music, sports, etc.). This souvenir shop was profiting off of another — much less developed— nation. This leads me to ponder what Jamaica gets out of globalisation in this instance.

While in Amsterdam for merely three days, I saw an astounding number of White people with dreadlocks. Though most White people who wear dreadlocks are probably doing it because they like the style, that may not have been the case here as I have learned that according to scholar and author Neil Savishinsky, Amsterdam “harbors the largest population of White Rastafarians [he came] across,” (Prahlad 65). White people practicing Rastafarianism is something I have questions about. It is one thing to have dreads but another to practice Rastafarianism. A major purpose of Rastafarianism is teaching Afrocentrism. Jamaican Rastafarians were taught about their African history, and spread the metaphor of “returning to Africa,” (Trpkovich 1). The religion was created to instill pride in Jamaica’s African descendent peoples. So what does that have to do with White people living in the Netherlands? Referring specifically to the souvenir shop, the dreadlock wigs/hats in particular make a mockery of Rastafarian traditions, as though this aspect of one’s culture is for others to try on and wear as a costume.

While in Amsterdam, I also saw a coffee shop called Babylon Coffeeshop. Babylon is the term used by Rastafarians for the oppressive authorities that rule the world. It was ironic to see a coffee shop that sells marijuana donning the name Babylon; it seemed like whoever named it was just trying to make a connection between marijuana and Rastafarianism. Although I think globalisation as a concept is a good thing, in practice there are some that gain far more than others through the process. Here Amsterdam’s tourism industry is benefitting from appropriating Jamaican and Rastafarian culture, with no benefits to Jamaica itself.

References

Prahlad, A. (2001). Reggae Wisdom: Proverbs in Jamaican Music. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi.

Trpkovich, A. (2019). “How Cannabis Became a Major Part of the Jamaican Culture.” Toronto: Greencamp. 

Paris and Amsterdam Trip!

One thing I was looking forward to about my semester abroad was being able to travel not just around London but to other countries in Europe as well. During a short break from school, some friends and I took a trip to Paris and Amsterdam.

We spent our time in each city doing quite touristy things. On our first day in Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower. We did not go to the top, but we took some cool photos of and with the tower. I was amazed by its height, which I’ve learned is 984 ft tall.

While in Paris, we met a friend who is studying there for the semester. She took us to a restaurant called L’Etoile d’Afrique, where we had some amazing Senegalese dishes. I still have dreams about how perfectly the plantains were fried.

We also visited the famous Louvre Museum during our stay. We saw amazing and world famous pieces of art including the Mona Lisa. Inspired by Beyonce and Jay Z, we also took the opportunity to record our own short music video to their song Apesh*t for which they shot the video inside the Louvre. We were there towards the closing hours, so it wasn’t too disruptive.


On our last day in Paris we took a trip to the outskirts of the city to visit Disneyland. We had an awesome time getting on rides, and seeing the firework show at the end of the day. Capping our stay in Paris with a day at an amusement park was a great way to conclude the first leg of our trip.

While in Amsterdam we took the first day to rest and walk around the neighborhood a little. We visited souvenir shops and convenience stores, and ate an a restaurant called Pasta Pasta, but that was about it. The next day we visited the Moco Museum where we saw less traditional art pieces like those in the Louvre, and more modern and street art pieces.

We also went on a boat tour around a part of the city. We got to see areas that we had not ventured to by foot.

Overall we enjoyed our stays in Paris and Amsterdam, and look forward to visiting other cities in Europe!

Adjusting to My Host School

My homeschool is a small liberal arts college in central New York. At my school, most classes have between 10 and 40 students. I have taken one class with roughly 80 students. Small liberal arts college often pride themselves on students being able to form meaningful relationships with their professors and classmates because of the class size. Throughout my educational journey, I have always attended small schools where my teachers knew a bit about me on a personal level. This is one of the reasons why adjusting to my classes at the University of Westminster was exactly that, an adjustment.

With the exception of one class, where we wore name tags each week, my instructors did not make much of an effort to even remember our names. I thought at first that it didn’t make much of a difference because it was such a large university that instructors would probably only know students for a short while anyway. However, I realized that this may be far from the truth given how focused the British university system is. By the time students start university, they already know what their major or course will be, and they take all their classes in that area, so it is likely that they will have the same instructor more than once. This lack of emphasis on personal connections kind of lowered my investment in my courses, because the classroom lacked a community feeling. To be fair, many if not the majority of my classes at Hamilton lacked a community feeling for me, but at least my professors knew my name.

Another major adjustment for me was gettin used to the lecture and seminar class format. At my homeschool, most of my classes have been small discussion based classes. This usually meant that the class would read some texts before class and then we would discuss the pieces with each other and our professor, as well as maybe doing some other activities. In my time at Hamilton, I have only had one lecture based class — it was not my favorite. At Westminster, all four of my classes incorporated lecture. The first hour or so was dedicated to a lecture on the week’s topic. This was hard for me to adapt to because I had become accustomed to a more interactive learning style. Save for the one entirely lecture based class I had, other classes at Hamilton that incorporated lectures in my experience also broke up these lectures with interactive activities like discussion questions, or peer shares.

I struggled with staying attentive during my lectures, and I could not decide if taking notes was a good idea because it helped me stay more focused on the information in the slides rather than what my instructor was saying. What I did appreciate was that the lecture was always followed by a seminar which more closely resembled my classes in the States. These two components together however presented a challenge because at home the average length of a “long” class is 1 hour and 15 minutes, meeting twice a week, while my shortest class at Westminster was 2 hours long, and longest was four hours long — though these classes met once a week. Meeting once a week also contributed to my inability to make meaningful connections with my instructors and classmates. The fact that Westminster is not a residential university contributed to this as well, because most students just came to class and returned home. A few weeks into school I asked one of my classmates who was a full time student how I could print my readings and he told me he had no clue because he only came to uni for class.

To add something more positive about the adjustment, I had a unique experience with one of my classes where each week our class was lead by a different instructor. The class was about globalization, so with each topic within globalization we had a new instructor whose area of focus was related to the topic at hand. I appreciated this constant introduction of new voices and perspectives into our classroom. My LGBTQ Studies course was conducted similarly. An additional positive change was experiencing learning outside of the classroom setting. Three out of my four classes planned things like museum visits, and one even took us on a scavenger hunt. So while there were aspects of schooling at Westminster that I truly struggled with, or simply did not like, there were others that I know I will find myself missing when I’m back at Hamilton in the fall.

Fighting FOMO and Homesickness Pt. 2

More tips.

4. Try to meet new people

For me, one of the most intimidating parts of studying abroad was the fact that I would have to make new friends. I found out a few weeks before leaving New York that an acquaintance from high school would be studying at Westminster too. That was a bit reassuring but he is only one person, and I didn’t want to stand in the way of him making new friends himself. My program orientation allowed me to meet several students from America. I will admit I did not make many friends there, but when I moved into my student accommodation I met a lot of other people. All five of my flatmates are friendly, and living together has been smooth sailing. The day that all students were moved into our housing, we were taken on a short walking tour around our neighborhood, Shoreditch. When I walked outside to meet a friend I made during orientation, she introduced me to two of her flatmates, who then introduced me to their group of friends from their homeschool.

As we walked around Shoreditch we were a bit preoccupied to talk much, but I exchanged social media info with a few of them. Since then I hang out with a few of them almost everyday. I know it is not that simple for everyone, and I was lucky enough to meet a very friendly group very early on. I’d encourage you to go to events for study abroad students like this walking tour, as it is a great way to meet new people who are going through the same transition as you are. In addition to events specifically for study abroad students, visiting on-campus clubs can be a good way to connect with local students.

5. Explore your location with these new friends

As I’ve mentioned my student accommodation is located in Shoreditch. It’s known for its street art, and street food. There are a lot of good options for going out and adventuring. My friends and I have been making our way through the restaurants and clubs in the area. We found a Jamaican restaurant called Cottons just four minutes away from where we live. We’ve been there at least five times and we’ve only been here for a month lol. We find fun things to do on the weekend like visiting the local farm, and local night clubs. The study abroad experience is one meant to be filled with new and exciting things, so try to make the most of your time here, because you’ll be able to reflect on these experiences forever!

A donkey, and some sheep in the background at a farm in Shoreditch.
Me and some friends in a ball pit at a local club called BallieBallerson.

Fighting FOMO and Homesickness Pt. 1

I’ve been in London for a few weeks now and I must say, I’m starting to miss home :/ During my study abroad orientation we were warned of this part of the transition period. They started off by telling us that everything would be new and exciting for a while, but that would likely be followed by some homesickness. Even with this warning, I was not prepared for the reality of it. With that being said, I would like to provide some tips for dealing with homesickness and FOMO (fear of missing out) while abroad.  

  1. Call your friends and family back home

Right now you’re probably way farther from home than you usually are during the school year. So if you’re anything like me, you’re starting to miss your family. I’ve realized that I have been communicating with my family more frequently than I did while at my home school. This has helped me feel less homesick because I’m reminded that although I cannot see the people I miss, they are just a phone call away. Hopefully, wherever you are you have access to the Wi-Fi or cellular data. If not, try to locate a post office, so you can send a letter.

I think I call my mom less when at my home school because I am with my second family — my friends. Last semester I lived in an apartment with some of my closest friends, so it’s been difficult adjusting to a new environment where I don’t have such easy access to them. As my close friends, they have all been my support system throughout college. Because they are all still at school together in New York, and I am across the Atlantic in London, I sometimes feel like I’m missing important moments. When I feel a bit regretful of my decision to come to London, I call one of my friends to catch up and when I bring up my concerns they remind me that I came abroad to experience an array of things I would not have had access to in Clinton, NY (where my home school is located). And furthermore, they will be in NY waiting to greet me when I return. So stay in communication with your friends, but also remember to enjoy your experience abroad and make the most of it, because it’ll be over before you know it!

2. Visit local ethnic enclaves

As I mentioned in my introductory blog, I spent some years of my childhood living in Jamaica. My Jamaican-American ethnicity has influenced my life in many ways, ranging from things like language, food, music, and others. Back home in the Bronx, I live in an area heavily populated by Jamaicans and people from other Caribbean nations. Because of where I live, and my relationship with family members in Jamaica, I never feel disconnected from my culture. Even when I am at Hamilton, which is predominantly white, I still feel connected to that part of my identity as my closest friends are from other Caribbean nations as well.

When I told my family that I would be spending a semester abroad in London, one of the first things many of them said was, “You have to go to Brixton!” None of them had ever been, but they were all familiar with the neighborhood. I myself knew what Brixton was, as it’s been mentioned in dancehall (a genre of Jamaican music) songs. Brixton is a community in south London. Although it is considered a multiethnic community, it’s been dubbed a Jamaican ethnic enclave with, as of 2016, more than 800,000 British Jamaicans.

I visited Brixton during my second week in London. My friend and I walked around the Brixton Market where several ethnicities were represented in shops, stands, and restaurants. We had lunch at a Jamaican restaurant where we had traditional Jamaican meals including beef patties (not the ones used in burgers), and jerk chicken with rice and peas. Then we walked into a beauty supply store where we were able to find hair products that were not stocked in convenience stores close to my housing accommodation. Lastly, we went into a grocery store that reminded me of many I had been to in the Bronx. As we walked the aisles of the store, each time we saw a familiar brand or item, we would stop and ask the other if they were familiar with it too. It was fun and refreshing to see all these familiar things that were normal to me while living in Jamaica (my friend also grew up in Jamaica). It created nostalgia, and made me feel like I was in a tiny Jamaica, just from walking around that market. It helped me miss NY a bit less and view my time in London more positively. London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, so I’m lucky to have access to places like Brixton when I’m feeling homesick.

3. Learn how to make your favorite dishes from home

Before coming abroad, I wasn’t much of a cook. My skills were limited to frying breakfast foods and boiling pasta. My mom is a very good cook so I miss her food whenever I leave home. She often makes Jamaican dishes, while sometimes venturing into other cultures’ cuisines and typical American meals. I have been using my time abroad to learn how to make some of my favorite meals that my mom usually prepares. Each time I plan to make something new I ask her what ingredients I need. When I visited Brixton, I was able to get a few things Jamaicans often use in cooking like browning, curry powder, red kidney beans, and scallions. So far I’ve made a few things like curried chicken, stew chicken, and sweet and sour chicken. Although they don’t taste anywhere close to as good as my mom’s, they still help me miss home a bit less.

My Trip to the Emirates!

In Jamaica, it’s probably impossible to walk into someone’s home and not find a football (soccer) fan there. My home in Jamaica was no different. The English Premier League (EPL) is one of the most widely watched football leagues in the world. I grew up hearing shouting at the TV, and hands slapping the wall every weekend when games were on. The majority of my family supports Manchester United, while two of my aunts support Liverpool, and my father supports Arsenal. I didn’t really watch or play much soccer while living in Jamaica because it was considered a sport for boys. When I moved to America, I began watching the EPL every weekend as a means of staying in touch with my culture. I followed all three teams my family supported, but I felt bad that my dad was alone on the Arsenal train, so I decided I would join him as a supporter of the club.

I’d wake up early on every Saturday and Sunday to catch the games. Over time, I became a huge fan of the sport and I forgot that originally I supported Arsenal because of my dad. I began to appreciate and admire the team differently as I learned more about football. However, when I started running club track, it became harder to keep up with football matches since my track meets were on the weekends. Even though I no longer had the time to watch the sport avidly, I was still a fan, and even played two seasons in high school when I stopped running for my track club. So when I saw that an Emirates Stadium (Arsenal’s home stadium) tour was an event offered by my study abroad program, it was the first thing I put on my calendar.

When we got to the stadium I was in complete awe. I spent so many weekends watching from my living room, and now here I was right outside the actual stadium getting prepared to go in.

As we entered the stadium, each visitor was given a device resembling a smart phone and earbuds. As we moved from place to place during the tour, we learned some facts about the team’s history by listening to audio and watching videos on the device. I thought this was cool because it made the largely self-guided tour feel more interactive. A few of the spots we were able to see include the home and away changing rooms, the manager’s office, interview rooms and the press room. My favorite part was being on the touchline of the pitch ( the side of the field with no goals). It was such a surreal experience. I can’t wait to go back for a game!

Allow Me to Introduce Myself!

Hello! I thought it would be a good idea to tell my readers a bit about myself before starting on my journey abroad. My name is Diamond, and I am from the Bronx, NY, though I grew up in St. Andrew, Jamaica. I moved to The States when I was nine years old. Since then I’ve been living with my mom, and more recently my little sister. Here’s a photo of us!

I am currently a junior sociology major attending Hamilton College, located in central New York. At Hamilton, I have been involved in several clubs and organizations like the Black & Latinx Student Union, the Voices of Color Lecture Series and the DJ Club. Being a part of these organizations/clubs have allowed me to explore my interests while learning more about issues affecting me and other students like me. I have also learned a lot by occupying different roles in these organizations ranging from secretary to co-president. I’m also a sprinter and a jumper on the track & field team. I compete in the 100m, 200m, high jump, and triple jump.

Stick around to learn more about me through my blog posts!

A Bit About Me Before I Head to London!

Hey everyone!

I’m super excited for my semester abroad in London! Check out the link below to learn a bit about me and what I hope to get out of the experience. And a big thank you to the Fund for Education Abroad for contributing to my time abroad!

Diamond’s Pre-departure Video! (I should have sipped some water first lol) from Fund for Education Abroad on Vimeo.

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