It’s pretty hard for me to out right hate a place. As Clifton Fadiman stated, “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” So while I may not like the food, or the public transportation or the critters running around, I’m still almost guaranteed to enjoy myself keeping by just keeping an open heart and mind.
For me, what sets a place apart from another is not the landmarks, but the connections made (and great food of course). Being able to connect with someone so different, but so similar gives me life. While a quality connection can happen in minutes, the best yet have been during my longest stays, and thus my favorite places to date are South Africa and Jamaica.
Freelance writer, Angus Taylor, got this response in an interview when he asked Jamaican artist, Protoje, why Jamaica is such a great place:
People have endured so much in Jamaica. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most positive places. The creation, the art, the music – just the positive energy that has been created from this place…People suffer but they always find a way – and out of the hardships Jamaica endures. We always bring something positive out of it – always…Even though we have so much stacked against us people still say, “We Yard”…Jamaica is an inspiration – believe me.
I’ve never lived in Jamaica (not yet at least), but I agree with his sentiments. There’s something special about that little island. It’s so much more than the beaches and beautiful views. It just feel right and like home and continues to draw me back, time and time again with no family connections (as far as I know) or “Winston.” Most people don’t get it and I really don’t expect them too. And though it’s not the land of my birth, I’ll just keep anticipating my next return to sweet Jamaica.
Against the advisement of many, I packed my bags and headed to South Africa for a 6 week “independent research” trip and fell in love! It all started with the then cast of African Footprint who occupied the same flat right on the beach in Durban (one of the sets of Ludacris’ Pimping all Over the World). We spent the evening of their off nights talking and playing cards on the balcony enjoying the view of the Indian Ocean or hanging out in the local hot spots around the city. On my last night in town, I took the bus to see them perform at the Suncoast Casino. It was an amazing show and wonderful kick off to the rest of my stay in South African.
As I moved around the country, from Durban to Bhisho, Umtata to Port Elizabeth and Tsitsikamma to Cape Town, I spent a lot of my time on the various college campus hanging out, talking to students, faculty, administrators and every day people. My focus was to investigate prep programs in place to develop South Africa’s next generation of engineers in the midst of education reform, but conversations always drifted deeper than just that. I’ll never forget walking through the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. I popped in one of the music stores and got a nearly two hour lesson on the hottest music in South Africa at the moment, from the local superstars and internationals making waves in the country, Malaika, Mafikzolo, Lamar and many more. Even today, Malaika’s song Destiny takes me back to late nights partying with my new South African friends and all the memories we made. South Africa will also hold a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to go back!!!