It’s Day 8 of my Christmas vacation, and we went to Clacton-on-Sea. The journey took us from Colchester to Great Clacton, toward Clacton-on-Sea. There were wind turbines in the ocean and a very strong, cold breeze was blowing.
I’m still in Colchester (Day 6), with David’s family. It appears that in the UK, the clothing that people wear at home is decent enough that they’d be able to go down the road in it. So, to go out, they’d probably just throw a coat, etc over what they’re already wearing. David’s family wears shirts, dress pants, jeans and such at home… and I’ve followed suit whilst staying here, and worn ‘going out clothes’ at home. That’s not what it’s like at my home in Trini though… we have ‘home clothes’ and ‘going out clothes’. So, when we need to go out, we’d change the outfit entirely; unless perhaps we’re just going around the corner to a parlour (a little shop: often in a little shed or building in front someone’s house).
It’s day 3 in Colchester, a city in Essex, England. I’ve never experienced a proper English Christmas before today, and as the day draws to a close, I can safely say that I’m happy that I have experienced it. David and I travelled from Cambridge to Colchester, by train, on December 23rd. We first went to Ipswich, and from Ipswich to Colchester… where David’s dad, Phil, was waiting to pick us up from the station. When we got to their home, his mom Joyce was there and we said our hellos. I’d met them before, and they’re really lovely people, but it’s still a bit nerve wrecking being in the presence of people you’re not very familiar with— especially when you want them to like you. >_<
Either way, after settling in a bit, we had dinner. There was a plate with a knife on one side and a fork on the other, a teacup in a saucer, a little teapot with tea, and then the dinner. I asked David if the setup was normal… because at home in Trini, we don’t really use knives and forks to eat, or have teapots on the table unless something special is happening… and I’d never put my teacup or mug in a saucer at home. He said that it was normal.
Fast forward to Christmas day though… the big day. ^_^ After breakfast, we opened all the gifts under the Christmas tree, which David and I had decorated with lights and yellow and red decorations the day before. I then called home and spoke to my family who had not too long woken up back in Trinidad. I do miss being with them, but thank God for Skype! and David’s family too. David’s brother, Martin, came for Christmas day, and his uncle, John, had arrived on the 24th. The atmosphere felt very much like home: laughing, jokes, gift paper strewn on the floor, saved Christmas gift wrapping bits for use in the future, and I appreciated that… it’s nice to spend time with a family on Christmas Day. Joyce prepared an amazing lunch and dinner, and we ate with all the fancy cutlery and wares. We ate turkey*, mince pie*, Christmas pudding*, fruit cake*, roasted parsnips* and potatoes*, stuffing*, little sausages that were wrapped in bacon* (which they call ‘pigs in blankets’), brussel sprouts*, hops* and cheese*, smoked salmon*, tomato soup*, a tomato bread* with olives*, carrots*, red wine*, sparkling juice*, champagne, a swiss roll covered in chocolate (called a Christmas log), cucumbers, lettuce, pork pies, scotch eggs, etc. (Foods with asterisks are what I had).
We played scrabble later in the evening. Team D&K came second and M&J came first, after which we settled into watching the final episode of Downton Abbey…. which I think only Joyce and I were perhaps looking forward to. It’s after 12am now, and I’ll be going to sleep soon, but it’s been a great Christmas. It’s been a bit different, such as with the turkey and Christmas crackers (which look like giant sweets; one person holds one side of the cracker whilst another holds the other, then we pull and it bursts and makes a loud cracking sound. After it bursts open, there is a little gift inside, a joke, and some other little notes), but certainly the family atmosphere and happiness has been pretty much the same. 🙂
Yesterday night was amongst one of the most delightfully spontaneous days I’ve had in some time. Sera had invited me to meet her and her daughter Naomi for dinner in one hour’s time, and since I wasn’t sure if I’d get another opportunity to meet them anytime soon, I decided to go. After a 35 minute walk, it was lovely hearing a Trini accent. I haven’t heard another Trini accent in the UK since I got here in September… and it always makes me smile when I realise how comforting it is to hear a voice, in person, that sounds like home.
We spoke for a while about illustrations I had to complete for them, and also about life in different countries. I was just finishing up eating a naan (which looks fairly similar to sada roti) and something that looked like a weird mixture of shrimp and bhaji, when they invited me to watch Star Wars with their other friends. I’d never seen any episode of Star Wars before, but I ultimately decided to go. It was entertaining enough, but well, I quite honestly don’t understand why it’s such a big deal (maybe I’ll end up regretting that statement >_< ).
When the movie ended, I joined Naomi and Sera for a drive back to their place to get some Pastelles which Sera had very kindly brought back for me when she returned to Cambridge from Trinidad a short while ago. I also got some Trini green seasoning, pepperpot sauce, and mauby bark before they dropped me back home.
What makes this all especially lovely for me, beside having the opportunity to lime with cool people, is just the affirmation of how warm and welcoming Caribbean people are when you meet them in foreign lands. I’ve met a few Caribbean people, who were previously strangers, during my time in Cambridge— from the Psychology Department graduate secretary (a Guyanese woman named Rita who crafted packages of ground provision and callaloo for me after she came back to Cambridge from London trips), to the friends of my mom’s friends who lived on the outskirts of Cambridge and made me pelau 2 years ago, to other Caribbean students. I’ve been met with such kindness from the few members of the Caribbean community I’ve met during my various times in Cambridge that I actually long for days when I can pass that kindness on to someone else who longs for a sense of community and homeliness in a foreign land.
It’s different, and a bit sad for me, being away from home for Christmas. It takes a bit of getting used to; but it’s a wonderful thing to be able to meet great people, and get homely food >_< 🙂 , that makes you feel a little less far away from home during the holidays.
A collection of some kinda recent work I did for some lovely people and for myself 🙂