I initially revealed how I had a realisation about my life and decided that I would work out a 3-5 year plan to move to Belize (for those who haven't, see my first post).
I have also mentioned that I lived in Jamaica and in the U.K..
I thought that I should supply a bit more biographical information on myself.
Barmy Belle’s Formative Years
I grew up in a small town in Alberta, Canada, population 1200. Unlike everyone else, my brother and I weren’t related to everyone in town, even though my Dad’s family had been from there for years. I guess they had the sense to marry outside of the town’s population. We were a bit more liberal and a walked to a slightly different drummer. Not so much to be noticeable, just enough not to quite fit in.
On top of that, I was slightly overweight, was a klutz, and a bit socially inept. All an amazing combination at the best of times. On top of that, I had a brother 5 years older than me who moved away as soon as his size 12 feet would take him. He moved to Ottawa, and his dress sense changed and his attitude changed. They became ‘Big City’. I idolised him so I tried to be as ‘Big City’ as possible!
Remember the 80’s? Well neon colours, leg warmers, bunsen burner cover earrings (all bought at Le Chateau), and assymmetrical hair did not help me fit in. Especially on a plus-size body!
I lived there until I was 15 and moved to a way bigger town in Alberta population 3500. I was ecstatic! I wasn’t as much of an outsider there. I made some lifelong friends, and then graduated high school 2 years later.
After high school I went to Jamaica for a year as an exchange student. Our family had hosted an exchange student from Belgium. And my brother was an exchange student at their house in Liege, Belgium for a year.
Why become an exchange student? Well my mother thought it was important to learn another language and experience a new culture. I went with AFS, and we had to list 10 countries that we would like to go to. I listed about nine European countries, and sort of ran out. I then asked her (my mother) if I could list Jamaica as my last choice. She said ‘sure’, probably thinking that it was my last choice and they wouldn't ever send me to my last choice.
Well, my application was refused as they had too many applications that year. I was extremely disappointed. But a month after they refused, we got a call to see if I wanted to go to Jamaica. So Jamaica it was!
It turns out that AFS Jamaica had found another host family. In retrospect, my host family should have never been a host family. The Reid family consisted of Mr Reid, a lovely man who unfortunately had a stroke a year previously and had a hard time speaking and very limited movement.
Mrs. Reid, aka Auntie, was his second wife. He was a widower who married his office assistant. I think he married her more for the company; I definitely could be mistaken, I wasn’t there before his stroke.
And the final member of the family was Marlene, Mrs. Reid’s niece from the country who at the time was trying to find a job and a husband in the city. I think we both really tried to be friends with each other; but besides sharing the same room, we had absolutely nothing in common.
It was a strange situation. I found out soon after I arrived that the only reason that I was taken in was because the nun that was the principal of Holy Childhood High School (the school I went to) had told them it was something I should do.
I don’t know about Mr. Reid, but Auntie was a very religious person. Since Mr Reid couldn’t leave the house easily, the principal (I can’t remember her name) came and gave the couple communion at their house every Sunday.
So Auntie did it. Begrudgingly. To please her church.
I was not treated like family or even like a favourite lodger, which were my previous experiences with our exchange student and the experiences of almost all the exchange students in the programme. I wasn’t even given a key to the house.
I was coping with this situation quite well. I had a rich life outside the Reid house. I had Jamaican friends and fellow AFSers. I had lots of cute Jamaican men I interested in me. I was even getting used to going to a Catholic school, since I was basically raised as a non-believing Protestant.
And inside the Reid house, I managed to have a few really nice conversations with Mr. Reid. His family came to visit twice a week and they were really lovely people.
Then Christmas came, and my host father died Christmas day. Auntie wouldn’t let me touch him, even though I knew CPR. But the only person I got along with in the house died.
Auntie ate little and stopped communicating, except to tell me that she didn’t want me to live there. I felt intuitively that it was an act to prove that she was mourning her husband. Maybe she saw that I felt that way.
Perhaps if I was more mature at that time I could have empathised with her.
My parents (in contravention of the programme rules) and my brother came over for a holiday. They were worried about me and my situation. Auntie told me daily that she didn’t want me there, but unfortunately she wouldn’t tell AFS the same thing. They visited the AFS Jamaica home office and told them to move me or I would be going home. I do have great parents. I moved out about 3 months after Mr. Reid’s death.
(Backstory to Auntie: she was a ‘Dallas’ addict. Do you remember that television show? Well in Canada, we were about 2 years ahead. My Mom and I watched it, so I knew what happened in the story. Auntie would always ask me what happened. I would never tell her because it would spoil the story.
My final revenge: My last night before I left I told her EVERYTHING that happened in the next 2 years, thereby spoiling ‘Dallas’ for her! Does that make me a bad person? At the time, that’s all I had in my passive aggressive repertoire. And it felt good!
Also, Auntie truly believed that the actors didn't really kiss. She thought it was a camera trick. No matter how much I tried to convince her over the months I lived there, she would not believe that people who weren't intimately involved in real life could or would kiss. The thought of this was amoral to her. In retrospect, it's sort of endearing!)
Funnily enough, I have great memories of Jamaica! I met some wonderful people, and Jamaica has such an amazing culture. Plus I was popular with men for the first time in my life!
I was put in a temporary home with a wonderful lady, Enid Donaldson (now Enid Donaldson-Mignotte). She is a celebrity chef in Jamaica.
Then I lived for my remaining month or two with another family, the Paris family. If given more time, I think we might have established a relationship. Mrs Paris ran the National Children’s Home in Kingston and we lived on the grounds which were inside a massive park. It was beautiful.
I returned home with wanderlust but having to conform to my parent’s expectations. Do you think that I may have unconsciously rebelled?