Jamaicans are everywhere! That’s what I intended to prove when I brought you Shawna Kay’s Tale from China:
Read article here.
Terry’s Tale from Poland:
Read article here.
And various tales of Jamaicans who are Jaminating Japan.
Today, I continue the series by bringing you a Jamaican Tale From Dubai.
She discovered Dubai while watching videos on YouTube in the year 2010.
“Before that, I didn’t know such a place exist. It was those videos that made me fall in love with the lifestyle and the amazing architecture.”
Yakeyma admits to writing it on her bucket list as a place she`d like to visit then putting the list away and going back to her day.
Then, one night as she was busy multi-tasking (this involved lying in her dorm room at Heart College of Hospitality Services and doing assignments while scrolling through Facebook) she received a messenger notification and saw a message from a chef she used to work with at Sandals Royal in Ocho Rios. His message was simple, to the point, a total of nine words:
“Hey, how do you feel about working in Dubai?”
That’s when Yakeyma jumped from her bed (she slept on the top bunk), dropped her laptop (it survived) and ran downstairs to tell her friends that she was moving to Dubai.
“All now, I don’t answer the chef yet. I was too busy telling everyone.”
“Telling everyone was a mistake.”
Yakeyma realized this three months later when she was still in Jamaica and people started giving her the side-eye. Everyone thought she’d told a lie.
“One of my relatives even went as far as to tell me I should get back to earth because I was delusional.”
But, eventually, though it was a long process, all her paper-work cleared and she moved to Dubai in September, 2013.
“Man, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to grow my career in one of the most fabulous, fast-growing cities in the world. I couldn’t wait to learn more about the food, the religion, the culture. I couldn’t wait to live in Dubai.”
But, was it as magnificent and fascinating as she imagined? That’s what I asked next.
Yakeyma was not annoyed by the constant ‘call to prayer’, she was okay with the unpredictable weather, and the Sunday to Thursday workweek didn’t faze her either. The people were tolerable. The place, as she envisioned, admirable. And the food, though incomparable to her good ol curry goat and rice and peas, wasn’t all that insufferable.
“All that was fine. The camel`s brain, the lamb`s brain, the whale meat, the shark — I ate it without complaint. Even boasted of having a universal palate. What annoyed me, what threw me off, was the fact that I was frequently mistaken for being a prostitute.”
Yakeyma admits that there is instant stereotyping if you’re black in Dubai. She explains that a large number of African women are perceived as prostitutes and recounted an incident that happened while she was sitting at a bar.
“A black man came up to me and he was like, madam, you have to leave. This is not allowed here. I said, what? Drinking a beer? He said, no. Soliciting the customers. I was like, what the hell?”
At that point Yakeyma asked to speak to the manager who apologized profusely and offered drinks on the house when her Emirates ID revealed her to be Jamaican.
“Believe me, it would not have gone well if my ID showed Nigeria, Kenya or anywhere in Africa. They would definitely label me as a prostitute then.”
When asked if there were other instances when she was made to feel uncomfortable, Yakeyma tells of a time when she was laughed at and teased because of the way she wore her natural hair.
“People laugh because they claim I look like a boy. There was even a time a woman looked at me so long and hard that I was ready to go off on her. But, when I said: “What is it? What are you looking at?!” She merely said, “Nice hair, may I touch it?”
Yakeyma laughs at that incident. But she didn’t laugh about the time when a Lebanese man asked her if she washed her skin.
“I bathe every day! That’s what I told him. But then he said, no. Wash your skin to make it more light. I just told him that what he is looking at is called beautiful melanin.”
Overall, Yakema admits that she loves living in Dubai.
“There are a large number of expats so I encounter people from different nationalities on a daily basis. As for the locals, apart from a few dickheads, most of them are very nice. They treat you differently when they learn you’re Jamaican as that’s when they open up and want to talk to you about music or Bolt.”
Regrets? Yakeyma says there is none.
“I have learned a lot, I have grown a lot, I walk all hours of the night without anyone bothering me and the best thing about this is I earn my money and live tax free.”
Thanks to the beautiful Yakeyma for sharing her story with me. Join me again next week when I’ll tell you more about Jamaicans Jaminating in foreign lands and you definitely don’t want to miss hearing about the ‘Usain Bolt’ of Japan.
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