She’s At Her Dad’s

She’s At Her Dad’s

This is Codfish. You see, everyone in Jamaica has a pet name, even babies and kids. Colleen is her real name, but everyone knows her as Codfish. One of Jave’s many cousins, Codfish is a sweet, inquisitive, and smart kid, but she also tends to be a bit hardheaded.

At night, Ketto gets very dark. And like most of rural Jamaica, Ketto is full of open sugar cane and corn fields, and lots and lots of trees. One evening, Codfish’s father dropped her off at her grandmother’s (Jave’s Auntie Dell) house because he was going out and needed someone to watch her.

Jave and his friends and cousins were just out front of Ms. Dell’s house playing dominoes on the side of the road, and I was inside slathering myself with calamine lotion to soothe the itching from my numerous mosquito bites. Normally, Codfish would be right under my heels in the room where Jave and I were staying, but that night, I hadn’t really heard a peep from her. I assumed that she was probably taking a nap or in Jave’s cousin Davian’s room watching television.

When Ms. Dell came into my room asking if I’d seen Codfish, I became alarmed. In her heavy patois, Ms. Dell told me that she’d been looking for Codfish everywhere, but couldn’t find her and that Codfish snuck out of the house.

I began to panic. Because when kids go missing in the U.S., it’s usually because they’ve been kidnapped, raped, and left for dead by vicious pedophiles. This was my immediate assumption as I ran down to where the guys were playing dominoes and explained to Jave that Codfish was missing.

“She does this all the time Carmel,” Davian said.

“Well where did she go?” I asked.

“I don’t know – probably down to her dad’s house,” he said. “You can walk down there and check on her if you want,” he said, “but it’s a waste of time because I guarantee you that’s where she is.”

“Well, can one of you go with me to look for her?” I asked. Although Ketto is a relatively safe little community, I wasn’t about to go walking down a dark road surrounded by trees and cane fields to Codfish’s father’s house by myself. I’m from L.A. – born and raised, and I’m too smart for that. Fortunately, Jave’s friend Dane volunteered to walk with me.

When we got to her dad’s house, Dane called out to see if he was home. Sure enough, he was, and Codfish was there safely with him. I returned with Dane relieved, and joined the guys for a game of dominoes.

Still a bit surprised by this cultural difference, I realized that since child kidnappings are less frequent in Jamaica than in the U.S., folks really don’t stress too much when their kids run off in the middle of the night. Quite refreshing, actually.

Throughout your travels, what major cultural differences have you observed between your home country and foreign countries? Please share…


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