In America I have friends who are male, female and trans. I love them all. I have gay friend and straight friends and some in the middle of the spectrum somewhere. I have Puerto Rican friends, Jamaican friends, Salvadorian friends, Romanian friends, I basically have friends from all walks of life, rich, poor, students, professors, unemployed, underemployed and professional. What I do not have are friends that do not know how to have fun.
I look forward to dinner parties at home, nights out and movie nights in. I love street parties and bike parties, I love solitude of a bike ride with a friend that lasts for miles in silence. I know people back home think of me often, I see it on my Facebook daily. I typically have no issues making friend, but here life is much different.
There can be no male/female friends only here. It always ends up with me storming off and avoiding the guy because he tried to push the relationship into something that I was not even remotely interested in. If I tell you that I am married that is not a challenge to try to end my marriage. Unlike the younger Jamaican culture, my relationship is important and I would like for it to last forever. I also do not want a side man, because no matter what that will end up with some weird jealousy thing that I just cannot manage.
So what does friendship here look like? It looks nothing like it does back home. I sincerely miss coffee dates with the girls. I miss book or magazine discussions. I miss walks in the park. I miss going out to the bar and not having to worry about getting home. Here there are not a lot of places to sit and visit. Most homes are not set up to accommodate visitors. Sometimes a home is a one bedroom with the residents eating on the front stoop. Other times a home houses so many people there is too much distraction to actually chat. I really miss coffee shops! Unless I go to Ochi there are no real sit down restaurants. So what do I do with friends? I walk with them and sometimes I have them over for tea or coffee. Since I cannot afford to feed people all the time, I limit my having guests. I am certain it is the same on the other end as well.
Fortunately for me I have Tressa. There are days that we sit at her table all day discussing the school projects, community projects, and how to create a sustainable difference all over a cup of coffee. Sometimes we play cards or scrabble. Mostly we discuss or work on community projects and plan future projects. I am a fortunate one, I have this little slice of home right down the road from me. Not everyone is so fortunate. My home is located too far from the community center for me to stay out late at night. I would require an escort home and that has ended badly too often for me to pursue it much any more.
My two Jamaican women friends are Samantha and Margaret and I enjoy talking about cultural difference with them. I also enjoy talking about how they see their community and the changes that are happening. I do most of this while walking with them in the mornings. I miss Samantha, she is currently unavailable for me to bounce things off of. Margaret just makes me laugh, a lot. She does some crazy stuff! In all of this I have found a fragile balance of sanity. You see we all need friends but here friendship looks much different than it does back home. I do not invite people over for dinner at night. I do not invite people out for a cup of coffee, nor do I go meet people at the bar. Here I have to remember that keeping myself safe is my first priority. When I really want to go out at night for a dead yard I can ask Margaret or Samantha to escort me, but then we are two women out alone instead of one, and eventually one of us needs to be walking alone at night and that is really not fair.
So even though friendship looks much different it is still a strong feeling of connection, you just learn to do things differently. Instead of staying up all night at the bar, you get up early to go walking before the sun gets too hot. You spend time on the river and at the beach, things are much more outdoor oriented here. But you know we all need friends so we adjust to how things are in the location you are at. Not everything is the same not every city does it the same way. In fact when we moved to Cali we struggled to make friends. Both Richard and I had issues breaking those barriers, being an outsider changes everything when trying to make friends. You have to adjust yourself to how things are done in the place you are at, otherwise you will end up quite lonely.