Caribbean student beckons bayou life

ULM Hawkeye

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Kelsey J. Sparke is a freshman Speech Language Pathology major from Jamaica. Jamaica is one of the Caribbean Island countries in the North American Continent.

“Jamaica is just a small dot on the map. But, there are Jamaicans all over the world, from Alaska to Asia,” said Sparke.

Jamaica has a very diverse population. There are people with African, Indian, Chinese and Arabic heritage.  “In my class, thirty percent of the students were Indian, twenty five percent were Chinese and we even had some Irish,” said Sparke.

However, Jamaica does have an autonomous, inaccessible tribe called the Maroon tribe which opens to public only during Tribal festivals. The tribesmen produce their own cloths, grow their food and have tribe schools for their children.

“The tribes are not gated, but we (locals) do not go there as it is considered offensive,” Sharpe added.

Jamaican cuisine is a mixture of various cultures. They have daal and roti (Indian origin) and fried rice with soy sauce (Chinese origin).

The national food, however, is Ackee and salted fish. Ackee is a fruit with a poisonous sac in between. Sharpe said that people have even died by eating an undercooked Ackee.

During February, Jamaicans have the Jerk festival where top chefs of the parishes have a cook off. The festival travels all around Jamaica and the final takes place in Kingston (the capital). Besides the match, there are many different food stalls and a lot of testers.

“We love to party. There is a party going on every day, both for the youths and the adults,” Sparke said.

Jamaican parties are usually on the streets or at the beaches and consist of Creech (coordinated dance), dancehall (Jamaican hip-hop) and lots of food.

Since Jamaica is an island country, there are beaches everywhere. The most popular is the “James Bond” beach in Ocho Rios, which has crystal clear water on three sides and a mountainous backdrop.

“My favorite is the “Winnifred” beach. It is secluded and is surrounded by beaches and waterfalls. That’s where Beyonce stayed when she came to Jamaica,” Sharpe said.

Jamaicans believe in traditional treatment. They have various medicinal teas for different diseases.

“We make tea from “leaf of life.” It is a plant that helps cure stomachache, headache, cold, fever and lots of other sickness,” Sharpe said.

Jamaicans also use a fruit called Noni which has a very pungent smell. Noni juice is said to cure severe fever, diarrhea and other extreme conditions. Some even use Noni for cancer.

Coconut is an essential in the Jamaican lifestyle. Coconut oil is used for cooking, as a conditioner and as moisturizer. Families have coconut beauty therapies passed on from generations.

In the Caribbean, the Jamaican coconut pack is just as prevalent in popularity as it is in nutrients among the culture. The coconut pack consists of crushed nutmeg, corn meal, shea butter, coconut oil and lavender-vanilla scent. Sparke explained that by mixing all these ingredients together and allowing the nutrients to sit for 30 minutes on the face before washing helps to reduce acne and soothes skin.

Sparke is also a member of the ULM African-Caribbean Association. This organization helps to publicize African-Caribbean heritage and bring together students from the region. Being involved on campus is a passion of Sharpe’s as well as helping to join the international student population together as one. For Sharpe—the bayou is a second home.

Story written by: Sisam Shrestha-  [email protected] and
Kandice Johnson- [email protected]