What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in French Guiana?

In our “Jamaicans to the World” series, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Keneice. She is a Jamaican living in French Guiana.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in French Guiana? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of, and today in Jamaicans to the World, I will be talking to Keneice Lawson, a Jamaican that’s living there in French Guiana. Keneice, how are you?

Keneice: I’m fine, Xavier, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m healthy. COVID free.

Xavier: Good. I love the headdress there. I love it.

Keneice: I shouldn’t be giving you too many secrets, Xavier. Thank you. But, you know when you haven’t combed your hair, you just have to throw something on. Praise God for the ancestors who thought about these things. They come in handy.

Xavier: Well, it luk (look) good, it luk (look) good.

Keneice: Thank you. Representing.

Xavier: First question. Suh (So) which paat (part) of Jamaica yuh (you) cum (come) from?

Keneice: This is a tricky question to answer. I was born in Montego Bay, but I grew up in Mandeville, so I’m a Montegoneion, and Mandivillian. I don’t even know if that exists (laughter)

Xavier: I think is the first I hear that one, But

Keneice: We can stick it somewhere in a dictionary somewhere.

Xavier: You can coin it and get the rights. So, which school yuh (you’re) representing?

Keneice: Chester, all the time. Chester! all the time. Manchester High School. I have no regrets. It was my first choice, and I’m so happy to be a product of that institution.

Xavier: Great, great. So, tell me how you got to the French Guiana.

French Guiana Plaza

Keneice: How much time we have (laughter). The short version is I applied to be an Assistant. But there’s a Language Assistantship Program where students from all over the world are asked to teach their first language in French speaking countries. Usually, Jamaicans are sent to France. So, I applied to the program, I was unsuccessful and at the very last minute, they called me. I remember the day just like it was yesterday. They called me and they said, “We have one spot available, but it won’t be for France, it will be for a little place called French Guiana. Are you still interested? And I was like, hell yeah! And so here I am. I did the program twice. The second time I applied, and they accepted and things just happened. It was just one thing after the other. A colleague who went on maternity leave, she asked me to replace her, and then shortly after I was employed, and today, I’m still here.

Xavier: How many years?

Keneice: Since 2015. I first came here in 2015, and I was talking to somebody yesterday and to me, it feels just like yesterday. It feels like yesterday, but many moons ago.

Xavier: Did you know where, because I’m gonna be honest with you, we hear about Guyana all the time, barely hear about French Guiana.

Keneice: To be very honest with you, I had never heard of French Guiana. When she said French Guiana, I was like yes! In my head, I was like, where and I think everybody else around me thought it was in Africa. And people were like, ah, but it’s in Africa. You know, don’t come back with this, and I was like, no, something’s off and I did my research, and that’s when I discovered that it’s in South America. It’s nestled between Suriname and Brazil. Brazil to the east, Suriname to the west. Very close to the equator. It’s a melting pot, a melting pot, and I’m happy, I have no regrets. I have no regrets.

Xavier: If you’re close to the equator, what’s the temperature like.

Keneice: You can imagine, the heat! tun up (turn up). It is so hot and humid. It is extremely hot. I remember when I came here the first time, I thought I was going to die and they sent me to this remote area of French Guiana called the Grand-Santi which is a – it’s a commune which is only accessible by boat or plane, so can imagine. I just came here, you know at the time I was living in Kingston and so you know as a country girl turn city girl, now turn village girl. My mind was completely blown and it was just hot like sweltering heat. The sky was just red-blue. Not a cloud, nothing to shade you. It was – I have never experienced anything like it. Never in my life and you can imagine with the heat comes mosquito. So, it’s a whole package (laughter).

Xavier: In terms of the people, what are the people like there?

Keneice: Wow! I mentioned the term melting pot. We have a lot of immigrants, you do have French Guianese, people who were born here on this territory in this territory. But then you have a lot of immigrants coming in. We have a lot of Haitians we have the indigenous peoples; they’re still here. A lot of Amerindians, we do have among the community. So, people from Laos were given, a good space of land, and they have inhabited that space for a number of years. They have integrated into the culture, into the community. You do have I said Haitians, you do have a lot of Peruvians. Recently, we’ve had a lot of Syrians, we have a lot of people from the Dominican Republic, from all over, a lot of Africans. When I say a melting pot, you know how or motto or Jamaican Moto, is one of many one people, I think, French Guiana could borrow, ‘out of many’. They’re not quite one, but out of many. And just like everywhere else in the world, you can imagine there’s a huge Chinese community. It is really a melting pot. That is the best word I can use to describe it. And as a result, when I go to the supermarket as a teacher in the classroom walking in the hallway, I hear so many languages, there’s no way you can live in French Guiana and only speak one language. Luckily for me, I speak English. French here is the first language, but I now have to learn – I didn’t even mention the Brazilians, oh my goodness! there is a huge Brazilian community. There’s a huge Surinamese community, there’s a huge Guyanese community. I forgot about them. I’m hearing Guianese Patios, I’m hearing Surinamese, I’m hearing Dutch, and I’m hearing Dutch Creole. And I’m hearing traditional tribal tongue, because we have a lot of tribal communities. The groups like the Ndyuka people or the Aloku tribes, they’re here, you have Amerindian communities with their languages, you have the Brazilians, I have to learn Portuguese, I had somebody who sent me a message in Portuguese and I was there like, the little assignment, I was able to respond. There’s so many languages that you have to assimilate and try as best as possible to learn so you can function and navigate things here. It’s very interesting, very interesting. By the time I go back home, I think I probably speak five languages that’s the goal

Xavier: The dominant language is which one. Which is the dominant language?

Keneice: French

Xavier: And do you know French?

Keneice: Well, I have no choice. I have no choice. I’m a Teacher and one of the very first rules is that I have to master the language. Have I mastered it? 100%, or the way I would like to? Not exactly but you know, it’s getting there. And I’m able to manage and function and I’m able to fool some people. Back in the day with my accent, people automatically knew I wasn’t from French Guiana, but now I don’t get that question as much. When I tell people, I’m from Jamaica, they are like, “ahh, how come, I didn’t hear an accent. Ah, but your French” is good”. And am like, yeah girl. Took a while to get there though, because it was rough at first, it was very rough, but. Since we’re on the topic of languages, I’ll give you a little anecdote. I had a car problem recently, and the mechanic who came, he’s Haitian and he was speaking to me only in Creole and I could not understand a thing. I kept on saying to him, I don’t understand, he insisted and let’s just say at the end of our communication, he went his way I went my way and nobody understood the other, not one of us. And I called the person who recommended me and I said, “look here the next time you see a mechanic who speaks Creole, please, you need to come I need a translator, I cannot deal. Now I know I have to learn Haitian Creole and there’s a difference because there’s French Guyanese Creole and Haitian Creole and we have a lot of Haitian students and so you can imagine sometimes they’re probably saying things and I’m pretending as though I understand; I don’t understand a thing.

Xavier: Let’s hope they don’t see this video.

Keneice: You know what, even if they do, many of them would not understand a lick of it. It works out fine. I’ll use it as motivation, if yuh (you)
want to understand what I was saying about yuh (you), you need to study your English Lesson.

Xavier: With all these languages, is there… I think you mentioned there is a, I hate the term Creole sometimes because they call Jamaican Patois Creole, but it’s actually the Jamaican Language. Is there a language that is there for the people that were originally…

Keneice: Of course, and it’s held to a higher standard and a higher level of respect to compared to or Jamaican patois, in that it is taught in schools. This is actually a subject you can do at the exam level, just as we would for A levels or CXC, there is an exam in Creole. And it’s very interesting to see how my colleagues, tried to plan their lessons and do their lesson plans, it is actually something that is taught there is a standard. I do know, at some time or another, we were trying the same thing, and then the Patios Bible book was released. But I know in Jamaica is going to take a whole mental change, people have to, we’ll have to learn how to adapt to it. I’m not sure the Jamaican community or the Jamaican population is quite ready for it when it gets here, but here in French Guiana, it’s really respected, highly regarded and it’s taught in schools.

Xavier: I see. I think, maybe we need to look at that example, as we go further down that route, probably the example we need to look at.

Keneice: Trying to standardize it, and how well people will receive that aspect of it. I think we have gotten so accustomed to Miss Lou’s way of writing when I saw the Patios Bible, but I was shocked at first, I was like, “what is this?” Luckily, I had an idea of how phonetics work and I was able to navigate my way through the book, but it was it very difficult at first, and I can imagine the shock that people went through when they saw it, first glance, it was a bit challenging. And we have to get to the point where we’re willing to standardize it and people have to accept it have to adapt.

Xavier: It gwine tek (going to take) a generation or two

Keneice: Generation, I think we might be getting on to three now. Two or three

Xavier: A gwine (I am going to) switch up things a little bit and talk about food. Let me not ask what’s the food like, let me seh (say) this. If I was to come there, what would be the two things yuh seh (you say), yuh gwine have to try these 2 tings here

Keneice: I can only give you two, good God!

Xavier: Yuh (you) can gimme (give) me more if yuh (you) want

Keneice: You can imagine with a melting pot, nuff (a lot) of food a cum (coming) out a di melting pot you can imagine, good. Dis (this) pat (pot) have hole heap (a lot of) food, because there is so many different cultures. You have the Chinese community, they have their dishes, you have the Hmong community, they have their dishes, the Haitian community, they have their thing, the Brazilian community, they have their thing. Every community comes, of course, with their dish, their dishes and they bring everything to the table. It’s a big, big table, is a big potluck you can imagine. But if I had to recommend something, first of all, the challenge for me is that I’m vegetarian. There are so many things here that I cannot get to enjoy, but based on experience, and observation, I’d have to recommend “bouillon d’aurora”. This is a dish that’s usually eaten during Easter. The main ingredient is a fruit from the palm tree called Awara and it’s a dish that has a lot of meat in it and so you have their version of jerk chicken which is called pulabukeni, you have I think is there a fish in there, there’s pig’s tail, cow foot, everything is in there and imagine you have this fruit that is the main ingredient holding it together. I don’t know if I want to eat it but I’ve heard it’s good and the legend is that if you eat it and you like it when you’re definitely going to come back to French Guiana. I didn’t eat it but I’m back. I don’t know how that works. If I’d pick a favorite, I love Bannann Peze which is from the Haitian community, which is basically pressed plaintain and like a coldslaw, which is what they call pikliz, and it’s usually served with pork or beef I’m not quite sure but I only have the coleslaw and the press plantains. And then from the Brazilian community good, God! There are so many things, yuh just ave fi cum (you just have to come), yuh ave fi cum (you have to come). You have Columbo, which is their version of a curried chicken, which also has a lot of different ingredients in there. But there are other things that I enjoy being vegetarian. Because they eat a lot of fruits from the palm tree, Acai for example, was considered is still considered a superfood. Here we get it dirt cheap, whereas in the States, it’s very expensive. I Pay six Euros, I get a liter of it, and I can have it for breakfast with my cereal. That’s something I really love. There’s also a fruit called parippu, which is again from the palm tree another fruit from the palm tree. I love it. You have it salted it’s boiled in water, and it’s salt and it is really, oh!. It’s almost like having I don’t know how to describe it, yuh just affi cum (you just have to come)! yuh just affi cum (you have to come)!
yuh just affi cum (you just have to come) and taste everything tastes and see.

Xavier: It sounds like a foodie will have a ball.

Keneice: Definitely, definitely. With the different communities that exist, you are sure to have a very good tasting, nice taste test. It gives you a good idea of what’s going on here in South America. And you get a little taste of what’s going on another continent because I think probably every continent is represented here in some way or another.

Xavier: Let me ask you this. Are you getting your Jamaican food there? Or is there anything that in particularly that you miss and you don’t get there?

Keneice: Everything, everything Xavier. There’s nothing here. Well, no, I lie, no. Recently, I discovered Ackee, Ackee is here. Somebody called me and said, “there’s a tree that looks a lot like the Ackee Tree, can you come and check it out”. This was like two years ago and I went and I swear wata cum a mi yai (water came to my eye). I was so happy it was Ackee. I picked some I think the other day I cooked some. I’m vegetarian and I went and I got some saltfish and I said no for dis (this) day I need to have the full dish. I had myself a nice Ackee and Saltfish with Breadfruit. And you know what is funny here in French Guiana, they do not respect the breadfruit. It angers me, the breadfruit is wasted they give it to pigs and to dogs and I was like, what! Breadfruit is here in abundance and now I have discovered. Discovered? I’m talking as though I’m Christopher Columbus but the Ackee tree is here and I’ve enjoyed it I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy it and I have planted it and I’m trying to see how well it will grow. It is growing and I’m hoping it will get to the point where I can transplant it and re-pot it and get a nice full Ackee Tree out of it and enjoy my Ackee.

Xavier: Old wives tale which I never believe we had an Ackee Tree that wouldn’t grow and we had it quite a few years maybe over 10 years, wud’n (would not) move. A lady said to me, yuh (you) talk to the tree and threaten it and we went out and talked to the tree and threatened the tree. My wife even bruk (broke) a branch off a di (of the) tree and guess what, within a couple months the tree push out and start push out Ackee.

Keneice: Well, you know what, at this point it’s just a baby so I don’t want to abuse the baby yet. When we get a little teenager may I’ll try a thing, but I will keep that in mind. I thought we were supposed to be kind to plants. I always heard that plants could reacted based on how we spoke to, but I always heard that you should feed them with nurturing words, but dat (that) don’t sound like nurturing at all that sound like abuse. I’ll wait until later down.
There are lots of things I miss. I miss my Banana Chips, I miss Patty. I have cried so many times

Xavier: Chippies!

Keneice: Chippies! but there’s also a banana… There’s a brand I don’t even know if it still exists. It’s called Maroon Pride. Maroon Pride hands down the best banana chips I’ve ever had in my life, but Chippies is a close second. Maroon Pride is very hard to find, yuh haffi (you have to) come from Mobay.

French Guiana Path

Xavier: Never had it.

Keneice: Yuh haffi guh Mobay (you have to go to Montego Bay), Mobay (Montego Bay) country to find Maroon Pride, but Chippies and a (I) miss a Patty like I’ve cried tears for Patty. I think that’s the number one thing I miss, Patty, probably a likkle bun and you know what is funny, My mother sent me some Tastee Cheese in the tin. And everybody who saw it here in French Guiana laughed at me because France is known for its Cheeses; their different varieties of cheese. When you come with your cheese now in a tin, everybody was looking at me like, ‘what is that?’. What kind of industrial sumting (something) this, no, no, yuh sure yuh nah gwine sick (no, no, you sure your not going to get sick). I said no, this for us is the norm. They had a whale of a time making fun of me. I wasn’t embarrassed though I enjoyed my Tastee Cheese and this was a couple years ago and mi (I) neva (never) shame. Mi I) eat mi (my) bun and cheese and mi gwaan mi way (I go om my ways)

Xavier: What to people think of Jamaicans there? What is their impression What what what?

Keneice: Jamaica is a loud country and Jamaicans are loved people. The moment I say I’m Jamaican, the reaction is usually, “oh my God! Are you from Kingston? Or do you know Bob Marley? He’s dead. Do you know Usain, I know of him, have never met him in person. Those are the questions I get. Are you the only one here? Oh! I’ve never seen a Jamaican passport, But I can feel it I can sense it when I listen to their music. Here French Guiana, they have their version of French reggae and French dancehall and first time I heard it. I was convinced I was listening to a Jamaican artist. It was only when I listened and realized I didn’t understand the lyrics.
I was like, “What am I listening to? It is the exact thing. Apart from the language, the music, everything, the beat the vibe. I feel like I’m listening to our music. They have copied it to the letter. It is so impressive the reggae, the dancehall. I’ve gone to a lot of workshops, where they’ve done dancehall classes and I’ve seen some people and a seh (I say), dem dance better than me, well, I can’t dance. You can imagine, I was embarrassed. And automatically people say, yeah! Jamaican, do your thing, and I’m like, “hmm” they have really embraced our culture and taken it for themselves. I have never seen anything like it. I have never seen anything like it. But it’s quite impressive to see and to experience.

Xavier: Wow! That’s good to know. Speaking of experience, speaking of culture, and also music and so on. I understand that there is Carnival there in French Guiana

Keneice: There is a Carnival unlike any other anyone from Jamaica has ever seen. I think Jamaicans, we’re in little, little bubble, we have seen probably Carnival in Trinidad, we have seen our Carnival, we have seen what they do for Crop over in Barbados, maybe the London Carnival, or maybe you have gone to New Orleans, but what is here in French Guiana is the only Carnival of its kind. I have never seen anything like it. And it was quite an experience. The first time I came, first of all, Carnivalis the most important thing to French Guianese people. It’s not Christmas, Christmas is dead, New Year’s dead, any other holiday, dead, but Carnival. Everything annually is in preparation for Carnival. Decorations are put up for Carnival, everything is for carnival. And it’s something you have to learn, you cannot just come in and sey buoy (say boy), mi a go (I am going) fling up mi (throw up my) foot and dance. Everything is very specific, you really do have to learn the culture behind it. Now, there are two things I’ll tell you very quickly, there is what they call Touloulou and Tululu But before we get into Touloulou and Tululu let us talk about the music. You know how we have our Soca and what else we have? Lawd of his mercy (Lord have mercy) bwoy (boy) this is what happens when yuh (you’re) gone from yuh (your) yaad (yard) too long, but anyway. (laugh)

Xavier: Yuh (you) have the music

Keneice: Anyway, here they have two styles of Carnival music. You have Mazurka and Beguine and the dance moves are very, very specific. You have to learn them, why, if you do go to what is called “A Dancing”, so, like what they call “A University”, these are the official “Dance Halls”, for these carnival settings. If you go in and attempt to do something else the band will stop

Xavier: How you mean stop? Stop play music?

Keniece: Dem (They) stop playing the music and dem (they) tek (take) you off of the floor. because the thing is, it’s a live musical event. This is, imagine you have the same bands playing week after week, for two-month, live music, singing nonstop, and this is from normally, let’s say 8:00 p.m. until sometimes 5:00 a.m., some songs are like 5 minutes, 7 minutes song, and you cannot stop midway a song, you cannot stop dancing, you have to go to the end of the song. Let me tell you what happens now; you have what it called “touloulou”and tololo; so “touloulou” is for the women, and tololo is the men. What happens is the woman is disguised so the “touloulou” is disguised from head to toe, everything, mask, gloves, some people will go as far as putting in contacts. The only thing we can see on you would be eyes, that’s it. And everything is disguised, everything is covered, and you go to these events, and what happens is the men wait on the sidelines and the “touloulou” invites the man to dance. The man cannot dance unless he is invited.

Xavier: By a woman?

Keniece: Some men will pay their money, and not dance. by a “touloulou” because something you don’t know who is disguised, in this day and age, can be anybody. But its usually a woman. And what happens is someone will pay their money and they will never dance for the entire night because nobody has invited them to dance.

Once you get on the dance floor you listen to the music that the band is playing, whether it is Mazurka or Beguine you dance based on the specific dance moves, and you dance for the entire song. There’s a part in the song called “PK juck”, you can imagine what that is. There’s at least one word in there that we can understand; the “juck”; But it is not; when I say it very coordinated, it’s a very specific dance movement, you have to do it, yuh caan go in there and said bwoy mi ago bruck it up, bruck it down, tun up spin weh pon mi head; no! (you can’t go in there and say boy, I am going to break it down, turn up, spin away on my head) it’s really specific.

Tololo now, is the other thing, is the other way around where the men are disguised; and you know that this was recent Tololo is recent, because the men thought it was unfair, they got there thing recently, probably the last 10 years or so. And the men are disguised and the women wait on the sidelines and have to wait patiently until they’re invited to dance. It is a site to behold, because these costumes are not fancy, these are they look like these old Victorian dresses, you look like a cross between a Nun and a queen. I don’t know how to explain it.

Xavier: Are they colorful; are they colorful costumes?

Keniece: Colourful, colourful costumes. But the whole carnival thing is so interesting to observe because even to start the carnival they have a, a carnival king that is selected and his name is Vaval, and the costume changes every year. And so, he chooses a queen who also has a costume; and those two reign for the carnival period. And then after the carnival period, Vaval is burned; it a whole; I’ve never seen anything like it. I went to one “touloulou” event, when I first came here and I don’t think I would ever do it again, but it was; I went home soaking wet and tired, and it was just something I have never, never experience anything else like this

Xavier: Let me ask you this, this is not that in the streets now? this is at a location where they do their celebration?

Keniece: Well, the “touloulou” and the Tololo events happen once per week, and these are at specific locations, but they do have their regular marching bands every Sunday; every Sunday for the two months or so. And that is a whole other thing, because you have what is called the Red Wedding towards the end where everybody is dressed in red, and then you have what it called the wedding where the men are disguised as women, and they wear wedding gowns; it’s a whole; look here you have to come.

Xavier: Men are disguised as woman wearing wedding dresses?

Keniece: Yes, you heard me right; and the women are disguised as men in their suites.

Xavier: This sound like a different type of carnival to me

Keniece: It’s a different type of carnival, a different type of carnival, and it’s the most important event for them.

Xavier: When does it happen?

Keniece: Normally February. So right after, epiphany, is it? So, February and march normally there about, it all depends on when Easter falls and how that whole season work out, but normally February and March there about. But there are so many other interesting things to see; I mean, we would have to talk for a good two hours for me to tell you everything. If you have heard of for example the movie capioun which is based on the salvation Island, which was a penitentiary Island, they used to send all the criminal there. It’s right here in French Guiana, you have to; it’s a nice boat ride out, you have three Islands. So, there are very notable areas here. You have areas such as Marie Decau [28:40] which is almost like a Crocodile Dundee experience, you go out on boat you catching crocodiles and observing them, and there are so many things to do, so many things to do. You have to come and experience it for yourself.

French Guiana Island

Xavier: What would you say apart from the heat because being well adjusted there? But what would you?

Keniece: see even now I am sweating right now; Lord have mercy!

Xavier: What was the most difficult adjustment for you when you moved there?

Keniece: I think pace, the pace is a lot slower compared to Jamaica. For example, at mid-day, almost everything is closed from; other than large supermarkets, but everything else is closed. Business entities are closed; then you’re thinking; but how can people close this is when you supposed to be open, so when people leave work, they can get stuff done. But lunch time is so important to them that at midday everything is closed. And you have to wait for good two, three hours before things reopened, or entities or business places reopen. The pace is very slow. I have been invited to peoples’ lunch parties and so on, even on a regular Sunday dinner. And I remember being panicky because I’m thinking, ‘crap’, I need to go wash my clothes this is the day I do laundry; this is the day I do my housework; this is the day I plan for the week, but everybody just sitting there lounging at the dinner table for the entire day, and I was like what’s going on? The pace was really difficult to adjust to. I don’t think I’ve ever; and I don’t think I will ever, because the Jamaican in me just cannot.

Xavier: We love soon come too; what you saying this is soon come is soon come to the extreme?

Keniece: Exactly. exactly. They have taken irie (okay) to the extreme; we put it like that. And I think the language was not French necessarily but the other languages, being compounded with all of these different languages, that was pretty difficult to adjust to, because you automatically assumed okay if I master French, I’ll be able to manage anything and anybody but you encounter somebody who speaks Portuguese, and that person doesn’t speak French, you realize, oh Lord, now I need to learn another language. That was definitely one thing I had to adjust to and I’m still adjusting.

Xavier: You talked about the two hours closure, maybe sometimes three hours closure in the day. That sounds like a merging of cultures because I know in some Latin American countries there is siesta in the middle of the day, or what.

Keniece: You see this is how languages is so interesting, because you said siesta, and in French it’s called siesto, what they; nap time, is very important and I am like, are you guys’ children, what’s going on. But you come to appreciate it in a sense, because we come from a culture where we were told, if you want good yuh (your) nose have to run, is like if you want good you have to suffer, you have to overwork, you always have to go above and beyond. And they’re like, you don’t have to go above and beyond, you can just do what is enough, get to the limit. You don’t have to go beyond the limits, and so I can appreciate where, that is coming from. Because I think as Jamaicans, we can benefit from that as well. Get a little rest, rest your body a little, but I think we are taking it too hard. Sometimes.

Xavier: You have gotten used to it?

Keniece: No! I haven’t gotten used to it, but I understand the thinking behind it.

Xavier: Okay.

Keniece: It will take some deconstruction of my Jamaicaness, for me to really embrace it.

Xavier: On a serious note, what’s cost of living like in French Guiana?

Keniece: Compared to Jamaica I would; well, it depends. comparing to Jamaica I wouldn’t say it’s very high, but people from France, metropolitan France would come here because French Guiana is an overseas department of France. When people from metropolitan France come here, they are very surprised because things are sometimes three times more expensive here than in France. If we want to compare it in that light:

Xavier: Three times more expensive than France?

Keniece: Yeah, I kid you not: things here are, because they’re importing everything so things here are three times more expensive. A house more expensive, a car is more expensive, food is more expensive compared to metropolitan France. And let me give you an example, even something as simple as a plane ticket, it’s cheaper for you to get a plane ticket from metropolitan France from Paris to French Guiana than for you to get the tickets from French Guinan to Paris. You can get a ticket, for example, at EU400.00 to come from Paris, to travel from Paris to French Guiana, where as a ticket from French Guiana to Paris would be EU800.00. Unless you’re having some promotion or something of the sort. But the difference is really; it steers you right in the face, and that’s quite unfortunate, just definitely one thing. Compared to Jamaica, I would not say the cost of living is high.

Xavier: Okay. What advice if a Jamaican or anybody was thinking of moving there? What advice would you give them?

Keniece: Be open minded, be adventurous, because you don’t know where you will end up. Like I said, I ended up in Brasaunsea a place back a God; but I had a wonderful experience. You have to be open minded. You have to love adventure, you have to love nature because whether you live in the city; I didn’t live in the city and every two months or so, I have Tarantulas that appear in my bathroom or in my living room:

Xavier: The big…?

Keniece: Yes, yes, you might come upon snakes; or you know, there’s so many different; I wouldn’t even talk about that: the diversity in terms of Flora and Fauna, like I come across so many Sloths, so many monkeys.

Xavier: You Talking the Sloths that are in the tree, right?

Keniece: Yes. But sometimes they cross the street; sometimes you see them crossing the street or crossing the electrical wires. You just have to be very open to what the country has to offer because if I came here with a close mind, I think I would have gone back home. And I’ve seen many people who have come here who have gone back on the first flight out because they weren’t ready: the heat the mosquitos, the cultural differences, the language, it’s a lot it can be bombarded by it. Well, you just have to be open minded and everything; you have to view it as an adventure. If you’re ready for an adventure, then, welcome.

Xavier: How you? I have to ask the question because I know we fraid (afraid) a lizard?

Keniece: Let me tell you; Lord have mercy. I have accepted them because I have so many; I know that their schedule: like in my kitchen, just about 6 O’clock; like when they come at 5:30 I run them I say no hunnu (you) too early t0o early. 6:30; 6-6:30 there about 7:00 I have my little lizard friends and they come in I have to make sure I wash all my dishes; once I even filmed one once, the thing was there drinking my soy milk; I had a box; you know, when you trying to get down to the last dregs the last drop and you cut the side of the box? And I left the open box there and it was finished. So, I was going to throw it out and I saw the lizard there licking away at the side of the box, and I was like where the six lizards; no man them either them lizard yah spoiled, because this lizard was drinking soy milk, soy milk; you did know say lizard drink soy milk? I have accepted them as my; I don’t, know what to call them; roommates? they not paying rent so I can’t call them my tenants?

They come and as them please. I’ve had to get used to it. I’ve had to get you. I cannot imagine my mother being here though she would have a heart attack and she would die.

Xavier: My house is the same thing, I can’t imagine the littlest lizard and the world is ending.

Keniece: I’m at the point now where I’m trying to touch them. I am curious to see if can keep one as my pet.

Xavier: What!

Keniece: At that point, can you imagine? Remember I say you have to be open minded man; you have to be open minded. I’m at that point. My mummy said no beg somebody else, get an exterminator, I said mummy, but we are in their territory, this is not like Jamaica where we have cow and dog: stray cow and dog. I have stray lizard, stray spiders, stray snakes, stray sloths, we’re in their territory.

French Guiana Building

Xavier: Keniece listen, thank you very much for sharing your story with us.

Keniece: Thank you so much for heaving me.

Xavier: A taste, here is how I typically end.

Keniece: Lord have mercy!

Xavier: No, it’s not a question. I need to know how to say goodbye in the French Guiana creole.

Keniece: Oh my gosh. How do we say a goodbye in French Guianese creole? wolala;

Xavier: Is it wolala?

Keniece: No! I don’t remember, and that’s a shame; (mocapatie) ???. I don’t even remember, you know, I’m going to; I hope nobody see; nobody from French Guiana sees this interview because they going to stone me for it. But I’ll give you, another expression, if you want to say, “I speak creole” you say, “mukapolicreole”.

Xavier: Mocapolicreole?

Keniece: Mokapolicreole

Xavier: Okay, how do I say I don’t speak creole?

Keniece: We’ll end the interview here I don’t remember; is it? “mukapolicreole”.
I don’t know, I don’t know, please Lord don’t let anybody see this interview. Fake it till you make it.

Xavier: All right, Keniece thank you very much again and we will catch up.

Keniece: Thanks for having me.

Photos  – Deposit Photos

About the author

Xavier Murphy