I had the incredible honor of interviewing one of my favorite people. The moment I saw her name I was intrigued and then I will admit I saw her. I instantly thought power, strength, and beauty. Her name is Charlese, the feminine of Charles, a name originating with Charlemagne (Charles the Great) and meaning Free Man. I know, a bit more of a history lesson about a name than you might have liked or even I intended, but sometimes a name just fits a person so well, and this one of those times.
Lesie of Lesie’s World lives up to the legacy of her name, even before I had exchanged a word with her I felt from her something ‘Great’. From Jamaica, that place where we all want to go, where legends of song and speed come from.
Without any further words from me, Meet . . .
RW: Lesie this is about the most I will say prior to a question during our time here today, but your writing, your style, your use of dialect, it is obvious Zora Neale Hurston is a huge influence on you. Your tag line is “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” by Z. N. Hurston, why that particular quote, and where did this influence come from?
LESIE: It’s funny you should ask this as I’ve never really heard of Hurston before I found her quote. I was revamping my blog and planning a wedding and I became overwhelmed with emotions. Her quote struck a once dormant chord within me and I had no choice but to express it. I felt capable of doing so much and more because of the love that circulates a life-changing event such as getting married (or having children, etc). Love really equips you with the courage to do and/or try the things that would normally scare you into hiding.
RW: I guess even I can be wrong sometimes, but I think you two have connected for a reason. Tell us about where you were born?
LESIE: I was born and raised in Kingston Jamaica, land of wood and water, sun, sea, and sand, and the home town of legends like Usain Bolt and Bob Marley. Jamaica is as tropical as it gets (in my opinion), with daily temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). Thankfully we have thick foliage and countless fruit trees, rivers, and the sea which is at most a 45 minute drive from anywhere on the island.
Our motto is “Out of Many, One People” which not only speaks to the diversity among us but also the fact that every and any one is welcome on dissa island. We are truly a welcoming people (some would say “we’re too welcoming”), pleasant and friendly, open and willing to make anyone feel comfortable. I feel like I’m biased in my description but honestly … there is no place and no one like us. Our food is rich with various seasons and spices (often with Indian and Asian influences) and can be rather spicy/hot for foreigners, but a jus so we like it. Oh and the jerk thing – you haven’t had real jerk anything until you’ve had jerked chicken or pork in Boston, Portland.
We are also musical bunch, and we loves to dance. On any given Friday night music can be heard, and almost every song has a dance to match. Wherever you go, be it the club, a party, a street dance, or concert, everybody dances in unison. It really is amusing to watch hordes of people dancing similarly to the same music; it’s rhythmic and to some extent ‘freeing’ or liberating, almost trance-like.
RW: And have you moved across the waters or still reside in the land ob Marley?
LESIE: I’m still in Jamaica. Like Dorothy said: “There is no place like home”. I’ve thought of living elsewhere but the truth is . . . “nowhere nuh good like yaad”. All Jamaicans would say that. I’d like to travel and learn about the other cultures of the world, but at the end of the day, I would come right back home.
RW: What’s your favorite thing about where you live now?
LESIE: The best part about living in Jamaica, is that my vacation is just a couple hours away, across the island; I don’t have to go anywhere else to vacation. If I need sun, sea, and sand, it’s right there on the north coast, a 2 – 4 hour drive. If I need nature, there is the Blue Mountains and the parishes of Portland in the north, and Manchester in the south. Even if I need to escape the tropical weather there are those areas as well.
RW: What do you think are the biggest differences in basic views of what are the important things of life between say Jamaica and the United States?
LESIE: I think the most important thing for people nowadays, is the ability to provide for our families. I think that is the biggest concern for most, whether we are Caribbean, American, European, etc. We all want to provide a better life for our young. How we do it though, is where we differ. Jamaicans are a resourceful set and seek the opportunity in everything. We’ll try to make a living doing anything we can think of.
So for argument sake, those of us who don’t wash our cars every week will have wind-shields with dust streaked across it for days. But for as long as I can remember we have these men on the streets called Sweegy men, who wait at stop-lights to clean our wind-shields. I don’t know if they exist elsewhere in the world under some other name, but that is an example of how we find opportunities in everything.
RW: What are some similarities that Americans, and maybe even Jamaicans might be surprised about?
LESIE: I would say we are very technologically driven based on the US consumer trends. To be honest, the latest greatest phones and tablets etc will cost an arm and a leg in Jamaica, but we’ll always have the next big thing. All you need to hear is “iPhone 7 will be out in . . .” and our boss has the iPhone 7 before the commercial is even done. I’m exaggerating but you get the idea.
RW: What are the fashion differences between the two countries?
LESIE: I’m not gonna lie, we do like to keep up with the trends. Sometimes we fail miserably, other times we over-reach. But in true Jamaican style, we want to make sure we stand out from the rest, even in our own land.
RW: For the female Friends reading, what are the differences in the personalities/characteristics or whatever you want to call it of the men of the two countries?
LESIE: I think in a lot of ways, Jamaican men and American men are quite similar. There are the loud and obnoxious kinds, the reserved and quiet ones, and the macho types. But I think the biggest difference has more to do with our – as we would say – broughtupsy (the way we were brought up by our mothers and grandmothers).
RW: What are the three most important things in your life?
LESIE: Sleep, and by sleep I mean undisturbed, restful, 8 hour or more sleep; the freedom and the ability to do what my heart so desires; and my husband.
LESIE: Oh, food! (smacks lips). Well, I do loves a nice bowl of stewed peas with rice and peas, or food like boil dumplings, yam, sweet potatoes, with a little potato salad on the side. Mmm I’m hungry now.
(The image is the best I could do. Looking at all the Jamaican foods was Jamaican me crazy hungry.)
LESIE: When I was a child spending the summer with my aunt in Pittsfield, I remember going to a fair and trying this sugary dough thing that was like heaven on a plate. I only had one that day but had I been an adult I probably would have had twenty. I don’t know the name, no one ever told me, but I remember it after all these years.
(This is a funnel cake which is a popular fair food here in the States. This might be what Lesie is talking about. If not, well it is still amazingly good)
RW: One of the things that one will notice when visiting your website for, well not long really, is your use of dialect, and very well done actually, although you haven’t read any of Z. N. Hurston yet do you intend to perhaps follow that path of dialect writing more moving forward?
LESIE: There is a quote (I cannot seem to find) that suggests as writers we should read and devour everything, for it is out of that that our writing styles emerge, by picking up little phrases here and there, and structures, etc. What you see on my blog is my own writing style influenced by any and everything I’ve read to date. I know there are books that I’ve fallen in love with the author’s writing style and I’ve subconsciously adopted some of those things from them. All writers do that. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of Hurston’s work, but I have committed it to memory. Who knows? I may fall in love with her style as well and it may manifest in some of my work eventually.
RW: I noticed there is a ‘THE BIG DAY’ page on your site. Can you tell us about that, and did it involve any specific Jamaican traditions?
LESIE: Oh yes, the Big Day. That was my wedding in April of this year, so I am still technically a newly-wed, right? *beams brightly* (lol). Funny enough I don’t think anything was uniquely Jamaican about that day. I did the ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ thing which isn’t Jamaican really. The ceremony was typical, as well as the reception, which was a small family dinner at a restaurant. I should really look into Jamaican Wedding Customs because, as I said, nothing out of the ordinary happened, which kind of makes it sound boring, but . . . I liked it, he and I had fun, and that’s what matters, right?!
RW: What is your favorite scent/aroma/fragrance and why?
LESIE: There is this plant (bush) in and around Kingston and for the life of me I cannot find it, or find the name of it. It smells of roasted sweet peppers. I cannot get enough of that smell, whenever I happen to find it.
RW: What is your favorite beverage?
LESIE: I am a sucker for Bailey’s Rum Cream, although I do love a good Mojito and my special concoction is a Lemonade with Vodka (any other variation of that).
RW: Finally what is your favorite word and why?
LESLIE: I thought long and hard about this one. Turns out I don’t have a favourite word so much as I have a favourite phrase. I tend to tell people about their ‘backsides’ when they’ve said something unfavourable to me. It’s not meant as a disrespect or anything like that, I’m actually being playful in my dismissal . . . is that even possible? But this is how it works: Whatever you may say to me, my response would be “Yuh backside”. I’m known for saying it to the point where some will pre-empt me and say it before I can, just so I don’t, in fact, tell them about their ‘backside’.
First I want to thank Lesie for agreeing to the interview. It was a long process from beginning to end but we finally made it. I think it was worth it. There are a ton of questions I should have asked now that I’ve finished this interview but perhaps another time.
I have to be honest with y’all. When I approached Lesie for this interview I was under the impression she was now living in the States. So this was to be a Cross Culture interview. Then she told me she was still in Jamaica and asked me if that made a difference. My response was . . . well you just read an interview. People that knew I was interviewing Lesie have been asking about this for a long time. I finally just had to push everything else away, ignore what keeps me from writing most days and get this done. I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure to visit Lesie at her website/blog Lesie’s World and Follow her on Twitter
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