Plus ca change… – The more things change…
Leave it to me to incite gossip (and subsequent debate) at my job. A teacher with whom I often speak approached me on Thursday and asked me for five minutes of my time. I thought it odd she was being so formal with me since she’s one of the younger teachers on staff and we’ve often spoken about n’importe quoi. She told me that four teachers had asked her to speak to me regarding the way I dress at school and that I should reconsider the image I am portraying to students.
“Bless you??” Let me preface this situation by saying that I own three 3 pieces of clothing that cover my legs: a pair of jeans, a pair of grey dress pants, and a pair of black leggings. For the most part, I wear the dress pants and alternate them with some long and loose tops. Furthermore, I was told that anything is fine “as long as I don’t look like I’m going to the beach.” Most of the teachers wear jeans. I am always fully covered, baring no tattoos except the one on my wrist. So I have a nose piercing and my hair is a little wild… I don’t understand what image I’m portraying? Let’s also keep in mind that I’m an assistant and the reason I was hired was not only to add cultural substance to English class, but also because we are closer in age and it’s supposed to give students a relatable connection to English.
Upon telling this to a couple teachers, one a self-identified Rasta and the other a teacher who frequents the local bar scene, they said that it is likely the teachers from the métropole who were saying these things and that they seem to not understand that the culture is different here to begin with. The Rasta teacher said they used to complain about his beard, saying that it was unprofessional. He also said that these teachers would probably be more comfortable if either one of us combed our hair. The teachers I spoke to turned it into a racial/cultural issue, said I shouldn’t worry about it because the students and (most) teachers respect me as an assistant.
I considered staying true to my Equity studies major and writing a short rant about the difficulty of defining the issues of neo-colonialism in Martinique because of its status as a department of France…but the then I realized it would not be short. I had an interesting conversation with a woman on the taxico today about cultural loss. She said that most people today will not teach Créole to their children and that if Martinique became independent from France, there would be little left in terms of language, customs, cultural cuisine, etc. She said that people want their children to learn other languages because it will help with tourism to the island. When I visisted La Savane des Esclaves, the tour guide mentioned that there is quite a bit of loss of traditional ways of life here. Saddy 🙁
All in all, I won’t change the way I dress at work… people are clearly bored with themselves. I also think I should try a little harder to learn and experience more cultural things here. I did say that I’m settled in, but the whole point of me being here is to be unsettled. Try something different, meet new people…maybe I’ll learn a little bélè or take a creole cooking class (yum, accras!). On that note, I must go find my landlady. I’ve run out of gas for my gas stove and my belly is a-growlin’.