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“I will be waiting outside of Ciao Cafe,” she had said. As I drive up to the cafe now, I see her on the steps and recognise her, even though we have met only once before, briefly, early in 2013, at a dimly-lit outdoor meeting.
She gets into my vehicle, we greet each other and I continue driving. En route, we talk, about our mutual German friend, through whom we met, and about Jean’s uncle, who recently passed away and whose illness was the catalyst for her return to Tobago from Germany, where she had spent decades as a successful jazz and blues singer. She does most of the talking, somehow managing to fit most of her interesting life story into the short drive from Scarborough to Crown Point.
I learn of her journey as a young woman decades ago, moving from Tobago to Germany to pursue musical dreams, her challenges, her triumphs, her loves, her losses, her daughter, her band, her feelings about returning home, her uncle, his death and her morning power walks, on which she takes determined steps while reciting affirmations silently or aloud, to set an empowering tone for her day.
She strikes me as a simple, self-confident woman; one who has learned to stand tall and claim the best for herself through perseverance and positivity. As she talks, I glance now and then at her, noting mannerisms and facial expressions. “You know who you remind me of?” I ask. “Who?” “Tina Turner!” It’s not just the wild shock of hair. It’s also the mannerisms, the way her nose and mouth are shaped and move together, the peaceful yet powerful tone of voice and the fact that she is a performer.