Sat | Feb 13, 2016

Olga's got a big crush on Jamaica

Published:Saturday | August 24, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Olga Kalashnikova displaying her backpack with Bob Marley's photo. - Photo by Gordon Williams

Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

MOSCOW, Russia:

Bolt she knows. His photograph was plastered all over this city during the IAAF World Championships in Athletics (WCA). But 22-year-old Russian Olga Kalashnikova's crush on Jamaica is bigger than the sprint sensation. It spreads to the music, people and place.

"I love Jamaica," she said laughing during the WCA. "I love reggae. I don't know. Just I love Jamaica."

Kalashnikova, who works for a Russian tourist company which listed Jamaicans among its clients for WCA, has never been to the island. But Jamaicans fascinate her.

"I love Jamaican people," she said. "I love the way they look at the life. Just the way they think.

"They are always happy. They are always smiling. That's what I like about them."

That and Jamaica's music. Kalashnikova learned about the island "from Bob Marley, reggae". She started attending reggae shows in Russia, then bought CDs. The music is prominent in her IPod.

"Yes, of course. Very much," Kalashnikova said. "I have a whole lot of different music. Reggae is first, of course. Yes."

Then she started reading and watching programmes about Jamaica. Soon she was hooked. The WCA offered a perfect opportunity to meet Jamaicans and display her loyalty. Multiple days she wore a green blouse and dark pants, accessorising her outfit with a Jamaican cap and several bracelets bearing the name Jamaica or the colours of the island's flag.

"I have a lot of Jamaicans in Russia," Kalashnikova said, announcing plans to gain more via social media. "All these bracelets are the gifts from my tourists."

She knows about Jamaica's big-name athletes. Some competed at WCA, some didn't.

"Usain Bolt. Asafa Powell. Yohan Blake. Shelly-Ann," said Kalashnikova, rattling off a list like the famous Russian automatic weapon which bears her name. "There are lot of Jamaicans."

She knows some outside sports, too.

"Yes," she said. "I know children of Bob Marley. Damian Marley, Ziggy Marley."

She will get to meet more. Kalashnikova is planning a trip to Jamaica.

"As soon as possible, I hope," she said, before narrowing down to a specific date.

"No. Just the sixth of February. It's birthday of Bob Marley. Yes, and I wanna be in Jamaica."

Kalashnikova is willing to go alone.

"I think, yes," she said. "Why not?"

She's listed must-see places.

"Yes. I want to visit Nine Miles (St Ann) first of all," Kalashnikova said. "It's the birthplace of Bob Marley. And Kingston and Trench Town."

The language? No problem. Well, almost. She has figured out Bob Marley's lyrics. His son? Not so much.

"I don't understand only Damian Marley," said Kalashnikova.

She promises she will by the end of her island trip.

"I will go to Jamaica and learn Patois there," Kalashnikova said.

In the meantime, she continues to pine for the country she's never seen.

"I'm Russian, of course," said Kalashnikova, unable to contain her giggle, "and then I'm Jamaican."