A Trini moves back to Caribbean soil after 30 years in N. America
I am not sure that I remember the day I committed to moving back to the Caribbean, and I cannot recall if it was winter, summer, or raining. I do remember thinking that I am not against living in the sun, so that must certainly mean I’m for it.
My story is, I moved to New York as a child with my brother and sister from Trinidad, West Indies. We were immigrant children, but I do not remember the word immigrant ever being used as I described myself, or thought of myself back in those days. Immigrants, I had learned someplace, were people who came to New York City by boats and were processed in a very large, dark concrete building, near the Statue of Liberty.
I do, however, remember always being called “coconut” or “hey coconut girl” by this one girl very early upon arriving in Brooklyn.
New York City or at least, Park Slope Brooklyn, became home for me and somehow I do not remember ever missing Trinidad. I remember missing my grandmother who I called “Granny”, who made me tamarind balls and fried plantains daily.Granny lived with us before I left Trinidad on a Pan American flight bound for J.F.K., but I don’t think I spent time crying for my life before N.Y.C.
My new life was school, skateboards, the Brooklyn Public Library, Carvel ice cream, and my red Converse high top tennis shoes which I wore daily. Never mind that there was snow on the ground that first winter and other kids pulled out rubber boots. All I wanted to wear after school were my red high top Converse sneakers. I learned after an hour in the snow and ice my first winter, that my mother was right – sneakers had no place during winter months and snow.
Then the time came many years later, when I would move away for college to another exciting city, Washington D.C. Again, I do not remember ever missing N.Y.C. while I lived in D.C. This new city had tons to explore when I was not in the library, or at my part time job. Walking the distance between the Capitol building and the Mall became one of my favorite walks, and the colder the days the more fun I remember having, as I gazed into hundreds of blank unfriendly faces. I rarely ever saw the same person twice, plus N.Y.C. was an easy four hour drive up the 95 North Interstate.
During those early periods in D.C., I was not the “coconut girl” anymore but the girl from N.Y.C. Looking back, I must have enjoyed that reference and association, as I was then armed with a clear succinct New York accent, and when asked “Are you from New York?”, the answer was proudly “Yes.” Never did I feel compelled to explain that I was West Indian and had moved to N.Y. as a child, as I somehow learned that nobody really cared. Everybody wanted to simply blend in; being an American is what was fashionable.
So years later, after college and several jobs, I found myself moving again. This time to South Florida for a job; a move I took on with much enthusiasm and energy. One of my dearest girlfriends drove the 20 plus hours with me, and took a flight back to D.C. a few days later as I waved her off at the gate. “Did I miss DC?” I now ask myself. The answer is perhaps no again. I embraced this move with excitement and cheer, after all the temperature was 77 degrees in January in South Florida and some 25 degrees the day I left Washington.
South Florida, while not D.C. with its museums, NPR headquarters and National Geographic, was now my new home. After only a year, however, I decided that maybe South Florida was not the soil of opportunity I had envisioned and I made that long trek back to D.C. on an Amtrak train another cold blistery day in January. I was all ready for my familiar career and lifestyle in D.C., but this time things were somewhat different for me – my social and personal status had changed somewhat.
Who would have guessed, that in less than two years of being in D.C., a moving bug would again grip me? And more so, that I would be packing my things in a container and heading for a life back in the Caribbean – a place in which I had not lived for about thirty two years; a place very unlike my life in N.Y.C., Washington D.C., South Florida, or my vacation days of camping, hiking or skiing trips to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming or Montana.
As I packed my kitchen stuff, favorite books and clothes, for the first moving leg to Florida to join up with my very new Jamaican husband’s stuff, I was excited and hopeful. “I am a strong, focused, confident woman”, I reminded myself, that had gotten on a plane at age nine and never missed places I left behind. I was the person who left N.Y.C. at age nineteen for Washington D.C. and never missed N.Y.C. I could certainly handle another move; after all, it’s only the Caribbean. I could surely handle life in the sun, and while it was not a move back to my birth soil of Trinidad, life could not be too different. After all I had spent several vacations in the Caribbean and several Carnivals wailing in the streets of Port-of-Spain. “I, with my strong shoulders, ever curious adventurous nature, and open friendly personality, could live in Kingston, Jamaica.” I told myself. I even remember saying to my husband, “It will take me three months to settle, babes, and within six months my career will roll into place and I will be fine.”
Today, January 28, 2008, twenty-eight months later, as I begin my very first blog entry, I smile. I smiled today, after very recent emotional tears and feelings of uselessness. I sent a Happy New Years chain email in early January to my dearest friends in D.C. and across the U.S., and the email read as follows:
Just a little howdy note to say Happy New Year to you. It is my hope that you all had a great holiday time, ate plenty, drank much of your favorites and now ready for 2008 and whatever shows its’ head.
While my holiday season was great, and our wonderful niece and nephews are here in Jamaica all the way from South Africa, I was happy to put 2007 to bed.
The sun shine was bright here almost daily on the “Rock” as Jamaica is called, but things were not always cool. I experienced my very first Hurricane with Dean in August, and we were without electricity for a week and a phone line for three months. So if I never experience a Hurricane again I will not miss it. I was told over & over that a week without power was no big deal.
We are still without bananas & plantains four months later, like not a banana in sight. Now I eat bananas daily, but oh well. We have had eggs & milk shortages, where you can drive to three different grocery stores and no milk or eggs. The word is the cows were too stressed after the hurricane to provide milk, as they hated the wet grass after 15 days of rainfall, and the chickens had to be moved to new places as many roof tops blew off. No joke. Living in the Caribbean teaches one to be way way humble and forever thankful for the little things that work.
Then I experienced my first Jamaican Election for Prime Minister in September, now that experience needs to be in a book, as the build up to that big day reads like pure fiction. Francis and I were Election Day Volunteer workers, so up close and personal I was with the masses who chanted “we wah justice at every opportunity”. So, stay tuned for my Publication date for “Jamaican Culture #301″
October brought my first bout of dengue fever, which made me feel like I was going to die after being in bed for 12 days straight. lordy lordy. But stubborn me remained on the living side and now stay far away from mosquitoes as much as possible.
Then another sad moment occurred, just as I was getting better and really looking forward to two weeks in DC with my favorite pals, my aging Dad died, so I had to haul to Trinidad. More Drama there as well, but I will spear you all of those painful details. I am simply thankful that 2007 came to a close, and take my days one day at a time. A bird pooped on my head as I did my 5 mile jog the last day of the year, and I have no idea what that means. Maybe it means I will have huge successes with my new business in 2008, or I will here from all my long lost pals on Facebook.
Whatever happens, it khan be worst that last year, so onward I go. I made a choice to follow Francis here, and the beat goes on.
May you all have a Happy Blessed & Loving year.