Jamaica is Crying

For the past ten days, I have been unable to write anything positive or negative for persons considering a move to Jamaica. I am not exactly sure why but it appears that I may have stumbled upon writer’s block.

The recent election of Barack Obama combined with the sheer possibilities of onward progression in the United States has changed my current view of Jamaica. Jamaica now feels like a glass fish bowl where I am the fish swimming around with both eyes focused on an external target. As the fish, I find myself constantly wondering, “What lives outside of this bowl?” “Will I ever be able to escape to the outer world?” “What is happening in my old stomping grounds of Washington D.C.,  New York City, Atlanta, Florida?

Although the Jamaican sun still shines and the weather continues to be beautiful and sweet, in my eyes, the country has become rampant with social crisis and decay. Incidents of kidnapping and raping of women and children have increased over the past two weeks; a fact I find difficult to grasp and which leaves me feeling incredibly sad.

“I can do two things,” I tell myself, “I can pretend that all is well and that things are great on the island,” as I do not personally know anyone who has been raped or kidnapped. On the other hand, I can reflect and learn effective coping skills as a way forward. So perhaps my hiatus from blogging is in keeping with the latter.

I have often repeated that I refuse to feel caged up or threatened by the crime in Kingston. I face each day with joy and enthusiasm using the same precautions I would utilize in any major city. However, of late I have been coordinating with pals to run, walk and cycle in groups which I must admit has been a first for me as I have always enjoyed the freedom of bolting out solo.

Early morning walks alone and saying, “Howdy!” to people on the streets has been restricted as I continue to hear stories or read forwarded emails of women being attacked between the hours of 5am and 6am. I have attempted to stop watching the 7pm local nightly news as I find the broadcast to be far more graphic than I am able to tolerate.

As such, I have resorted to reading the newspapers and listening to radio talk shows only. This is not much better as the radio talk shows have also become increasingly negative with the tragic stories from callers. I have come to realize that these callers are not making up daily stories but instead are crying out for leadership to steer the country into a more positive environment.

Generally, I believe that Jamaicans are trying to make positive strides and that crisis seems to be an international state of affairs with America being “bruk” i.e. broke and even Germany which is “soon bruk” i.e. on its way to being broke. From these examples, we see that Jamaica is not the only country that is facing challenges, nor are racial tensions in existence as I read in one US. newspaper yesterday .

Jamaican Musicians are singing positive lyrics for societal change while Jamaican journalists write stories about an ideal Jamaica and Jamaican pastors preach against the “bad man and bad mind” mentality, encouraging members to do what is right. The questions I ask myself daily are

Are the people who are committing these horrible atrocities capable of listening to the musicians, journalists and preachers?

Are they willing to make a change for the betterment of the communities in which they live?

Will an illiterate, angry, uncaring and unforgiving individual who may have never experienced gentleness or kindness, get up one day and recognize that his daily acts of fighting, stabbing, shooting and raping are wrong?

Whose responsibility is it to teach a man or woman right or wrong? Good or bad?

I try not to be judgmental of the Jamaican culture when I am told by Jamaicans that I am too “soffy-soffy” i.e. I am too soft or fragile. Perhaps more “soffy-soffy” persons may be the solution for bringing balance to a country in need of forward movement. Perhaps more “soffy-soffy” persons can take on leadership roles to provide an environment with an education system, where every boy or girl regardless of colour or social class is able to afford a proper education and grow up in a loving supportive environment without threat of rape or sodomy.

An overhaul of the Jamaican education system is a lengthy process and may take several years to reap any serious benefits, but change must come. In addition, an overhaul is clearly not the answer to all of the country’s recent troubles; however, taking steps to put some type of order in place amongst the chaos and despair may be a blessing in disguise for this beautiful land. Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago comes to mind. I continue to feel sad for Jamaica – a land which I am currently struggling to LOVE.

A Jamaican Dreams of Coming Home> Shared Stories

When I initially started my informational blog, the purpose was to share knowledge necessary for expats thinking of moving to Jamaica. Over the last six months however, I have realized that many of my readers are Jamaicans who have migrated to Canada, the U.S. and even England, and are looking for answers or for information as they contemplate a move home.

Many in this group have lived away from the island for over 15 or 20 years, and  are questions such as, “how do I even begin to network for a move back? ” or “how do I get a TRN number?” The questions asked and ideas shared are usually different than those from the expat population, but the questions are relevant to both Jamaicans and expatriates regardless.

My husband who is Jamaican started a blog titled “Moving Back to Jamaica” when we started our own move to the island back in late 2005. See http://francismove.blogspot.com/

He wanted to share his experiences as a Jamaican moving home after 20 years and continues to write three years later. We encountered several struggles as we moved here and made many big mistakes. At the time I wished for a rule- book that might have made our transition easier, but no such thing existed back then. It’s with this motivation that we both continue sharing with others about moving to Jamaica.

The following piece is one persons’ struggle with wanting to move back to Jamaica; she sent her letter and said it was okay to share with others: She has now been here for 9 months and is settling pretty well, despite a few struggles.

I have spent the last 17 years of my life working towards the American dream.  By society’s standards, both here and there, many would say that my husband and I have achieved it.  The high profile careers with six figures coming in, the large single-family house, the cars, all tied in a bow for the family of 5 (3 children).

Having now slumbered my way into dreamland, I find that I have awoken to the American nightmare many of us who took the same path that I did have come to know.  I left Jamaica shortly after graduating high school.  Not “in search” of anything, but because my father is American and I was moving on to higher educational opportunities which at the time (1991) were more abundant off island.  I didn’t know enough about “trying to make it” in Jamaica to dream of anything that would better facilitate that.

It was quite easy being lulled into the sweet sleep of corporate American culture and the daily frantic gyrations of American life.  But what started out as climbing the corporate ladder soon became no time with the kids and even less with my husband.  There may be those who say that American life does not have to be like that, but with expensive childcare, no helpers or limited access to anything of that nature, long commutes to and from work as well as family and friends… soon, routine takes over and quality of life goes down the drain… that is of course, if you ever had any.

Although I have the conveniences of a 24-hour Wal-Mart, the ever current Target.  The massive malls with endless shopping opportunities and the wide highways with no potholes – a grand quality of life is still wishful thinking.

On my visit to Jamaica in 2007, as I eagerly debated living in Jamaica vs. living in US with some friends, one of them commented that Jamaica was “on the cusp of greatness”.  I’ll never forget those words, because I strongly agreed with them then and still do now.  The individual who made the comment was later shot by a thief who was attempting to rob his sister.  Thankfully, he was not killed, however it brings me to my next point, which is the paralyzing effect that crime is having on the Jamaican dream.

In effect, crime is the demon that has invaded the sweet sleep that was once Jamaica.  And those who are feeling the poverty that hard life on this island inflicts find other outlets to meet their thirsty lips, hands, pockets… dream deprived sleep.

Despite the madness lurking on all corners, hillsides and gullies, I still believe that my Jamaican dream is yet to be realized.  Maybe it’s just the naivety of having not lived here for 17 years.  Many Jamaicans who I have shared with that I am considering a move home have asked… “are you crazy?”, “why now?”; the most positive reviews I have received seem to come from those who either have wealth enough to enjoy the higher points of life in Jamaica, or those who have placed their security in a higher power other than King Alarm.

And what is my Jamaican dream… well all the things that you spoke of in your article – better quality of life for my family, a challenging career, my own business, house in town and one on the coast… and much more.  But to put it even more simply… give me a cool breeze rolling off a waterfall, a lush garden, sunrise on a beach and a nice water jelly from the man on the corner.  I’ll take that over a 24 hour Wal-Mart any day! I am a Jamaican at heart and that’s where most great dreams begin.  So let’s start dreaming!