I remember packing my belongings in Washington DC., with the intention of shipping them to Florida to join up with my husband’s belongings, in preparation for our move across the ocean to Kingston. I had absolutely no idea of what to pack. One thing was certain, I had convinced myself that all of my antique furniture would not accompany me to the tropics.
It was a difficult decision to leave behind our furniture and household items. However, I told myself, “Why would I want heavy mahogany bedroom furniture, two heavy treasure trunks, antique clocks, and fall/winter colours of wine and forest green living room furniture?
Why would I want to haul my unusual lamps and rugs?” I even convinced my husband to give away what we had in Florida to charity. After all, we were moving to the sun and we would simply purchase new light colored creams, pastels and wicker-type furniture similar to those I had seen in my favourite magazines such as Pottery Barn, Real Simple and Maco.
In the end, I decided I would only pack our kitchen items largely because of my love for cooking. I also included our towels, sheets, books and light weight clothing. My North American brain convinced me that there should be no difficulty in purchasing start-up items for our two-bedroom apartment in Kingston. I was certain an Ikea-type store would be readily available. Not so, I would learn soon enough.
Let’s fast forward to two months later in Kingston. After unpacking several boxes, we decided that we needed additional items to make our living space more comfortable. We proceeded to search stores for a couch, some simple lamps, rugs and potters for all of my new island plants. Five stores later, I returned home exhausted and disheartened. It was clear that I should have packed all of our belongings, especially after seeing the steep local prices.
Eventually, we resorted to hiring a local carpenter to make us a few items. We also purchased one lamp at a price I never would have paid in the U.S. Two years later, a small kitchen rug was added to our collection.
Today, I still frown each time I think about how expensive these things are on the island. While I understand that most items of this nature are imported to the island, I miss the bargains, sales, flea markets and good old thrift stores of the U.S. I also learned that the thrift store culture does not exist in the Jamaican environment. I may have a few theories concerning their marked absence from the Jamaican marketplace.
I remind myself daily that issues such as procuring furniture and household items are not such a big deal. Although I know that these items are simply material things which can be easily replaced, my thoughts continue to return to the items we left behind. Oh well, thoughts are thoughts.
I now advise persons considering a move to Jamaica, that furniture and household items may be easily replaced in an environment where there is an abundance of inexpensive choices. However, this is not the case in Jamaica.
Whenever I visit houses and see beautiful items, I ask the question, “So where did you get this?” The responses are usually along the lines of, “Oh, we had it shipped in from Miami,” or, “Mr. Barnes made it, but he migrated.” The answer is seldom, “Oh go to this great local store where items are beautiful and reasonable.”
As a result, my advice is that if you are moving to Jamaica and not renting a furnished place; ensure that you pack all of your favorites. If you live simply and basics will suffice, then arrive with less. If however, you need/seek comfort then pack all of your favorite couches, chairs, tools, patio furniture, books, book shelves, rugs, lamps, pots and pans and lots of plastic Tupperware-type containers.
If it turns out that you have packed things that you no longer need or like, then there is always the option of donating these items to charitable organizations. You will have zero difficulty in giving things away as there are many persons in need who will be grateful for your kindness.
Even though my husband and I have adjusted well, an article such as this would have been extremely helpful for me three years ago when I started packing for my life in the sun.