An Expat's Story on Returning Home to Jamaica
Moving Back to Jamaica has everything to do with who you move back with.
I don’t have any children, so I can’t say much about that side of the experience, but within the space of eight months last year I did get engaged, married in Runaway Bay, packed up in Florida (where I lived), packed up in DC (where she lived), moved our belongings back to Kingston, moved myself and then moved her.
By Francis Wade
Looking back it all seems like I was crazy to do that much so quickly.
But it all worked out in the end, and reminds me of saying that I saw yesterday: “It all works out in the end, and if it hasn’t worked out then it’s not the end.”
Part of what made it work is the kind of woman I married.
I think this has something to do with Moving Back to Jamaica successfully, and while I have not been back home for a year yet, I can see some of the qualities that she has, that allow things to be as easy as it’s been.
Firstly, is the fact that she was born in Trinidad, and retains strong ties there even after living in the U.S. for many years.
This Caribbean background has been a tremendous plus, as it has made the transition a lot easer due to the similarity between our cultures. It also helps that some of her happiest memories were around the years she spent growing up in Trinidad.
Secondly, she has a tremendous sense of adventure and play. This has been a major culture shock for her as some of the basics of her life have disappeared, some of which will probably to be returned in our life-time.
Some of the obvious “disappearances” that stand out are:
Starbucks – the daily availability of a good coffee in a multitude of locations is gone.
Target/ WalMart/ Kmart/ Marshalls – being able to zip down to the store and get a bargain has disappeared in no-Sales Kingston.
Safety in public – early morning runs on her own are a thing of the past.
And then there are some newcomers to her daily concerns:
Mosquitoes – it seems as if they just did not exist in DC (although I ran into a few in Florida).
Dust – living with the house open to a breeze blowing through the house also means living with a dark, soot-like dust that threatens to bury us daily.
Reptiles and insects – dat same “open house and breeze ting” also invites a variety of animal life to take up residence, including the biggest roaches she has ever seen (they just walk in the door uninvited).
Thieves, madmen, pickney (children) – we’re not sure where they tuck them away in DC and Florida, but here in Kingston they seem to be everywhere you turn, in vast numbers.
Washing machines that pretend to wash the clothes – an unsolved mystery to her!
Jamaican aggression / assertiveness.
My sister moved from DC to South Africa to Ghana, and her reports of Ghanaian life, and what I observed, led me to understand that much of what my wife is dealing with is not related to Jamaican exclusively, but is actually the experience of the majority of the people in the world, and I would more accurately call “Third World living.”
And then there are some uniquely Jamaican experiences to get used to -
I have not met a people so ready to fight for justice, and against injustice like Jamaicans, and willing to launch a protest.
Instant Connections: We met more people in our apartment complex in a month after moving in, than I met in seven years of owning a home in New Jersey.
And this was not the “fake-friendliness” you find in the U.S.
It was amazing to find out how many genuine connections existed between us as a couple (through me) and our neighbours in just a few weeks.
Sure, part of it has to do with living in a small society, but a lot of it has to do with living with people who really do care.
Of course, the flipside of this close sense of connectedness is the anonymity that First World living is known for, and some people prefer that.
Jamaica’s beauty – after living in Florida and DC, it’s great being 45 minutes away from mountains, beaches, rivers, waterfalls and plains.
And there is more, as yet to be discovered and distinguished.
Her spirit of adventure makes it all so much easier. That above all is her trump card, and what makes me lucky to have her as my partner-in-crime.
The words to Edi Fitztroy’s anthem “Princess Black” come to mind (from memory):
She’s a precious, precious, precious woman, Princess Girl,
She always, always, always stays on, she tougher than a rock
Anything that is progressive, she always inna dat, she work from 9-5, to keep her youths dem alive.
Wade is a management consultant with a passion for transforming the Caribbean workplaces, economies and society. He blogs at Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle
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Moving Back to Jamaica and the Love of a Black Woman
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