Landing in Jamaica
The trip home was quite uneventful -- a short flight from Miami to Kingston.
But, it did feel different to land at Norman Manley this time around, as if this time it really counted. After living abroad for 21 years, this was the first time I had deliberately given up my dwelling in the US to move to ANY other country.
As I landed, I felt very, very American for some reason that I couldn't quite explain. Not like I didn't belong, but more like I felt very aware that I had both American ways of thinking and Caribbean ways of thinking bouncing around in my head, and that I was making a huge shift from spending time being American to spending much more time being Jamaican.
It reminded me of when I first started to travel heavily to the Caribbean to work. Coming back to US felt strange, and it would take me about 24 hours, then 12, then 1 hour, then 10 minutes to make a mental shift, which included "speeding up" to match the US pace or "slowing down" to match the Caribbean pace.
But this time around, seeingthe water and the mountains and feeling the plane land softly with that "Air Jamaica soft landing" felt more poignant. It was also sobering to know that the 20 foot rusty box was sitting atthe wharf somewhere waiting for me to redeem just about everything I owned.
Coming through immigration was routine, except that I declared that I was a Returning Resident. This declaration is important as it allows me to bringall my belongings back to Jamaica without duty. The only mistake I made was to declare it to the wrong person (immigration) not knowing that it was really something to do with customs.
When I came into the customs table for my search I was well-practiced. "I am declaring myself a returning resident." Firmly -- just like I had imagined it for God-knows how many years.
The Customs Official was friendlier and younger than usual, and had to consult her colleague to see which form I needed (the long yellow one.) She searched and we chatted, and she completed the search.
I paused and looked her in the eye and said... "How come yuh not even welcome me home with a little song?" She paused for a while, and started searching her mind for either a good song, or a good comeback. I broke in and said, "Or at least a little "welcome home."?" She gave me a genuine smile and said "Welcome home Mr. Francis!" (My first name is a popular last name in Ja.)
I said thank you, and smiled... she smiled back and said, "Please teach people.... to read, write,... anything... and get 10 people to learn what you know." I told her "I promise," and I walked out of customs, a Jamaican resident again for the first time since 1984.