Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Being Happy Wherever You Are

A few months ago I was in RBTT inquiring into what it would take to open a bank account. I explained to the CSR that I was a returning resident, coming back to Jamaica to live.

She asked me quite pointedly: "WHY?" What she really meant was "Why... You IDIOT?" She continued; "Most people are trying to leave Jamaica to live in America... why did you come back?"

I ignored the idiot part of the question, and the following thought popped into my head, and then popped out of my mouth: "To tell you the truth, I've found that the key to being happy is not to find the right place to live, but instead to be happy wherever you are living."

It was a moment of lucidity that disappeared as she explained all the hoops I'd have to jump through to open a regular checking account, which explains why I have no accounts at RBTT.

However, my response has stuck with me. (I think it flew way over her head.)

Migration from Jamaica is a fact of life that has impacted every family. There have been never-ending waves of Jamaicans (in fact, West Indians) who have left the region for England (mostly in the 1960's) and then the US and Canada starting in the 1970's. Today, some 25,000 Jamaicans migrate to the US legally per year (and quite a few others do so illegally.)

I grew up on Halifax Crescent in the neighborhood of Barbican, in Kingston. There were 18 of us in the "posse" of teenagers that lived on the street. At present, there are 3 left living in Jamaica, and 1 in the process of leaving (1 is deceased.)

In each case, those who left did so for "greater opportunities," including myself. The impact on our parents must be substantial.

However, a quick study of the Jamaicans living in the US tells me that the results are mixed.

There is, indeed, a lot to complain about in the US, just as there is in Jamaica. There is a lot that is good in the US, just as there is in Jamaica.

I have noticed that people who are more likely to complain about life in Jamaica, are more apt to complain about life in the US. There are a quite a few juicy things to complain about in the US, namely:
-- racism and "dem white people"
-- "dem Black Americans"
-- taxes
-- the war in Iraq
-- Republicans
-- long hours with no-vacation lifestyle
-- the weather
-- jingoism that has only increased since 9/11
-- lack of curiosity or knowledge by the average American about anything outside the US
-- social distance between people
-- George Bush
-- health-care
-- lawsuits everywhere you turn

The hard part for immigrants who leave their country is having to justify why they left in the first place. The favorite tactic seems to be straightforward -- badmouth the home country at every turn.

Others explain that they want to come back home when things "return to normal," knowing full well that the odds are good that they will end up staying in the US indefinitely.

Now that I have returned to live in Jamaica, I do realize that one feeling has left me -- a sinking feeling that I would just become another Black American (rather than Jamaican) and die with all the culture I cherish washed out of me.

Most Jamaicans who live abroad, however, say that they would be living in Jamaica if only...... This indicates a certain unsettled feeling about the choices they have made. While surveys have shown that 80% of Jamaicans would migrate if given the chance, I think that has more to do with wanting a better life, rather than an informed choice.

Is it true that living in Jamaica is better and living in the US? Is it true that living in the US is easier than living in the Jamaica? I don't know how to answer these questions, as I have objective evidence to support any argument indicated.

In spite of these mixed opinions, however, I think it is important for ones peace of mind to find a way to love the place that we find ourselves, and if it changes one day, we find a way to love the new place.

Easily said, harder done.


At 2/13/2006 12:04 PM, Blogger Bajan Lass said...

Greater opportunities in the US? I think not...Having recently relocated to the Caribbean after 19 years in the US I can safely agree with you...Life is being happy wherever you are living...I am sorry that I didn't relocate earlier, but hey, c'est la vie mon ami...With the advent of the technology age, I have as much opportunity in the Caribbean as I have had while I lived in the US.

At 2/13/2006 12:37 PM, Blogger fwade said...


I've told people the following: if you can "make it" in America as an immigrant, then you definitely can "make it" in the Caribbean as a returning resident.

My experience tells me that the lack of certain basics in the Caribbean, coupled with our exposure to North American standards creates a yawning gap. Returning residents not only can have skills that are in short supply, but also that "can-do" spirit that is so North American.

That spirit is largely missing here in the Caribbean, and makes those who have it pretty valuable.

So, "greater opportunities" actually also depend on how you're looking at things. Perhaps the gift of living in North America is really this new spirit, or point of view, more than anything else.

At 2/08/2012 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hm... nice read. My husband is jamaican and wants "us" to relocate. I am american and well, I don't know how I will adapt..truth is.. I won't know-unless I give it a try. I will say this though... everytime I tell people about moving out there-they automatically think "it's ghetto" but I've been there and i've seen "ghetto" areasand I've seen nice ones as well and I know my hubby won't move us to where he has to sleep with one eye open-he's educated-he hates "ghettoness"


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