Third World Blues
Moving Back to Jamaica has everything to do with where you are moving from.
If you intend to move back home, the experience will largely be a function of whether or not you are moving from Accra, Ghana or Atlanta, Georgia because a lot of what one has to deal with has to do with the transition from a so-called First World country to a so-called Third World country.
In other words, much of what is different has nothing to do with Jamaican culture per se, but has more to do with a culture of perceived poverty, and awesome disparity. I imagine that a move to St. Lucia from Atlanta is a lot like a move to Accra from London.
Another way of looking at this is to understand that most countries are not developed, and most people do not live the First World lifestyle. They don't have iPod's, laptops and digital cameras. They often live very close to people who feed their dogs with more and better food than they can afford to give their own children.
In truth, this blog could really be entitled "Moving Back to a Developing Country," and I think this was eminently demonstrated by the recent article posted in my blog on what it was like for someone to move back to Ghana.
Having said all that, as developing countries go, I think Jamaica is quite typical -- and we think we are special in ways that we really are not. We like to boast how difficult things are in Jamaica, when in fact, from my experience, we are better than many other countries in the region in many ways.
People complain about the bureaucracy here in Jamaica, and I have had my encounters, to be sure. But, when I look at the larger perspective, I see things differently:
Immigration -- my wife was able to get a TRN, work permit and stamp in her passport after about 4-5 trips to different agencies. It took some time to figure out the process, and to see what we were still missing at different points, but the process made sense and no-one was rude or unintentionally helpful to us at any point.
This compares to a US citizen and US Armed Services veteran and friend of mine whose wife was turned back from entering the US as they were going up for their honeymoon. She was sent back to Jamaica.
After she finally received permission to live with him in the US, she waited for 12 months just to get a Social Security card, which is something that used to be granted on the spot. During this time, she could not work.
Crime is terrible here in Jamaica, marked by our high murder rate. The high level of kidnappings in Trinidad are particularly frightening, as is their rapid increase in all crimes (even as our murder in Jamaica has fallen by almost 20%.)
The chaos of driving on the roads here in Jamaica bears little resemblance to driving anywhere in the North America. However, I worked in Caracas, Venezuela long enough to swear that I never would drive there, having seen a level of wanton decisions by drivers that made our chaos a joke in comparison.
I an thankful that I have traveled a bit, as it allows me to place my experience in Jamaica inside a context that is empowering.
Having said that, I had to then I read the story of the man who was refused entry into Jamaica when all he had was a Jamaican birth certificate and a drivers license. The article entitled No Passport, No Entry had me laughing in amazement, as a US citizen is able to enter Jamaica with a license and birth certificate, but apparently not a Jamaican.
The movie Terminal, in which a man gets trapped in an airport as his country entered civil war and officially ceased to exist came to mind, as everyone knows that you cannot enter the US with a Jamaican passport and drivers license. Luckily, they let him back in, or he might have had to live out the rest of his days neither being able to enter the US or Jamaica, and probably trapped in some terminal someplace.