Lying About Foreign
Moving Back to Jamaica occasionally means confronting the fact that we Jamaicans living abroad frequently present a false picture of what life is like in foreign.
We come back home, eager to show that we have "made it," doing our best to prove to ourselves and others that we have NOT just taken up ourselves to Toronto, New York or London only to find that life there is now what we expected.
The truth is, that the vast majority of us are struggling to achieve the American dream, that we have saved for months to afford the ticket, that we have maxed out credit cards to buy new clothes and gifts, and that we have taken a third part-time job to have some spending money. We are very proud of the fact that we now live in a better place... or at least this is what we must convince ourselves is true.
The problem with all this boasting and posturing is that it masks the truth of what many experience:
-- being "mistaken" for Black Americans
-- not being qualified to do the jobs we used to do
-- having to pay US$10k to marry someone for a green card
-- borrowing a cousin's social security card, driver's license and identity
-- cold (most frequently)
-- ugly surroundings
-- the unhappy realization that we are never moving back home
-- having to moderate our accent to be understood
-- bringing up children that ARE Black American
This is not to say that many Jamaicans who migrate do not find a better life. But I have met few Jamaicans who wanted to leave, and did not feel that they were at their wits end and HAD to leave.
The sad thing is that we Jamaicans at home want to believe that a better place exists ,and that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel means begging for a visa in Liguanea's US Embassy. We listen carefully, and if it sounds as good as it looks on television, we are sold.
Often, I hear parents in my own parents' generation talk about where their children are, and what they are doing. They talk about their children being abroad as a badge of honour... "Michael is in New York with his wife and 3 kids!" It is said as if his being in New York is some kind of unique accomplishment.
When I share that I have returned home to live from the U.S. I usually get two reactions from these parents.
The first reaction is, "you must be mad!"
The second comes after some reflection, and is usually wistful... how they wish that Michael were here with them living at home, instead of taking the subway to work each morning... "How happy your parents must be!"
I don't know where to point the finger here -- we all seemed to have created this situation, breaking up our families for what we think are the right reasons, believing that migration is the answer and convincing ourselves and others that it is easier to make it in New York than it is in Barbican.
Andrea Levy's book, which I recently finished, brilliantly describes one young woman's heartache when she arrives in England and is shocked by what she finds. This piece of truth-telling was revealing -- we need a lot more of it.