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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Jamaican Returns From Canada

The story below was sent to my wife over at and I thought that it was a good one to share... for reasons that will become clear.

If you have a story to share, happy or sad, or something else, about moving back to Jamaica, please let me know!

I stood in the kitchen, one dark snowy Canadian morning, watching my toddler and my 5 year old fighting and screaming over some toy or the other, my head pounding, Tylenol in hand as I tried to combat my third cold virus for that season. Sick or not, the kids had to be taken care of. There was no Grandma and no helper here. Mama was the primary caregiver and oftentimes the only one…rain or shine! Canada, land of immigrants. More like…land of solitude. Isolation. Here they call it hibernation. In winter, one could go days without so much as seeing a neighbor. Thank goodness for the grocery store. My mother- in- law says the grocery store had become my social life.

I left Jamaica eight years ago with my spouse for greener pastures. We had gotten tired of looking behind us to make sure no one was following, and combing the papers to see if anyone we knew had become the next murder victim. He had a good job with an IT company and I was a commercial lawyer with one of the more prestigious law firms in Jamaica. So we set sail for Canada. Things went well. We started a family and I became a “stay- at –home” mom. I enjoyed being a mom. My sister- in- law would teasingly say I had gone from being Miss Ann Taylor to being Miss Dollar Store. I did re-qualify as a lawyer and even started working. However, the stress of being a lawyer and a mother was perhaps more than I wanted to embrace at the time and so I decided I would put my career on hold.

However, as the years of mom-hood went by, I started to miss the “me” from my former life. The persona “dolled up” in the tailored skirts and high heeled pumps with laptop on shoulder as if it were an extension of myself. The jeans and sweats that I lived in were okay too but my blazers and fitted shirts seemed to wave at me every time I sojourned through my closet; a reminder of days gone by.

So as I stood in the kitchen that day, I made a decision. I was going to challenge my spouse to “cum mek wi guh home.” Of course I was met with amazement and disbelief. Chutzpah! However, over the weeks and months that followed, we managed to reach a compromise. I would go for a year with the children on a trial basis. My spouse didn’t want to give up his “good” job and have us sell our “nice” home, only for me to whimsically change my mind and desiring a return to Canada. “Dat did soun reasonable to me.”

So we went off to Jamaica. Had an associate lawyer position waiting in the wings. Had a new wardrobe to accompany me. Thoughts of bliss filled my head on that plane ride back to “yaad.” A nanny to help take care of the kids. Someone to wash the clothes and clean the house. A real social life. Tea at Terra Nova and brunch at the Grog Shoppe. And real friends. Not friends because they were the moms of my kid’s friends. Friends that I had chosen and who had soul in them and who knew “bout” party.

I had to convince my son though, that we were only going for Grade 1. Dad flew out in the middle of the night the following week. And the magnitude of what I had done hit me. I sobbed and sobbed. But I didn’t have time for much sobbing either. Hurricane Dean. What’s that? Hurricane? “Mi neva memba bout dem tings.” Quick. “Purchase a membaship at Price Smart. Buy Igloo. Buy tin milk. Plenty tin milk. KoolAid. Flashlight. Bun and tin cheese.”

We survived that. But then the mosquitoes started to bite….and bite…and bite. “Raise up bump”. Scratch. Blood. Dirty nails. Infection. Scab. Blood on the sheets again. I just changed the sheets…and it’s not my wash day. And it’s raining anyway…rain, rain , rain. It rained for the four months we were there. Beach. Chu. Yuh crazy!”

That helper was a nice young lady. And she did have sense. But the foreign pickney of mine did “wan fi know,” “Mama, how come everybody here is wearing a black skin?” So in their little minds, first I was leaving them with a “black” person. And second, I was leaving them. This stay- at- home mom who was always there for every runny nose and every cut that needed a band-aid…was walking out of the house and leaving her precious children…and going to where…work??? “Man, it was trial and tribulation whenever I dropped them home from school.”

Ok, let’s talk about the traffic. Because “dat is jus a way of life in Jamdown.” I lived in the Waterloo area. I worked in New Kingston. And the kids went to school off Lady Musgrave. Thought I could pick the children up at school and get back to work within a half hour. Round trip… at least an hour and a half. Sometimes two, if it was raining, And it usually was. So I went back to work at 3:30pm to “practice law” for an hour and a half before I had to go home and relieve the helper. Intelligent Miss. But that meant she was pursuing higher education. So I had to relieve her to go to classes. I had dismissed her once, only to hire a new miss who was really a practical nurse who couldn’t find a job as a nurse. She “fool mi” in her pretty white dress. The uniform was brimming with intelligence, but the head was not. Once I asked her to spray the bin with Lysol and she used the toilet bowl cleaner. That was the first and last time she did that. She lasted a week. So I had to call up the other nice young lady and kiss her ass a bit.

Ok so sorting out the domestic scene, the children decided early that they just plain missed their dad. And Canada. And snow. And the millions of parks everywhere (even though they couldn’t be visited for 6 months of the year anyway). And what’s more they hated the heat. And the humidity. They were forever sweating buckets. They didn’t want to eat…ever. Only to drink. And things like Grace sausage, corned beef and plantain would not pass their lips. All of a sudden, mom became the bad guy…the evil one. Sigh…I missed Dad too. I guess I underestimated the power of a dad! And the power of the known. I tried to enroll my First Grader in soccer. He loved soccer in Canada playing only with kids his age and size. In Jamaica, everyone who played soccer in the school comprised the two teams, so it didn’t matter what your age or size. My little 40 pounder was at one time face to face on the soccer field with easily the largest lad in the school. The ride to the soccer field consisted of piling into a mini-van…the entire two teams; and in order to make everyone fit, they had to put the back seat down and everyone clamored on top of the back seat. And they were off…. Seat belt…what’s that? Speed limit…what’s that? This would be soccer mom headed off at top speed and full tilt, high tailing that getaway minivan. Cause it just wasn’t getting away from me or out of my sight. Needless to say, it was my decision to end that particular extra-curricular. He has ridden in a “van- back” in Jamaica since then…and quite enjoyed the experience, to my horror. In Canada, we would have immediately been arrested.

Now to Dad. We had an understanding that he would look for that dream job in Jamaica while I was there. The one that was created by the brain drain in Jamaica. Not! Salaries in Jamaica are not on par with salaries in North America. Not in IT anyway. And the cost of living is a good deal higher. No wonder there is a brain drain. And as “dem sey”…is who you know! This trailing spouse decided then and there that he wasn’t trailing after all. Or if he did, and we couldn’t buy food, then it would be on “fimi” head. What to do? Give up my dream? Sell my car? Resign my job? Look like a fool????

And that’s what I did. For family. Tis always the woman that gives. God just made us that way. To sacrifice. To persevere. And to stand tall in it all. So now, although I miss my homeland, I will stay away for a little while longer. But one day I will take my children back. And show them where I came from. And why it is better than any home away from home.



At 5/30/2008 6:05 AM, Anonymous Jamaican Girl said...

Oh must have been a horrific experience farming your children out to BLACK help when they hardly know what BLACK people are all about and you've just moved to a country where people are predominantly BLACK Must be a curse to be BLACK. Anyway, it seems as if the letter writer is looking for some utopian experience. I agree...stay in Canada....why would your kids be interested in seeing a lot of BLACK people.

At 5/31/2008 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JG: Calm down, they're kids. They just left a predominantly white country for a black one. They don't understand demographics yet in grade 1.

I thought it was a very interesting letter. It showed positives and negatives on both sides.

The best way to enjoy the winters in Canada and stay social is to participate in some winter sports. Downhill or cross country skiing for example. There are many clubs for that. It's all a matter of looking for these opportunities and not staying home sulking because it's cold out. Adapt. Overcome.


At 7/20/2008 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are several problems with this article- was this the first time that your children were in Jamaica???? Kingston should have been nearly as familiar to them as Canada at that age. I was born in New York and spent lots of time in Jamaica visiting family. When you're as young as your children were, there is no worry about missing school. Living in Canada is no reason to raise your children to be ignorant of their culture. Travel money clearly is not an issue for you as you were a homemaker.

Secondly, I don't know where in Canada you live but certainly you could have taken periodic visits to Toronto to purchase Jamaican goods so that your kids would not be eating them for the first time after they arrived in Jamaica.

Did you eat Canadian food (which does not exist) only? Have your children never seen a black person? What did you do to prepare them for living in Jamaica?

At 10/04/2008 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say, I learned a lot from your article. My boyfriend is from Montego Bay and yes he misses his country so very dearly. I was born here, in D.C.the capital of the U.S., but he has only been here for 4years. I hope he will take me there someday. He tells me about de banana leaves and bag juice. But be glad that you are able to go back on your own free will, because he's still not 18 and his papers have not been signed they can and WILL deport my boo! Anyway thanks 4 dat patwa and I will be sharing what I have learnt "wit yout ovadeso!"

At 5/10/2009 11:37 AM, Anonymous Tamara said...

Your story is really very touching. I was born and raised in Canada, but I've been planning a move to Jamaica (my ancestral home) for the past few years... Your story echoes my greatest fears-- and I have neither a husband or children to worry about... Thank you for sharing.

About the kids, what's really great about them having the experience of living in a country of inhabitants that are primarily black is that they get to see black people in all their diversity, which isn't always easy to do in Canada where black people are more often than not, portrayed as criminals.

At 2/23/2010 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ignorance to the max. this woman must be happy her child is as ignorant as her. was this child living under a rock to not know what black is. this is typical of black jamaicans who because they have slave masters blood in them think they are white. you could go to the boonies in canada and you would see black people. this woman clearly looking attention.


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