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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Letter from a Jamaican Thinking About Returning

I have spent the last 17 years of my life working towards the American dream. By society's standards, both here and there, many would say that my husband and I have achieved it. The high profile careers with six figures coming in, the large single-family house, the cars, all tied in a bow for the family of 5 (3 children). Having now slumbered my way into dreamland, I find that I have awoken to the American nightmare many of us who took the same path that I did have come to know. I left Jamaica shortly after graduating high school. Not "in search" of anything, but because my father is American and I was moving on to higher educational opportunities which at the time (1991) were more abundant off island. I didn't know enough about "trying to make it" in Jamaica to dream of anything that would better facilitate that.

It was quite easy being lulled into the sweet sleep of corporate American culture and the daily frantic gyrations of American life. But what started out as climbing the corporate ladder soon became no time with the kids and even less with my husband. There may be those who say that American life does not have to be like that, but with expensive childcare, no helpers or limited access to anything of that nature, long commutes to and from work as well as family and friends… soon, routine takes over and quality of life goes down the drain… that is of course, if you ever had any.
Although I have the conveniences of a 24-hour Wal-Mart, the ever current Target. The massive malls with endless shopping opportunities and the wide highways with no potholes – a grand quality of life is still wishful thinking.

On my visit to Jamaica last year, as I eagerly debated living in Jamaica vs. living in US with some friends, one of them commented that Jamaica was "on the cusp of greatness". I'll never forget those words, because I strongly agreed with them then and still do now. The individual who made the comment was later shot by a thief who was attempting to rob his sister. Thankfully, he was not killed, however it brings me to my next point, which is the paralyzing effect that crime is having on the Jamaican dream. In effect, crime is the demon that has invaded the sweet sleep that was once Jamaica. And those who are feeling the poverty that hard life on this island inflicts find other outlets to meet their thirsty lips, hands, pockets… dream deprived sleep.

Despite the madness lurking on all corners, hillsides and gullies, I still believe that my Jamaican dream is yet to be realized. Maybe it's just the naivety of having not lived here for 17 years. Many Jamaicans who I have shared with that I am considering a move home have asked… "are you crazy?", "why now?"; the most positive reviews I have received seem to come from those who either have wealth enough to enjoy the higher points of life in Jamaica, or those who have placed their security in a higher power other than King Alarm.

And what is my Jamaican dream… well all the things that you spoke of in your article - better quality of life for my family, a challenging career, my own business, house in town and one on the coast… and much more. But to put it even more simply… give me a cool breeze rolling off a waterfall, a lush garden, sunrise on a beach and a nice water jelly from the man on the corner. I'll take that over a 24 hour Wal-Mart any day! I am a Jamaican at heart and that's where most great dreams begin. So let's start dreaming!


At 8/01/2008 9:29 AM, Blogger themackdiva said...

I understand exactly where this lady is coming from. It is nice to achieve the job and home that make us feel, or at least appear successful. Much of the time here in America to keep that house and job means no social life and of course family life is sacrificed first because family understands the best.
Immigrants in this country will mostly find themselves living in large cities with bustling lives because that is why Immigrants come here. We come here to get on the fast track. To get our bustle on. Why else would we leave Paradise? So we hurry and get in the good private college or a good Big Ten Public University and then we are off and sprinting through our lives, corporate job, have a baby, grab a cup of coffee.
Immigrants don't have much choice. How many of us come here to live a pastoral farm life in Wisconsin? or to run a small internet business in a remote area in Montana? Not many. If we wanted that kind of life it would have been better to stay at home and set our ambitions on a nice plot of land in Falmouth. More importantly, here in the U.S., those kind of lives are generally reserved for predominantly white Americans whose families have been here for a century or two. Of course knowing us Jamaicans I am sure there are one or two of us running a farm in Minnesota...but I don't know them. The ones that I know are always busy holding down the American Dream because there are no safety nets here. No helpers, No friendly next door neighbor, and no extended family. So you better hustle. Those of us who come here with a fairly large family base often end up with family living in different States.And the distance is huge. New York and Houston is a terrible distance from each other. I think the distance between say Kingston and Treasure Beach is way easier and a much nicer drive:0)Also, you find that your Jamaican family who you could always rely on back home quickly fall into the fast moving American way of life...but don't get mad at them...they are trying to buy a house too. So since the norm here is every man for really better hustle.
Now my thing is...I no longer believe the hype about America...I have been set free. I live down the street from a fancy mall with an ice skating(you know how us Jamaicans love ice)and a gate from my apartment building separates me from Sam's Club, Super Wal-Mart, and DSW shoes(love shoes)...but I am still going home to my island.
I am going home after 18 years because all of life's struggles and hardships that I endure here could be better managed at home.
I call my sister and she is off to the Calabash festival. My brother is too busy to email me because he is always busy entertaining friends.
America has been no milk and honey land for me. Perhaps if I had the Lexxus or the 3 story house to hold on to I would be more confused.
But America has not been that good to me. It has not been that good to many Jamaicans and to many Americans as well, Black and White. Most people are struggling to hold on to dem likkle cyar and small house or killing themselves to pay rent. Nuh mek dis place fool yuh! Those who think racism is not alive and well are in complete denial.Those who believe that poverty is not rampant here...check again. Those who believe crime is not coming to a town near you, live in a dream. (I remember when that crazy guy shot up that courthouse in Atlanta I locked myself and my daughter inside scared witless, while police were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Turns out he kidnapped a lady about a mile from where i lived. Both she and I lived in good neighborhoods) I have lived in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and Houston and have had opportunity to be scared by crime in all of them.
Now I could have lived in say Winchester. Virginia...a lovely little pastoral town filled with cows and geese, just a 40 minute ride away from West Virginia. I was there at a small but pretty private college for a learning workshop 2 weeks ago. Me, in a class of about 50, and I was one of two black people...oh yes three...the painter that was painting the dorm room that I was living in. Anyway, all in all a nice bunch of people. Time to get some info to get back to DC where my plane was departing from...not a soul has info...and even though I kept explaining that my flight was leaving early in the morning and I had googled every cab company in town...and all the sweet little Professors who live in Winchester "I don't know I drive everywhere" kept ignoring my cabs ride to the airport from Winchester...I mean it was easy enough though expensive to get to Winchester from Washington DC... Now I cant hitchhike as I might take a WRONG TURN(movie reference for those who like gore)Anyway at the last minute someone offered to take me to the airport to whom I offered generous gas money of which he was only to happy to take. My brief fantasy of becoming a tenured Professor at this school came to a sharp halt when I realised there were no Black Professors at all on campus, and not one Black Teacher taught my course even though we were dealing with African American Jazz Literature....typical. Not to mention when it was time to leave it looked like they were trying to keep me. Bottom line is I would not be comfortable where there is not a good amount of people of color. Another reason why most Immigrants choose the hustle of big cities.
I know Jamaicans here that live in a little rose colored bubble where they float around with a tiny circle of Jamaican friends. They really don't care to know the real America, because let's face it the real America is kind of big and scary and more than a little hostile especially to people of color.(colour:0) So maybe to listen to them you might think America is great...but listen closer...they are always talking about the good ol' days back home.
So I have firmly decided that DSW shoes do not take the place of a Kingston Sunset(I still say that is prettier than a Negril sunset)and Target(which is a 2 minute drive from home) has nothing on Fairy Hill in Port Antonio.
People tell me it's too much of a struggle to return home, but I am used to struggle...I live in America.

At 8/01/2008 12:29 PM, Blogger fwade said...

Thanks themackdiva,

This is a great contribution.

If you'd like to join in conversation with others who are also thinking about moving back, or have already decided, I am setting up a discussion forum that might help.

I made a post about it this past week, and you can also check

At 8/02/2008 8:11 PM, Blogger themackdiva said...

Thank you!...I look forward to joining the conversation!:0)


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